Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Quietist Californians

Victor Davis Hanson's latest.

How does a sane person, without great wealth that might provide exemption from all this cope? They tune out. They psychologically drop out, in the manner of ancient quietists in fourth-century BC at Athens (the apragmones in search of hysuchia), who learned that one cannot fight the mob, but only seek to escape it. I bump into and talk with these latter-day quietists quite often. They are generally happy folk but have developed a certain psychological protocol by which to survive. The quietist trusts more the ancient wisdom in hallowed texts that warns democracy implodes when the masses finally assume absolute control and vote themselves entitlements that even the shrinking rich can no longer sustain. So they don’t get in the way between the mob and their entitlements.

If the state idles farm land, puts drilling off limits, drives out business, the quietist accepts that those who do such things do them because they never affect the authors directly, and when in the future they do, they will cease and desist — and it will be mostly too late. He assumes that the whiners at the $4 a gallon gas pump never make the equation that there may be 30 billion barrels in untapped oil 150 miles away, right off the California shore. (Instead “they” rigged the prices). The quietist assumes that few connect the horrific highways with an incompetent state whose highest gasoline taxes in the nation have translated into some of the country’s worse roads, and to the drivers who customarily lose brush, limbs, and mattresses from their trucks, shutting down lanes for hours.

No matter – the quietist adjusts and drives at weird hours, as if he were some owl or nocturnal beast; it is not that hard to live a life pretty much opposite of what the majority does. There are plenty of quietists who can advise you. They are experts on how to navigate in a beautiful but otherwise insane state. Ask a tree-cutter, small garage owner, custom tractor driver, or self-employed tile-setter; they have all sorts of advice on how to survive: usually, however, they end with something like, “Of course, my kids should get a state job.” In 1960, rare state employees were noble folk, who were willing to make less for job security and a sense of public service; today they are lotto winners who hit the jackpot.

The quiet Californian assumes that each year a new regulation, a new tax, a new something will seek him out. I read the “state franchise tax board” print as I do the hate letters or emails I receive — incoherent, threatening. This year I got a letter from the state explaining that based on my income they “estimated” that I must have used the Internet to buy x-amount of things and therefore did not pay state sales taxes and therefore suggested that I should pay them around, say, $600.

So quietist Californians expect about every six months a new fee, dreamed up a government employee who is paranoid that the state retirement system is broke, and with it his pension. The state employee is now entrepreneurial: without x-traffic tickets written, without y-new fees dreamed up, salaries and benefits dry up. I touch my rural mailbox as if I do metal after skidding on a new carpet — a sort of static feeling of anxiety about what new state directive is inside.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

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