Search This Blog

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Allegory of California

"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." — Patrick Henry

Several days after the election I am still at a loss to understand why 1 million voters of the 43% of the eligible voters in California chose to return Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown to office of senator and governor. I have written about the election results and given some of the statistics, but statistics don’t tell me why the people in one of the most financially troubled states in the union would elect someone to the state house who did so much to set the underpinnings for most of the problems that plague this once great state.

Yesterday I heard an interview with Texas Governor Rick Perry. Governor Perry claimed that since the first of this year 153 businesses have left California and relocated in Texas. They were not your corner dry cleaner or boutique shop. These are businesses that employed thousands of people at good wages. Perry did not comment on the number of businesses that have relocated to Arizona, Nevada, Utah or Oregon. I am sure there are similar numbers.

Most high school students should be familiar with Plato’s Republic and his Allegory of the Cave. The Allegory of the Cave, also commonly known as Myth of the Cave, Metaphor of the Cave, The Cave Analogy, Plato's Cave or the Parable of the Cave, is an allegory  used by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic to illustrate "our nature in its education and want of education"  It is written as a fictional dialogue between Plato's teacher Socrates and Plato's brother Glaucon.

Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

Plato uses Socrates as the teacher in his allegory and Glaucon as he student. At one point Socrates says to Glaucon; “And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive someone saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?” In essence the truth will set you free but it will make you uncomfortable first — the classic case of cognitive dissonance

The only way I can describe what I believe affects the voters of California is to propose my own allegory — The Allegory of California. In my allegory I will use an example most of us are familiar with as we either have a friend or relative that has suffered this malaise, the malaise of the abusive spouse.

Assume we know a friend or relative that has a daughter who, in high school, was beautiful, bright, and ambitious. However, she was quite pampered by her parents, and right out of high school, she began a series of disastrous relationships with men. A couple of these boyfriends were actually in residential drug rehabilitation at the time they were dating her.

While going to college on her parent's dime, she began a relationship with a young man whose most distinguishing feature seemed to be the multiple piercings on his face and body. The two quickly moved in together, and even though her parents didn't approve, Mom and Dad continued to underwrite her college and living expenses. They were modern, educated parents who knew better, but wanted to be liberal in their views. Know anyone yet?

It wasn't long before she was pregnant out of wedlock. A baby came, and the boyfriend, a slovenly and lazy parasite, wouldn't get work to support her. Months of miserable bickering began. He left several times, but they always reunited. Finally, she discovered the heart of his problems, he was a drug addict. Her response was to give him a few chances, but finally kick him out once and for all...and then forgive him and marry him within the year.

After the marriage, he went to jail. A few months after this, she filed for divorce. Their little boy suffered terribly from Dad's neglect, his empty promises, and the wrenching goodbyes when he would disappear. This time, the daughter was determined to keep the con artist out of her life. She moved out of the house she was buying because he and his drug-addled buddies wrecked it; she had to abandon it later to a short sale, which cost her dearly. She found a lawyer, instigated divorce proceedings, moved back in with her parents because he had bankrupted her, and tried to stay emotionally and financially afloat as the divorce proceeded.

When she had spent thousands on lawyer fees, compounded when he didn't show up to court or do paperwork required of him, she had really, really had enough. Broke again, exhausted from working full-time and trying to raise a son on her own, a year and a half into the divorce proceedings, she called her ex... and invited him back into her home.

What I've just described is a delusional woman, someone who convinces herself, against all evidence to the contrary, that one more chance with a complete loser will make the difference this time. This is exactly how a majority of California voters seem to operate — cognitive dissonance to the tenth degree.

We have seen this situation happen time after time in homes and with celebrities. We are bombarded by the media with these stories, always in the vein of our society being forgiving and understanding. People have become blind to what is happening.

In my own case my wife’s closest cousin and one of maids of honor had an abusive husband. She was raised in a culture that dictated the wife should be subservient to the husband and try to make the marriage work, even in the most abusive cases. She went along with this dictate and time after time her husband would come home drunk, abusive and demanding sex. She would dutifully comply, even after the babies arrived. One day he arrived home in a drunken state and was abusive. She couldn’t take it anymore and threaten to leave. In a rage he took a shotgun and blew her brains out. He was given a fifteen year sentence for manslaughter.

At some point, things changed in the Golden State. Sometime in the recent past, the California population attained a critical mass of people inebriated with the leftist drivel that emanated from the hotbeds of '60s radicalism. Berkeley and San Francisco used to be freak shows, where unhinged socialist dreamers congregated and planned their takeover of America.

Unfortunately, they were very successful. Through a decades-long propaganda campaign, their baleful influence metastasized outside the narrow confines of the Bay Area and became drearily main stream. Call it radicalism lite. Combine this pervasive ideology, stealthily creeping into the consciousness of the middle class, with the steady march of public-sector union power (a march led by Jerry Brown in the 1970s); the takeover of the courts by leftists (which paved the way for some of California's most destructive policies); growing government entitlements that raised unrealistic expectations of the populace to ludicrous levels; and the constant drip-drip-drip of overt and covert taxes to fund all of the wonderful utopian dreams, and you have the ingredients that have created the toxic brew now eating away at the foundations of economic and civil stability.

The fact that voters keep returning to failed policies and politicians speaks to the power of propaganda, disseminated through the schools and the media. However, it is also a dismal lesson in human nature, epitomized by the biblical observation about a dog returning to its own vomit (Proverbs 26:11 — “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly”).

Another example of this is not an allegory, but a true example of cognitive dissonance. Several days prior to the recent election I had lunch with my retired secretary. She had been with me when one day a California district court judge’s ruling wiped over $7 million dollars in contracts off my desk and caused the layoff of some of my staff. This ruling came in the case where the Professional Engineers in California Government (PEEG) brought suit against the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) to enjoin them from outsourcing any architectural, engineering and surveying to the private sector. This was a direct result of Jerry Brown’s support of the Dill Act allowing public sector workers the right of collective bargaining and the buildup of the power of public Sector unions in the state of California.

My secretary knew the mischief and pain this caused our business and was appalled that such a ruling was possible. She claimed this was an abuse of government and public sector union power. After the district court’s ruling PEEG, with the assistance of the democrat controlled union attempted to pass proposition 224, which would have given the public sector unions even more power by allowing state workers to compete for all public funded projects in completion with the private sector. Fortunately this proposition failed and with the eventual passage of an amendment to the State’s Constitution CALTRANS was allowed to outsource to the private sector for engineering services. Today, even with this authority, they outsource less than 10% of their engineering and design needs.

During our lunch the conversation evolved to politics. When I asked her she was supporting in the governor’s race she said it was Jerry Brown. I was astonished and when I asked her if she forgot all of the problems the public sector unions caused us her response was, she did not like the alternative, Meg Whitman, who she knew very little about. It was just a case of an abused wife supporting her abusive spouse because she was comfortable with the abuser. Plato had it right. For the complete story on Professional Surveyor Magazine click here.

As in the case of my allegory, the electorate here has been neglected, abused, and exploited. Many are smart, beautiful people. Yet over and over again, after ample evidence that their abusers are destroying their hopes and opportunities, California voters embrace them one more time. There is an old saying that insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That may not be a clinical definition of mental illness, but it nevertheless resonates here in the once-Golden State.

No comments:

Post a Comment