November 29, 2022

Op-Ed: California, a progressive wakeup call, or how to finally get off your verbose butts


Belongings of the homeless population fill a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk in skid row. — Photo: © Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images

San Francisco was the home of the original Flower Power movement. California is also home to the Hollywood mythos, and the original Silicon Valley. … And a lot of people and basically good, practical ideas which are now homeless.

Somehow, this inexcusable, inept, incompetent mess symbolizes “progressive” in America.  Even the word “progressive” is a red rag. Actually, the current hideous situation in California is the all-out, almost fanatical antithesis of anything claiming to be progressive. Politics, as usual, has turned its own ideology into its direct opposite.

The appalling homeless “concentration camps” of the SF streets say it all. Add some crime and meaningless rhetoric, bingo.

The dots aren’t that hard to join. Talk too much, do too little, and this is what you get. How did “progressive thinking”, which just means new ideas, turn into this hideous mess?

How I wish that was, or could be, a rhetorical question. It’s for some idealized time and space where laidback pleasant chat could answer it. There’s no time left for that now. (A sense of urgency can also be mistaken for sincerity, not the thoroughly deserved extremely hard kick in the pants it should be. Get over that, will you?)

Now, it’s about how progressivism scattered its own breadcrumbs all over the landscape and forgot to do its job.

“Progressive” means practical applications of these principles:

  • Helping humanity with what it needs for survival and meaningful lives.
  • Fixing self-inflicted social disasters like poverty, inequity, etc.
  • Creating a safe, healthy environment and repairing the toxic wastelands.
  • Protecting people and their rights from crime, persecution, fascism, and oppression. (Crime, if you can be bothered noticing, covers all these issues.)
  • The result is supposed to be a nice place with happy people and a future which can claim to be at least interesting.   

”Progressive” does NOT mean:

  • Useless time-wasting babbling spectators during decades of social catastrophes.
  • Failure to take the slightest interest in managing systemic administrative problems.
  • Writing treatises on endless trivia while refusing to simply go and fix things that need fixing.  
  • Any sort of waddling, squeaking pseudo-ideological claptrap which does nothing.  

That’s 131 words, written over a cup of coffee. If you don’t feel like reading the rest of this article, fine. That’s what it’s about. It’s intended to replace about 60 years of pointless verbosity. Maybe I could have done better, but as a subtle hint, it’s OK. It’s also a bit more objective than “Shut up, get things moving, and do your jobs”.

California is perhaps the most glaring case of America The Mess in so many ways. LA, the concrete utopia, is becoming a wannabe Detroit, and it really can happen.

Consider – A huge economy generates huge poverty and rampant crime. A great climate and relentless property market generate homelessness and in San Francisco’s case, dangerous, tilting buildings. A huge, sprawling global top-of-the-line statewide academic environment generates no answers with places like Oakland practically next door.

Can you see so much as a single atom of common sense in this situation? Who in the name of Super PACs and other wholesome money-laundering needs poverty, crime, massive social stress, and crappy buildings? Hobbyists? Human traffickers?  Misanthropic sociologists? Other DIY charities?

Well, here’s a thought – The Alt-Right needs them as propaganda against progressivism. California is the poster child for political hate, a self-discrediting disaster area, an incredibly easy target.

This is also all about the image of “The Left”, that fictional product of right-wing media that mainstream media seems to think actually exists. It doesn’t. The Right has gone so far right that everyone is now on the left. So stop indulging this myth, you idiots.

The Alt Right’s own squalid little state maladministration machines are in the sticks with the hicks. None of those Red Hellholes can ever possibly be seen as mainstream America. They’re non-topics by definition, “nothing to criticize here”.

California is economically bigger than all those states combined. It’s also the western Main Street USA. It’s always in the spotlight. Therefore, it’s an effective propaganda tool.  

Now, let’s talk about pomposity and uselessness

I have seen so many “liberal” encyclopedias written in the media on useless subjects. The mystery of Trump’s paid supporters as a grassroots movement, the imponderable idea of financial greed, you name it; this babble is nothing and achieves nothing.

It’s also unbelievably naïve. Criminals don’t stop being criminals because of an article in The New York Times or Washington Post. Wall Street and its venal vermin haven’t gone away in a fit of conscience and suddenly taken an interest in human wellbeing.

Rule of thumb – If it doesn’t have positive practical applications, it shouldn’t be a subject for discussion. This verbiage distracts, horribly, from progressive values on all subjects. It becomes abstract minutiae, wasting time that could be used for solving and fixing problems.

There’s nothing at all abstract about America’s problems. Decaying towns and cities, and generational massive downgrades of quality of life aren’t academic.

…Which is where we get around to pomposity. Who are these sacred cows? Why are all these so-learned abysses of codswallop originating on the progressive side? There’s nothing progressive about most of the gibberish.

Most of this turgid tide of “oh, it’s terrible!” dogmatic drivel is uncommunicative to the point of being insulting. The rest is so outdated it’s embarrassing.

If the subject is crime, it’s Mickey Spillane Meets The Muppets. If the subject is poverty, it’s a national eulogy-like singalong from a lot of well-paid people who’ve never been on the street for a second.

There are expiry dates on this babble. Nice of you to notice. Lack of currency equates to lack of credibility. “Progressive” means ahead of the game, not 20 blocks behind it. It also means that your perspective should at least pretend to be awake occasionally.

Suggestions:

Stop patronizing the Millennials and let them get a word in edgewise. They’re pretty sharp, and much more importantly, alert. They also happen to be the current recipients of everything hitting the fan. They matter; ancient dogma doesn’t. After all, they’re the ones who are going to have to live in the even worse ruins in the next few decades.   

Focus on objectives. Blue sky is nice and necessary, but people don’t live there, yet.

The only issue with progressive ideals is not putting them to practical use. You don’t have to be Saint Francis; just useful and preferably efficient.

Nobody’s here for anyone else’s approval. Respect that, and that’s all the respect anyone needs. Enough with the “mindlessly PC” stuff.

You want “progressive”, be progressive and get things done. That’s all that needs to happen.