May 1, 2005
Counterpoint: a red state kinda guy, livin' blueBy Thomas Lifson
[Charles Coulombe, in his article today, raises issues both familiar and important to many people. Like me.*]
I am hopelessly attracted to the blandishments of the big city. Not all big cities, necessarily, but the ones which offer great food, lots of culture, and a cosmopolitan mix of ethnicities, especially those ethnic groups of whose cuisine I am enamored, a category which tends strongly toward East and South Asia and the Mediterranean. I also prefer my cities to be filled with interesting architecture, and to have at least a central core built before mass transit was available. That produces a pleasing (to me) walkability, an interesting mix of people and destinations perfectly accessible by foot.
I admit it: I am a sybarite, a lotus—eating, self—indulgent voluptuary. I realize that this makes me shallow, and possibly an unworthy person. But life is short, and one might as well be spending it in surroundings which are pleasant and stimulating.
The real problem for me is that practically all the cities in America which fit the bill are dominated by left wing political liberals, the do—it—if—it—feels—good lifestyle crowd: New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles (walkability is marginal here), Portland, and Seattle.
San Diego, the one conservative city with most of these attributes (walkability is actually being created there with re—development of the Gaslamp Quarter ) is almost the only potential refuge. My family and I have many times looked at relocating there, but there have always been career and financial issues preventing an easy move. And besides, it is still in California, and has plenty of the sort of people I describe below.
But part of me, the part which harshly judges my tendency toward self—indulgence, tells me that I deserve the peculiar tribulations incumbent on a conservative living in Berkeley. Also, I have to say that I take perverse pleasure in observing the failures of a society built on fallacious assumptions about human nature.
A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle well—illustrates the phenomenon of which I speak. The article was obviously intended to celebrate one of the very qualities I cherish about living in Berkeley: the availability of simply the best selection of high quality fresh produce anywhere in America. The biggest emporium selling the greatest variety of top quality produce is called Berkeley Bowl.
After many years of patronizing Berkeley Bowl, I have virtually stopped going there. The place is an anti—social nightmare, full of, well, Berkeley people, who think of themselves as enlightened, but who, in the main, are selfish, foolish, aggressive, arrogant, condescending, and simply impossible to be around in concentrated collectivities. Even the Chron couldn't fail to notice these vignettes:
"People can get a little aggressive with their carts,'' she said, calling the aisles a "child—endangerment zone.''
Employees recall one guy who had just come from a peace march and got into a nasty argument with an employee, threatening to take him out in the parking lot.
When managers refused to take the food back, she was so miffed that she ripped open the bag on her way out and poured the contents out on the floor.
Now take a look at this picture. The clerk is taking time out for 'chatting' with a customer. Do you see how many people are waiting in line? The clerks at Berkeley Bowl are notable for taking time out to chat with friends, often other clerks, who run over to talk about boyfriends, girlfriends, music, and other personal—time subjects. Hey, my time is valuable, and I don't like to waste it in overly—long checkout lines.
Now, I am not asking for any sympathy at all. I asked for it by living here, and I am making a conscious tradeoff by continuing to reside in the people's republic of Berkeley. When I can't stand it anymore, I will probably move to Idaho, Alabama, South Dakota, or (most likely) Texas, where they have big, sophisticated cities and politically sane people who actually mean it when they greet each other with 'Hi, how are you?'
I am also far from convinced that big cities, and California big cities in particular, are full of people who are smarter than the residents of rural areas in America. "There's no fool like an educated fool" has always been a self—evident truth to me.
In the meantime, here is my dirty little secret about staying in the Bay Area. The local eco—nuts hate the very idea of building housing, and make it practically impossible to add much to the housing stock. As a result, housing prices here continue to soar, even as many of the same people demand the very 'low cost housing' their policies make it impossible to find. As a home—owner in the so—called Inner Bay, with easy access transportation and reasonable commutes to most concentrations of jobs, the lefties are making my investment continue to multiply in value at an unreasonably high rate. The longer I endure the minor irritations, the more my investment is worth.
Marxists are fond of pointing the 'internal contradictions' of capitalism. I long ago figured out that their entire way of thinking is riddled with contradictions. I am willing to live with their contradictions at least until I am ready to retire.
*Not just Charles and me, though. Rod Dreher, former resident of New York City, now relocated to Dallas, deserves credit for identifying the phenomenon of conservatives with the tastes of the liberal greenies. He came up with the alliterative title 'Crunchy Cons' (based on crunchy granola) to describe basically the same group.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker