On Moving to the Wacky, Wacky West
Now that my wife and I are moving to Vancouver on the west coast of Canada, I’ve begun thinking about the prospects, literary and political, that await us. We had no option in the matter, family obligations having trumped prior intentions. Life, as they say, happens while you plan. Still, the dwelling we bought on Westminster Quay bordering the Fraser River is ideal from the perspective of sheer beauty, the expansive view, the vivacity of river and boardwalk life, and a far less punishing climate than the iron winters and mosquito-infested summers of rural Ontario. But it must be admitted that the political and cultural climate is gruesome. Though we have good friends and know of many admirable people living in la-la land, the West Coast of Canada, like that of the U.S., is for the most part where the lunatic fringe makes its home.
Land of the Setting Sun
(Photo credit: Simon Carey)
The Gulf Islands, for example, just off the littoral of British Columbia, are a hotbed of social justice warriors, medullary lefties and a clique of novelists and poets whose literary productions would bring any self-respecting country into terminal disrepute. Whole districts of Vancouver itself might be renamed Needle City, swarming with junkies, pushers and spaced-out derelicts, to such an extent that first responders and ambulances struggle to serve other citizens. Moreover, social welfare governments issue asymmetrical budgets favoring the parasitical class at the expense of laboring citizens -- West Coast economic thinking with a vengeance.
A litre of gas is equivalent to a mortgage. The land transfer tax for buying a house and for the privilege of contributing to the economy of the region is, in our case, $9000, over and above the cost of purchasing the dwelling. The job-creating oil pipelines are stalled by the social justice types and the leftist NGOs. Clearly, the vast substratum of freeloaders, idlers, sycophants and, well, coasters constitute the growing profiteering class like a colony of aphid-milking ants.
And yet the march toward social, political and economic ruin shows no sign of abating. There is certainly a San Andreas Fault running through the topography of coastal consciousness. It might have something to do with getting too much sun; it does tend to make you a little cray-cray. Though on second thought rain and fog might have a similar effect. In any case, the generally benignant weather seems to exert a softening effect on the brain, against which we must remain vigilant.
Our new home is currently governed by an NDP/Green coalition mirroring the folly of the Democrat Party in the U.S. It is no accident that British Columbia was the birthplace, with Alberta, of Social Credit, a political party predicated on a system of redistributive economics. As its founder Major H.C. Douglas wrote in Economic Democracy, Social Credit wants to ensure “absolute economic security” for all people, who “shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.” A laudable ideal, no doubt, but ultimately unworkable, although Douglas was convinced that “we shall be put in a position to construct a Utopia.”*
We can observe this utopia in practice on the West Coast where filth, drugs, Arcadian thinking, state-sanctioned violence, quixotic agricultural initiatives, bellwether indoctrination camps known as universities, and profound economic disparities are the order of the day. California, for example, for all its natural beauty and Elysian sensibility, is sinking into a morass of immiserating debt; its long-term liabilities are in the vicinity of $1.5 trillion. According to a recent survey, a majority of respondents say that social welfare projects “should be high priorities for new state funding”; only one fifth were interested in paying down the debt. Typical.
Similarly, the radical environmentalists spawned by the salvationist mentality are guaranteed to destroy the productive foundation of the society that sustains them. At least the delta smelt are happy, though farmers dependent on irrigation, not so much. Governor Moonbeam and Gavin Newsom (aka Governor McHottie), architects of the metastasizing dysfunction, are merely administrative expressions of the coastal pathology.
West Coast Canada is not so different. I recall an acquaintance who, apart from writing verse and publishing a few books, served as mayor of one of the Gulf Islands, a good reason for not moving to his bailiwick. As a representative of the general mindset, his election was a no-brainer. His advocacy of a socialist agenda depleting the productive base of the nation did not prevent him, however, from benefiting from taxpayer-funded grants and travel subsidies -- par for the course for the hypocritical left. The political and the literary have joined forces in an orgy of lepidopteran fantasy and Hirudinean predation.
There is talk that British Columbia and oil-rich but money-starved Alberta should break away from the Canadian federation and either join the United States or form their own country under a strong Conservative government. Given the primitive redemptors stalking the land, this is an unlikely scenario but one I would enthusiastically endorse.
As for California -- and I speak as someone who spent several years at UC Berkeley -- I think it would be an excellent idea, though for different reasons, for the state to secede from the Union. In short order it would discover that the San Andreas Fault is a psychological tectonic as well, as the state sinks into a bottomless ocean of debt, cultural depravity and social disarray. As an added benefit, it would no longer be America’s problem; as Ronald Tinnell writes, “Wacko news stories coming out of San Francisco, Los Angeles and California colleges would trouble us less if it were a different country.” Moreover, Israeli technology could replace Silicon Valley in a mutually beneficial bilateral agreement with the rest of the nation.
One thinks of the 1999 steampunk film Wild Wild West, which is not as outlandish as it may appear at first glance. It features all sorts of retro inventions reminiscent of the modern age, an aesthetic cultural superstructure over a barren terrain, and a plot no less bizarre than current West Coast politics. Of course the proliferating asylum of West Coast usages and traditions serves as a microcosm of the social, political and economic absurdities increasingly afflicting the larger culture. Many reasons have been put forward for the decline of the West -- a historical term-limit for the life of any civilization and the cyclical theory of history developed by historians and thinkers like Polybius, Vico and Spengler, among the most grandiose.
But the notion that seems most persuasive is that a civilization and culture such as ours, with its advancements in science, technology, education, medicine, commerce, industry, political democracy, personal affluence and protracted leisure, eventually suffer from the onset of laziness, forgetfulness, institutional mediocrity, political oligarchy and individual narcissism. In other words, we are all inexorably drifting to the West Coast and the San Andreas Fault, even if we stay put. As The Eagles sing in Hotel California, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Moving out west is only a species of local acceleration.
Perhaps in the course of events, as California morphs into a submersible and the Gulf Islands and the lower mainland float out into the Pacific never to be heard of again, the wife and I may buy a little time by moving into the Okanagan interior where people are still real and dowered with a sense of the practical. Better to go down tomorrow than today.
* The modern version of the party belatedly came to its senses, moving into the Conservative spectrum and fielding several successful governments. It is no longer viable.