June 16, 2011

Caitlin Flanagan on Cesar Chavez

Here's an amusing reminiscence by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic, The Madness of Cesar Chavez, about growing up in Berkeley in the 1960s: 
In the history of human enterprise, there can have been no more benevolent employer than the University of California in the 1960s and ’70s, yet to hear my father and his English-department pals talk about the place, you would have thought they were working at the Triangle shirtwaist factory. ...
I spent a lot of my free time working for the United Farm Workers. 
Everything about the UFW and its struggle was right-sized for a girl: it involved fruits and vegetables, it concerned the most elementary concepts of right and wrong, it was something you could do with your mom, and most of your organizing could be conducted just outside the grocery store, which meant you could always duck inside for a Tootsie Pop. The cement apron outside a grocery store, where one is often accosted—in a manner both winsome and bullying—by teams of Brownies pressing their cookies on you, was once my barricade and my bully pulpit. 

Most of the article is devoted to how Chavez, like a lot of people successful in the 1960s, went nuts in the 1970s, but the bigger story is in this paragraph:
In fact, no one could be more irrelevant to the California of today, and particularly to its poor, Hispanic immigrant population, than Chavez. He linked improvement of workers’ lives to a limitation on the bottomless labor pool, but today, low-wage, marginalized, and exploited workers from Mexico and Central America number not in the tens of thousands, as in the ’60s, but in the millions. Globalization is the epitome of capitalism, and nowhere is it more alive than in California. 

Chavez is an official saint of the state of California, but a lot of the reason for all the strenuous celebration of Chavez is that there aren't that many other Mexican-American heroes to celebrate. All of his anti-illegal immigration activities have disappeared down the memory hole.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Would such an article be allowed about the even crazier MLK?

Question from the Peanut Gallery said...

An interesting topic for posting:

How many liberal icons fail to weather the PC test of time like Chavez?

Most pre-1965 (and some post) liberal heros could be accused of politically incorrect thought and behavior.

How do historical liberals avoid the perils of contemporary historical PC judgement?

Anonymous said...

Though of course this article isn't about Chavez, it's about a privileged white woman's nostalgia for the White California of her youth, and her inability to come to terms with what made California the mess that it is today. I think as the Baby Boomers and early Gen X'ers ease into nostalgia-fueled decline we'll be seeing a lot more of these.

not Victor Davis Hanson said...

As somebody who endured many boring road trips between the San Gabriel Valley and the north country where my mom grew up I concur that venturing onto CA-99 in spring or even early summer is like a pleasant surprise. The mid-Atlantic merchant/journalist class selling the West Coast deal around the world obviously haven't spent a lot of time on Interstate 5.

Anonymous said...

Well, both so-called globalism and our current migrant problems are mostly clearly not expressions of "capitalism". They are expressions of "International Transnationalism", which is a toxic mix of International socialism, "corporatism", communism, fascism and pure old aristocratic "feudalism" dressed with a new techocratic mantle. They are also the bitter fruits of the betrayal and cowardice of the Establishment Left elites and their "moderate" enablers.

The views of the quoted writer are truely pathetic: She knows not what she talks about, she creates a wholly imaginary world to justify her cant, and the projects onto the usual straw-men her own vlleness and the hediuuness of her crowd's vision and agenda.

Capitalism "alive and well" in California? Well hardly. The migrant problem today relfects a falure of Chavex and his ilk? Well no, these are the "successes" of his project and worldview, and the inevitable outcome of them.

Besides beg a comunnist. Chavez was a poser and an opportunist as was just about every Left wing icon of that age.

The California of today is in the main a direct result of nonsense of these lefty lunatics and vipers. The mess can be blamed on no other group.

ExtraMedium said...

Um, 10% on topic (since this is an immigration post I'll place this link here). Bill Ayers is complaining in the UK Guardian that Canada won't let him in.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/16/bill-ayers-banned-canada

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I felt the same way about Pete Seeger, once upon a time. He did finally write a song condemning Stalin, 50 years later. It's something, I suppose.

Anon 1:29 - I wouldn't say crazy so much as full of himself, or easily exploited, at the end. He was not the only person to see that segregation is unjust in practice, whatever its theoretical neutrality might be, nor the only person to speak persuasively, not the only person to sense that the time could be now - not another ten years - nor the only person with courage. Each of those alone is not that big a deal. Together, they were rare and he deserves his approbation. But once he went off civil rights to other issues, the first and third qualities no longer operated: he had no special understanding of general injustice; he had no intuitive sense of the politically possible.

He didn't know that, and believed he was still quite the authority. Others who had other causes - socialists, for example - found him almost trivially easy to manipulate. Sad, really. Hubris has brought many great men low.

elvisd said...

"How do historical liberals avoid the perils of contemporary historical PC judgement?"

They can't-with current historiography. A lot of crap has been written for at least the last 20 years employing the "all roads lead to us" method. You see it in those trite titles of the "How (insert topic here) Helped Usher in the Modern World" type. The would-be historian or critic moves backward, rather than trying to place himself in the particular time studied. Historical players are just pawns for discussion of glorious us in the here and now. With this view, you don't have to really come to terms at all with the men of the past or what they stood for, since it's already assumed that they are supposedly nothing more than preambles to our supposed contemporary wisdom.

elvisd said...

A little more on the question: "
How do historical liberals avoid the perils of contemporary historical PC judgement?"

Tocqueville addressed this:

Among democratic nations new families are constantly springing up, others are constantly falling away, and all that remain change their condition; the woof of time is every instant broken and the track of generations effaced. Those who went before are soon forgotten; of those who will come after, no one has any idea....

Aristocracy had made a chain of all the members of the community, from the peasant to the king; democracy breaks that chain and severs every link of it...
they [democratic men] acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their hands...

Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him..

David said...

That Flanagan chick can write.

O'Raiffeartaigh said...

Anonymous

The destruction of California-through race-replacement-is a direct consequence of agribusiness and Silicon Valley corporate interests. At the most fundamental level, massive greed drove the policy and process.

At an earlier time, White Californian's were saved from the policy of race-replacement by a Socialist Jew-Samuel Gompers-and a pro-white and pro-labor Irish Immigrant. It becuase of their efforts that the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed.

In California these days, there is a defacto White American Exclusion and Expulsion policy in place. And it is being implemted by Mexicans and Asians in California.

We saw an example of how nasty this expulsion policy is when a White Teeanage American Female was vicously taunted at USC by Asian students..eventually she dropped out of USC.

As I see it, the really big question is this:How are millions of White Americans going to react when it finally sinks in that California and several other states are majority nonwhite states, with a different cultural tradition and history...that is to say, they are separate raced-based nation states. And another obvious question that one can ask is what are the likely ecological consequences of this. I'd say that ecological catastrophe is likely with probabilty 1. And any one who thinks that the consequences of the ecological collapse of California-and the other nonwhite new race-based nation states within the borders of "America"-will not make its way to the states that will make up the greatly reduced in size White Nation land mass-right next door to the ecologically collapsed SouthWest-has discovered a new law of physics which they should publish as soon as possible in Physical Review.

Just thought of something. What happens to the White Republican politicans who voted for this? What happens to the White Liberals in this new racial arrangenent?

Because the questions I have raised about future events are so fundamental and have such a high probability of occuring, I am kind of suprised that these questions aren't discussed at all here and other places.

So what happens when California pursues its own immigration policy?

Whiskey said...

California is already pursuing its own immigration policy. Illegal aliens "resident" in the State get preferential admission and tuition over US citizens from other states. Sanctuary cities abound and LA is pulling out of the ICE program to target serious felons for deportation if they are suspected as illegal aliens.

But note how "it was right for a girl" and it is "right for a woman" to be protesting and pushing for essentially racial groups other than one's own (few White farm workers, if any). White women generally favor race replacement, when you get down to it. IMHO because White men, most of them, are lacking. Being Beta Males. And nothing is more repulsive to women of all races than beta males.

Anonymous said...

The best, (I would say only) way to really improve conditions and prospects for unskilled or manual workers is to have a tight labor market. Immigration is inimical to this. Immigration floods the country with cheap labor, undercutting the workers who are already here. It causes a race to the bottom in terms of wages and benefits among workers. A labour shortage - arising from tight controls on borders and immigration - causes wages to rise dramatically as employers have to compete for workers. Probably the best historical example of this was the black death epidemic in medieval Europe. About one third of the entire population was killed off by it. In many of the best parts of Europe the figure was about 50%. Many others took their own lives, being overwhelmed by despair and the chaos and massive dislocations. As with any illness or disease, the heaviest losses were among the poorest. It was probably the most horrible moment the continent has ever known. STILL FOR THOSE PEASANTS WHO SURVIVED THERE WERE REAL BENEFITS. The huge labor shortages everywhere meant that noblemen had to compete with each other for their labor. Conditions improved rapidly for the peasantry. If they didn't like the treatment from one baron, they could always move to another estate where there was plenty of available jobs to be filled. The MORAL? Mexicans in California today should favor immigration-restrictions. In effect to prevent OTHER Mexicans doing to THEM what they have DONE to multi-generational Americans. Chavez certainly knew what he was doing. He would have been the last guy to support amnesty.

LonewackoDotCom said...

With all due respect, slowly rocking back in forth in a corner - as so many do - isn't going to stop things from disappearing down the memory hole. If you want to stop things from being disappeared, you have to confront those who do the disappearing. Or, those who get in the way.

In practical terms, that means:

1. Organizing efforts to go confront pols on video about what Chavez was trying to do but who choose to ignore that. (And, yes, I've been trying much more generalized things for five+ years, but I just don't have the organizing/social skills.)

2. Busting the chops of those who have a megaphone (Breitbart, Insty, Riehl, Patterico, etc.) but who choose instead to concentrate on chasing weiner rather than promoting things like the preceding.

Sideways said...

I'm reminded of Casimir Pulaski day in Cook County. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_Pulaski

Anonymous said...

The best, (I would say only) way to really improve conditions and prospects for unskilled or manual workers is to have a tight labor market.

With all due respect. This is not really the issue. The issue is the Left using groups like this to push forward their agenda.

It is mostly the fuel for Agi-prop.
Were this "problem" fixed, another would soon appear.

The problem is the Left.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

"That Flanagan chick can write."

Yeah, but she can't think.

Luke Lea said...

@Village Idiot: "I felt the same way about Pete Seeger, once upon a time. He did finally write a song condemning Stalin . . ."

In an interview the most he would admit to was that Stalin was "a hard driver."

Luke Lea said...

@Anonymous: "The best, (I would say only) way to really improve conditions and prospects for unskilled or manual workers is to have a tight labor market. Immigration is inimical to this. Immigration floods the country with cheap labor, undercutting the workers who are already here. It causes a race to the bottom in terms of wages and benefits among workers. A labour shortage - arising from tight controls on borders and immigration . . ."

There are other ways to create a labor shortage. Updating our wage-and-hour laws for example to reflect half a century of new labor-saving technologies. The 8 hour day was basically in response to the agricultural revolution that took place in the 19th century (McCormick's reaper, the modern tractor, etc.). Since then we've had numerous similar technological advance, the biggest being the mass introduction of modern household appliances into the home, which enabled tens of millions of women to enter the workforce.

A six-hour day with time-and-a-half for overtime would do wonders for the 80 percent of the workforce the Dept. of Labor classifies as "non-supervisory hourly wage workers."

And don't forget the hundreds of millions of new low-wage workers who have "virtually" entered the American labor market through the back door via trade. If we slapped a ten percent surcharge on imports from China, that would also do wonders for American wages. Plus it would boost the demand for labor in an expanding manufacturing sector.

ATBOTL said...

There is nothing more painful than to see conservatives twist themselves in knots trying to argue that capitalism is not a force pushing the West to annihilation.

Marc B said...

"All of his anti-illegal immigration activities have disappeared down the memory hole."

I've been keeping those stories alive throughout several posts online, and it still surprises many on both sides of the issue. His position was mirrored by many liberals not yet indoctrinated into PC, postmodern liberalism. Liberals (especially tough hippie types and home steaders) were also wary of the federal government and concerned about constitutional rights and civil liberties back then.

The only people pushing for open borders in the 1970's-80's were the Catholic church of California (revolution theology) and big business. If you were white and supported illegal immigration back then, you were either a Marxist internationalist or a wage-busting fat cat.

Kylie said...

"That Flanagan chick can write."

Yes, even if the lack of sufficient irony in her retrospective lends it an absurdity she could hardly have intended.

But then, that's as typical of her ilk as the piece itself.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@Luke Lea - yeah, soft stuff. Two steps forward, one step back on the condemnation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/01/arts/music/01seeg.html

RKU said...

"LonewackoDotCom": If you want to stop things from being disappeared, you have to confront those who do the disappearing...Organizing efforts to go confront pols on video about what Chavez was trying to do but who choose to ignore that.

Well, for many years I've been telling anti-immigration activists that they should have named the Minutemen the "Cesar Chavez Brigade," since he's the individual who actually pioneered the concept. But none of them have ever paid any attention...