Arrears blogging: November 16 -- Ungovernable

I've remarked before about the similarities between Richard Henry Dana's description of the Mexican-run California of the 1830s and the current version that I live in, and in today's reading, the parallels continue to be downright eerie :

In their domestic relations, these people are no better than in their public. The men are thriftless, proud, and extravagant, and very much given to gaming; and the women have but little education, and a good deal of beauty, and their morality, of course, is none of the best.
I kid; we're no worse here than they are anywhere else (the evidence of this site notwithstanding). In a way, this chapter is but an early example of people from back East disapproving of California for its unmitigated pleasantness. And Dana is from Boston, which makes it a perfect example also:
In the hands of an enterprising people, what a country this might be! we are ready to say. Yet how long would a people remain so, in such a country? The Americans (as those from the United States are called) and Englishmen, who are fast filling up the principal towns, and getting the trade into their hands, are indeed more industrious and effective than the Spaniards; yet their children are brought up Spaniards, in every respect, and if the “California fever” (laziness) spares the first generation, it always attacks the second.
He doesn't like our laid-back ways and our Mexicans, which would actually make him a good caller on KFI talk radio.

But while censorious disapproval is the native song of the Yankee liberal, and so easy to make fun of, it doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong; Dana takes pains to point out how miserable the Indians have it:
When a crime has been committed by Indians, justice, or rather vengeance, is not so tardy. One Sunday afternoon, while I was at San Diego, an Indian was sitting on his horse, when another, with whom he had had some difficulty, came up to him, drew a long knife, and plunged it directly into the horse’s heart. ...The poor fellow was seized at once, clapped into the calabozo, and kept there until an answer could be received from Monterey. A few weeks afterwards, I saw the poor wretch, sitting on the bare ground, in front of the calabozo, with his feet chained to a stake, and handcuffs about his wrists. I knew there was very little hope for him. Although the deed was done in hot blood, the horse on which he was sitting being his own, and a great favorite, yet he was an Indian, and that was enough. In about a week after I saw him, I heard that he had been shot. These few instances will serve to give one a notion of the distribution of justice in California.
Nowadays there would also be a proposition on the ballot about this -- perhaps advocating that the corpse get life imprisonment or something -- misleading ads cluttering your TV and radio and mailbox and answering machine. So you see, there is more industriousness in California than there used to be.

0 comments: