Posted by: cantmisssd | December 22, 2010

Overwhelming conservatism

The fundamental quandary of San Diego rears its head again in an Aaryn Belfer column in this week’s CityBeat. It’s possible that this is a shrewdly crafted bit of trompe l’oeil prose, designed to spark support for exactly its counterpoint, and if so- well done. But more likely, it’s an exposition on defeatism dressed up as self-reliance that’s a classic conservative rhetorical gimmick. In the form of a long complaint about people complaining.

It begins by confusing dialog around public policy and the fundamental course of city budgeting with complaining. The premise is that people who attempt to insert fairness into government policy- particularly government policy which invites public input- is foolish, because life isn’t fair. Things happen that aren’t right (cover provided by a litany of liberal laments about Prop 13, marriage equality, immigration reform, and education funding), providing evidence that such things are inevitable and, implicitly, that these things somehow sprung into being without… uh oh… the complex wrangling of competing input from different interest groups. The reality of these and other issues like them is that bad things happened because certain people complained, organized, and took action more effectively than others, and that the inequality they’ve imposed are perpetuated specifically by the outlook that people should stop complaining.

But at an even more fundamental level, it’s horribly depressing to contemplate the argument that because life often is not fair (for inescapable, essentially random reasons), government should mirror and even amplify this condition of life rather than attempt to mitigate the same. Even more than that, people are obnoxious whiners if they attempt to improve their lot in life. This passionate argument for mush-minded malaise and the supremacy of an unstoppable elite is the quintessential argument for conservatism: Do not question your lot, do not challenge the establishment, do not participate or lobby for change. Bad things will be visited on you because it’s just the way it works for you in this world.

This is the sort of ‘people power’ that’s been peddled by the right in recent years in San Diego, mobilizing people to take limited control of a small piece of their civic lives while trading away much larger pieces. Playing public vs private, district vs district, insider vs outsider, all towards the end of radicalizing the distribution of power and locking in the concentrated control at the top. Leave the big stuff to the big boys and get increasingly angry over fighting for the crumbs.

That it comes in the context of exasperated liberalism just proves the deeper point- San Diego has deeply internalized conservatism, and for the most part is only able to layer progressivism on top. That leaves a narrow range for anything to ever improve, and it’s a great challenge before the left.

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