California-The America to Come:
The Vitality of the Provinces
I have now lived four years in California. Obviously I cannot regard myself as a native, but the time has long since passed when I felt any real sense of strangeness and isolation. Now may be the moment to assess what this new life has meant, to try to give those who have never attempted to live there a sense of its anxieties and rewards. Nearly all the literature on California is the work of extremists, whose sharp division of opinion reflects the contradictions that even the casual visitor cannot fail to observe. Yet unless one is to forswear entirely the function of intellectual judgment, one must try to find some common ground on which the hymns of praise to this sun-drenched state and the savage attacks of its detractors may both be lodged a little closer to reality.
I came to California with no strong desire to move West, with few preconceived ideas (and those mostly inaccurate), with almost no previous experience of the place—lured by nothing more romantic than a good job. I had visited the state briefly before the war —but in California a decade is sufficient to make nearly all one’s information obsolete. Indeed, the Second World War forms the third of the great dividing points in California’s history—each separated by roughly a century-the first two, of course, being the arrival of the Spanish and the discovery of gold. The war started (or, to put it more accurately, vastly accelerated) the growth of population and industrialization that are the dominant features of California society today. And it did something of even greater psychological importance: it integrated California with the rest of the nation.
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