|Forcing House of National Character
From California: The New Society, 1963.
||Reader: Kevin Hearle
"UCLA's Brain Research Institute helmet and IBM 7094 system," photographed by Leigh Wiener, 1963. Larger.
Writers as diverse as Mark Twain
and Carey McWillams
have marveled at how California has always been ahead of the curve. That's partly because of who comes here and partly because of what they leave behind.
Intrigued by how California has always been a "renegade among states," writer Remi Nadeau noted how even when California didn't invent some new cultural mode, it took it over. All because of the fast pace of change and the diversity found here.
But it must also be said that California, through this very change and diversity, is a forcing house of national character. Having left behind the social inhibitions of his old hometown, the Califonian is a sort of American in the making. What the American is becoming, the Californian is already. Like the microbe that the scientist has succeeded in isolating, California is a social organism that is unprotected by a screen of custom and conformity. It is a magically honest and sometimes frightening mirror at the other end of the microscope. As one startled newcomer put it, "Every national evil can be studied more clearly here." So it must be added, can every national good.
Great, great grandson of a famous California muleskinner
, Remi Nadeau has written many books on California, including California: The New Society
, published in 1963.
"Halloween 1963," photographed by Tripshaft, 1963. Larger.
A persistent promise of the California dream is freedom, but what happens when independence turns into self indulgence?
Author Remi Nadeau was more than passing suspicious of the freedoms promised by California life, especially when they were claimed by kids. And what better illlustration can be found than the annual practice of "Trick or Treat."
Halloween has passed from an era of mischief and has become a kind of wholesale grab bag for kids who wouldn't know how to inflict a trick if they were challenged to do so. Paper sacks in hand, the little goblins descend on the neighborhood as though the evening's loot is a constitutional right. One boy announced that he had collected four bagsful last year, and was going to set a record with six. Other kids are by no means backward in expressing disappointment at a meager haul. Said one of the more tactful ones, "Thanks. Are you running out?" I have heard youngsters make monetary estimates of value received upon leaving the door. "Five cents worth of candy!" Some families commercialize the evening to the point of driving kids to other neighborhoods after their own is worked out. One doorstep contributor had the last laugh when the little ones were back home sorting their evening's take on the living room rug; there, amidst candy, gum, and popcorn, was a dog biscuit.
Remi Nadeau's occasionally sardonic view of California culture appeared as California: The New Society