A Classicist Farmer: The Life And Times Of Victor Davis Hanson (2024)

Over the years, Hoover senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson has graced Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson many times, often referring to his family home and farm outside of Selma, in California’s Central Valley. So for this interview, we decided to go to Selma and see where Hanson grew up and still lives and where several generations of his family—going back to the mid-19th century—have lived and worked the land. In part one of this two-part interview, we cover Hanson’s rich and fascinating family history and the sweeping changes he’s lived through in terms of both the business of farming and its social life. In part two (coming in two weeks), we’ll cover the political scene, including the upcoming presidential election.

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A Classicist Farmer: The Life And Times Of Victor Davis Hanson (1)

To view the full transcript of this episode, read below:

Peter Robinson: Victor Davis Hanson back at the ranch on "Uncommon Knowledge" now. Welcome to "Uncommon Knowledge." I'm Peter Robinson. Victor Davis Hanson, a classical scholar at the Hoover Institution, a journalist on Fox News, and on his website The Blade of Perseus, and we come now to today's program, a farmer, here in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Dr. Hanson has published more than two dozen books, including "A War Like No Other", his definitive account of the Peloponnesian Wars and his most recent volume, "The Dying Citizen." Victor, I ordinarily welcome guests to the studio, but you've permitted us to join you here in your house, so thank you for welcoming me.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you for coming to Selma.

Peter Robinson: A pleasure, so let's talk about this place.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: Your family came to California from Missouri.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: About the turn of the last century, over a century ago, around 1900, is that correct?

Victor Davis Hanson: No, my great-grandmother, Luciana Davis, came here in 1871.

Peter Robinson: Really?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: From where?

Victor Davis Hanson: From Missouri, they were in a southern area of the state and they were northerners. And after the war, they saw an ad for land, and they took the newly built transcontinental railroad to San Francisco and they hired a buckboard, and they just came out here, and there was no town or anything. And there was an artesian pond, which is still here, and they homesteaded it.

Peter Robinson: When you say they came here, they came here to this place in 1871?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, and they bought, the railroad was given sections, which were only about two miles from the railroad. And they bought it for $4 an acre from the railroad. And they were given 30 years to improve it, or the railroad could take it back. And then we had the famous Mussel Slough and "The Octopus" by Frank Norris, you know, the whole railroad scandals of taking land back when they shouldn't have, that was only eight miles from here.

Peter Robinson: Really?

Victor Davis Hanson: The Mussel Slough Tragedy, yeah.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so keep going from Missouri, how long have they been there?

Victor Davis Hanson: I'm fifth generations-

Peter Robinson: You're fifth generation here?

Victor Davis Hanson: In this house, yeah.

Peter Robinson: Fifth generation in this house?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: All right. So who's the oldest generation? Can you remember your grandfather?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, so I grew, my mother was Pauline Davis Hanson of three sisters. And she was here. And then her father was Reese Davis. And he was my grandfather. I knew him really well, we were very close. He died when I was 21. He was born in the bedroom that I'd sleep in, in 1890 and he died there in 1976 at the age of 86. And his wife, Georgia Wade Davis, died at 93 there. And unfortunately, there were three daughters, my mother and aunts died very early comparatively. And then he had a father, Cyrus Davis, and Cyrus Davis was, he was born here, and he came, his mother was Luciana Davis. So that was my mother's great-grandmother.

Peter Robinson: And Davis, to me, is a Welsh name.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, they were, Reese Davis…

Peter Robinson: And Reese as well.

Victor Davis Hanson: They were all 100% Welsh.

Peter Robinson: All right, and where do the Hansons come into the picture?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, they were a different family. They came from Lund, Sweden. And they came about 1890 and-

Peter Robinson: Straight from Sweden to here?

Victor Davis Hanson: They stopped in Chicago on the way for about a year.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Victor Davis Hanson: And there was a town called Kingsburg. And it's still there, it's a Swedish town, and there were about 30 elders that came, the Kingsburg colony. And he was one of the first, in fact, if you go to Kingsburg, California today, there's a municipal park, and that was his ranch, his farm. And he gave part of it and sold part of it to the city in the 1940s, and there's a monument, Hanson Corner there, of all the Hansons that fought in World War I and World War II.

Peter Robinson: When you were a boy, were there still people around here who spoke Swedish?

Victor Davis Hanson: Oh yeah. I'd go down with my grandfather. We'd walk down Kingsburg and we'd go to Swedish funerals. Yeah, he died, nothing for next hour, yeah, he's dead. Yeah, he worked hard. And then you go to their house and there's butter cookies and rye crackers, and they drank a pot of coffee, and they say, they look at each and stare, and say, "Yeah, he died. Yeah, he worked hard." My mom couldn't get along with 'em. I mean, she loved them, but they were very tough.

Peter Robinson: Not talented conversationalists.

Victor Davis Hanson: All they wanted to do was work. It was like, you know, Saturday morning, you work all week, you get home from school, you work on a farm. Then my dad would say, "This isn't an old man's club, what are you doing here?" Well, I said, "We're sitting down." It's 07:30 in the morning on Saturday morning. We played football last night. It's time to get up and work, time to work up a sweat. It's all they do.

Peter Robinson: So, I'm trying to think, we are now seated in Fresno County.

Victor Davis Hanson: County, yes.

Peter Robinson: And...

Victor Davis Hanson: Three miles from Selma and five miles from Kingsburg.

Peter Robinson: All right and the last time I looked up these figures, which was, I had confessed was a couple of years ago, but Fresno County was the most productive agricultural county

Victor Davis Hanson: It is, it is.

Peter Robinson: In the entire United States.

Victor Davis Hanson: By the dollar amount of their products.

Peter Robinson: Several billion dollars a year of produce comes from this one county.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: They could not have known that in 1871.

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, there were ads all over that this was, if they had water, and there was no water. So this was considered the best soils, the best...

Peter Robinson: Oh, so people knew that or they-

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, that's what drew them here. They said you could plant figs, they tried everything. They tried peaches, they tried figs, and then they settled on, the Armenian community introduced, after the massacre, the Thompson, the raisin grape, and a man named Thompson refined it, and that created the, we're at ground zero of the raisin industry. At least we were. It's kind of faded now, but this was a perfect climate to grow grapes and dry them on the ground as raisin.

Peter Robinson: I see.

Victor Davis Hanson: So All this area that's almonds now was raisins until 20 years ago.

Peter Robinson: All right, so can I go, you've been here, you and your family have been here for five generations. I'd like to go, if I may, just get a sentence or two from you on each era.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: And of course, we'll come to the eras you remember. John Steinbeck made California, during the Depression, famous. Did the old timers tell you what it was like during the Depression?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, my mother was born in this house in 1922 and she told me that when she was nine-years-old, there were 40 relatives living here. They would go down to the Selma train station and they'd get a letter that somebody lost his job, cousin on both sides, and they lived in the barn, they lived in the packing shed, and they had a big communal pot. And they all worked, and some of 'em didn't leave till 1939. So until about 20 years ago, I would see these people show up. I didn't know who they were. They would be in their 80s. And they would drive by and say, "Oh, Victor, your grandfather took us in. He had land and he didn't have any money, but we worked and we lived there," and they knew the place better than I did. One person said, "You know, if you go into the house over there, you'll see where I carved my initials." So it was pretty, I remember all these stories from the Depression.

Peter Robinson: And then we come to the war.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: As I recall, now you and I have known each other a long time, and I'm reaching back to conversations, or snippets of conversations we had. But as I recall, your dad and a very close uncle, an uncle to whom you were close, both served?

Victor Davis Hanson: My father, and he had a first cousin whose mother died in childbirth and whose father was blind, so they adopted him. They were like brothers, Victor Hanson. And they joined the Marine Corps together. And then nobody knows what happened in 1940, they went to the University of Pacific, they were on football scholarship. They were the two ends of the football team, Alonzo Stag was the coach. And they joined the Marine Corps-

Peter Robinson: Two tough Swedes on the football team.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, and they were pretty big, about 6'3, 220. And one of them hit his officer, they got in a fight, and then they decided, the judge decided one of 'em had to take the blame. So my dad took the blame. So they transferred him and they said, my dad, as he reported the story, said, the military just said, "We're gonna fix you. There's a new B-29 program in Nebraska. They all crash and they all die at SERC, and you're gonna go over there, and be one of the first to be crashed and killed." And then Victor stayed in the 6th Marine Division. And he was on Guadalcanal training and then he went into Okinawa and was killed on the last day of Sugar Loaf Hill. My father survived the training, went to Tinian, and flew 40 missions on a B-29.

Peter Robinson: Over Japan?

Victor Davis Hanson: Over Japan. And he won the Air Force Medal. He was the equivalent of the Silver Star, he had a burning napalm bomb caught in the Bombay, and he climbed out and got it, and would blow up the crew. And they crash landed twice on Iwo Jima. So nobody thought he was gonna live and everybody thought Victor, the war was winding down, and Victor got killed and William lived. And then his father, Frank, was gassed in World War I. And so I remember my grandfather with disabled, he broke horses for a living on his little Kingsburg ranch, but he had wheezing, he died from cancer, from the phosphine gas when he was 79 from the tumors and then...

Peter Robinson: So did your dad, when you were a boy, you were born in 1953.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: The war is very close until 1953. Did your dad talk about it?

Victor Davis Hanson: He did, but this is what I remember. These weird people would show up, like there was a guy named the pilot, Allenby, that saved him. He was the most brilliant pilot on Tinian. And he would come in with a junk truck and he was a junk salesman and-

Peter Robinson: You mean here?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, he would drive in to visit and he would say, and he was all covered with dirt and junk, and my dad would always lecture, "That man was the best pilot in the US. He flew 40 missions with us. He went to Korea and flew 60, and then another guy would come." He was the navigator. This guy was a Jewish guy from Harvard. He was a brilliant mathematician. He got us through, 'cause he figured out how to get home in the dark. And he did that. And the message I got was, all the guys that had all of the attributes to keep them alive didn't do too well in civilian life. And that really was a message my father said, you know, "Every single trait that'll keep you alive, being audacious, reckless, brave is not what makes you money." So he was kind of bitter about that, because there were a lot of people he knew that got deferred and his brother kind of got killed, his first cousin, adopted brother, and then my mom's first cousin who came here, he got killed on D-Day, Holt Cather. And then Belden was good, we all loved Belden. He was a cousin, and he got dengue fever in the Philippines. And he was mentally, you know, he got 108, he almost died. So he would come out, he had nowhere to go And so, and then my uncle was in Alaska, he got wounded, so we would have this table, this table, and they'd all all be around, and it was so funny. They'd say, "Well, you know, the B-29s won the war." And they said, "No we didn't, we stopped them in Alaska." And then somebody would say, "No, no, no. World War I was the war." They'd all kid each other about who had it the easiest. But they were all combat veterans, and wounded, a lot of them.

Peter Robinson: So now they go from farmers. I'm trying to get my chronology right. This ranch and these towns are dominated by your grandparents' generations through the '30s, and then the '50s and '60s, so you're named after your father's cousin who died?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, when I turned eight, they opened up this old locker and they said, here's his briefcase, here's his baseball bat, here's his baseball uniform, here's his diary. Now let's see if you can be the man he is.

Peter Robinson: Oh.

Victor Davis Hanson: And my dad said to me, "I don't want you ever to lie. I don't want you to do, we'll see if you can be the," 'cause he was a straight A student. He was just a very handsome guy, everybody liked him. And then my grandfather, who was very Swedish, and he would say, "Ah, you'll never be like the first Victor. He was such a good boy. Nobody could be that way." So I never drank, I never smoked, I didn't get into the drug culture. And I thought my whole life was, I have to be as good as this guy I never met. And then I wrote an article once about him dying-

Peter Robinson: It's still with you?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, well, I wrote an article and all of a sudden a 93-year-old man called me up and said, "I was his commanding officer in Okinawa."

Peter Robinson: Oh my goodness.

Victor Davis Hanson: I said, "You're still alive," this was 2000. I was at the Naval Academy as a visiting professor and he said, "Would you like his ring?" I said, "Ring?" And he said, "Well, when we carried him down, he was dead. He was the last person to die. We cut off his ring, he was swollen. And we called from San Diego. I called your grandfather." This would have been 1945, this was 2003. And he had this thick Swedish accent, said, "I don't wanna talk about the Marine Corps. I don't wanna talk about it, I'm done." So he kept it. And I said, "What happened to it?" He said, "On my mantle, I'll send it to you in the mail."

Peter Robinson: Oh my goodness.

Victor Davis Hanson: So he did.

Peter Robinson: As you grow up, your dad is not working the ranch, he becomes an educator. Your mom is a lawyer. She becomes a judge. I mean, they move away from...

Victor Davis Hanson: My grandfather had a very strange idea. He had three daughters and one was severely crippled, Lila, and she couldn't do anything. So he said, "There's no man to help me." And so he mortgaged his ranch in 1930, late 30s and he sent my mother to Stanford. She got a BA at UOP and then she got another BA at Stanford and then she got a law degree in 1946. And then her sister got a BA-

Peter Robinson: That had to have been just extremely unusual for her.

Victor Davis Hanson: It was crazy. It was. And everybody thought that he was nuts. They said, Reese Davis mortgaged his place to send-

Peter Robinson: To give a girl an education.

Victor Davis Hanson: A girl to go get a BA and JD and then, or LLB in those days. And then the sister, my Aunt Lucy got a BA and MA and then she was a community college professor. Then my mom went out to work and there were no jobs unless she wanted to be a legal secretary. They wouldn't hire her. She went all over San Francisco. So she came back, married my dad, and she was a wonderful mom. She raised us till she was 40. And then one day, they opened a court of appeal. She went up, she did very well and she was the head of the legal team for the judges. And then when she was 49, they appointed her the first female, second superior court judge in Fresno, female. And then four years later, she was on the state appeals court. I think she was the second woman in the state. She had a great career and then she died, that family had a cancer gene. So she died at 67 of a brain tumor. Her sister died at 49 of breast cancer. Her other sister died at 61. All the females in that, and my own daughter died when she was 26. So if you go back to the lineage of six generations, about 75% of the women died very early. And we're all worried about all the women that are still alive. You know, because it's weird.

Peter Robinson: Young Victor leaves the ranch at Selma.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: To get an undergraduate degree in classics from UC Santa Cruz. So you leave here, you go up over the mountains to the coast to UC Santa Cruz. And there are two questions that come to mind immediately.

Victor Davis Hanson: Why?

Peter Robinson: You grow up. I'm looking out the windows and I see almonds, but they used to be fruit trees, classics. How on earth did that happen in a farming community?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, my father looked on a map and he said, "Your brother, this is a new campus. It's cheap, there's no tuition. UC Santa Cruz, it's supposed to be hard to get in. You're all three gonna go there and you're all gonna rent a house, we'll save money. There's no tuition." So I said, "Okay." So my brother went there, but he didn't know it was crazy. It was a hippie count.

Peter Robinson: So when you enrolled, what year are we?

Victor Davis Hanson: '71.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Victor Davis Hanson: My brother was there in 69. My twin brother, we both went together.

Peter Robinson: The 60s are happening.

Victor Davis Hanson: And we went there and my father dropped me off and the first thing he did, he went into the co-ed dorm and he said, "Two people are fornicating in the shower and there's a guy next to you on your door with all the drugs with prices on them. And this place is crazy and are you gonna be able to handle it?" I said, "Yeah." So I had kinda short hair and I took a class from a guy named John Lynch, who's a wonderful professor. And he said, "I just came from Yale, PhD. We're starting a Greek and Latin. You're doing a good job. If you would study classics in this new program, you would get your whole education paid for someday." And so I came home and seemed good, so I said, "What do I have to do?" He said I have to go to Yale and take Greek intensive for the summer. I did, I was 18 with graduate students. I came back.

Peter Robinson: That was your first time across the country?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, first time out of this area, except for Santa Cruz. And then I took nothing. I took advanced placement in high school. So I had no GE, so I took literally every single course at UC Santa Cruz was in Greek and Latin language. So I took 30 or 40 courses and then I went to Greece for a year on a scholarship.

Peter Robinson: Victor, when you got to UC, this may sound like an impertinent question, but did you already know you were a smart kid?

Victor Davis Hanson: No, no, because I was in Selma High School and I was with some really bright farmers' kids. I mean, some of 'em went to, five or six of 'em went to Caltech and they were brilliant mathematicians. And then I didn't study that. I mean, I got good grades, but it was pretty wild. Most of my friends were Mexican American or poor white.

Peter Robinson: Here?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, the Oklahoma diaspora, It was a very poor area. And you had to fight, it was just football and girls and fighting and cars. And I didn't quite fit, but I did have to learn how to defend myself and my friends were all, I still hang out, I'm going tomorrow and having breakfast at 06:00 with the highway patrol people. And then I went to Santa Cruz and it was just a shock, 'cause these were wealthy kids from Pacific Palisades and Palos Verdes, they were all very left wing. My parents were conservative democrats. And then after three years, John Lynch came to me and he said, "Well, you're gonna get your PhD." I said, "I don't even know what it is." He said, "Where do you wanna go?" And so he said, "There's two philology probably, Stanford and Harvard are philologists. You know Greek and Latin well." So I went to Stanford. They paid my whole way. I went to the American School of Classical Studies and I got, at 26, there were no jobs for white males with a classics degree, so I came back here.

Peter Robinson: Let me read to you from your book, "Fields Without Dreams." This is a book you published in 1994. Quote, "In May of 1980, I came home to Santa Cruz from the Stanford University classics department." So you've got your doctorate from Stanford, you drive down the coast to the house in Santa Cruz that you and your brothers share, "got in the car and without notifying anyone, drove to Selma from the coast. With that three-hour drive, I left contemporary culture for good- or so I thought and would have wanted," close quote. You had a degree in classics from Stanford University and from this point, an academic career would have been open to you anywhere in the country. And you drove back to the house we're sitting in now and began working this ranch.

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, my mom called up and said, she was living in Fresno at that time and they had this house. And she said, "Your grandmother's 93, your grandfather died. Can you take care of her for a summer?" I drove down, I took care of her and I started farming. I saw my twin brother was working very hard.

Peter Robinson: Here?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: To hold this all together.

Victor Davis Hanson: And he was trying to hold it together. And my cousin was coming and I said I would help. And then I didn't have any money and there was no money. It was during the Depression, really, of the bad 70s and the Carter Administration. So I went to the local high schools and they said, "No, you're too qualified. We don't wanna." I went up to Fresno State, I'd never been to Fresno State, and they said, Classics? We don't have a classics department. We don't want you." So I started farming for five years and then I kind of became, I don't know what, antisocial. There was a 12Peter Robinson:month period. I did not leave this place. I did not even go into town. I grew my hair long, I grew a beard and I just did the worst jobs I could think of, pesticides, herbicides. I liked to work alongside the Hispanic workers 'cause we did peace work. So I would go out and try to prune and see what would be a fair wage. And then I would go out and work with them and I would pick them up and bring them home. And they were brilliant guys. They'd say, "Hey, Victor, if you're so smart, why did you get a stupid degree at that place called Stanford? Now you're doing just what we do." I said, "Good question." So I was considered a pretty big failure and my thesis advisor was very disappointed in people like that. He would call and say bad idea.

Peter Robinson: So...

Victor Davis Hanson: It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Peter Robinson: But I still, okay, you didn't have money. I understand that. I'll buy that for a year or two. But then the 80s begin, the economy begins to recover and you had a Stanford degree.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: And you went to Fresno State and they didn't want- Fresno State eventually, what did you do? You talked your way into a job at Fresno?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, I did.

Peter Robinson: Why did you stop there instead of calling Cornell or Harvard or?

Victor Davis Hanson: I had written, I was very lucky in my casePeter Robinson:

Peter Robinson: Is there a conscious rejection of some, did you go through some kind of hippie phase or what was in your head? What were you thinking?

Victor Davis Hanson: It was a right wing hippie phase.

Peter Robinson: I figured, okay, this I have to hear.

Victor Davis Hanson: I had published my thesis, "Warfare and Agriculture," so I had a book out and it was very well reviewed, so.

Peter Robinson: Okay, let's stop there. I wanna take you through some of your early books. "Warfare and Agriculture" appears in 1983.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: You're still working at this ranch. So you had time to take your thesis, and I am sure that before it was published by a commercial house, an editor wanted you to make adjustments to an academic thesis. It comes out, it's "Warfare and Agriculture." And you argue that to understand Greek warfare, a scholar had to understand Greek agriculture. Ah, so now this ranch is in your thinking.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, it is.

Peter Robinson: Explain that argument.

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, everybody said that the Peloponnesians, the Athenians were devastated, because their olives and vines were destroyed. And I had grown up taking trees out and I had some olives, I had some vines. So every time I'd see a passage in Thucydides in Greek, I'd go out and try to pull out an olive tree or try to take out a vineyard, you know, with different types of hand tools. Or we used to plant cover crops, barley and oats. I tried to burn them and see at what point they would be combustible. It's very hard to do. And I went back through all of Greek literature and I said, "This is crazy. It's exaggerated, it was a psychological tool to intimidate an agrarian society.

Peter Robinson: It's really hard to rip up all of the truth.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, and so when they say everything was destroyed in the second invasion of Attica, then you start looking at wills or speeches of people that have property and it's not all destroyed. Or you go look at the archeological remains of houses, it's not destroyed. Or you see internal contradictions within a historian. It's just what you would think. And that was kind of new, so that worked well, but I didn't translate that into a career. I went up to Fresno State and I asked each year, I knocked on the door, I could teach. And then finally one of the professors who was German had one Latin class. So I begged him and at the end of the semester, they said, you're done. And then I gave a lecture and the doyen of the McClatchy family, Phebe McClatchy heard.

Peter Robinson: McClatchy's a newspaper publisher. It was a very important family here in-

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, they were very big in this area. And she came up to me, she said, "Why are you not teaching?" I said, "There's no money." So she wrote a check for Cal State Fresno for $21,000. That was my salary. And I had one shot for a year. And then I caught four classes. And then the next thing I knew, I got a chance for a tenure track. I wrote another book. And then I found a brilliant guy who was from a cattle ranch, Bruce Thornton.

Peter Robinson: Your closest friend.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah and we hired him and the next thing it just took off. We had all poor Hispanic and poor white and Southeast Asian students. We had Latin, Greek and we had brilliant students. And when I, at 50, I quit. But I did it for 21 years and we had six professors. And it's still there, the program. Some of our former students got PhDs and they run it now.

Peter Robinson: All right, back, if I may, to this ranch in your thinking.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: You write "The Other Greeks" in 1995. And in this book you argue that the emergence of the Greek city state, which is distinctive for private property, consensual government, is only possible because of the existence of an agrarian middle class. Explain that argument.

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, most classicists, you know, classics, they're literary and they talk, they read Sophocles or Aristophanes. It's the elite. And they're wonderful pieces of literature, that was some of my specialties. But when you start to look at who were the people fighting hoplite warfare, they were farmers. And when you start to see how they describe battles, they all use agrarian metaphors and similes that, you know, like, it's like taking a scythe through wheat or it's like smashing grapes. That's their frame of reference. And when you look at the countryside, you start to see that it was parceled out and equal. You can start to see-

Peter Robinson: The Greek countryside.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. And then when you see the ecclesia that met on the Pnyx and you can start to see there were slots. So it was sort of that all the people who have equal slots in the countryside are gonna be in the phalanx of grade and they're gonna be equal in the assembly. So it was reverberation, so it was a political, an agrarian and a military triad.

Peter Robinson: And it starts with the land?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, and the funny thing about it was, there had been some brilliant French and German scholars in the turn of the 19th century that had said things like this and they were kind of neglected. And this was a time during, when I wrote this, it was the heyday, it was Michel Foucault, Derrida, postmodernism. So I went back and I could read French pretty well, but not Germans, but I spent a whole year and a half reading these great books and I learned a lot from them. And I was very lucky that Donald Kagan from Yale was at Stanford that year and he and I would talk every afternoon about it. And I had a thesis advisor who I don't think was very fond of me, but he started to specialize in this area. And so I would, and then I wrote, you know, the book was a little self-indulgent. I remember the editor said, "You've got footnotes in the text, you've got footnotes at the back of the book and you've got footnotes at the bottom. I don't want any more footnotes. You've got 70% footnotes and 30% text." But it was supposed to be a popular book, but I kinda hijacked it and turned it into a scholarly book.

Peter Robinson: "The Land Was Everything," which you published in 2000. And now you're making an argument that starts with this ranch. And you're not talking about Greek culture, you're talking about American culture. Quote, "We are not starving in this country. I have no worries about our food supply under corporate conglomerations, but we are parched and hungry in our quandary over how to be the good citizen." This is your theme 23 years ago, explain that argument.

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I was very worried that I started when I was teaching and being around young people, that I started to meet people who had no physicality. In other words, this was right at the beginning of thePeter Robinson:

Peter Robinson: You're still teaching at Fresno?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, but I was still farming at the same time. And if you said to some of my students, "Go chainsaw a limb or go fix a lawnmower, they couldn't do it." And when I grew up, everybody, you know, took apart cars and tractors. And we were always told when I came back, got my PhD, I drove in the yard, I didn't tell my dad I was coming back. And he said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "I just, I'm done. I'm done, I got the degree." "Well, where's your graduation?" I said, "I didn't even go to it." And he said, "Well, okay, well, then you're gonna go down there and I want you to wire the dehydrator." I said, "I don't know how to do it. "Well, son, if you can read Greek, you can do a dehydrator and I'll get down there." And one person in my family is very literate. I won't mention his name, but he said something really cute. He said, "You know, dad, knowing Greek is," he quoted, I think Johnson, he said, “it's like a dog that…”

Peter Robinson: Walking on its hind legs?

Victor Davis Hanson: “Walks on his legs, it's impressive, but nobody really knows what it's for.“ Women preaching, I think. So anyway, I thought that it was very important for people to be able to do physical things, mental things, and then be a citizen involved in voting and participation. Farming was really good about that, because one day a person would come in, a banker and he'd come over here and he'd say, "Okay, Victor, I wanna know exactly the production per acre and how much are you spending on fertilizer, herbal," and you'd be on a spray rig and you'd say, I've gotta get two pounds per acre. I got 40 pounds on the spray rig. I've got a dilution of one gal. And you'd have to be a mathematician. The next day, you would have to drive in steaks all day, vineyard stakes, all day long with your brutal back, or you'd have to tie up young vines just on your knees. And you'd look down and you'd say, I did 15, I'm tired and there's 200 more. So it was really good. You were using your mind and your body all the time and you weren't making any money. And so you'd have these existential questions, that insurance guy that just came in probably made $50 an hour, just be in his new, you know, his new Mercedes. And I'm out here working and this year we lost 42,000. I told the banker this and he said, "Yeah, Mr. Hanson, you paid $12 an hour for the privilege of being on that tractor in 105 an hour. How does that feel?" And I said, "Are you gonna be stupid or are you gonna be smart? You have no business farming if you're gonna lose $40,000 and pay for the privilege of driving a tractor."

Peter Robinson: So, Victor, if I may, let me, the importance of the land runs through all your work, as I believe we've just demonstrated. And you feel it, as you have just demonstrated. So let me push back a little bit and give you just 90 seconds of my own family history. My mother grew up on a farm. And her grandmother started each day with an ax chopping kindling for the wood-burning stove. And she was still doing, I saw that with my own eyes. When I was a little boy, that was still the way my grandmother started the day. And when they had a chicken, it was my grandmother who picked up the ax and cut its head off. And my mother and her sister were never permitted to touch the ax or to get up and learn how to help with the milking, because their mother had decided she was not going to equip them with skills that would turn them into farmer's wives.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: They were going to move into town, because farm life was hard and it was lonely. And we see that, at least in Northeastern Pennsylvania, maybe that was different here. Maybe it wasn't lonely. You sound, the way you talk about it, it was a community. But back east, there was a mile between each farm. So the argument I'm testing on you, and I take my life in my hands as I say this, because you are you, is that you're romanticizing it, Victor.

Victor Davis Hanson: No, I'm not.

Peter Robinson: That the reason we have so many, that the reason during the 20th century, we went from 90% of the workforce in agriculture to whatever it is now, 6% in agriculture.

Victor Davis Hanson: One.

Peter Robinson: 1% in agriculture is that people found better options. They got off the farm because they wanted to.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, I...

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Victor Davis Hanson: Absolutely, and the productivity per acre from when my grandfather farmed till when we did, it increased six, seven times. So every time that happened, it freed people out to be neurosurgeons and computers. So that was great.

Peter Robinson: Or classicists.

Victor Davis Hanson: But there was a paradox by it. The more agriculture was able to free people from the drudgery of the land and give them a cosmopolitan and more affluent experience, the further and further they got away from reality. So it was a double-edged sword. So when you have this whole generation and you can see in "The Dying Citizen," like, look, the age of marriage from 23 is up to first age of marriage is up to from 23 to 27. First child is from 26 to 33, for the homeowner is from 31 up to 38. And the fertility rate has crashed from 2.1 as late as 2000 to 1.6. And so what we're doing is we're not inculcating the idea that a man and a woman marry, they have children, at least two to replicate the species, they have an autonomous house, they're independent, and they have some autonomy and freedom from government or the corporation. And that was what farming taught you. And we've got people who don't know anything about the physical world. I would go to the farmer's market, I did that for 10 years. I would get in a, with my kids, in an old van and we'd go to Santa Cruz or Monterey and we'd paddle fruit and people would-

Peter Robinson: You'd drive up over the mountains?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, and finding that our children, that was the best thing that ever happened to them. They hated it, but when they were 16, one of them would get in the van, that was 16 and he'd have 14 and 13-yearPeter Robinson:old kids with 3,000 pounds of fruit on a 15-year-old van and drive it over Pacheco Pass and set it up, and those kids would come back with $3,000. And they would apologize if they stopped and got a hamburger and spent too much. And it was just wonderful what happened. But it was hard. My son was, he learned how to drive it with my brother, yeah, he taught him how to drive a forklift. He was over working on the coast, I won't mention, Home Depot type of store. A truck drove in, they needed to be loaded. No, everybody had to be certified with a little vest. He was just sitting there, the truck driver was mad. He just jumped up and masterfully unloaded the whole thing and the truck driver, and they fired him, because he was not certified. Even though he'd done it for 15 years as a kid, he grew up on one. So that kind of, you're right. It's very lonely out here. I always ask, "Why am I putting money in this house? Why do I still live here?” Because I go each week to another cosmos, you know, Palo Alto, it's just the opposite. And everything is different. Everybody acts different. And then I'm here and everybody will say here, "Why in the hell do you go up that crazy place, Stanford?" I get up there, "Why in the hell do you live out in the middle of nowhere? I drove through Fresno once, man, I would never live there." And so it's like schizophrenia. It's been that way through undergraduate, graduate. It's just the poles, there's nothing more antithetical than the coast of California than the farm. And there's nothing more antithetical in the farm-

Peter Robinson: But if you had to choose one or the other, you wouldn't hesitate for a second.

Victor Davis Hanson: No, I'd live here.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Victor Davis Hanson: So the people I see every day are my insurance salesman, the police I know, are mostly people I went to school with, and they're mostly Mexican American or they're poor white kids. And they're all very successful now, but they're very loyal to you. They come and talk to you. They don't care what you do.

Peter Robinson: Let's talk about this community then.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: Selma is the big town, that's the nearest big town.

Victor Davis Hanson: It is now.

Peter Robinson: About 20,000 or so.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah. It was six when I was there.

Peter Robinson: Here's from your 2019 book, "The Case for Trump," Selma then, quote, I'm quoting you, "For a century, 1880 to 1980, Selma was a prosperous, multi-ethnic and multiracial community of working and middle class families of a cohort of about 250 graduating seniors in 1971, that's your high school class. Only about 10 or so of us went away to four-year colleges. Most found no need to leave Selma."

Victor Davis Hanson: They did not.

Peter Robinson: All right. Here's Selma now, again, I'm quoting you, "Selma's remaining native poorer whites, ethnics and second and third generation Mexican Americans who would not or could not leave, are not culpable for the vast transformations in the city's economic, social and cultural landscape. Their once prosperous and stable community did not deserve to erode," close quote. Something went wrong.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: For the people of Selma and it wasn't their fault. What was it that went wrong?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, when we decided that we were going, because of technology and communications, we went globalized. So the people on the two coasts are, west, toward Asia, the east toward the EU. People who had skills that were Xerox or overseas, law, media, academia, entertainment, corporations, they made more because their markets went from 330 million to 6 billion, 7 billion. And all of a sudden, and I saw it as a person. I would be writing columns in 2003 and somebody from, you know, Youngstown, Ohio would write me a fan letter and then all of a sudden, people from Korea and Japan and China, you know what I mean? You had a global.

Peter Robinson: So your market increased, your personal market?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeas, it helped-

Peter Robinson: As a journalist, as an academic journalist.

Victor Davis Hanson: But the point was if you had muscular labor that could be replicated or a business, you were done for. So if you were not vertically integrated, and now I'm looking at 360 right now around here, I can tell you that we were the largest farm. And it was 40, 60, 80 acres, and it was self-sufficient. And they raised these very stable families. Nobody, we didn't have a key to that, there's no key to this house when I grew up. There was one constable. Go forward, upright harvester that built sophisticated machines that would go up and down to load jets went broke, Del Monte went broke, Calcan went broke, Fruehauf Trailer went broke. All of these businesses that my high school kids would go and make very good wages, they were wiped out. They were offshore or outsourced, or they left. And then these farms were conglomerated. So that one or two people, I mean, the largest farm I ever remember in high school was a guy whose family had owned 400 acres.

Peter Robinson: That was the big operation.

Victor Davis Hanson: I know everybody around here either owns or is renting out to somebody that owns 12 to 15,000 acres. And that means that these farm houses, when you look out, they're still there, but who's living in them? These are people who either are renting from town or they're from, they've just crossed the border 'cause it's cheap to live out here or they're hired people, but they're not autonomous families that are socially economically viable. So what's the difference? The difference is I go out here and I spend most of my Saturday and Sunday picking up trash. I mean just people come out, and I'm not talking garbage, I'm talking sofas, television sets, et cetera. We had a person, I'm in-

Peter Robinson: Because people use a corner of your land as a dump.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, they do it everywhere. They don't have money, they're just renting a house. They're not aware of the protocols. I don't know who they are. I find a dead dog with a rope around its neck from dog fighting. I go over here, the SWAT team is over there. They've got 15 people within 13 gangs. I go over here, I'm riding my bicycle. I used to ride my bicycle. A dog barks, jumps up, bites my leg open. I come to the door. There's three more dogs that come out and bite me all over. The people don't speak English, so they close the door. I call the sheriff and, you know, I can't deal with it, you deal with it. I call the pound, you deal with it. And finally I say I'm gonna write a column about it all. Then they deal with it. And I have to have the dogs locked up for 30 days. I don't know if I've got rabies or not. And these problems were all solved in the 19th century here. I can remember my grandfather saying when they got rabies vaccination for dogs or they got mosquito abatement. So what it is now, it's wild west time in California's center and it's-

Peter Robinson: Okay, can I, so it sounds to me.

Victor Davis Hanson: There's no community left.

Peter Robinson: No community. All right, so hackneyed example, but before the internal combustion engine, you have a huge industry based on horses, blacksmiths and carriage makers and harness makers. And then in the space of a couple of decades, Henry Ford comes along and this industry collapses. So that's too bad, but economic developments happen and there are winners, but there are also losers. That's nobody's fault. That's just the way free market economies develop. So what I wanna ask is to what extent is what happened here, in your lifetime, in your seeing, simply something that happened and to what extent was it the result of conscious bad policies?

Victor Davis Hanson: It was this idea that… I'll give you an example to illustrate. So the market collapsed with raisins. It went from $1,400 to 440 in one year.

Peter Robinson: A ton?

Victor Davis Hanson: A ton in one year.

Peter Robinson: Say it again, from 1400 to 440.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Okay, wow.

Victor Davis Hanson: The year before, we cleared $80,000. That year we lost 250,000. So they had a person from the Reagan Administration and the Raisin Administrative Committee 'cause everybody was complaining they wanted. And I was 26, farming. I was all dirty, I went there and I ask him, I said, "Why do you control the market and why do we subsidize our NATO partners who are dumping Greek and Turkish raisins below the cost of production that you can buy in the United States cheaper than American raisins?" And do you know what he said? He said, "This is a win-win-win for everybody." I said, "Would you please explain that?" He said, "The consumer will get cheaper raisins the less money eventually." I said, "No, some made raisins are $2 a pound, no matter what it is." "No, no, no, it'll go down." And the number two, our competitors will not be able to sustain that subsidy. I said, "They will if we're paying for their defense budget." And he said, "No, no. And it'll make you be more competitive. That's how the system works. Now you may not think you can make it on 440, but maybe you should sell out and company will get, you know, he won't have to turn his tractor at the end of the row. He just makes a big thing and he will find economy of scale. So this is why the market works." And I said this, I won't mention names 'cause the families are still here, "This man blew his brains out. I went to high school with him and to make sure that he killed himself, he hung himself, he shot himself and he put his car exhaust in his garage. The other man who was a ditch digger, he killed himself." And I said, "I know a whole generation of farmers that were wiped out. Did it have to be that way?" And you know, he said, "Well, if you don't wanna study economics, you don't know anything, I can't help you." And I said, "Well, why don't we do it to you? Why do we need you? Why do we need a Raisin Administrative Committee? If you really believe in the free market, just wipe it out and we'll just go have a free market." But I said, "The problem with all of you guys is you always give people lectures who are the losers. And you're never responsible for the consequences of your own ideology." And so I think it was, I'm not saying that you've gotta go with the French model and have expensive food and gourmet food, but this idea that you just wiped out the bedrock of the foundation of American democracy. It was 96% of the people who were there in 1776 were farmers.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Victor Davis Hanson: And there was a certain code, a shame culture, a code, self-reliance. And when you look at our major cities, what's going on today, you get the impression that people are not grounded in anything. They don't know how to work physically. They don't understand they should be autonomous. They look for government for, not just for help, but for their existence.

Peter Robinson: Victor, can I, still on Selma, what happened in Selma, different book of yours. You've written so many books. I can't quote them all. 2003, you write a book called "Mexifornia," quote, "Sociologists call a small cohesive town like the old Selma a face-to-face community. As a small boy, I used to dread being stopped and greeted by 10 or so nosy Selmans every time I went into town. Now I wish I actually knew someone, among the many that I see. Today, Selma is an edge city on the freeway of somewhere near 20,000 anonymous souls. And it is expanding at an unchecked pace almost entirely because of massive and mostly illegal immigration from a single country, Mexico," close quote. All right, Reagan signs an amnesty in 1983, but not just an amnesty-

Victor Davis Hanson: '86, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act.

Peter Robinson: '86, it's not just an amnesty. It also includes enforcement measures which are never used.

Victor Davis Hanson: Never used.

Peter Robinson: George W. Bush tries to deal with immigration. Donald Trump promises to build a wall and in fact, he builds something less than a hundred miles. He achieves a temporary lull in immigration.

Victor Davis Hanson: He did repair 500 miles of the old wall.

Peter Robinson: All right, and under Joe Biden, well, as we sit here today, Rule 42 is-

Victor Davis Hanson: 10,000 Came in illegally yesterday.

Peter Robinson: Just yesterday, and it'll be more tomorrow. Why is immigration so hard for us to handle?

Victor Davis Hanson: There's too many people who benefit from illegal immigration. Start with the Republican corporate city of commerce, landscaping, meat packing, hospitality, hotels, restaurant, farming, they love cheap labor. They have forever. Some of the hardest working people in the world are from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Michoacán, the southern part, Indigenous people. The poorest of the poor.

Peter Robinson: They don't even speak Spanish.

Victor Davis Hanson: No, some of them don't speak Spanish. I found that out 20 years ago when people would speak Mixteca Baja. Okay, so they come up here, they work very hard. It's like heaven compared to where they were. And then they are 40, they're heavy, they have injuries and then they say, okay, go to the federal dialysis, go to the MediPeter Robinson:Cal, do this, and we need another replacement for you, 18. Where they work, how they work, no concern. That was on the right. On the left, they said we have a bunch of issues, say Joe Biden. And we can't get a majority on our crime issue. They don't like our prosecutors, they don't like our open border, they don't like the way we approach race. They don't like our energy policy. So we can't win unless we do two things. We've gotta control the institutions, media, academia, Hollywood, entertainment, the corporate boardroom, K through 12, et cetera. They do that pretty well, the left. And they say, you know what? We flipped the Reagan, Pete Wilson California doesn't exist anymore.

Peter Robinson: It's gone.

Victor Davis Hanson: And we flipped California blue. We flipped Nevada blue, we flipped New Mexico blue, we flipped Colorado blue. And we did it by driving out the middle class to go to less taxed places. But we brought in 20 million illegal aliens. So now we have, in the United States, the highest number of people who were not born 50, 50 million. And before you think I sound xenophobic, we take in, in 2019, the last year, we took in one million legal. I think that was great. These are people who wait in line to come to this country. And what do we do? In addition to the one million, we open the border. We let in people who, the first thing they do is break the law. The second thing they do is break the law by residing here. The third thing they do is break the law by trying to find some kind of identification. And we do it because the left wants constituents and they think they're gonna come in, there's gonna be amnesties, and they're gonna vote and they're gonna, if they don't vote, they need health, they do. They need education, they need food, they need shelter. It's more subsidies, it's more workers. It's more federal government. It's more taxes. This is what we want.

Peter Robinson: That's what the left wants.

Victor Davis Hanson: And then we have the final in this mosaic, the final tester is the Mexican government. And the Mexican government wins, wins, wins. The largest source of foreign exchange is 60 billion, billion dollars that leaves California.

Peter Robinson: Admittances from-

Victor Davis Hanson: All these states go to Mexico to support families. And who sends it? People who, by and large, have federal, state, local subsidies. So the California taxpayer, the Arizona taxpayer, and Colorado, pays a lot of taxes. People get help and subsidies and they free up $2 to $300 a week and they send it to Mexico, so Mexico will not help its own Indigenous people. And then Mexico sees, wow. And I'm quoting now directly from President Obrador the other day. He said, "Well, it's a beautiful thing. We have 40 million of our people in the United States now. And they're ex-patriots." Well, yeah, they're a lobbying organization. And he said, "And they should all vote." Remember, we said they should all vote Democratic. So Mexico feels that they have a safety valve. You don't march on Mexico City if you're in Oaxaca, you go into Selma. You send money back to the Mexican government so they can continue their racist practice of ignoring Indigenous people. And then they have an ex-patriot that waves Mexican flags at soccer matches. They love Mexico as long as they don't have to live there. And it's a win-win for the corporate right, the left wing and here and the Mexican government. And who's the only person who says this is very destabilizing? We're kicking veterans out of the military 'cause they won't get vaccinated and we let in six and a half million illegal entries since Biden and we didn't ask one of them if they were vaccinated or if they were gonna be vaccinated or if they were infected with COVID. Not one, we don't know whether, we have nothing about them. I go into SFO and I see once in a while, I'd come in a lot from a different country, if a guy does not have a passport and says he forgot it, they take him in a little room and they make him sit there, where they either find some ID or they send him back. I've seen people being escorted to go back on the flight home. You go down to the border, they just walk across. So they're treated better than people that can be citizens that don't have a passport. It's the most insane thing in the world. And the beauty of this system is we know how to integrate, assimilate and intermarry immigrants. We do it better than anybody. If people come legally, they come from diverse places all over the world, so they don't conglomerate in one tribe and they have some, a modicum of either skills, education or language fluency. But you bring a whole group of people from one place. And the fifth and most important part, the host has to believe in the singularity and exceptionalism of his country. He has to have confidence. He has to say to himself, I didn't ask you to come to my country. You chose to come to my country. You're a guest. Now this is called the brutal bargain. You can keep your language, your customs, your fashion, your food at home, but when you're in the public square, you're gonna learn English, you're going to learn our traditions, and you're not gonna come with grievances against your hosts upon rival. That's what we all did. It was pretty brutal. I can remember my grandfather saying, "I'm so tired of these Swedes. They all say Sweden was so good. I remember Sweden was just a bunch of rocks. That's all it was. If they love the rocks so much, why don't they go back?" So that was the attitude of the immigrant. And so I see, you know, there are tales of confidence because I go into Selma and I see a lot of entrepreneurs, Mexican American people, and I see a lot of people who come up and they're very conservative. And I actually believe that's the only hope in California, that about half the population is now identifying as Hispanic, but they're intermarrying. And they are taxpayers and they're saying to themselves, "Why do I have to give up my natural gas stove?" I don't like people bursting into the Catholic diocese and telling us about transgender protests. I want a good police force. So they haven't been corrupted by luxury and affluence of the bicoastal elite yet. And so I have confidence that it'll work its way out, but it didn't have to be this way.

Peter Robinson: Victor, last questions. Again from your book, "The Land Was Everything," quote, "To Aristotle, man was tame only to the degree that he was occupied, independent, only as long as he owned property. Man realizes the dangers of his own natural savagery only through his attempt at physical mastery of the world around him," close quote. Does it have to be agriculture?

Victor Davis Hanson: No.

Peter Robinson: If Aristotle were here today, would he say, well, coding or writing or teaching, they can all tame our savagery? Yes or no?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, I think so, but I think there is one difference. What he was trying to say was, because that was his only frame of reference, because, 90 people, they had to. It took nine people to farm for 10 people to live, 90%. But what he was trying to say is that it was autonomy, autonomy, autonomy, so what I'm getting at is, if you're an independent coder or you're an independent producer, or you're a freelance camera or sound person, then you're scrambling, you're independent, and that creates a different mentality than if you're working for a big conglomerate. Some of us will, you know, I was working for one at Cal State Fresno. But to the degree that a person can carve out an existence where they're not just checking in eight to five and learning about their retirement and they're taking risk, and sometimes the degree to which their income depends on their health, and sometimes they got the flu, and they've gotta work, that creates a different type of citizen. And I think that's been the genius. Some of the most brilliant people, I've met two types of people in my life that are absolutely brilliant. One is the 7-Eleven owner. I go in there, I talk to those guys. They know inventory, they know security, and they know pricing. They know the competition, and I don't know how they do it. I couldn't do it. And every once in a while, I'll talk to a trucker, especially when I was a young kid when they were working, and those guys are, they knew how, they were mechanics, they were mathematicians about the price of fuel. They were really rugged people. And you don't need everybody like that, obviously. You need people at the DMV, but to the degree you have a large minority who are independent, they provide a check on the rest of us. They go to a school board meeting and they say, "Just a minute, just a minute. I don't like this critical race theory stuff." They're outspoken, because that's how they are in their life. You don't want everybody to be like me, a teacher, and work for a conglomerate.

Peter Robinson: "The Land Was Everything" one more time. Last question here. "Your idea, I'm quoting you, "your idea is only as good as your will and ability to see it enacted." Action, action, do things. "The more abstract liberal and utopian you can't, the more difficult it is to live what you profess. The farmer of a free society solved, uniquely, the age old Western dilemma between reason and faith by using his reason and intellect to husband and direct the mystical world of plants even as he accepted the limits of reason by experiencing, every day, a process that was ultimately unfathomable."

Victor Davis Hanson: Yep.

Peter Robinson: You water those almonds, you put fertilizer on them, and when it comes right down to it, it's still a mystery when those blossoms appear in the spring. Okay, your idea is only as good as your ability to see it enacted. Is there any way back, if not, to more family farms than to that mentality?

Victor Davis Hanson: It's hard to know because it requires a kind of a tragic view of the world that you can't control everything. And our problem in our society is that any little grievance or little misfortune, we're so self-absorbed that we want to blame somebody or we want it to be perfect or we're so close to utopia, we're so materially affluent, we get angry when we don't live to be 90 and die in our sleep. We had a Santa Rosa orchard over there and we did everything right, plum orchard, 1986 or something. And we were really on the edge with the bank. And I had done all these figures and I said, you know what? If we get 700 pack-outs and the price can stay at 10 bucks, we'll pay off the loan. And we have the best crop we've ever had, and most of our neighbors don't. It's gonna be a great year. We spent a lot of money. We fertilized, we thinned, and guess what? Does it ever hail in May? Why would it hail in May? We were gonna pick on June 10th and then May 28th, this big black cloud came right over there from Santa Barbara, it came and it literally stopped right above the orchard. And for 10 minutes it hailed. And when it was gone, every single beautiful plum had pits all over it and was ruined. And who do you blame? But the point is, you get to the point where you say, that happens and it's not my fault, but I can't control things, but I'm gonna do things that it's not gonna defeat me. So I'm gonna have a backup plan. That's how you look at things. And, you know, I've had situations in my life where I thought people were unfair to me or I didn't get a job, or I didn't, but I never thought of suing somebody. I just thought, you know what? That's what they wanna do. Let 'em do it, I'll go around the other way. I'll do something else. So you have to have that attitude that, you know, we all die and you've gotta have this tragic view that it's a very adversarial world out there. And I think people, if they don't have that farming experience or trucking or whatever it is, they get told by the society and their parents that they can shield them, helicopter, everything is gonna go right. And you can see it with these university students. They're so bright. They're at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and they melt down, you know, when they don't get their way and they just start, this is so unfair. And you think, well, you know what? I would like to take you and give you, you know, an eight foot tandem disc and just say, go down there and disc for seven hours and see what happens. It's not gonna be alright. You're gonna hit a vine, you're gonna overheat, the disc blades are gonna break, and you're gonna have to deal with it. But they don't have to deal with anything. And that's why I'm really worried, because just to finish, when you look at this whole culture we're creating, in the 60s, we had the ugly American, remember? All the corporations were going abroad and telling everybody, we have an ugly America now. We go overseas and we say to the Greeks and the Israelis and the Cypriots, you're gonna end that EastMed pipeline. Just cut it off. It was really valuable. It was gonna help Europe, because we think it goes against our idea of global warming. And you know what? Those people in Kabul University, we're gonna spend $700 million. You're gonna have a gender studies program. And we're gonna fly the pride flag in a traditional Islamic society over the embassy and we're gonna have a George Floyd mural. We just go around the world now and imprint this whole woke culture on all these different groups of people. And because we think it's so advanced and sophisticated, utopian and radically egalitarian, that we have the moral superiority to do that. And 'cause we just have to control everything. And it's this group of people that comes out of this affluent suburban university life and they get into government and court and, you know, you wanna say to 'em, screw you. How do you know that you're any better than these other people? Who are you to say that the Afghan people have to have a gender studies program? Maybe they don't want it. Maybe, you know, there's not a lot of homeless people in Kabul. Maybe when you go down to, I don't know, Saudi Arabia, there's not people injecting, defecating, fornicating and urinating on the streets of San Francisco. Where do we get this arrogance that we are so much better than, we are good, but I think we've had so many people that have never been questioned and they've never had any adversity in their life and they've been pampered and they are elite and they want to control our lives. You're not gonna have a natural gas stove. That's just wrong. I've decided that it's over with. Go tell a guy who is living in a shack one quarter mile down the road, he's got a big natural gas stove outside that he cooks on. Or, you know, you're gonna have 5.50 a gallon in California, because we don't want carbon, you know, in the air. Go tell a poor Mexican guy that's driving to San Joaquin in a 1962 pickup that. They have no sympathy or empathy. And that's what's really, I get really angry about the elite, affluent, educated classes in this country. They are so self-absorbed and narcissistic and they want to be, they're messianic. They wanna spread these ideas all over the world and they should start at home first. I would say, you know what? Go over to Afghanistan and do all you want. All you have to do is one thing first. You've gotta be able to walk down San Francisco streets, market without getting feces on your feet and without being shouted on. And you have to drive, get on the New York subway for five nights without having a problem. When you can do that, then go lecture the world.

Peter Robinson: Victor Davis Hanson, the fifth generation to own this ranch in the San Joaquin Valley of California, thank you.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you for having me.

Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge," the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.

A Classicist Farmer: The Life And Times Of Victor Davis Hanson (2024)
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