Home>Articles>Declaring California a ‘Compassionate State’ – That’ll Fix Everything
A photo of homeless vagrants in Sacramento
Homeless vagrants in Sacramento

Declaring California a ‘Compassionate State’ – That’ll Fix Everything

Where, exactly, is the compassion for Californians? 

By Phil Cowan, November 10, 2019 6:05 am

Before you save the world with your groovy peace vibes, show us that you care for Californians who are forced to dodge dirty needles, human excrement, and heaps of rotting garbage as they tiptoe their way across Downtown Los Angeles.  Or Venice Beach.  Or San Francisco.  Or Sacramento.


I was born and raised in California, and it was a wonderful place to grow up.  Fabulous weather, beautiful landscape, abundant resources, California had it all.  Then a terrible thing happened.  The hippies came along, and everything went sideways.  Even worse, they never outgrew their hippie phase, and now they’re running the state.  Into the ground.

The drug-addled, Flower Power ethos that took root here in the ’60s made The Golden State an object of derision among non-Californians.  We natives have sheepishly endured the mocking comments for decades.  If you grew up here, you know, you heard it all the time.  The Land of Fruits and Nuts.  Hollyweird.  For heaven’s sake, we elected a chief executive who was routinely referred to as “Governor Moonbeam” by the national press.  Then, after almost thirty years of governors not called Moonbeam, California voters decided we were woefully short of space cadets in Sacramento, so they elected him to two more terms.  No idea is too bad—or too bizarre—to not thrive in California, and just when you think our policy makers have, as they say in Hollyweird, “jumped the shark,” they find another, bigger, more ridiculous shark, slip on their Birkenstocks, and take the leap.

Our latest foray into childish, tie-dyed inanity comes courtesy of the California Assembly, who will vote next year on a Concurrent Resolution (ACR 108) that will declare California a—wait for it—Compassionate State!  Wow!  Unless your skull is filled with cannabis-infused pudding, you’re probably wondering what that means.  The answer is: nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  (If your head is stuffed with cannabis-infused pudding, you probably think it’s “far out.”  And you might be a member of the Assembly.)

For starters, a Concurrent Resolution isn’t a law.  It doesn’t really change anything, and it doesn’t have to be signed by the governor, so, as a legislative act, it’s essentially meaningless.  Which is easier than actually legislating.  Even more meaningless is the substance of the resolution itself.  They want to declare California a “Compassionate State”?  Who cares?  They might as well declare it an “Awesome Zone” for all the good it does.  It’s just another excuse for the Democrats to signal their superior virtue by telling the world how much they care.  Which is easier than actually caring.  Because, truth be known, California’s political leadership doesn’t care.  Not really.  If they did, they’d do something to arrest the rapid decline in our quality of life.

ACR 108 begins, “WHEREAS, The Charter for Compassion, initiated by TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong, was unveiled at the United Nations in 2009 and carries forth the vision of creating a global civil society…”  They’re worried about creating a global civil society?  Maybe they could first show a little concern for making California society a bit more civil.  (On a side note, I was under the impression that TED Talks were supposed to be shining examples of advanced intellect.  The woman who conceived “The Charter for Compassion” won a TED prize?!  If that’s the kind of empty-headed nonsense one can expect from a TED Talk video, I’ll pass, thanks.  There’s deeper thinking on display in any given episode of Spongebob Squarepants.)

Before you save the world with your groovy peace vibes, show us that you care for Californians who are forced to dodge dirty needles, human excrement, and heaps of rotting garbage as they tiptoe their way across Downtown Los Angeles.  Or Venice Beach.  Or San Francisco.  Or Sacramento.  An estimated 130,000 homeless people live here (probably a low count), 60,000 in L.A. County alone, and they keep flooding in. They’re rapidly turning the state into a fetid, disease-ridden dump.  We are literally washing tons—as in, thousands of pounds—of unprocessed feces into California waterways and the Pacific Ocean every day, thanks to our abundant homeless population, and what do the compassionate members of the California Assembly have to say about it?  Squat.  Which is appropriate, since that seems to be the only thing homeless people are good at.

How much do California legislators care about their own residents who lost their homes or even their lives in wildfires?  Not enough to take steps to manage our overgrown, fuel-loaded forests, too much compassion for the planet to care about people.  They’d rather just leave them without power every time the wind blows. 

Nor do they care about working people in L.A. and the Bay Area—some earning a handsome living—who are still sleeping in their cars because of the prohibitive cost of housing.  They find a place to park for the night, then go shower at their health club/gym each morning before work.  Homeless, but without the public panhandling and defecation.  The solution?  Uh… they’ll get back to us on that.  They have a world to save.

Where, exactly, is the compassion for Californians?  We’re over-taxed and underserved in nearly every way imaginable.  We have the sixth largest economy in the world, but the highest rate of poverty in the U.S.  Our infrastructure—roads, dams, public utilities– is crumbling.  Next year we begin residential water rationing, because we haven’t expanded our water system in decades, even as the population increased by more than sixty percent.  People and businesses are leaving the state in droves, shrinking the tax base, while our future public pension obligations are underfunded to the tune of an estimated one trillion dollars.  How does our legislature respond to this laundry list of challenges?  By banning plastic shampoo bottles from hotel rooms and insuring that transgender persons can do their business in whatever restroom they desire.  Unless, of course, they’re transgender homeless persons.  They’ll just do their business in your driveway.  Oh, and by declaring California a Compassionate State!  That’ll fix everything.

California has become so brain-dead dopey that it’s now beyond mockery.  Not even the late comedy legend George Carlin could parody what’s going on here.  Those of us old enough to remember Carlin’s stand-up routine will recall one of his mainstay bits was “Al Sleet, The Hippy Dippy Weatherman,” a stoned-out weather anchor (“Forecast for tonight?  Dark!”).  It was funny at the time, because, as with much successful comedy, it was an absurd exaggeration.  Wouldn’t work today.  Not in California.  The puerile mindlessness of the California legislature simply cannot be exaggerated.  If Al Sleet were with us today, they’d make him Assembly Speaker.  He’d be an upgrade.

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5 thoughts on “Declaring California a ‘Compassionate State’ – That’ll Fix Everything

  1. If anyone asks me what state I am from , I don’t tell them I am from California!
    Excellent report today. I am waiting for this “Compassionate State” to go chapter 11 or receivership or whatever happens to a state that is insolvent, and now the leadership has just now proven how crazy , silly, trying to come up with the apt word, a better word, can I use incompetent?
    Compassion means a feeling of deep sympathy. How appropriate.
    Get rid of this governor, then what fool would lead these incompetent creatures out of the ditch?
    Best for all of us is to form a new state.

  2. As Founder of Compassionate California, and volunteer staff at the International Charter for Compassion, I could not agree more with Phil Cowan! In fact, the condition/state of California is exactly why a Compassionate California is critical, vital, and urgent as hell.
    Let’s set the record strait; a Compassionate City, State, Country or World is as far from dopey and/or groovy as you can get. A Compassion State is uncomfortable because just about everyone of it’s safety net issues are threatened, if not seemingly irreversibly destroyed. Compassion, in these current conditions requires great courage, commitment, strength of character, and will. I want to repeat that, so simply invite you to read it again!

    It’s also important to understand that a Compassionate State is not fully reliant on government. And, it’s only as strong as the Partners of Compassion within the state. It’s a partnership across the board. It’s where Top Down meets Grassroots. It requires us all, or a critical mass of us to say, “Yes”.

    This may not be the ideal subject matter to make a case for a dysfunctional government.
    It’s because of such conditions that we need this more than ever.
    I should also add that a Compassionate State initiative is also non-partisan. Or, is it beter to say it’s uni-particsan?

    Everyone of the issues that you state is a result of the deep root of systematic violence that did not just arrive on the scene. It’s been festering for, in some cases, a hundred years. Our homeless, drug, healthcare, environmental etc crisis will not be healed by legislature flipping a switch or waving a flag.
    Social scientists are finding that compassion, empathy and early education of such values are the fastest way to cut these issues at the knees, some within a generation. There is a reason why elementary schools are applying social emotional intelligence to their curriculum. Studies are showing that corporations that apply certain principles rooted in compassion impact productivity, employee retention, and the financial bottom line. Ideally, in a Compassionate City or State, the faith communities are upping their game and taking measures to be more environmentally sustainable. Environment activists are working with other sectors to address their interrelated issues and goals, and I can go on.

    Denny Sanford recently gifted UCSD $100M for landmark studies of empathy and compassion. Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research Education has been addressing this for nearly a decade.
    There’s a world of Universities that are doing the same. Come on! What hippy can convince Denny Sanford and the other generous donors who give for such research to separate from their treasures with some brain dead, tree hugging hippy ideals?

    I also agree with you Phil that we are close or at triage mode and something’s got to change- But it’s more than policy. And maybe this is why we are still having this conversation in 2019. We know policies can flip when a new leader takes over. Over and over again, administration after administration. How do we actually fix an issue that is not reliant on one administration’s philosophies? Answer- we collectively shift the culture.

    The general and agreed upon description of the meaning of compassion in this work is, or close to, “the willingness or realization of another’s suffering and the impulse to do something about it.” Anything else is just sympathy or empathy. This is what distinguishes compassion from the rest of the warm and fuzzy words. Compassion is the human condition to care and motivate one towards healing. Without taking an honest look at the discomfort, and applying compassion in all efforts to heal, and do so as we recommend; in collective impact, sustainable complete healing is not possible.
    What’s wrong with normalizing compassion into policy making? I don’t recall anyone or thing falling apart because of too much compassion.”
    It can be argued that both sides of our political divide now in our country are influenced by great compassion for their completely polarized positions. However, both share the common condition of compassion. So, you can see, being compassionate does not indicate a particular outcome, such as stuffing daisies into the end of rifles.

    When Darwin wrote the expression, “survival of the fittest”, he was talking about the most adaptable and compatible. It makes sense and begs the question, “what do you consider fit?”
    Compassion is often hard, and can be painstaking. Once we declare ourselves compassionate, we declare the willingness to do something about all this suffering, and do it through the lens of compassionate right action. We also don’t do it alone. Again, it requires collective impact- a condition of a State of Compassion at it’s best.

    A Compassionate state or city requires Compassionate schools, and Partners in 12 sectors of society as listed on the Charter For Compassion website- Arts, Environment, Education, Healthcare, Restorative Justice, Religion and Interfaith, Peace, Women and Girls, Social Justice, and Science and Research.
    When we declare a State of Compassion, we are declaring we are willing to do do this work to accomplish all of our goals of alleviating as much suffering and injustice as we can. It’s where we start, not the flag we wave. ‘Probably, a flag we will never see in our lifetime realistically, but we can start here.

    Thank you for your article Phil. It gave me and others in this work insight that we need to do a better job at informing people that a compassion is grossly misunderstood, and what a sad commentary on our society. We appreciate this opportunity and commit to pumping up all efforts to remind our world that compassion is required for our survival.

    Disclaimer- I have hugged a tree.

    Sande Hart

  3. It’s interesting to see that two of the three comments here are from people who are ashamed to be associated with the State of California, (papa88, excaliexpat) but oh so willing to smear it behind the safety of their screens. Your efforts might be more impactful if you showed up to party, friends. It’s pretty juvenile behavior to come to the table with complaints, and yet no solutions of your own? And furthermore, to lob immature comments at those who are actually attending to the challenges. Typical. As well, I consider this horrific and inflammatory reporting by someone who appears to show no interest in deep research of the subject matter. If you care to see a solution, show up for it. Otherwise, you’re exposing yourself as a fully grown 12-year-old bully.

  4. Dear Sande,

    Thanks for your response to my opinion column on California Globe. I’m happy to hear that it may have caused a stir in the Charter for Compassion, because it’s an organization that needs to seriously examine its purpose, and perhaps embark on a more productive and impactful quest, because what they’re doing right now has about as much meaning as a “Coexist” bumper sticker.

    Frankly, after your explanation, I’m no less puzzled by the effort and what it seeks to achieve. You say your version of compassion isn’t soft and fuzzy, so what is it? You assume correctly that I don’t litter or physically assault the homeless, but I don’t know anyone who does those things, nor do I witness those behaviors in general. I can’t recall the last time I saw trash tossed from a car window, and can state with 100% certainty that I have never seen anyone step on a homeless person. Not doing those things isn’t prickly or painstaking, and it doesn’t require courage. It’s just simple, civil behavior.

    The point of my CalGlobe rant wasn’t that “compassion sucks,” but that in a state facing myriad, serious issues– serious enough that a sizable portion of its residents are leaving or thinking about leaving– instead of tackling the issues in a productive way, our legislature is wasting time on meaningless gestures. What’s next? Drum circles?

    I would submit to you that, if anything, California doesn’t suffer from too little compassion, but from an overabundance of it. The thousands of homeless people who keep streaming into our state aren’t coming here for the weather, they’re coming here for our compassion. They come here because they know that, in our limitless capacity for compassion, we’ll tolerate their behavior, no matter how perverse or anti-social. We’ve exceeded the limits of reasonable compassion and tolerance and reached the stage where we refuse to hold anyone accountable for anything, so they simply take advantage of it. In the name of compassion, we decided that our criminal justice penalties were too harsh, so now most property crimes are mere misdemeanors. What did that get us? An explosion in property crimes, and a reduced quality of life. San Franciscans now live in a city where they can’t leave anything visible inside their cars, even a cellphone charger cable, because if they do, they’ll come back to find a broken window and their vehicle ransacked. Should they have to live that way, Sande? Should any of us? Is compassion worth that?

    More compassion won’t solve California’s problems, but what might is more accountability. Instead of declaring itself the Compassionate State, California would be better off if it became the Tough Love State. At least that would make a difference. More compassion will only make things worse.

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