California is the nations biggest economy and most populous state. As such, it has always had huge impacts on the nation. Pop culture largely comes out of Los Angeles, home to the film and television industries. The technology sector innovations largely come from silicon valley. There are complaints about some of California's influence on the nation, particularly the consumerism coming from the pop culture. And while excessive consumerism promoted by the media is certainly bad, a number of good things shaping the way we live are out of California. Arguably, California is reshaping our society and the world as we speak.
California helped lead the push for more organic goods. Trader Joes, a chain big in California, lead the push for healthier foods in grocery stores. California was the first to ban smoking in restaurants, bars, and hotels, saving the lungs of employees and customers who don't smoke.
The technology, internet film, and the consumer electronic devices designed in California have made news spread much more rapidly around the world. This helped the occupation movement spread out of New York and go worldwide. The availability of cheap recording devices has turned the average person into a reporter or journalist. But the most important contribution California has made in recent years and currently is California was always a hotbed of activism. In 2005, public transportation workers in Los Angeles went on strike for a couple of months. The same year saw grocery store chains in California go on strike when the corporations that own Ralph's, Albertson's, and Von's go on strike. The Hollywood guilds constantly fight for the benefit of their members (pensions, benefits, royalties). This is how California function before the state budget was decimated in the past couple of years and before the University of California tuition skyrocketed. It makes perfect sense that Oakland was the first city to have a general strike, considering the overall pro labor culture of California. And it makes sense California students would be the first to strongly challenge outrageous tuition increases. The authorities crapped down brutally in California, but this has only ignited more protests. At UC Davis, you have the first instance of two cops and a police chief being put on leave for employing brutal tactics on protesters. And in California, the students are now working with labor and non profit organizations to overturn the artificially low property taxes in California. This ridiculously low rate of taxation is why the nation's largest economy is having difficulty paying for services. Yet California students are leading the fight to reform and raise certain taxes in California.
Part of the reason the crackdown was so brutal in California is because as California goes to the protesters side, so goes the nation. So they were hoping to squash the movement there. Instead, they poured gasoline on an open fire and created a forest fire.