Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Counter Cultural Crunchy Conservatives are on the move....

What is a "Crunchy Con"?

A Crunchy Con Manifesto

By Rod Dreher

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.
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There is a "crunchy con" blog at the National Review now. http://crunchycon.nationalreview.com/

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In the Wall St. Journal today:

The New Counterculture Meet Rod Dreher, a conservative who is critical of capitalism.
BY GEORGE H. NASH
Tuesday, February 21, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Rod Dreher, a columnist and editor at the Dallas Morning News, is a self-confessed member of the vast right-wing conspiracy. As a lapsed Protestant who converted to Roman Catholicism several years ago, he is an unabashed religious and social conservative. He has little use for the morally relativist and libertine tendencies of modern liberalism. Too often, he says, "the Democrats act like the Party of Lust."

But Mr. Dreher is also a passionate environmentalist, a devotee of organic farming and a proponent of the New Urbanism, an anti-sprawl movement aimed at making residential neighborhoods more like pre-suburban small towns. He dislikes industrial agriculture, shopping malls, television, McMansions and mass consumerism. Efficiency--the guiding principle of free markets--is an "idol," he says, that must be "smashed." Too often, he claims, Republicans act like "the Party of Greed."

Four years ago, Mr. Dreher coined the term "crunchy conservatism" (as in crunchy granola) to describe hybrids like himself: political right-wingers with countercultural sensibilities. Now, in a book based largely on interviews and his own experience, he explores the type in depth. But "Crunchy Cons" is not a pallid work of sociology. It is a rousing altar call to spiritual secession from an America that Mr. Dreher sees as awash in materialism, consumerism and "lifestyle-libertarian" thinking.

In Mr. Dreher's view, consumer-crazed capitalism makes a fetish of individual choice and, if left unchecked, "tends to pull families and communities apart." Thus consumerism and conservatism are, for him, incompatible, a fact that mainstream conservatives, he says, simply do not grasp. He warns that capitalism must be reined in by "the moral and spiritual energies of the people." It is not politics and economics that will save us, he declares. It is adherence to the "eternal moral norms" known as the Permanent Things.

And the most permanent thing of all is God. At the heart of Mr. Dreher's family-centered crunchy conservatism is an unwavering commitment to religious faith. And not just any religious faith but rigorous, old-fashioned orthodoxy. Only a firm grounding in religious commitment, he believes, can sustain crunchy conservatives in their struggle against the radical individualism and materialism he decries. Nearly all the crunchy cons he interviews are devoutly Christian or orthodox Jewish believers who are deliberately ordering their lives toward the ultimate end of "serving God, not the self"--often at considerable financial sacrifice.

Mr. Dreher sees "Crunchy Cons," in part, as "a handbook of the resistance." He advocates homeschooling. He applauds community-supported agriculture, small businesses, simple living, historic preservation and much else that promotes a "sacramental" (non-utilitarian) sense of life. You cannot be truly conservative today, he avers, without being countercultural.

These themes, of course, are not new, as Mr. Dreher acknowledges. He cites E.F. Schumacher's decentralist 1973 classic "Small Is Beautiful." He approvingly mentions Richard Weaver (1910-63), the author of "Ideas Have Consequences," and Wendell Berry, a contemporary agrarian poet and essayist. Above all, he extols Russell Kirk, the author of "The Conservative Mind" and a tireless defender of the Permanent Things. Mr. Dreher, in short, identifies himself with the venerable traditionalist school of conservatism that reaches back to Kirk, the Southern Agrarians and beyond: a communitarian conservatism profoundly disturbed not only by secular liberalism but also by the relentless dynamism of modern commercial life.

And therein lies the significance of "Crunchy Cons." It is a reminder of the enduring tension on the right between those for whom the highest social good is freedom--the emancipation of the self from statist restraint and oppressive custom--and those for whom the highest social good is virtue: the formation of character, the cultivation of the soul.

Fortunately, Mr. Dreher is not a dour sermonizer. He is a lively writer with a talent for quotable prose ("the point of life is not to become a more satisfied shopper"), and his sense of humor and self-deprecation help to temper his stem-winding style. He also recognizes that not everyone can afford to withdraw from the mainstream or follow the nearly monastic path that he keeps pointing to. Still, he hopes that his fellow crunchy cons and Birkenstocked Burkeans will have the courage, born of religious conviction, to resist the tides of modernity as much as they are able.

Because Mr. Dreher offers no detailed blueprint for cultural renewal, some may dismiss his book as just another lifestyle manifesto. This would be a mistake. Like it or not, Mr. Dreher raises concerns that will not go away. America today is more broadly free and prosperous than any society in human history. We are gloriously "free to choose." But choose what?

Mr. Nash is the author of "The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945" (ISI Books). You can buy "Crunchy Cons" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.


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