Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Hall of Mirrors.

I just noticed that Rod Dreher is highlighting a blog entry in which Clark Stooksbury criticizes our own Pauli for his recent hypothesizing about his (Dreher's) book's revised subtitle.

Clark must rather fancy us, because in another blog he has linked to Daniel Larison's noticing Pauli's suggestion that the self-described reactionary radicals and front-porch anarchists may be holding views that are a wee bit out of the mainstream.

This was just before Rod repeated a passage of John Lukacs's that was first cited by Caleb Stegall, who appears in Rod's book, in the "CrunchyCons" blog at NRO, and now the Reactionary Radicals blog.

Rod Dreher's first blog had Stegall and Bruce Frohnen has contributors. Stegall's site, the New Pantagruel, lists Dreher and Frohnen as contributing editors -- in addition to Jape and James Rovira, just about the only two gentlemen brave enough to address our wit and wisdom here on our turf. It also includes Jeremy Beer, who -- alongside Stegall -- now contributes to the Reactionary Radicals blog.

I note all this in passing. This cadre of like-minded writers, a group that seems to have more descriptive names than actual members, has made it their hobby to blog for each other, to read and to quote (and to be quoted in) each other's work, but that's not prima facie proof of their retreating into an intellectual cul-de-sac where they can shield themselves from all criticism, serious and satirical.

On the other hand, accusing us of harboring a "blinding and obsessive hatred of all things Dreher" doesn't help, Clark.

Glad you're all still reading us -- you really can't help yourselves, can you? -- but I do wish that y'all would deal with the substance of our criticism. Eventually.


Blogger Clark said...

1. I was being ironic. I don't think you all blindingly hate Dreher. I stand by "obsessive," however.
2. People who describe their political adversaries as "vampire moonbats" don't have standing to complain about their arguments not being addressed substantively.
3. "Reactionary Radicals" are outside of the mainstream alright; but since "conservative" Republican rule has led to huge debt, quagmire in Iraq, and one of the most incompetent administrations in the last 50 or so years, I don't mind.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

I got lucky and have some free time this evening. I will try to engage you on the substance. By your writing and what you say I assume you all are Christians. So my intention is to strengthen you all. I want to debate not defeat. Why fear the truth? I don’t have a lot of time but I will do my best.

First, I have one small comment on Rod’s book title. If the long subtitle on the hard cover was intended to be a gimmick, then I have to assume the title is also a gimmick. So I want a new name. We are not a gimmick. Nor am I interested in cute inoffensive names like “crunchy con”. We are fiercely trying to live out our faith. At the same time we are trying to stand against the culture of death, and protect our children from it as much as possible. Culture of Death is an accurate description of the culture, and not hyperbole. It literally kills. (
This is very serious stuff.


One element of the contra crunchy criticism is that you all do not believe that the dominant culture forces you to participate in materialism.

I disagree.

The culture forces, encourages, and cajoles us to embrace materialism. The book presented options on what can be done to avoid the more benign aspects of the dominant culture. The book argues for solutions which promote a sustainable countercultural lifestyle. This blog criticizes the book and the solutions. The blog comments seem to be critical if we go to the country, and then are critical if we stay in the cities. Our faith exhorts us to engage the dominant culture, and by doing so change it for the better--not drop out of it. I choose to be American and I choose to be a Christian. I cannot change Christian doctrine. However, I can in a small way try to change the American culture so it aligns with Christianity. And Catholic Christianity tells me that I cannot retreat from this engagement. Hence I am compelled by my faith to resist the dominant culture’s influence on myself and my family. What the book seems to be saying is that these spiritually debilitating influences come from both sets of lawmakers. Certain lawmakers prefer different types of materialism. Regardless of the flavor materialism is bad, and detracts from faith. In our society we feel that it has gone too far regardless of the flavor. The solution is about keeping balance and not sliding down the slope. We are advocating for a slope check.

How are we compelled to participate? We are taxed. My taxes go to any number of government programs that I totally disagree with. Hence, I am forced. Some of those taxes subsidize abortion.
I support politicians who will vote to end this. But in the mean time, my taxes go to support this outrage and many other lesser outrages.

There should be enough holes above for you guys to exploit. If I misrepresented your views, please let me know and I will adjust.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...


1. Speaking for no one else, I can say that I would probably be less relentless in my criticism of Dreher if he would more thoroughly respond to critics.

2. People who describe their political adversaries as "vampire moonbats" don't have standing to complain about their arguments not being addressed substantively.

That presumes that calling people vampire moonbats is all we do here. That's clearly not the case.

3. Mainstream conservative publications like NR have been pretty outspoken in complaining about the spending in Washington (two cover stories since January), so I'm not sure how you're outside the mainstream on that particular issue.

But on Iraq, yeah, you're on the fringe. I believe you're also guilty of not seeing the war there with any sort of perspective. By most historical measures, Iraq has been quite bloodless; and even compared to our own history of revolution and constitutional government, their transition to self-rule has been lightning-quick.

5:23 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

I stand by moonbats. "Vampire" is intended to be a sort of superlative modifier for "bats"; an awkward construction, but close enough for horse-shoes and blogs.

Bubba has made substantive arguments both here and elsewhere. I'm really just the class clown on this blog at this point since I'm no longer being personally attacked. So if my quirky comments are preventing Bubba from receiving responses, then I should apologize to Bubba.

Sorry, Bubba. I'm a big part of the problem you have not had your sincere questions and criticisms answered. I shall heed the discipline of the High Suburban Council and I throw myself at the mercy of the Nutrasweet Court.

For an example of a question which is representative of me at my most serious and sincere on this topic (which may or may not register on a standard sincerity meter) I asked Rod once in a comment on his beliefnet blog which politicians have the highest "crunch factor". I didn't expect to be answered even though I do think it is a practical question. I know, I know -- Carter, Barack Obama -- but I meant people I could vote for in good conscience. Rod could start the ACCU as a crunchy compliment to the ACU.

6:06 AM  
Blogger SiliconValleySteve said...

First of all, everyone except the most humble monk is a materialist to some degree. When I read about crunchy cons, all I keep hearing about are birkenstocks, artisan cheese, fine wines, craftsman homes etc. In other words materialism. David Brooks made a great comment when he referred to the hybrid-lovers anger at the SUV drivers. It is a war between the people with big kitchens against the people with big cars.

We all have a choice about how materialist to be. We all have a choice about if we want to create community or retreat to our homes. I'd have it no other way.

What is really galling about the crunchy thing is that it is so phony. Rod and his cronies obsess on the "right" material objects to own but criticise others as "materialist". He eschews worshiping with his neighbors or schooling his children with them but makes himself a champion of community.

Do you want to know what community is? It's stones in your pocket. Bouncing around they wear on each other until the edges are smoothed. It ain't easy and it ain't pleasant but it is how people come together. It humbles you and reduces your ego. Sometimes painfully. But you come out of it a different person as do the others you rub against. That's how a community is built. Otherwise we're just talking about silly utopianism which has a sad failed history.

If you want to create a community pay the dues. If you want to wall yourself off from the world in terminal fussiness, go ahead but don't be a fool proclaiming "community" as a great virtue that the folks with the big cars and the big hair lack while you create a fantasy of a "community" of the right kind of people. It's really just another country club trip. You're free to pursue it (I don't care) but spare me the phony propaganda.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Silicon Valley Steve for President!!! [Or something.)

There is more real wisdom in one sentence from one of your posts than in all the Crunchy Cult manifestos put together and cubed.

I think it's called "common sense." Like in: "But hey, isn't that emperor there wearing NO clothes?"

10:45 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Yo, he be buck nekkid!

11:02 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

First let's talk about simple monks and materialism. Since monks suffer from the same afflictions we do, there is always room for improvement. Here is a mp3 and text of a wonderful story about a simple monk who turned out to be not so simple, and St. Mary of Egypt who by today's standards would have been considered a coke-snorting whore before her salvation.

Amongst other things, St. Mary's story illustrates perspective. Please read or listen. It is very edifying.

This is not about food or dropping out of society it is about engaging the dominant culture. Mr. & Mrs. Dreher are not the only ones who do this. There are lots of us. As I sited in my earlier post we are criticized if we stay urban or if we go agrarian. The intention is not to disengage from the dominant culture. I advocate engaging the culture and trying to change it.

Rod's choice of topics may not be the best for you, but what we are trying to do is change the landscape. Instead of playing the game of life on the marxist or capitalist home field, we are trying to get folks to come play ball on our home field.

I like to stick to the abortion example because it is so germane to our times. I wonder how many women volunteer or are pressured into having an abortion due to the effects of our culture. Fear of losing a career or being doomed to poverty or other such rationales. Consider how many parents turn their children over to disinterested third parties to raise them, because both parents feel pressured to work. The pressure for both to work could be financial or societal. Government materialists then step in to encourage it and ensure it by wanting to fund things like universal day care. That's the height of materialist compassion and imagination. They raise taxes and make it even harder for parents to get out of the rat race. Talk about vampires.

I agree with you on what you said about community. The stone analogy a very good. I really like it. That's why I blog with you guys. I think Rod's writing about home, community, and food are intended to save lives. Perhaps, just perhaps, some foolish man might read something Rod wrote, and reconsider driving his wife to planned parenthood to kill their unborn baby so she can keep working, and they can continue to afford the lease payments on their Hummer. I think this scenario happens more often than one might think. It's not about wine and designer cottages. It's about life and death.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Mystic, returning to a point you made in your original comment and that you just reiterated, I for one do not criticize others for living either in the city or on the farm.

My objection to crunchy conservatism is that they criticize us for living in the suburbs -- what Caleb Stegall infamously described as "the suburban landscape of instant gratification, fear, and spoiled denizens of personal desire."

I personally don't think that where you live -- city, farm, or in-between; whether it's your ancestral home or the third city you've moved to this decade -- is the key factor in determining who you are.

In fact, if you decide to move away from your hometown, WE are not the ones who will imply that you live a "near-nomadic life."

2:50 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Bubba, thank you, thank you. That is the point precisely. The problem with the Crunchy Cult is that it reifies personal tastes and preferences into quasi-sacraments...and then implicitly condemns those who have *different* tastes and preferences. It fails to recognize the bedrock common sense of that ancient proverb, "De gustibus non disputandum est." (Or as Prince Orlovsky puts it in *Die Fledermaus,* "Chacun a son gout.")

I have friends (and relatives) who live in McMansions. I have friends (and relatives) who live in trailers and double-wides. (When I was growing up, one of my aunts lived in "the projects" in South Boston. I can still smell the urine in the stairwells.)

I do not condemn any of them. (Some of them, of course, had--and have--no choice.) There is a wide variety of ways in which Christians can live their lives in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus. Eating free-range chicken is far from the only way. The Rod-style Crunchies' sanctimonious implication that they alone have the lock on authentic Christian living borders on Control Freaky: "You VILL dine convivially on organic carrots!"

Heck, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha used to put ashes on her food so she wouldn't enjoy it. I don't feel much urge to emulate her in this, but hers is just as legitimate a tradition ("memento mori") as Rod's. And, well, she's a Blessed, so she must have done something right. :)

One of the glories of Catholicism, IMHO, is its wide diversity of legitimate spiritualities. If Rod prefers a system in which everyone marches in lockstep with his Vision, well, I doubt he'll find that even in Orthodoxy. Such blinkered narrow-mindedness lends itself more to the Arthur Pink Model: finally confining "church" to your own home because no one else is pure enough for you.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Diane wrote:
> One of the glories of
> Catholicism, IMHO, is its
> wide diversity of legitimate
> spiritualities.

Yes! That is exactly the point I tried to make with one of these crunchy guys in a private email conversation. He said he was more in touch with what the Catholic church was all about than I am even though he himself was a Protestant. I started quoting different saints to him including St. Alphonsus who I believe is also a Doctor, who directly contradict this quasi-sacramental mode of seeing everything and he didn't have any answer to it.

One of my first real moments of enlightenment while reading the book came during Rod's quoting of the chicken farmer -- the guy just basically states that his profession of organic farming is superior to that of the Insurance Salesman. That's when I realized that if that's what Crunchy Conservatism really teaches then it can't really even be called Christian. Let alone the fact that I'm sure this farmer has a big-ass insurance policy on his precious free-range farm, can't salesmen be good people and farmers be wretches sometimes? I know rich people who are virtual saints and poor people who are practically criminals. And doesn't the Bible say somewhere "whatever your hand finds it to do, do it with all your might"?

Also -- and maybe Bubba can elaborate on this -- isn't it exactly a manifestation of a landscape of instant gratification that leads folks to say "There's a quagmire in Iraq! It's a quagmire!!" simply because the troups weren't home by the end of the 2003 baseball season?

9:03 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Caleb Stegal has his interpretation of a suburb and made a generalization about it. My generalization about the suburbs is that it is where working families are forced to live. Admittedly, I was a little confused while reading about the McMansion concept, because “hard working families” is the mental picture in my mind when suburbia is mentioned. But then the phrase “exclusive suburb” popped into my mind and I followed the logic. The term gentrification was more confusing since it invoked visions of Volvos, libs, lawn worker exploitation, childless dual income couples, and the artistically inclined. There is nothing cheap and affordable about Volvolia.

The housing chapter was not my favorite chapter as I said in an earlier post. To me it read that instead of living in Burbylvania, one spouse should give up a job and move the family into the city. It’s cheaper and easier on the commute. It can be cool, comfortable, and the net benefit is you would gain more time for living and less time for commuting. He must not have a concept of Volvolia like I do. In the end the whole housing discussion is ridiculous. So what? Mr. Stegal made a crass generalization based his limited experience. Rod made a mistake in trying to make housing materially attractive instead of being sacred space regardless of where it is located.

There was propaganda talk in an earlier post. Frankly, I am missing the point why a book that proposes a simpler and more sacramental lifestyle is propaganda. What is propagandistic about reading about a guy who would rather be out there choking free range chickens than selling insurance? Perhaps a better question is how is it not propagandistic for transnationals, who show very little allegiance to the citizens of this country, to constantly pound us with their materialist message? My little kids have more brand awareness than I do. (FYI, I took the advice and shutoff the TV, nevertheless they have it.)

Forget the book for a minute and the messenger. What is wrong with the Rodarian message? If I could figure out how to hang a great big NO SOLICITING sign around my family I would. To me the Rodarian message is simplify, live well, and worship. On the other hand the materialist message blares at me every waking moment. I believe that in some cases it leads to death, and in most cases to a permanent sense of angst and discontent in a lot of people.

Sorry this reply got more into stuffism. That may be where to confusion lies. My concern is really the rationale behind the anti-Christian choices people make. I am more concerned with the substance of your criticisms, than accusations of food snobbery. Food snobs live in Volvolia. It’s not the food that is sacred, it is the time spent with family, friends and God. Nevertheless, I am looking for the rationale that for example leads a family to spontaneously disassemble. I believe we can discover these answers by addressing the substance of your contra criticisms.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Mystic, instead of hanging a "No soliciting" sign around your family, why not work on innoculating your family, esp. the kids, against the advertising industry via deserved mockery? Say things like "What do these goofballs think mailing us a car ad? We already have a car! Why would we buy another?" Then laugh and rip the ad up and throw it away. Or say "No, we don't need this radio even though it looks cool. This radio is for somebody who doesn't have one yet."

I just don't think it does a lot of good marching around getting angry shouting "Solicitationes delenda est!" -- to me that's giving in to an extrinsicism
which ignores our free will, but also to a degree reduces materialism to the greed for things and the banal stupidity of modern advertising. I knew plenty of people in my rock-n-roll days who were thought of as "free spirits", no cares, no money, living simply, vegetable gardens, etc., but they were sleeping around with everybody. In affect they were the biggest materialists in the world because they were reducing people to things, themselves included.

My conclusion to these ramblings is that you can get more mileage laughing at the devil of modern marketing than hiding in the bunker.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

We've got to avoid being "car snobs" too, I think, so I hope the Volvo references are all more or less in jest. My best friend is a home-schooler with 7 kids and is on his second Volvo lease. My bro-in-law who is a brilliant doctoral candidate at Fordham is driving a Volvo with about half a million miles on it and a few dinosaur footprints.

My friend has often reprimanded me (jokingly) for driving a car which is named after a pagan god (Saturn) whereas I criticize him for driving a "liberal" car. The farmer I knew best drove a Volvo which was probably born in 1975 or earlier and had over 300,000 miles. That guy would have fit right in with the CCs and the RRs -- he was a fiesty, agrarian, conservative Democrat type o' guy.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Good idea, thank you for that advice. This is a good idea that I will put into practice. I am not advocating withdrawal from society. No bunkers. The Cubeland Mystic is on the offensive. Our sensibilities do not govern the materialist message, and its in your face all the time. There is a concept that I hear my wife talking about with her friends. It’s called “body image”. I don’t know a lot about it and where it comes from, but the ads cause concern for them. The concern seems to be consistent across all affiliations too (i.e. religion, cons, libs etc.) It is the constant din, and as the kids get older the life of sex and luxury seem alluring. It’s when the kids accuse you of ogreism because you stand against their “fun”. But that’s not the biggest concern. The biggest concern is that they lose their souls by drinking the materialist Kool-Aid. The no soliciting is more against having to be on the defensive all the time.

Volvolia is a joke. Actually Volvos are very practical cars and make a lot of sense for families since they are so safe. This is why I try to avoid arguments about stuffism. It’s meant in fun not judgment. Having discussions about stuff and who is insulting who’s material tolerance level causes good Christians to miss the forest for the piles of dead babies. It wastes time and energy assuring people that you are not against their stuff. Rod stepped in it by appealing to a specific aesthetic virtue in housing chapter. Because of the chapter one feels the need to fight skirmishes proving that your faith isn’t based on artesian cheese and the Arts and Crafts movement. You have to constantly assure that you really don’t have antiburbarian views. It puts sincere people in a position to second guess why they bought this house and where they bought it etc. People feel this gentle urge to qualify why they do what they do. “No, really I bought this nice house as an investment rather than a status symbol. See look at my paycheck no 401K. See I am really a good practical Christian and not a suburban parasite.” Can you see the problem it causes for Crunchies?

Stuffism is really a strawman employed by the Contras to exploit the weakness in housing chapter. It’s the crunchies problem that this line of reasoning and argumentation is susceptible to weak "stuff oriented" criticisms. To me the essence of the chapter should be home is sacred space regardless of where you live.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

To me the essence of the chapter should be home is sacred space regardless of where you live.

If you write a book, Cubeland Mystic, I'll buy it.

As it is, though, the first question isn't what you think the essence of the chapter should be, but what the essence of the chapter as written is. If, as you say, "Rod stepped in it by appealing to a specific aesthetic virtue," I'm not sure why it's a strawman to accuse him of representing Arts and Crafts bungalows as more virtuous than other styles of housing. (And do I misremember that Rod has said he thinks he underplayed the true virtues of his home?)

How do you distinguish between a line of reasoning and argumentation susceptible to weak "stuff oriented" criticisms and a stuff oriented line of reasoning and argumentation?

1:03 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Thanks Tom. The chapter I am referring to in CC is chapter four. Quick glossary. There is large M materialism. There is small m materialism. Large M materialism says let's nationalize bread production and centralize it in the city of Breadograd (oh and Kill all the current bakers to make room for the new "baker specialist class" that will pour in to the cities due to agrarian reform). There is small m materialism that says hey I bought my fiftieth pair of shoes this year. I am not interested in small m materialisim.

What is the essence of the chapter as written?

I my opinion the chapter's essence, is the home as sacred. While reading the chapter, I interpreted it that way because I am the intended audience for the book. It spoke to me because the substance is Catholic, and there is no need to convince me the truth of what he is saying. (i.e. the home is the primary place where Christian formation occurs.) The chapter was simply a narrative about how he got his house, the philosophical underpinnings for beauty, and some anecdotal stories. But as I read it, I begin to see why some people were misunderstanding his point. Because of my mental image of gentrification the chapter seemed, I am sorry to say, a bit materialistic (small m).

From my perspective, here is the rationale behind the chapter:
--a lot of people are conflicted about their "lifestyle"
--A simpler life might help them and the greater society
--You can have an equally rewarding life in sensible attractive home, than in a high stress status home
--You'll have more time for friends and family
--Most importantly your relationship with God will grow

The chapter is more about aesthetics than the aesthetics's spiritual underpinnings. Perhaps this was not the best theme for this particular chapter. The concepts of what a suburb is in your neck of the woods is different from mine. It just leads to a whole bunch of misunderstanding. It's perfectly understandable why we are having this debate. He probably intended to make the lifestyle as inviting as possible without burdening the chapter with philosophical discourse. He certainly did not make this a normative part of CCism. Perhaps less emphasis could have been placed on where and what, which are not as important as how and why. Meaning how you comport yourself within your home, and why you are doing it. For example, if you are a Christian then please consider your home a sacred place, because it aids in transitioning your focus from the day's events to the holy space and grace of family.

Why is it a strawman to accuse him of representing Arts and Crafts bungalows as more virtuous than other styles of housing?

The answer to the first question highlights the point too, but the chapter comes across as promoting stuffism, when it really wants to promote a deeper relationship with God. The home simply orients us toward God. It is a means. Unfortunately, the chapter imparts a feeling that the home is an end. I can see how people feel that it is a little pretentious. Some of the criticisms, understandably so, are saying that CCism is shallow and phony because its promoting an elitist Christianity for people with the right stuff. That is the straw man. What I advocate is don't let things become an impediment to your relationship with your family and God. If I had a hummer it would be an impediment. CCism does not promote pretentious materialistic Christianity. So arguing against the housing chapter by means of housing projects, double wides, and antifreerangerism is a strawman when the chapter's essence is family and God.

How do you distinguish between a line of reasoning and argumentation susceptible to weak "stuff oriented" criticisms and a stuff oriented line of reasoning and argumentation?

The stuff is intended to be sacramental stuff. The same arguments can be used by both sides to undermine the other's arguments.

"You're greedy pigs because you own a lot of expensive stuff!"
"You're elitist snobs because you only have officially sanctioned stuff!"

Stuff cancels stuff. In short the real argument is:
materialism (small m) can be an impediment to a deeper relationship with God. It can deaden the soul, and lead to greater evil. The reality is we need stuff to survive. Young children need stuff to grow and thrive. Balanced comfort is good. God who provides, will provide us with the stuff we need to thrive. We have the option to arrange our lives so that the stuff God provides will draw us into deeper unity with Him, and closer community with others. The dominant culture is anti-Christian. The dominant culture embraces many tenets of materialism (large M). In many cases materialism (Big M) is a requirement for modern life.

I think at this point we come to a contra criticism of substance, which is that contras disagree that the dominant culture forces us into a materialistic lifestyle (large M or small m).

8:57 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I don't get the house thing. I really don't. I mentioned before that I know people who live in McMansions (and am even related to several). But not that many. I mean, sheesh, what kind of world does Rod inhabit? It's either craftsman bungalows or McMansions---no other options? That's not my world.

Most of the subdivisions I drive past en route home are exceedingly modest. Some are solidly middle class; some are lower middle class. No McMansions. Yep, we have McMansiony subdivisions hereabouts. That's one slice of the reality pie. But it's far from the only slice. It's not even the dominant slice. Rural northwest North Carolina is not *that* prosperous. :)

I agree that we should try to make our homes as Christian as we can, but that doesn't necessarily entail an elitist aesthetic. The little Korean lady I know who plasters her home with Sacred Heart pictures and Our Lady of Grace statues--not all of which would meet Rod's rarified criteria for tastefulness and beauty--arguably has created a "sacred space" aa "sacramental" as anythign Rod could drwam of. And what of the Carthusian monk with his spare, stark hut, furnished with only a cot and a crucifix?

I invite Rod to accompany me on my Meals on Wheels route sometime. I'll show him some "sacred" spaces all right. :)

I'm not sure exactly what I'm saying here, except that I agree with cubeland mystic about small-m materialism. But I'd go farther: I'd say the small-m kind is more insidious than the large-m kind. And more spiritually dangerous, too, inasmuch as it parades as virtue and therefore courts the sin of pride.

9:30 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

ironically, it is precisely my own consumerism which makes it possible for me to inoculate my children against marketing. when my kids watch TV they watch a channel with no commercials, b/c I subscribe to digital cable. And because i subscribe to digital cable, they still haven't figured out how to switch channels on the complicated remote. I am in control of their viewing habits much more than my parents ever were of my childhood viewing habits, thanks to technology and my own "consumerism" of digital cable.

interestingly, digital cable was also "marketed" to me that way. ads said, "take control of your kids viewing habits! use our password function to easily block channels!" etc. so in this case *materialism itself* allows me to inoculate myself against the sin of materialism. I can think of other examples but this is the most obvious.

this effectively illustrates the distinction between materialism/consumerism/marketing as a neutral concept, and whether/how we approach it to further our own sinful ends.

in ignoring the positive, even redemptive potential in what they would disparagingly refer to as marketing/consumerism/materialism, the crunchies completely undermine their argument. they want to blame neutral concepts for their own sinfulness instead of their own spiritual weaknesses.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...


To quote Bubba, "Bingo"! At the cubeland mystic's hermitage, he has a cooking pot, a wooden spoon, a bowl, chair, table, instruments of mortification, and high-speed internet. We are an open source monastery! Since we went wifi, I use the recycled CAT 5 to whip myself during Lent.

I am not sure that all crunchies generalize from their own individual practices. I want to bring the pain to large M materialism. There is a point of balance like you have just described. We do similar things you do. I’ve been fairly consistent that I want to avoid a “war on stuff”. I am interested if you associate the crunchie movement with the domestic church movement?

9:41 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Cubeland mystic, yeah the crunchies sometimes SEEM to be making the point I am, but they are constitutionally incapable of doing so effectively. First, they are sloppy thinkers and sloppy users of words. The most glaring example of this is Dreher's manifesto ("beauty is more important than efficiency" dontcha know). They continually conflate concepts and words. They confuse even themselves about their own arguments in the process.

Most appallingly, though, their argument process always errs on the side of self-aggrandizement (which explains why they refuse to address their critics).

what they are trying to say is both too important and too basic (sin is bad) to let them get away with such sloppiness and conceit.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

I agree with you that this discussion is too important. That's why I appreciate the dissent. In my own thinking, I get around the politics by lumping the culprits into materialism. Then they can be separated by context within the discussion. The open question for the crunchy seems to be what is a conservative? Are the pour-concrete-at-all-cost crowd, conservatives or progressive capitalists? I think Rod is calling them mainstream conservatives. Are the big business managers who do all the outsourcing and offshoring mainstream conservatives? In my experience with them, they are more center left in their politics. They are not conserving anything. If you ask me they are building a brave new world of mutual dependence. The big business space seems almost socialist to me. The crunchies seem to be saying that big business = big mainstream conservatism. I see a very global socialist mindset in big corporations. Even my self proclaimed conservative small business friends who shout their conservatism, leverage any government program they can. They may be in the conservative dart board on issues, but they certainly are not principled.

In my opinion don't throw out the term conservative, simply relabel the culprits for what they are.

What I am worried about is that counter cultural cons (CCC), like myself, will be considered crypto-liberals (CCCP). The last thing you guys have to worry about is that I am going to vote for some left wing oven stuffer to save a frog. It's not going to happen.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

> We are an open source monastery

That's beautiful!

3:58 PM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

Cubeland: "Are the big business managers who do all the outsourcing and offshoring mainstream conservatives? In my experience with them, they are more center left in their politics. They are not conserving anything."

Let me run something past you, on this one point that strikes close to home. A few years ago I jumped the corporate ship and started a software business with an old colleague. We are scratching our way towards viability with just a few employees and a handful of developers in India.

If we did not have the option to get labor there, we would most likely not be in business, as the two of us could not have written the checks needed for 5 or so man-years of programmers based in the US. Or perhaps we would have been lucky enough to find an "investor" who might have funded us in exchange for >75% of the equity. Needless to say I don't see how either outcome particularly benefits 'true conservatism' no matter who writes the definition. In practical terms, they benefit people who have more money than brains.

Outsourcing and offshoring have made my business possible, and are making thousands of innovative small businesses possible in many industries (not just IT) all of which have in the process taken one or more people who worked for a big company and put them in charge of their own. Say what you will, but I believe the more business owners we have in America, the stronger we are. Small businesses are more accountable to their employees, customers, and communities.

If you want to legislate against these tools then realize that you will be depriving guys like me of one of the things that allows us to beat the big boys with .01% of their resources. The cost of regulation always weighs more heavily on the little guy.

This is a big part of why I started this site. What the crunchies call "traditional conservatism," I call capricious sentimentality. Part of me is sorry to be living in a world where Bangalore is one instant-message away, instead of a mystical land halfway around the world and seen only through paintings. I wonder from time to time how marvelous and limitless such a world must have seemed to its inhabitants. And yet I am sure our inter-networked, airline-connected world would seem impossibly marvelous to Marco Polo and Magellan. It saddens me that the first reaction to all this seems to be fear and cocooning.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

General observations (not in response to any one comment or anything):

OK, color me dumb. But here's what I would like to know. Is this Crunchy Con thing really a Movement? Or is it just a cluster of Rod's personal tastes and preferences and idiosyncrasies, which he's reifying as some sort of grandiose movement thingie? You know: Projection...? Or sumpin'?

I guess (simply because it's fun :)) I'm kind of attuned to idiosyncrasies--to the "quiddity" of each individual's personal tastes and likes. ISTM that, despite our HUGE instinct to conform--and despite our need to belong to movements and cliques and whatnot--we're just all so dang different. I mean, can we be pigeonholed this tidily? Would we even want to be?

In our little rural subdivision, we have the most gloriously varied collection of individuals you'd ever want to see. One family has some "Crunchy" traits, I suppose, although I doubt they'd see themselves that way; it would probably strike them as too pretentious to stick a label on their lifestyle; they identify themselves primarily as Christian, and that's label enough. They do have a small farm, and they keep chickens, and they make soap and candles, and they homeschool...but I don't think they avoid Wal-Mart like the dreaded plague or anything. And I doubt they shop Whole Foods either--too expensive. Anyway, the rest of the neighbors run the gamut. There's a surprising preponderance of fervent Christians in the subdivision--a fact I attribute to Divine Providence. :) But beyond that bond, they don't have a whole lot in common.

Who would want it any other way? Who would want an entire neighborhood or community marching in Crunchy lockstep? And how could that ever happen, anyway, given the quirkiness of individual tastes?

The claim that this Crunchy thing represents some sort of wave-of-the-future movement--for conservatives or for anybody--strikes me as silly and pretentious. But that's just me.

These are general observations, not direct responses to any post here. I agree with Pauli that Cubeland Mystic's posts are swesome and his lifestyle does indeed sound beautiful. Now that's the sort of Crunchyism I could buy least once I make a couple more trips to Wal-Mart. :)


9:47 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

CC, I am not against the outsourcing and offshoring. I want to know why they are doing it, in such a "eew that's so leftie" way. We are in the same business except I work for a major corporation. I am under constant pressure to work. The reason I can respond so frequently is I am waiting for jobs to finish so kill a few minutes by writing. I am usually engaged 10-12 hours a day during the week. And frequently both weekend days. I don't see this as a conservative thing. I was putting on my political hat and wondering if this is really socialism applied to big business.

As far as the core competancy thing goes, I don't think that I will ever work IT again after this one. My site is about figuring out a direction out. My wife is also, x-software dev & qa mgr. Our intent is to start our own business, but I can't get weekends or night off to try. If my work load is the result of global competition then how are we as a nation going to compete? I am interested in balance. there is no balance. A little guy like yourself, well I am glad for you. I have no problem with outsourcing. I look forward to it. I am good at what I do, but it is not recognized when technology is considered a cost center.

I am a conservative. I agree with you guys on a heck of a lot of things. Why Rod tied his wonderful message of faith, work, and balance with politics I don't understand. It would be nice if guys like you holding more of the cards. Most of my criticism of big business is of transnationals. Their loyalties don't seem to lie with America. My comment was directed at really big business, and my experience has been center left with these folks. Outsourcing is the way of the future, hopefully, I will survive.

I am kind of tired, I have to go to bed now. I hope this rambling made sense.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Diane, thank you for the nice complement. I think a lot of the house stuff comes out of Catholic counter culture. The domestic church etc.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Mystic wrote:
> Why Rod tied his wonderful
> message of faith, work, and
> balance with politics I don't
> understand.

At the risk of being a broken record on this, I really don't think there would be a market for the book otherwise. Rod went on Bill Bennett's and Michael Medved's show to promote the book. In the book he consistently mentions the two major parties. He wrote for National Review. If the thing was just about how we should respect the earth more and try to get back to the roots of our communities, I don't think it would sell unless Rod was a greatly-respected expert in those areas. Political conservatism is the instrument or vehicle use to deliver a market to the publisher.

7:40 AM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

Pauli- More to the point, it is the implied conflict between the Crunchy and the Conservative that Dreher played off. It wasn't just that he wanted to show how "crunchy" was compatible with "conservative," it's that he seems to insist that if you're not crunchy, then you're not really conservative.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Like I said before. You have nothing to worry from me. I think that the root cause for a lot of the problems we have in the world today is materialism (large or small m)

Although I don't live one, I simple lifestyle for some may be the answer. My motivation has never been politics. It never even crossed my mind to link the two.

Please don't confuse the message for the messanger.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Cubeland, I think the difference between your approach and Rod's is like the proverbial night and day. What suffuses your posts is *humility.* You seek to live an authentic Christian life in a way that makes sense for you, but you never ever imply that the rest of us are consumerist clods if we don't follow suit. There's the rub, methinks. :)

6:10 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Good call, Diane. Humility is a virtue which can be cultivated by all of us regardless of whether we have 40 acres to cultivate or enough money to afford organic strawberries or hopping trendy iced-tea joints. Compared to humility, crunchiness is a life-style choice, plain and simple, just like having a maid.

If crunchy conservatism represents a sensibility as Rod claims, then my claim is that Cubeland Mystic's ideas simply represent sense.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

ConCrunchy wrote:
> More to the point, it is the
> implied conflict between the
> Crunchy and the Conservative
> that Dreher played off. It wasn't just that
> he wanted to show how "crunchy" was
> compatible with "conservative," it's that
> he seems to insist that if you're not
> crunchy, then you're not really conservative.

Right. There's enough word confusion in the book to boggle the mind. E.g., he talks down the real estate developers who accuse a friend of not being conservative because he opposes their use of land for a profit, later he mentions "Libertarian Crunchy Cons" -- what can that mean? I was a card-carrying, capital "L" Libertarian for a short period in college and none of those guys would have bought into the strict impositions of CCism where business profits were concerned.

My agreements with Mystic are based on the acknowledgement that modern life creates predicaments for people wishing to practice virtue and have a family life, and that these problems can and should be dealt with in a creative manner by self-denial, hard-work, sacrifice and prayer. That is above and beyond politics.

To elaborate on my point about politics I'll say this. This country would be better off with two healthy political parties. I think we have one, Rod thinks we have zero. I believe this has to do with the Puritanical quality of his strange marriage between religion and politics which results in his moral equivalency arguments, leading to his insinuated conclusion "if you're not crunchy you're not conservative," as ConCrunchy observed.

Therefore Rod's concern in the book is not over the metastasized terminal cancer of the left but the tennis elbow of the right. That's what makes it a problematic read for me and for anyone who has known materialistic, profiteering liberals or "mainstream" conservatives who give a hoot and don't pollute.

9:23 AM  

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