Monday, May 01, 2006

Was The Brady Bunch Crunchy?

Part of me admires Rod Dreher's honesty about his personal life, his willingness to admit online to lifestyle choices that perhaps undermine his credibility as a spokesman for a sensiblity that is (we are told) more authentic, more human, and more moral. His obvious humility partially mitigates his repeatedly painting with an overbroad brush; it makes this habit no less indefensible, but it makes it hard to loathe such an obviously nice guy.

I'm not quite sure he's always successful resisting the temptation to imply things that aren't entirely true; he writes that the end of multiculturalism would be good for the left, "even if I never do vote for a Democrat," implying that he hasn't already crossed that particular bridge.

Nevertheless, Rod Dreher is an honest man.

An honest man who has a maid.

Today at his blog, Rod wrote how he believes the media has a poor grasp of the illegal immigration issue because their jobs aren't at stake. He continues by writing a sentence that I can't believe he wrote.
All we have to worry about is losing our gardeners and maids (I say "we," but I don't have a gardener, and the maid who comes once a week is American; the point is, the class hit hardest by illegal immigration is Not Our Own, Dear).

Wow. I mean, wow.

Words fail me. The guy who focuses on permanent things and whose wife is a stay-at-home mom, the guy who has written ad nauseum about organic food and the Benedictine monks, the guy who's pilloried mainstream conservativism as an ideaology of greed has a maid.

If the Crunchy Con himself has a maid who comes by once a week, just who are the greedy conservatives who are missing the point of life? The ones who have a maid that come by twice a week? The ones with a maid and a butler?

Or the ones who don't have "hired help" but live in the suburbs?


Blogger kathleen said...

Kudos to you bubba for reading through the reams of dreck to find that gem. but doesn't everyone have a maid once a week? : )

Here's my personal favorite Rod excerpt for today -- and yes, these sentences did really appear next to each other, in the same paragraph:

"Within a minute or so, down came the south tower. Headed back to home in Brooklyn, I thought, 'Maybe I should bring Julie a croissant?'"

8:57 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

I want to say, again, that I admire Rod for his bravery. Had I written his book, I'm not sure I would have admitted that in my traditional neighborhood one can occasionally hear gunshots, or that I have a maid come by.

Of course, had I a maid, I'm not sure I would have written a book extolling the virtues of the hard work that comes with eschewing post-industrial living.

5:06 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

The irony is that the crunchy lifestyle as prescribed by Rod -- slow food, homeschooling etc. -- is extremely labor intensive for the stay-at-home wife. Hence the maid! It's too much work to be crunchy, so you've got to outsource some of it.

wonder of Caleb knows about the maid, and if he thinks having a maid is "not quite fully human".

6:28 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

PS: Note how Rod emphasizes the domestic arts as proper realms for crunchiness. Nowhere does he suggest that his job as an editor is anything less than crunchy! No, it's the woman's time that is taken up with chopping vegetables, gardening, homsechooling etc. Rod still goes to the office everyday and works on a computer, goes to "'do's", has lunch with people he finds interesting (and therefore deems "crunchy"), etc. His life remains as 21st C. as ever.

Declare yourself crunchy, but outsource all the hard labor it entails (including outsourcing a good chunk of it to the wife). Now THAT'S the good life.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

In Rod's defense, he did mention intellectual work very early on, in the NRO article that preceded the NR print cover story he wrote.

"The Granola Conservatives I know tend not to be wealthy, but labor in the creative and intellectual vineyards as writers, professors, and artists."

(I can't help but snicker at the metaphor of laboring in the vineyards: a crunchy metaphor about what is, at first glance, a decidedly uncrunchy group of professions. Snicker notwithstanding, I won't read too much into that.)

It may be that crunchy conservatism, like agrarianism before it (or at least agrarianism as I understand it, and I stand to be corrected), advocates a lifestyle that cannot be lived fully by its most vocal supporters.

That inconsistency isn't fatal. It is not like the belief that "all truth is relative," which requires that that one preposition be an absolute truth. And, it's not like the odd assertion I've heard from a Christian who's a militant pacifist -- that it's okay for a Christian to live in a secure environment as long as the soldiers and cops who ensure that security aren't themselves Christians.

No, though I would prefer a platform that demands no such inconsistency, it's entirely possible that agrarianism is valid while it must be defended in the intellectual arena by writers whose lives cannot possibly be fully agrarian.

But, yeah, it is funny to see Rod apparently outsource so much of the work that's required to maintain a crunchy lifestyle.

The question's still there: is agrarianism valid? I'm not sure it is; it strikes me as reactionary. On one hand are the radicals who believe that every change is progress, on the other are the reactionaries who think that every tradition is worth clinging to. Politically, sanity is almost certainly somewhere in between.

And more importantly from a spiritual point of view, neither the future nor the past offers salvation or a life of virtue. Those are to be found only in a restored and growing relationship with the ever-present God -- a relationship that could be helped or hindered both by old rites and by innovations in how things are done.

9:07 AM  
Blogger jim4907 said...

Similar to Christianity and other forms of religion, is seems Crunchy Conservativism is more a way of life or set of guidelines that one can embrace and do their best to live by. This doesn't mean that if you have a few areas in your life where you fail to be "crunchy" that you are no longer a crunchy con. Because society as a whole does not embrace crunchy values (and because we are imperfect humans), it makes it a bit difficult to live by them all the time. The same bears true in religious faiths.

As a catholic, I admit, I sin. However, I know its wrong and I try not to, and to be a better catholic in the future. But, just because I sin, doesn't mean I'm no longer a catholic. One function of my faith is to have something to guide me through life. I feel this is all Dreher is trying to provide with Crunchy Conservativism; A particular way of life to strive for. He may not be the most pure Crunchy con, but at least he understands what Crunchy Conservativism entails and can grow in it through time. As society embraces it, it becomes easier and easier to live by.

By the way... In no way am I calling CC a religious faith, belief, ideology, or whatever. I'm just comparing it to the “guiding values” of religion.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...


I guess one reason I bring up Rod's hiring a maid here and not in his blog is that it's not a very substantive observation. As I said, it may "undermine his credibility as a spokesman" for crunchy conservatism, but (I should have added) it does not undermine crunchy conservatism itself, which stands or falls on its own.

It just amazes me that, when so many mainstream conservatives cannot afford to have a maid, when no doubt many who could don't, Rod does and he writes a book denouncing mainstream conservatism as greedy.

(Was his writing the book the reason he can afford a maid to come by once a week?)

I'm not making a substantive critique with this particular observation, but surely the juxtaposition of that fact and his writing is amazing, isn't it?

It's like his praise of an ornate Gothic cathedral, juxtaposed against his criticism of the extravagent pay package the ExxonMobil CEO got. These things draw my attention even if they don't reveal anything substantive.

PS - And, as a random observation to anyone who cares about Jonah and Rod's obvious disagreeents, I stumbled across an old NRO debate between the two, on the issue of capital punishment, here.

I have to believe that, despite the page's layout, Jonah wrote his "pro" argument after and in response to Rod's "con" argument. At any rate, the debate may highlight philosophical differences that have separated the two even if they like each other on a personal level, and I happen to think they highlight the intellectual differences. Jonah has his schtick, but he has always struck me as formidable.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

The problem with CCism as a "set of guidelines" is that Rod is way too specific in the book about policies, practices, types of houses or foods that he likes or doesn't. Like the rabbit-punch at Tom Delay or the fact that the goal of "saving the Republican Party" is emblazoned on the front cover. And, yes - I am judging a book by its cover because it has such a god-awful long title.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Don't be hard on yourself, as Jonah the Cliche Hunter long ago brought down that particular beast:

"People say 'don't judge a book by it's cover' as if this is the wisest thing in the world. But the truth is, short of reading a book, looking at the cover is the best way to judge it. The cover tells you what the author and the publisher want you to know about the book."

12:41 PM  
Blogger jim4907 said...

I’m looking at Dreher’s take on Crunchy Conservatism as merely his view. I sympathize with many of his points, but I don’t, for instance see home-schooling as the only way to “crunchify.” I feel, for example, the goals of CCism can be achieved through other forms of schooling. The same goes for other issues like housing choices. I feel like the most important thing is what CCism is trying to achieve. You say pauli, that “Rod is way too specific in the book about policies, practices, types of houses or foods that he likes or doesn't.” Some of his likes and dislikes are specific, but they are opinions from inside HIS book. If you take the CC manifesto, you will realize it is up for some interpretation, and as long as the way a person is living (their interpretations of this manifesto), are aligned with it and what it is overall trying to achieve, they are very much a Crunchy Conservative. In short, I feel the end result, is the most important aspect of CCism. True, some things along the way are very important and unchangeable if CCism is to hold up, but other things it stands for, can be modified from the Rod Dreher position and still achieve the same goal.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Bubba, could you send me your email address sometime? Mine is on my profile. Thanks.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

This is John T. I followed your post back to here. I made a reply to you as promised earlier today. I wanted you to know in case you don't visit Rod's post again.

FYI, I am creating a blog about self sufficiency. Would you mind checking it out? I would rather have an objective dissenter's view than a bunch of friends saying its great when its not.

I am a CC. I don't know what Rod what doing a decade or so ago, but I was doing the crunchy thing. I guess I am stuck with that title. I don't like it that much, it sounds unthreatening. All we are trying to accomplish on my blog is how to be self sufficient. Our intention if we can pull it off is to start a business, and make money. We are chronicling the effort, to help others and ourselves.

9:40 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

here's another song i "wrote", in honor of dan larison. thank you in advance for your plaudits:

you say gnomikon
i say gnomeekon

you say physikon
i say physeekon



let's call thelema off

8:16 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

HA! That's great, Kathleen, as always. Especially since this whole train wreck is now all about the meanings of words like choice and freedom.

I'm done - seriously - Larison represents the shark jump. This has nothing to do with conservativism anymore. The moonbats are swarming, the inmates are running the asylum. Etc.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Susan B. said...

FWIW, the Washington Post has an article about Dreher and Crunchy Conservatism.

5:21 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Regarding the day Dreher had the post reporter over: I recall that very day Dreher was expounding about how hard watching the twin towers fall had been for him -- "I was there! I saw it with my own eyes!" (yeah Rod, so did a few million other people). Appallingly, Dreher ended that anguished post with a cute note that a reporter from the WAPO style section was coming over for dinner that night. cut to that evening when a washington post reporter comes over for dinner ... and the reporter concludes they seem HAPPY! well, of course. Rod was giddy -- more publicity for his book, and the chance that all his dreams might come true if this WAPO reporter baptizes Rod's lifestyle as the harbinger of some amazing movement.

So yeah, the reporter saw happy Rod. Clearly, anguished Rod ("Oh, I can't stay catholic! Oh, 9/11 was so hard on me!") was offstage that night.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Kathleen, there are moments when I adore you. There are also moments when I'm glad I'm not in your crosshairs.

The two are not unrelated.

Pauli, check your email. :)

You're right about the moonbats. People are comparing American troops to terrorists, lamenting the fact that Carter was a one-termer, and saying that our execution of Moussaoui would have been comparable to the Romans murdering Christ. Some of the radicals honestly seem personable, but it's hard to have a genuine discussion about conservatism with people spouting such lunacy.

And Larison...I don't know what to make of that guy. Apparently odd theology, barely explained, as part of an attempt to smear guys like Larry Kudlow as hedonists. Is Rod Dreher giving Larison the time of day?

John, I saw your blog and will be posting a comment there sometime today; I know what I want to say just need to find the time to say it.

Briefly, while there are many conservative writers I think makes good points from time to time, there are some whose intellectual prowess I esteem very highly: Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, and Jonah Goldberg despite the old Simpsons schtick.

(And I just noticed that some of my favorite articles of the last half-year have the same by-line: Mark Steyn. And I suspect that Jay Nordlinger's very sharp, too, but his writing doesn't tend to the same big-picture epiphanies that you find with Sowell. I honestly wish I liked Derbyshire more than I did; he occasionally writes a really witty line.)

I'm glad however that, despite the obvious fact that Rod Dreher's a nice guy, I've never put his writing ability on a pedestal.

If I had... well, there's that whole business about his hiring a maid. He continues to echo the notion of "Democrats could appeal to people like me if they didn't seem to treat religious and social conservatives as anathema," as if he hasn't already voted for (or at least supported, I guess) a pro-choice liberal Democrat.

(Tired of this, I kinda let Rod have it, here.)

And, now, the Methodist-turned-Catholic who's already left Roman-rite parishes to worship with Eastern-rite Maronites is considering joining the Eastern Orthodox church for reasons that do not strike me as theological.

If I did esteem Rod as a writer, that esteem would have been thoroughly shaken by all this. It might not be that he's deliberately attempting to echo McCain's tendency to straddle the political fence to get attention, but I remember someone early on wondering if Rod wasn't just in a crunchy phase.

Regardless of the reason, it seems to me that the man behind the Crunchy Cons book doesn't fully know who he is. He's started some interesting discussions, and he does seem like a nice guy, but I sure as hell wouldn't trust him as an idealogical compass.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

A couple random thoughts about the WaPo piece:

- It's hard to read this particular line without thinking about the "hired help."

"Notice that I am literally barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen," observes Mrs. Crunchy Con, and perhaps, she quips, she should have done her hair for the occasion like Phyllis Schlafly's.

- In the piece that seems like the big counterpoint to the whole crunchy magilla, Jonah wrote that Rod seems to be committing the sin of the self-hating conservative; it's hard not to read self-loathing in his apology for having a 13-year-old Mercedes. There's something off-putting -- un-Southern and unmanly -- in a man apologizing for his car. It takes a real man to admit his faults, but one's car ain't it.

(And connecting the two topics, it's not as if I want to see Rod apologize for having a maid. It's that his hiring a maid is vividly inconsistent with his apparent complaints. An urban man who's outsourced some housekeeping can, with consistency, look down at suburbanites as artless philistines--though the belief is probably untrue--but he has no business accusing suburbanites of greedy materialism.)

- Whitey refers to his neighborhood with its less-than-stellar crime rates as "the hood." Cute.

(I'd post some of his somewhat patronizing appropriations of urban culture, but that's too good as future blog material.)

- Ikea? So corporate bohemoths (like Ikea and Birkenstocks) are okay as long as they're European? What the hell happened to valuing the small and local?

- "He essentially lays out his family's entire domestic process, from their practice of natural family planning over birth control (Julie's expecting their third child in October), to what they eat, to Julie's decision not to work, to how they home-school their boys with help from a parents cooperative."

The entire domestic process? Including the help?

- The Dreher's apparently buy bottled water, the small, local stuff that comes out of the tap not being good enough for our humble crunchies.

- ""My God, our moms were all told that it's better for you to open a can!" he says, retrieving a whole-grain Tuscan loaf from the bakery counter. "It would be overstating it to see them as victims, though. The fact is, if you're going to cook a lot at home, it takes time."

And a maid.

The article continues, "Which is another benefit, he says, of Julie's decision not to work."

And their decision to hire a maid.

- "People have the strangest class associations on food. It's a difficult conversation to talk about the virtues of certain foods or certain kinds of housing. Pretty quick someone is saying you're an elitist, you're a snob."

Dreher, an elitist? A snob? Unpossible!

- I can well imagine that Rod found some of the criticism hurtful; if what Jonah quoted in his critque was an accurate representation of the book's contents, I imagine that the hurtful statements went both ways.

- Rod says he's never been to a megachurch, and in his book he criticizes what defines the spirituality and politics there: "Almost all on the religious right are Christians -- and in this broad sense, I am on the religious right -- but it's odd how we limit our political concern to sexual issues," Dreher writes. "Jesus had as much or more to say about greed as he did about lust. But you will not find most American religious conservatives worrying overmuch about greed."

Or so he conjectures, from an apparent distance.

The Drehers are happy? I hope so, and I wish him well. I can't emphasize enough that he strikes me as a genuinely nice guy, but so did my friend at the church I attended during grad school, the family man who suggested with a straight face that only Christians should be able to vote.

Both, nice men, family men. In neither case would I put much stock in their opinions.

8:19 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Bubba, be assured it takes a lot to get in my crosshairs. Dreher is like a vintage wine of my pet peeves -- narcissism together with 1) with intellectual pretension and 2) an unshakeable presumption of one's own virtue and 3) an insatiable craving for attention. (ooh, guess what everybody! I'm THIS CLOSE to converting to orthodoxy. -- aren't these decisions, which are supposed to be agonizing, usually made in the bosom of the family without public input? or does that just happen in the land of the mature?).

12:29 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Kathleen, in Rod's defense, it's not his fault the topic came up:

"I hadn't intended to write about it at all, but inasmuch as I couldn't avoid the direct question the WaPo reporter asked me about my faith, I felt like I had to be honest with him, and with the people who have been reading me all along."

Don't ask yourself why the reporter brought the subject up, whether it has anything to do with Rod writing so much that ties directly into his faith.

It's all the reporter's fault.

Hank Stuever's a sneaky guy. I've heard he's got exposees on quite a few writers in the current roster at NRO. He's somehow figured out that Jonah Goldberg likes dogs, that John Derbyshire is a math nut, and that Kathryn Lopez likes Duran Duran.

To those who think such subjects are far too personal for print, just remember: it's all the reporter's fault.

1:39 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

bubba, in a way Rod is right -- Rod had no choice but to tell the reporter, since the reporter was there about Rod's book, and Rod's book is clearly all about celebrating the particularities of Rod (Rod's protestations notwithstanding).

Once again we circle back to the question of whether the book should have been written. Too bad Mark Shea thinks the book is peachy keen, but Dreher's "Yoo hoo! conversion taking place over here!" blog post is not. Perhaps in witnessing Dreher's latest antics (love that word, ANTICS) Mr. Shea will see the error of his ways defending Rod's book.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

I'm giving John T.'s blog a thumb up. Although still in it's infancy, reading it and exchanging a few emails with John convinced me that he's so far definitely avoiding the many pitfalls which Rod has dug for CCism, namely the slash & burn rage against the Repubs, kitchen sink politcal platform, dime-store theology, threatening to quit everything & warmed over political correctness that to me identifies Captain Crunch at this point.

(Yes, ANTICS, ANTICS - very woody word indeed.......)

5:28 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Rod's suggested that I'm turning into a crank for daring him to point out the blog posts that supposedly (at least indirectly) address Jonah's comment.

I'm trying to maintain the high ground -- which shouldn't be necessary in a conversation with a man living such a sacramental life -- but it is incredibly hard to resist the cheap shot I could make in response to this post.

7:59 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Bubba, I read the book (in horrified fascination at the local barnes and noble in one of those skeevy armchairs. would never buy). It is a series of anecdotes, there are no cohesive arguments whatever. In it, as in his blog, Rod always disclaims that he is doing what he is doing ("I don't mean to say that wearing birks like I do is the important point here blah blah blah") Trust me, the book contributes nothing to Rod's arguments, he is just dodging you. (of course you knew that).

love how he is accusing you of obsessing! I guess he thinks "patience and attentiveness in a prolonged argument = obsession". In that case, the inverse must be true -- "writing slapdash books featuring a series of vignettes starring people one thinks are cool (including oneself) = supreme mental balance".

Oh, hi Rod! not obsessively checking us out again, are you?

10:13 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:24 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Dreher wrote,"Good grief, Bubba, would you at least take the time to read the dang book? Lord have mercy, but you are starting to obsess. I am ignoring you because you are turning into a crank. Go read the book. They have it at your library. You don't even have to pay for it. Then come back with your questions. You might find I have answered them in the book."

Dang! Lawd have mercaaayyy! When Drehah gits all southern folksy, that's when you got his back up against the wall and he's snarling mad. Oh, and he calls you a cheap, obsessive "crank".

2:37 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

This will have to be quick since I am on a forced big corporate Fortune 300 death march at work. Yes, it's Saturday and yes I will work Sunday. I am not a fast writer, but I can type at the speed of light being a techie. First, I am so grateful for the constructive criticism from Pauli and Bubba. For Pauli, I think that my blog is correctly described as crunchy Catholic, and not an attack on certain Cons. Thanks for the plug too! Very kind words. For Bubba I agree with your criticisms and in today's post and tomorrow's post I was more clear that the reason for our journey toward self sufficiency is to be more Christ focused. Bubba, remember the state's got my daughter and next year will have my son. I work all the time, my wife is at home with youngest but it gets harder to make ends meet. The choices are very limited now. (Yes I have them and I am acting to make it better.) I agree with your criticisms but time hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles. So it makes it hard to change the status quo. We just want some peace so we can worship together.

I bought the book. We all went to the store together as a family to look for it. I read the back jacket cover on the way home. The bulleted manifesto. I saw the point and purpose of the angst. I re-wrote them in my head with the intention of posting the new CC Manifesto. I read the ones inside the book and thought better of it because they are different there. Less controversial (at least to me). I would have made family number 1. Long story short I read the 1st chapter. So far the Dreher's experience and our experience track real close, except at one time I was a semi-crunchy agnostic libertarian. My CCism maps my faith and our current state of mind is a direct result of our faith for sure. Rod is speaking to me in my language. My wife and I are R.C. our effort are a direct result of our faith. I will read further. I don't like the name Crunchy Con, I do not think that I am uniquely positioned to see political things in a new and better light because I am suspect of big corporations, like beauty, and desire sacramental meals. I still love the RC Cola & Moon Pie quote. Back to the kids, in the last two years I've seen nothing but stressed out over worked people who have no time for their families. A lot of it including ours is self induced. I plan to fix it and if someone wants to see how it goes, then they are welcome. But by no means should any of you feel morally inferior because of our lifestyle. I stay clear of politics as much as possible. How do I see the parties? One party supports and promotes organizations that want to sell me and my family petroleum based fertilizer, and one party supports and promotes organizations that want to turn me and my family into organic fertilizer. Enough said, I have to serve Mordor now, while I still add value. For the next six weeks or so I will be very busy, if I can I will try to blog with you when I have time. If not continue to have a blessed Easter, and the peace of Christ be with you all in your magnificent dissent!

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