The Densest Material Known to Man
There's an irony inherent in a system like our own that identifies the individual as the fundamental unit of political, social and economic order. Because it shears the individual of the republican virtues cultivated within communities of tradition in the name of empowering him, it actually makes the individual subject to tyranny. Limitless emancipation in the name of progress is, it turns out, the final and most binding mechanism of control.The fun thing about Stegall is that he is like the Id to Rod Dreher's ego. While Rod tells us about his recipe roasted chicken and some cute little house he saw the other day, Stegall is passing out torches and waving around a pitchfork.
I used to work as an editorial associate at a big-city daily paper and one of my jobs was to open all the nut mail the reporters received. Now I am not saying Casey Stegall is a bizarre crank who would send 17 pages of single-spaced discussion of the metaphysics of computer hacking and 4th-dimensional psychic powers to a newspaper that would never be accused of taking itself too seriously.
But I am saying that Stegall's ravings on our persecution and control by a distant and scheming "elite" are removed from Art Bell/Illuminati/Trilateral Commission territory by style more than they are by substance. Pace Jonah, there just isn't much there, here. It just seems like there is because you'd think anything that hurts this much to read must be making some really deep and significant point. But it's really all more like this:
But in the end, what this kind of vibrant regionalism requires is something much more difficult to obtain than a slogan. It is a renewed appreciation for society over and against both the individual and the state. Society defined by what the agrarian essayist Wendell Berry calls "membership" – a network of social interconnectedness and shared obligation. To be a member of this kind of social order is the best hedge against manipulation by the central planning committee for "growth" and "prosperity." It is, to put it plainly, to be free.
I have really only ever had one argument against Crunchy Conservatism and that is that it refuses to commit itself in policy terms. Stegall writes,
What would this kind of regional populism look like in an actual political platform? Broadly speaking, it would seek at every turn to end the dependence of its constituents on elites. It would oppose, for example, the nationalization of any sector of our economy, from health care to agriculture. Instead, it would seek creative ways to open regional markets for regional goods.Does any of that mean anything? Just wondering. But the real prize is this:
It would seek to permit regional cultural and religious particularities to emerge from the fog of federalized regulation and be made manifest in our schools, courthouses, businesses and civic organizations. And it would provide incentives to keep cultural capital local. It would encourage people to work, study and raise families close to where they grew up. It would seek ways to promote local culture and would cultivate loyalty to our neighbors and a fierce love for our own places.So, instead of "the fog of federal regulation," the Sage of Perry, Kansas suggests "incentives to keep cultural capital local" and "encourage people to work, study, and raise families close to where they grew up." Let's assume for a minute that it's anyone's business where people choose to get hitched and hatch rugrats. The practical question is, why should we trust the government to do this? There is no secret government-in-exile that will ride triumphantly back into Washington if only we elect Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, or Lyndon Larouche for that matter. Hell, I barely trust them to figure out how to pick up the trash and fill in the potholes.
But the truly ironic and laughable part is that Stegall harps endlessly on "elites" and "control" and "aristocratic" forces is quite comfortable extending the force of government much deeper into our lives than any bean-counter deep in the recesses of the Under-Secretary to the Commission on Reduction in Redundancy Reduction would dream of. Instead of a government controlled by elites, Stegall proposes government--controlled by a different set of elites. Government of the people, by the Stegall, if you will.