Thursday, 2 May 2013

Bibliophilia: Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher

The right wingers I know think I’m a left winger; the left wingers I know think I’m a right winger. I can’t win.

I don’t like the prime minister of the country I live in, but I’m not too enthralled about most of the alternatives. In the country to the south of me, I thought Bush was terrible, but don’t think Obama is much better. I can’t stand unions, but dislike many corporations just as much. I could care less what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home, and think all consenting adults in a committed relationship deserve equal civil rights. I feel responsible adults should be allowed to own anything they want, especially “military style, full powered, high capacity, folding stock, bayonet lugged, pistol gripped, carbine type machine guns”. At this juncture in humanities evolution, I don’t think our biggest problem is a lack of people, and also think it’s up to the individual to decide if they want to carry a child to term. I still think national defense is vitally important, and have very little patience with mush brained twits who think we should just do away with the military altogether. I still think capitalism is the best option, but decry its excesses. I don’t like big government, but loathe big business even more. I think some people need to be removed from society forever and placed in confinement, and think police are justified at times in making life unpleasant for people who victimize the weak and defenseless. I think the war on drugs is a colossal failure on every level and needs to be stopped immediately. I believe in a compassionate society, but also don’t think the taxpayer is a limitless ATM machine. I have very little patience with people who point out the evils of the US, while remaining strangely quiet about the far more egregious excesses and empire building by other regimes. I think religion is a big crock, and while I think you can believe in whatever fairy tale higher power you want, do not try to force your beliefs on me, and I also do not want policy decisions to be coloured by faith of any stripe. And I especially dislike when the “good book” is little more than a dustcover on a tome of ignorance and intolerance. I recycle, believe global warming is real, care about the planet I live on, try to live frugally and lightly on the Earth, avoid agribusiness products and support local organic food producers. Etc.

I think you can get the sense that my beliefs don’t fit into any one easily defined slot.

So I was intrigued to read a book that made me hopeful that not everyone in the US who identifies as a conservative, is part of one monolithic hegemony. That many of them seem to believe in some downright “lefty” beliefs. There is still the whole religious, stop abortion thing, which I just can’t get down with. But if they want to encourage local organic farming practices, gun rights, protect nature, curb the excesses of big business, alternatives to our mindless consumer culture, I think some common ground can be found. While I don’t agree with it entirely, it gave me hope that there are people in the US, “conservatives”, who are as uncomfortable as I am with the direction the American Right has taken in the last few decades.

A Crunchy Con Manifesto

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream. We like it here; the view is better, for we can see things that matter more clearly.

2. We believe that modern conservatism has become too focused on material conditions (money, power, and the accumulation of stuff), and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character. The point of life is not to become a more satisfied shopper.

3. We affirm the superiority of the free market as an organizing economic principle, but believe the economy must be made to serve humanity’s best interests, not the other way around. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

4. We believe that culture is more important than politics and economics, and that neither America’s wealth nor our liberties will long survive a culture that no longer lives by what Russell Kirk identified as “the Permanent Things” – those eternal moral norms necessary to civilized life, and which are taught by all the world’s great wisdom traditions.

5. A conservatism that does not recognize the need for restraint, for limits, for humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is neither helpful to individuals and society nor, ultimately, conservative.

6. A good rule of thumb: Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

7. Appreciation of aesthetic quality–that is, beauty–is not a luxury, but key to the good life. Beauty is more important than efficiency. 

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom. The cacophony of contemporary popular culture makes it hard to discern the call of truth and wisdom. There is no area in which practicing asceticism is more important.

9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the best way to rear up a new generation of friends of the Permanent Things is to beget children, and read to them o’ evening, and teach them what is worthy of praise: the wise parent is the conservator of ancient truths....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 through living faithfully by the Permanent Things, preserving these ancient truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives. In this sense, to conserve is to create anew.

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