Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Next Conservatism Update: Crunchy Conservatism

Every so often I will have a post about the "contercultural" movements taking place with in the spectrum of conservatism. Today, I want to share an article I read a few weeks back about "crunchy conservatism." The author is Rod Dreher, a former writer with the National Review. He coined the term "crunchy con" in an article back in 2002.

So what is a "crunchy conservative?" Dreher defines them this way:

All I can tell you is that the crunchy-granola lefties are often right about little things that make life richer. Take food, for example. After we married, Julie and I had to teach ourselves how to cook. We quickly discovered how much better food tastes if it hasn't been processed. We'd go to farmers' markets in the city to buy produce, and before we knew it, we were making and canning our own apple butter. Not only did the stuff taste dramatically better than what was on offer in the supermarket, but there was a real sense of pride in knowing how to do these things for ourselves, like our grandmothers did. We realized one day that pretty much the only young to middle-aged people we knew who cared about these things were ... lefties...

...The music we like — jazz, hard country, bluegrass, Cuban son — is something you can only hear on, umm, public radio or see on public television. When we began talking about buying a house, we realized we wanted something old and funky, in the sort of neighborhood that your average Republican would disdain. We found that though the Shiite environmentalists drive us nuts, there was also something off-putting about the way many conservatives speak with caustic derision about environmental conservation. Two weeks ago, some conservative friends were driving me down the Pacific Coast Highway, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty, as they are. "I'm afraid we have to tip our hats to the tree-huggers," said one. "If it weren't for them, much of what you see would be covered with tract houses and malls."

Here's something else I've noticed: The Granola Conservatives I know tend not to be wealthy, but labor in the creative and intellectual vineyards as writers, professors, and artists. They also tend to be religious. It's foolish to go too far in metaphysicalizing questions of taste, but a big part of it, at least for those of us who are part of older Christian traditions, comes from learning to see the world sacramentally. In the sacramental vision, which is shared by Catholics and the Orthodox, the spirit world is mediated through the material world, which is another way of saying we experience God in creation. To someone imbued with a sacramental vision, qualities inherent in things — from the food we eat to the buildings we live in — matter in profoundly spiritual ways.

When I read the orginal article a few years ago, I realized that I was a "CrunchyCon" as well. I tend to buy organic foods. I bought a 1920s style bungalow in North Minneapolis, instead of getting a bland McMansion in the burbs. I like public transportation. I bought a car that is extremely fuel efficient. I'm also a Republican that is pro defense, pro gun rights (to a point) and all that.

If you have the time, read both articles. I don't know about you, but I tend to think that the current state American conservatism is in a wasteland. The current scandals plaguing the GOP is proof positive of the point.

Conservatism can be more than what it is right now. I think the love of money and power has diluted its strength. Maybe, just maybe, this movement could revitalize it. Who knows.


Jeff D. said...

Great post, great links, and great new blog. Hope to see more like this!

Alan Stewart Carl said...

Hmmm, maybe I'm a crunchy con rather than a centrist. Or maybe crunchy cons are just a type of centrist. God knows I work in the creative fields (writer), go to church regularly, own an older house, buy organic, love farmer's markets and believe in robust conservation.

And yet I'm conservative on a lot of issues.

harryhood said...

Or maybe... just maybe... the grey world is far larger than the black and white world of the extremists and people are simply not so easy to label as they would have you believe.