First Things and the Crunchies


Anthony Sacramone embarrasses First Things by blogging a nonsensical diatribe against Rod Dreher's book, Crunchy Cons, that could only have been penned by an urban intellectual snob.

He starts by granting the entire premise of Crunchy Cons:

All right, it’s not the apogee of spirituality to log on and buy the latest iteration of an iPod or an iMac or an eyesore of a Hummer. And yes, it’s probably wise to limit your daily consumption of pesticides to roughly half your bodyweight. I’ll grant you that kids are probably spending way too much time wide-eyed in front of the flat panel ogling yet another edition of Grand Theft Auto or the director’s cut of Girls Gone Wild 13—Logical Positivists Stripped Bare. It also couldn’t hurt to be able to distinguish between one type of tree and another type of tree, if just to make a more detailed report for the police when you drive into one while talking on your cell.

Gee, is that another way of saying that total immersion in modern consumerist culture has side effects we don't realize? I believe that's the major theme of Crunchy Cons. Apparently Mr. Sacramone must only be angry that Rod Dreher drew conclusions from those premises.

He then goes on to rant about how great the city is because there, "cultural barbarities do us all the favor of advertising the Fall without our having to read about all those 'begats' once again," and how the virtues of the rural life are overrated because "Farmer Jones" practices the same vices as city dwellers, just "on smaller luxuries, more primitive needs, and stockier women."

Fair enough, but Dreher himself lives in Dallas, Texas, which if I recall from the seven-hour layover I had there last month, ain't exactly Smallville. Again, the actual argument in the book is not that you have to go back to the farm to live a moral life, but that modern culture's disdain for the rural life says something not nice about the culture (something on partial display in Scaparone's post, btw). Yes, Rod offers praise to those who strike out to the country seeking a way to make a calmer, more peaceful life for themselves. He does not prescribe this for everybody.

Then comes the obligatory hypocrisy slam that all Crunchy Cons critics throw out:

And how many of those countrified ex-urbans bootleg Palm Pilots, Blackberries, and wirelessly networked laptops like so many bottles of Prohibition-era gin—if for no other reason than to keep their blogs live and comment-moderating in order to warn the rest of us how the modern age is killing us softly.

Once, again, let's remember the actual point of the book. All modern technology is not bad; unquestioning acceptance of it and the unchecked desire to accumulate more of it is. There is nothing inherently wrong with the Internet, but humanity is not served by a complete mechanization and digitalization of culture and the resulting disintegration of community. Has anybody seriously engaged that argument? Scarpone doesn't.

The most remarkable part of this rant, however, is the concluding two paragraphs. First, more backhanded slaps at stupid country bumpkins:

The country, I’ll concede, may be where you find community, if by that you mean your next-door neighbor walking uninvited through your canted screen door to borrow a few shotgun shells to dust back yet another coyote. But it is also where you will find the same old prejudices, superstitions, and gross habits masquerading as traditions. Not that the big city is bereft of such things, but at least you’re confronted with competing and contradictory prejudices, superstitions, and habits. In short, it’s hard to stay a city person for long and not be made aware that there’s someone else out there—probably right down the hall in a nicer apartment—who thinks you’re an idiot.

So what is the great virtue of the city? What is it about New York that you just can't find in Watseka?

Brace yourselves:

And if that’s not spiritual—to be humbled by people richer and more powerful, smarter and more beautiful, than you—then I don’t know what is. Humility, not to mention a nagging, gnawing sense of want for all those things you’re never going to get, is the springboard of true conversion. So draw the blinds, praise the Lord, and pass the universal remote.

Yes, humility is the great urban virtue. Humility spurred by the virtues of greed and envy. Scarpone has just spent 800 words ridiculing stupid, racist, backwards yokels of "Hicksville" with their "stockier women," "bib overalls," and "gross habits masquerading as traditions" so he can preach the virtue of humility.

All this, yet not one word about the book that Rod Dreher wrote.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on July 12, 2006 11:16 PM.

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