The Downside of Crunchy Cons

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You knew there had to be one! And it isn't too far into the book that one finds it.

Mr. Dreher sets out to tell us that a Crunchy Con is an anti-materialist, not involved with bigger and better and the acquisition of more and different things. Then, in the first two chapters of his book he talks about food and homes. Admittedly it isn't about acquisition so much as it is about how to "do it properly," but the end result is an almost obsessive concern about how you get your food and what kind of house you live in.

It would be ridiculous to say that these are of no importance--they do affect how we live and how we feel. However, they are not the end-all, be-all, nor do they necessarily dictate how we relate to one another. If one buys one's food at a supermarket, one could still hold the values that place people and relationships above things. And yet, there is a sense in which it does not seem that Mr. Dreher thinks this possible.

One final point, in the discussion of homes, it is evident that Mr. Dreher thinks that if you don't live in a gentrified inner city or in a rural setting you simply aren't living anywhere that is livable. There is a constant denigration of the way that most people must live. Calling suburban house "McMansions," etc.

Because the book is a first stab at the articulation of a principle, this is probably the fallout of attempting to define a concept. What would be more helpful is to say how one could modify the mode of life one is in without pulling up stakes and moving to the inner city. I think in food Mr. Dreher makes some useful suggestions about how we might alter the way we live--but he fails utterly at making accommodation for present circumstances in the section he calls "Homes." And more to the original point, it seems to be overly concerned with material objects. Our homes are important--but I have discovered during the extended absence of this summer that home is not a place or a building, it is the gathering of the people you love deeply. My home is wherever Linda and Samuel are.

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Well put, Steven. You've stated one of my main objections to the book more clearly and charitably than I could. Darwin and I would love to live in Mr. Dreher's charming Craftsman house, but had we made the decision to do so in this area, our family time would have been severely compromised due to either the vastly extended commute or the need for extra work to afford such a gem. And so bit by bit we're re-making our suburban box (though not a McMansion by any stretch!) into something that's aesthetically pleasing as well as affordable.

It seems to me that Dreher overlooks the fact that people who buy McMansions are generally doing so because they consider that that's what is best for their family. And many people shop at Wal-Mart because that's what's best financially for their family. The provenance of one's vegetables is not the best indicator of the quality of one's values.

ah yes. This McSuburb critique is typical also of the New Pantagruel. Meanwhile, its adherents freely confess that living in the city or on the farm are also far from idyllic. If you live in the suburbs, however, you're considered to have deserted the only battles worth fighting: for the urban core and for the family farm. I say that the battle for a more human world is worthwhile wherever you find yourself: in the suburbs, the city, or the country.

Dear Mrs. Darwin and Mr. K.,

Thank you for your comments. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that I nearly bought the emperor's new clothes. There is so much that is both good and wise is some of what Mr. Dreher has to offer, but it just doesn't fit right. I'm with you Mr. K, the battle is for charity and humanity whereever we are, and with you Mrs. Darwin, it starts with caring for our family and raising our children to respect their siblings and other people and to recognize the inherent dignity of the human person. And this can occur regardless of what vegetables you eat or where you live. Admittedly. some trapping probably make it easier than others, but some of us have not been handed easy, and it is up to us to show that it can happen in whatever the circumstances of life. We're all capable of slowing down and paying attention to one another and to the Still Small Voice that constantly urges us to listen.

Thank you both.



This reminds me of a bit in the Screwtape Letters, where Screwtape writes of an elderly woman beset with gluttony- not because she seeks great amounts or expensive kinds of food, but because she's fixated on having it done exactly the right way for her.

There can be as much a materialist temptation towards quality as towards any quantity of accumulation.

Not to accuse Dreher of anything of the sort; I haven't read Crunchy Cons. I'm just seconding the point you raise.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 23, 2006 9:39 AM.

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