Home/Daniel Larison/Spengler Takes on an Anti-Crunchy

Spengler Takes on an Anti-Crunchy

Meilaender relishes the moment of eating junk food while talking about sports on television. Bread and circuses! Babylon! Pfui pfui!

Shame on this Pharisee, this Philistine! The “I’m all right Jack” response to Dreher’s criticism of American culture bespeaks the sort of intellectual coma that one finds in comic characters out of Coen brothers film. I can hear Meilaender chortle, “You betcha!” His denomination is disappearing because (as Dave Shiflett wrote in his fine book Exodus) Americans are seeking stronger doses of spirituality.

I don’t agree with Dreher about any number of things, but he is right to ring the alarm bell and — as I said in my review of his book — stand athwart the Conservative movement shouting, “Get a life!” Dreher, as I mentioned in my review, is at the top of my lists of authors worth having dinner with (his taste in food being a factor). Never will I dine with the tastless Meilaender. ~Spengler

Via Rod Dreher

In case anyone needed confirmation that the average anti-crunchy critique is as shallow and vapid as, well, the “mainstream conservative” mind that creates it, read the citation from Meilaender’s First Things review of Crunchy Cons (sorry, not online) in Spengler’s post. The Meilaender citation might as well have been acclamations, “Hail, ESPN the community-maker! Hail, Burger King the Deliverer! Go, Indians!” Does anyone now doubt that “mainstream conservatives” of the type Rod described exist? Does anyone doubt that they (and, to the extent that we all participate in these bad habits, we) are very far removed from the conservative vision of order?

Just consider the language Meilaender used to describe his veritable pilgrimage to the shrine of the Burger King: he wanted something “quick, inexpensive and good.” In other words, everything Rod was saying about family meals, communion, sacramentality is completely lost on this man who thinks that eating is about getting things quickly and cheaply and who mistakes Burger King fare for something good. It may be necessary, and it may have its uses in a crunch (no pun intended, really) on the road, but it is not “good” in any meaningful sense. But there was more–he wants it “his way,” as noble a consumer sentiment as there is, and he glories in the fact Burger King caters to his yearning for “choice.” When it comes to self-indulgence, he is a “pro-choice” man. There is no sense of anything at all amiss, from a specifically conservative perspective, in this preoccupation with choice and self-satisfaction.

Evidently there is no anxiety that consumerism is perhaps not exactly what contributes to eudaimonia, nor is there an inkling that eating glop while being entertained by modern circus factions might be in the least politically and morally enervating or that, if it were, conservatives should take a dim view of it. I have been known to enjoy watching professional sports as much as the next guy, but I am also aware of the entirely passive, addictive quality of such spectator sports and the vain and trivial passions they arouse over basically meaningless contests. There is a real problem with it, and the fact that I may find it satisfying suggests that there is something wrong with me and with the entire arrangement. It does not mean that I have discovered a little bit of heaven at the roadside Burger King talking about a pro baseball game with complete strangers.

In fact, using the word community in connection with fellow supporters of a pro baseball team, with whose city you don’t even have a personal connection, suggests that you have no idea what “community” is. This is not Meilaender’s problem alone. Entire generations of “conservatives” have grown up in rootless America not knowing what community really is, or grew up believing that the common good had something to do with Hillary Clinton trying to socialise health care, which is why they both virulently reject any attempt to promote community even as they lamely grasp onto whatever shreds of it they can find, because I suspect they know the desperate truth that man is not meant to live as so many of us do, but they have no idea how to change.

Men like choice, but one of the fundamental things that conservatives need to relearn is that choice is unnatural. We were not created with choice, a choosing will. We were created with free will, and the difference between the two is all-important. Our choosing, deliberative will is not only a product of our fallen state, but the source of our continuing waywardness. Prizing choice is like prizing doubt and uncertainty. It is not something to be prized, but something to be restrained and mortified.

Having options is all very well and good, and all things being equal everyone usually likes to have some selection (whether we should pursue what we like seems to be a basic divide here), but Mr. Meilaender has all but proudly declared that choice, speed, efficiency and low cost are the priorities in how he makes decisions in life. This is how a lot of people live, including a lot of conservatives. That is part of our present reality, and there are some conservatives who think that being conservative is affirming whatever the present reality is, provided that taxes continue to go lower. How would they know any better, when their “intellectual” and political leadership have been telling them as much for a generation or more? These, of course, are real problems in a traditional conservative vision and they are some of the main points of the book.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles