The Corner

Re: Crunchy Coms

Andrew writes: A piece of art can – and

should – be considered on its own merits, regardless of the politics of its

creator. Nevertheless, it’s also true that familiarity with an artist’s

ideological and/or spiritual viewpoint can be helpful (and is sometimes

essential) in trying to understand what that piece of art is trying to

’say’. So, if we look at the creations of the Arts and Craft movement we see

something that may or may not be of aesthetic appeal in its own right, but

we also understand them better if we recognize that they were designed as a

conscious rejection of the industrial revolution.

Fair enough. I was reacting to our last throwdown over crunchy con, which

was, gosh, well over a year ago. But I have a long memory!

Morris and his ilk were, in reality, arcadian fantastists, dreaming of

some medieval neverland where everyone gathered around harmoniously making

pottery, weaving and taking pride in simple acts of collective labor. The

fantasy sounds like hell.

Oh, that dreamy Romantic crap does nothing for me, quite honestly. But I

believe you can separate the very real concerns they were trying to deal

with creatively from their utopianism. You don’t have to believe in hobbits

to recognize that Tolkien had a point about the depredations of rampant

Industrialism.

What’s interesting to me is that in some ways, in its queasiness about

mass production and its embrace of an unostentatious ’simple’ life, your

’crunchy conservatism’ draws on similar intellectual and emotional

roots.

Exactly right. I’ve been talking today by phone to some folks who

wrote in responding to my bleg. It’s interesting how some of them describe

A&C aesthetics as “masculine” in its rough-hewn simplicity. But more

seriously, these guys talk about how they consciously chose to live in an

old bungalow, in an old neighborhood. Partly it was aesthetics, but they all

have identified their choice as serving their families better than the

suburban alternative. One fellow from Houston said that he chose a bungalow

neighborhood because he wanted his kids to grow up in a real neighborhood,

where people sit on their front porches, and there’s a street life. He said

he liked the fact that his kids made friends with working-class Mexican

kids, not just middle-class white kids. And he said that being close to

downtown made it easy for he and his wife to expose their kids to cultural

offerings — things they wouldn’t have taken advantage of if they’d had to

drive in from the burbs.

A Michigander echoed this, saying that if he and his wife had chosen to live

in the burbs, he would have spent a big chunk of his day commuting, which

would have cut unacceptably into his time with his family. He told me his

brother lives in a vast suburban mansion, with TVs in every room, and every

possible consumer gewgaw. The brother and his wife both work long hours to

pay for all this, and they rarely see their kids, who are stuck in their

rooms watching TV. My correspondent’s wife stays home with their boy, and

they have a much more intimate family life, he reports. “My brother’s got a

lot more, but I think I have the better life,” he said.

Thinking back on these conversations, I am reminded of something Russell

Kirk said to young conservatives in his 1991 Heritage lectures: “The

institution it is most essential to conserve is the family.”

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