Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Forsaking the City

 

I’m trapped, for the time being, in a city. It’s a vivacious and proud city — arguably the state’s cultural capital; a place seemingly immune to economic malaise; a place teeming with little shops and well-manicured 19th-century neighborhoods. It appears on all the usual “best” lists — as the nth best place to raise a family, the nth most educated city in America, the nth greatest place for young professionals. It has much to offer … if you fancy yoga and craft beer and vegan cuisine.

If you’d care to join the Rudolf Steiner Anthroposophy Study Group, or the Astrology Circle, or the Lesbian Coffee House, or the Shamanic Journey Group. If you’d like to hear the local priest sermonize about social justice, then indulge in a little Catholic yoga afterward. If you’re interested in discussing “Cat Person” at the local library, or you enjoy the idea of perusing the city art museum’s collection of #Resistance artwork (which, when I last visited, included droopy hand-knit rifles with the name “Trump” stitched into them).

If you’re looking for a Dickens or Tolstoy or Chesterton discussion group, or a reasonably traditional bible study, or some other safe space for old souls, you’re out of luck. Now, a book club needn’t be political, and members needn’t pass an ideological litmus test. But for Buttigieg’s sake, it needn’t be a Margaret Atwood cult, either … which is what most American book clubs amount to. The same is true for just about every other cultural institution in the city where I happen to reside. The place has three saving graces — its architecture, its orchestra, and its jazz club. Those only go so far.

Graduate-student duties aside, there’s rarely a good reason for me to leave my apartment — except to sightsee, which I often do … alone. There’s little reason for me to feel invested in the city. There’s little reason for me to stay.

Kevin Williamson is half-right.* Conservatives, for all their praise of little platoons, do a shoddy job of creating and sustaining them, especially in the places where little platoons are most likely to thrive. I don’t blame them. It’s much easier to harumph at the world from the solitude of our homes than to found book clubs, study groups, coffee shops, art museums, theaters, think tanks, etc. But book clubs, study groups, coffee shops, art museums, theaters, and think tanks form the backbone of a city’s cultural life, and we renounce them at our peril. Obviously, the cities will never be conservative. It’s not unreasonable, though, to expect islands of anachronism within an otherwise woke-chic sea. In many places, those islands don’t seem to exist, perhaps because nobody bothers to make them. Heck, I don’t bother to make them.

Yet we wonder why conservatism is dying.

* I say “half-right” because Kevin’s defense of cities applies only to half of them. Old-fashioned high culture might survive in New York and Chicago, but it’s an endangered species in the average, small-to-medium-sized Middle American city.

Published in Culture
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 12 comments.

  1. JoelB Member

    Not to invade your privacy, but I expect there might be some Ricochet members in that city that could offer you some choices if you will reveal the name of the town. I do agree with you that we are not often good about getting the message out there.

    • #1
    • October 17, 2019, at 8:19 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Kephalithos: It’s not unreasonable, though, to expect islands of anachronism within an otherwise woke-chic sea.

    My bet is that those islands exist. You just have to find them.

    • #2
    • October 17, 2019, at 8:46 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  3. Stad Thatcher

    A lot of these cities are still great, but the liberals running them are doing their best to bring them down. In California, they’re showing the way . . .

    • #3
    • October 17, 2019, at 9:30 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Kephalithos: But book clubs, study groups, coffee shops, art museums, theaters, and think tanks form the backbone of a city’s cultural life, and we renounce them at our peril.

    I think that for a conservative, church is the backbone of cultural life. My church is almost all of these things, combined. There’s even a coffee spot at the back of the sanctuary/auditorium. (I admit that we’re not big on the art museum and think tank part.)

    • #4
    • October 17, 2019, at 9:56 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  5. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos Post author

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment): I think that for a conservative, church is the backbone of cultural life. My church is almost all of these things, combined. There’s even a coffee spot at the back of the sanctuary/auditorium. (I admit that we’re not big on the art museum and think tank part.)

    You’re probably right. For non-believers, these social activities are scattered across the cityscape. For believers, they come in one nice, neat, prepackaged whole.

    But that’s hardly a consolation when the churches themselves seem uninterested in defending the inherited culture, as is often the case in cities. Plus, churches require belief, which not all conservatives have.

    • #5
    • October 17, 2019, at 10:21 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos Post author

    Arahant (View Comment): My bet is that those islands exist. You just have to find them.

    Well, a little advertising would go a long way.

    • #6
    • October 17, 2019, at 10:23 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment): I think that for a conservative, church is the backbone of cultural life. My church is almost all of these things, combined. There’s even a coffee spot at the back of the sanctuary/auditorium. (I admit that we’re not big on the art museum and think tank part.)

    You’re probably right. For non-believers, these social activities are scattered across the cityscape. For believers, they come in one nice, neat, prepackaged whole.

    But that’s hardly a consolation when the churches themselves seem uninterested in defending the inherited culture, as is often the case in cities. Plus, churches require belief, which not all conservatives have.

    Yep. When one rules out the one reliable conservative alternative, there’s not much left.

    My church doesn’t quite require belief. Belief is required for membership, but not participation or welcome. One of our current slogans is “you can belong before you believe.”

    • #7
    • October 17, 2019, at 11:08 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Barfly Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    When one rules out the one reliable conservative alternative, there’s not much left.

    Did you equate “church” to “one reliable conservative alternative” ? 

    • #8
    • October 17, 2019, at 11:52 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    When one rules out the one reliable conservative alternative, there’s not much left.

    Did you equate “church” to “one reliable conservative alternative” ?

    Yes. I don’t know of a cultural institution that is reliably conservative, other than Christian churches.

    It’s not even all of the churches, although the ones on the Left seem to follow a path of ceasing to be Christian at all.

    • #9
    • October 17, 2019, at 12:32 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. OldDanRhody, 7152 Maple Dr. Member

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    When one rules out the one reliable conservative alternative, there’s not much left.

    Did you equate “church” to “one reliable conservative alternative” ?

    I wouldn’t, although I will say church is most comprehensive. Other possibilities might be a local gun club/shooting range, small business group (e.g. HVAC services), etc. The thing is, there needs be a social aspect to the grouping, not just the narrow primary interest that draws the participants together.

    • #10
    • October 17, 2019, at 2:53 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Randy Webster Member

    Kephalithos: It’s a vivacious and proud city — arguably the state’s cultural capital;

    I’m sure it can’t hold a candle to Knoxville.

    • #11
    • October 17, 2019, at 4:40 PM PST
    • 1 like
  12. colleenb Member

    My son and daughter-in-law live in a big city. The main source of support and community for them are the churches they attend (which they had to find) and like-minded young families (through their alma mater mostly). It definitely takes work. As others here say, I think its worth it for you to get out and belong to a community. 

    • #12
    • October 18, 2019, at 12:41 PM PST
    • 1 like