We Are All Subcultures Now


The day after the Lost finale, Megan noted that only 13.5 million people watched the episode, while 106 million watched MASH's denouement. This prompted Rod Dreher to go all Alasdair Macintyre on us again. He was back at it yesterday:

The culture has fragmented, but it's also easier to reach back in time and claim what was discarded... For those who have the creativity and the will, it is increasingly possible to live out in miniature a "Benedict Option" of one's own, and reclaim, or attempt to reclaim, what was lost. We are condemned to be free to choose. But for those who wish to reacquaint themselves with the tradition that previous generations rejected, we are free to choose it in ways that we were not before. And that's good.

But he gets the paradox:

The obvious objection to all this is: the moment you choose a tradition, it is no longer a tradition; what makes a tradition binding is the awareness that one doesn't choose it, one submits to the prior claim it has on one's loyalty. The moment you become aware that you have chosen tradition, its power over you, and therefore its power to sustain itself in time, weakens.

Welcome to the modern world, Rod. The kind of unthinking cohesion of the past, sustained by elite control of the media and by ancient accommodation to a world before contraception, advances in longevity, and the technological revolution, is indeed gone. We are all subcultures now. This is hard, bewildering for many, too much for some. The reason why Rod is worth reading is that he is not in denial about this - just a mild form of despair. But that the only intelligent response for a traditionalist is retreat into a faux traditionalism tells you something about the problem. It is insoluble. It is our reality. And conservatives adjust to reality; they do not assault it.