Mark Zuckerberg is killing animals. You may have seen the news: the Facebook founder’s new personal challenge for the year is to eat only meat that he has slaughtered. I am stirred at the idea, though many are panning it as moral posturing.
Zuckerberg’s one-upped locavorism, at first glance, looks like white guilt – the billionaire rich boy getting his hands dirty. The equation is simple enough to follow: Social Network plus Local Food equals hipster.
And that’s the resounding criticism of the cymotrichous CEO. Whether the culture is called hippie, yuppie, bobo, or hipster, there’s a sarcastic, negative vibe on the moralistic rebellions of rich white kids.
Zuckerberg’s chucking his own chickens, and I must say that I applaud him. Of course the ironic subcultures of the leisure class are a bit ridiculous, but I’d like to point out for a minute that the local farmer, urban chickens, beard-wearing hipster is in the direction of something really important.
Some of you may remember that the punk music scene carried an anarchism streak that was beyond political. It was called the Punk DIY movement – do it yourself. It was a countercultural push against consumerism: fix your own bike, tat your own tattered clothes, play basement shows. Likewise, the hippie culture of the 1960s didn’t just send meandering youths to San Francisco; many moved to the Mountain West, where they built stuff, grew stuff, and endured nature – for the first time in their lives.
This was Rod Dreher’s basic point in Crunchy Cons. Any particular group might look like its own ridiculous rebellion, but there really are a lot of people pushing back on aspects of our culture, in a lot of ways. Dreher showed us such freaks as “Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives.”
The markets and even capitalism are good ways to help us think about our abstract relationships. But all of us also have a whole bunch of non-abstract relationships. And we want non-abstract relationships. Zuckerberg’s main goal is to help himself see the non-abstract relationships that are easily hidden. This isn’t “moral” in the sense of some Kantian categorical imperative, but being more connected with your food (or neighborhood, or purchases, or family for that matter) really can help develop the right attitudes of a more moral worldview.
If Zuckerberg’s mini moral revolt is politicized or abstracted into rich-boy do-gooder-ism, then it really is just a farce. But if he, in his own way, is trying to be more aware of the personal relationships he engages in – let the blood splatter, my friend.
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.