5 Rules for California-Roll Conservatives

I love sushi.

It's delicious, refreshing, appetizing -- any adjective applies, really. On weekends my friends and I can often be found snacking on sushi and drinking Mai Tais at our favorite restaurant. I personally like nigirizushi.

What's funny is that I used to hate the thought of it. I hadn't tried it; the idea of consuming raw fish made me sick. But then things changed.

One day at school the dining area was offering free sushi. I tried and was immediately hooked. Now it is one of my favorite dishes.

It's also Jiro Ono's.

He constantly thinks of sushi — how to prepare it, serve it, reinvent it. He has since he was a young boy. It’s why he was able to ascend to the top of the international sushi industry. His restaurant is one of the few awarded three stars by the Michelin guide. In order to eat there, you have to reserve a spot a few months in advance. And bring cash — about three hundred dollars or so.

Ono is the subject of the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which premiered in 2011. It’s currently streaming on Netflix. Throughout the film he imparts much wisdom unto the viewer. We learn, for instance, that he considers the practice of making sushi a craft — not surprising, especially since he is seen as a master. But it becomes increasingly clear that his life is one of virtue, prudence, hard work, and tradition. He honors family by passing down his sushi-making techniques to his sons, as well as his apprentices.

The film is rich, powerful, engaging, and thoughtful, and as such it has many ideas to teach its viewers; think of it as “California-Roll Conservatism.” As mentioned, sushi is an art — a craft — and those who enjoy it can discern the difference between a good and bad product. So, in a sense, there exists a hierarchical order in the world of sushi.

I would like to take this Asian cultural insight and combine it with traditionalist conservatism — the kind associated with some of my favorite thinkers such as Roger Scruton, Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and many others.

These are its principles: a prejudice toward the local, a respect for community and tradition, a recognition that man must be ordered toward God, the desire to pursue the permanent things, and the enjoyment of high culture.

A quick aside: As with sushi, I used to hate conservatism. This was back in high school or so. I started drifting to the right around my senior year. Everything clicked for me, however, in college:  it was when I discovered Leo Strauss, Scruton, and the meaning of the tragic in human affairs.

Here are five life lessons courtesy of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and the beginning of coming to define California-Roll Conservatism.