A sensible reactionary is forever on guard against the hazard of becoming merely reactionary, by which I mean ordering his loyalties and affections simply as the mirror opposite of the loyalties and affections of the stereotypical progressive Leftist. We see such mere reaction at work in the man who drives a gas-guzzling monster truck because progressive leftists extoll tiny hybrids and scooters. We see it at work in the man who eats monterey jack cheese because he has heard that progressive Leftists delight in stilton and brie.
I am not talking about men who have an honest need (or affection) for monster trucks, or an honest liking for monterey jack cheese, but about men for whom Reaction is a lifestyle almost entirely defined by repudiation of the stereotypical lifestyle of progressive Leftists.
I understand that there is often some need to signal one’s political status, and therefore to sport some updated version of the black cockade of eighteenth-century reactionaries, but this does not mean that we must behave like rebellious teenagers who hate everything their parents love and love everything their parents hate. Many of us became reactionaries out of disgust with the doctrine that “everything is political,” so it would be ironic if we wound up perusing menus for what we imagine are reactionary entrées, or furnishing our houses with what we imagine is reactionary décor, or choosing our hobbies with an eye to winning the imaginary approval of virtual friends at reactionary websites.
The hazard of becoming merely reactionary is especially great when some fatuous Leftist opinion has become an object of special scorn among reactionaries. For instance, the excesses of feminist ideology drive some men into the mere reaction of affirming forms of rigorist patriarchy totally outside the Western tradition. Another example is mere reaction against the excesses of the individualist ideology that reactionaries mock with the epithet of “special snowflake,” and that too often drives reactionaries into conformist ideologies. The choices in this world are not limited to “snowflakes” and myrmidons, to flower children and men in grey flannel suits.
Consider this quote from the American philosopher Josiah Royce:
“One of the principal tasks of my life is to have a will of my own.” (Philosophy of Loyalty , p. 31)
I think this notion is true, and that it is not one that leads necessarily the “snowflake” philosophy. Royce is, in fact, talking about the need to order one’s life to some end, in accordance with some plan.
“A person, an individual self, may be defined as a human life lived according to a plan.” (Philosophy of Loyalty , p. 168)
The self of which Royce speaks is not a creature of appetite, whim or fancy, but a creature of discipline, purpose and resolve.
“A self is a life insofar as it is unified by a single purpose.” (Philosophy of Loyalty , p. 171)
This purpose is not utterly unique, as the “snowflake” philosophy would seem to imply. Indeed, it may be as ordinary as the purpose (or plan, or will) to support one’s family or raise one’s children. But this purpose that makes existence into “a life” is always a personal purpose. It must be rooted in the nature of the individual. It is a plan of life that a man (or woman) undertakes after sober consideration of the particular gifts with which he (or she) was sent into the world. It is, moreover, begun with the supremely personal act of making a pledge or promise, since a pledge or promise is a public expression of the will.
Here’s Thomas Carlyle:
“He that cannot persevere, that is not bound by the law of his nature to persevere, how can he ever arrive.” (Historical Sketches , p. 177)
None of us is a snowflake, but each of us has a destiny. In most cases it is a very ordinary destiny, but that does not mean we are not in danger of failing to arrive through lack of perseverance, failure of will, and breaking of a promise. This notion of personal destiny is subject to grievous abuse, but this should not cause us to reject it in mere reaction, for each of us is called to live our life as an epic.
Each of us is called to live with the conviction that we are a hero on a quest in which there is no certainty of success. Perhaps it would be best not to constantly talk about our lives in these terms, but this is how we should live. The mass man is, after all, what reactionaries are really reacting against.
So, remind yourself daily that you have been called to be a Hercules, a Jason, a Sir Percival. Ask yourself if you understand your quest. What is your apple of the Hesperides, your Golden Fleece, your Holy Grail? This is not the language of a “snowflake” since the destiny of a snowflake is to melt and be forgotten. This is the language of a hero, and it ought to be our language.