Confessions of a Reactionary
March 27, 2001
whole thing is wrong. How did we get into this mess? How can we ever
Thats my political outlook in a
nutshell. Not so long ago, I was comfortably nestled into the Republican
Party, confident that Ronald Reagan would set the world right. Oh, how naive!
I shouldnt even be confessing this in public.
Well, here I am, much sadder but
somewhat wiser, living under a government that kept expanding without limit
during and after Reagan, while running up a national debt that would have
made Jefferson or for that matter, Franklin Roosevelt ask
whether he heard you right; and of course the moral and cultural garbage we
live amidst seems to be getting irreversibly worse.
I cant even call myself a
conservative anymore. I dont see much left to conserve. Most of
todays conservatives are to the left of yesterdays liberals.
They quote John Kennedy and Martin Luther King and they have plans to save
Social Security and Medicare. They think a minor tax cut would cure the
Its hard for me to get very
interested in todays political squabbles. I dont have a dog in
these fights; my dog died a long time ago. You know youre politically
homeless when you go to a John Birch Society dinner and you feel
youre surrounded by well-meaning liberals.
Am I a libertarian? Sort of. An
anarchist? Anarchy might be great, if only it could be enforced.
I guess the label that suits me best is
reactionary utopian. I want to go back to a better world that never quite
Most people are conservative in the
wrong way. They accept whatever theyre used to as the natural
order of things. They have no sense that the world really went radically
wrong somewhere, and is still going further wrong. In this sense, people who
think Bill Clinton left this country in fine shape are supremely conservative.
Right now we enjoy the highest level of
comfort and prosperity in history. But to make that the criterion of the good
life is swinish. Besides, were still at the mercy of the modern state,
and we never know when it will all come crashing down. There is plenty of
precedent, especially in the twentieth century, for huge and rich societies
meeting sudden and unforeseen disasters.
After two world wars, countless
smaller wars, mass murders, religious and racial persecution, several species
of tyranny, punishing taxation, erosions of ancient liberties, debasement of
money, and state-sponsored moral decadence, youd think modern
man would have drawn certain lessons about the modern state. All of us
ought to talk about the state the way the Jews talk about Hitler.
On the contrary, we have also lost our
old standards for judging political well-being. As the poet says, mens
judgments are a parcel of their fortunes. When things get truly bad, you can
lose your sense of how bad they are. We are inured to the kind of
government our ancestors would have recognized as tyrannical; they crossed
oceans to get away from it, and it has grown up here.
George Orwell saw modern man
becoming inured to servitude. His most famous novel ends with the chilling
sentence: He loved Big Brother. Many people still honor the
memories of two of the biggest brothers, Roosevelt and Stalin.
The task of a reactionary utopian is simply to pull his head out of
his immediate environment and look to religion, philosophy, history, and art
for intimations of how social life ought to be. A decent man should always be
somewhat alienated from the herd, from the age he lives in, from the
dominant political gangs. When you feel at home in a world that has gone
wrong, youve gone wrong too.
Not that you should be an anti-social
hermit (though you shouldnt rule that out too quickly). But at least
you should keep a free mind, a mental and spiritual space that is all your own,
unpenetrated by official lies and propaganda.
The tyrant really wants your soul
he speaks solicitously of raising your consciousness
but you dont have to yield it to him. Thats the one
private property he cant take away from you.
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