The Reactionary Cure for COVID

Joel Salatin, self-declared lunatic farmer, is one of my living heroes. He and Bill Kauffmann changed the way I think about freedom in the modern world. They’re libertarians, but not porn-and-pot libertarians.  They don’t confuse liberty with license. 

They’re not looking for the State’s permission to be wicked.  They strive to be good men, and they know that manhood means self-mastery. 

These guys are true rugged individualists.  They preach (and practice) hard work, thrift, self-reliance, and neighborliness—what Christians call charity.

In his latest blog post, Mr. Salatin talks about an alternative COVID remedy he’s coming up with.  Among the ingredients:

— Sweat for 20 minutes a day with some sort of vigorous exercise.

— Eat authentic, non-industrial food and fix it from scratch; leftovers are the benchmark of good eating habits.

— Watch no more than 2 hours of TV news a week but spend 1 hour a day watching clean comedy and laugh your head off.  Laughing until your sides hurt is a good thing; practice it daily.  Reading joke books counts too.  I have a book of elephant jokes:  they’re hilarious.  “Why did the elephant wear red sneakers?  To hide in the strawberry patch.  Ever see an elephant in a strawberry patch?  Works pretty good doesn’t it?”

Read the whole thing.

Mr. S hits on something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We really are going to extraordinary lengths to protect those who (like me) don’t take good care of themselves.  Clean living and hard work won’t cure everything, I guess.  But most of what they can’t cure, they’ll prevent. 

How many centuries did we spend trying to make manual labor obsolete in the West, either by outsourcing or automation?  Now even farmers tend to be obese, because they just sit on tractors all day and eat junk food when they go home.

The solution, we’re told, is to all get gym memberships.  But how insane is that?!  We used to get paid to do hard things; now we pay other people so we can do hard things in our free time. 

If you can’t see why it’s insane, you may be blinded by the Cult of Progress, which is the principle antagonist of my new book The Reactionary Mind.  Here’s a sample:

The great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson observed that “every period of civilization possesses certain characteristic ideas that are peculiarly its own.”  Yet, “so long as they are dominant, their unique and original character is never fully recognized, since they are accepted as principles of absolute truth and universal validity.  They are looked on, not as popular ideas of the moment, but as eternal truths implanted in the very nature of things, and as self-evident in any kind of rational thinking.”

For our own civilization, Dawson argues, that characteristic idea is progress: “the belief that every day and in every way the world grows better and better.”  This dogma of progress will serve as the primary antagonist of this little book.  For progress, as our contemporaries use the word, is retrospective.  We begin with the assumption that we “moderns” believe all the right sorts of things, and that the process that led to our believing them was therefore good and proper.  History is only the long, agonizing slog through prejudice and superstition culminating in our magnificent Modernity.  Progress, then, is simply the means by which we acquired Ikea furniture, McDonald’s hamburgers, and the Department of Education.  Who could possibly say otherwise?

(…)

Lord Tennyson accidentally gave voice to liberal fatalism when he wrote: “Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.”  We do not chart our own course: we merely roll down a groove, like a marble circling the drain.

A reactionary is born every time a Westerner recognizes how entrenched the dogma of progress has become in our civilization.  By recognizing the progressive spell, he breaks it.  That’s why the reactionary is the only true freethinker.  He’s free to imagine a better future, and remember the better past.  He’s able to learn at the feet of those dead masters who found themselves on the “wrong side of history”—which is, more often than not, the right side of Eternity.

The cure to most of our modern malaises would be to undo all the “progress” of the last century or two. Go back to a time when most everyone earned his keep through hard, honest labor. Go back to a time when everyone ate grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, and organic local produce—because there wasn’t anything else to eat.

We can’t build stronger, healthier selves until we recognize why we’ve gotten so fat and weak. We have to be able to say, “The process that got us here was bad. We should to go back to the way things were before.”

Just try it. It’s not as easy as it sounds, is it? You can hear the schoolmarms howling about rates of death in childbirth, the Civil Rights Movement, and something about Harvey Milk.

That’s why I think it’s so important we embrace the label reactionary. Refuse to conform yourself to the whims of Future Historians, that most privileged and exclusive elite.

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