[Today is Publication Day for The Reactionary Mind, so I thought I’d share my favorite part of the book, from the conclusion. Here’s my summary of how to be a reactionary. Enjoy.]
Above all, though, be happy. Live well, and go to Heaven. If you can do nothing else, do that. The reactionary is one whose whole existence is a constant revolt against the modern world—its banal, cheap, ugly, heartless futility.
Fall in love, get married, and be faithful to your spouse. Have as many children as you possibly can. Your family will bring you more joy than anything else in the world. It’s worth every sacrifice you make, of which there will be many.
Homeschool your kids, but don’t over-school them. Let them pay a little more attention to topics that interest them. Let them take long lunches. End their studies while there’s still daylight so they can play outside. Start or join a co-op so they can be around other children of all ages.
Build a community. Find a parish that will nourish your faith. Make friends who will strengthen you in virtue. Have fun together. Exercise together—mind, body, and soul. Sing good songs. Read good books. Start a branch of the Chesterton Society or a smial of the Tolkien Society. Hunt, fish, and hike. Drink beer. Smoke pipes. Laugh.
Stay away from cities. Cities are where souls go to die. Extricate yourself from the ugliness of modern life as best you can. Go out into the country. Go up into the mountains.
Don’t worry too much about your career. Your priority should be keeping your family fed. But, if you can, find a useful occupation. Farm. Make furniture. Unclog toilets. If you’re doomed to a life of white-collar labor, try to find a job that lets you work from home. Minimize your commute. Never take a promotion that forces you to move away from your community.
If you can’t buy a farm, plant a garden. Spend a little time every day with your hands in the soil. Eat fruits and vegetables you’ve grown yourself. Raise chickens and eat their eggs. If you can, buy a few goats or cows. Keep your family in good, raw milk. At least once in your life, go in on a pig with some friends and slaughter it yourselves.
Minimize the amount of technology you use for work. Don’t use any technology recreationally. Avoid social media like the plague. Never read the comments on an article. Remember that nobody in the history of the world has ever changed his mind after arguing with a stranger online. Get a dumbphone or a landline to keep in touch with friends and family, but find better things to do with your free time. Practice real leisure. Learn to play an instrument. Paint. Whittle. Write poetry. Play chess. Be strenuous, and be useful.
Throw away your television. Turn off the talk radio. Get your news from a local newspaper. Better yet, don’t get the news at all. If the country goes to war, you’ll hear about it. Otherwise, it’s none of your business, and nobody cares what you think.
When you go out in public, put on a tie. It doesn’t matter who you’re going to see: they’re worth it. Comport yourself with dignity, and with respect for the dignity of others. You wouldn’t throw rubbish in your front yard for all your neighbors to see. So, don’t go outside looking like a slob. They deserve better. So do you. And so does your family. A true reactionary wears a tie at home.
Buy a few dogs and work alongside them. Find a sense of purpose together. Let them retrieve the birds you shoot and watch over your livestock. Then, let them run around and play together.
Shop local. If you can’t buy it locally, ninety-nine percent of the time, you don’t need it. Spend less money, period. Don’t create waste. Recycle and compost. Don’t throw clothes away: patch them.
Washington is a lost cause. It’s the seat of a dying empire. Get involved in local politics. Register as an independent and work with politicians of any party to build the common good. Use prudence, of course. Never vote for a “pro-choice” politician who could feasibly change abortion law in a “liberal” direction. But if the Democrat running for city council wants to plant a thousand trees and the Republican wants to tear down a park to build a strip mall, vote for the Democrat. For larger executive offices, like mayor or governor, remember that you’re not just electing a man (or woman), but an administration and vote accordingly for the administration that would do the least harm through executive orders and appointments.
Go to church (or synagogue or whatever your house of worship happens to be) once a week. If you’re Catholic, go to daily Mass. Lead your family in prayer every evening. Tithe: give ten percent of your income to your church, a religious order, or to worthy, reactionary causes. Don’t get dragged into “church politics”—local, national, or international. It will kill your faith at its roots. Just focus on what you can do, personally, to spread your faith.
Examine your conscience every evening. Don’t be afraid to confront your sins, or your mortality. Be brave. Think about them, but not too much. Make it your resolve every night to be a better man the next morning, and then do that.
This is how the reactionary wages his war against modernity—with his whole being. He doesn’t depend on new-fangled things like parties or “movements.” He has no use for factions or sects. By definition, one party or faction must defeat the other. That’s the point. The reactionary isn’t interested in beating his opponents, but in winning them over. He has something that they need, and he wants to share it with them: happiness. A good life. Reactionaries don’t argue, they act. They lead by example.