The Most Reactionary Book Ever Written

Mencius Moldbug once wrote that the Right is fundamentally oriented towards order. That’s not a rigorous definition, obviously, but it does have more than a grain of truth to it. The modern, Liberal mind may instinctively leap from “order” to an image of a totalitarian, regimented society, but order essentially means, simply, each aspect of a society working as it ought.  In book XII, chapter 11 of the _Analects _Confucius is asked about government, and he says, “Let the prince be a prince, the minister a minister, the father a father, and the son a son.”  Interestingly, though not the goal, increased order also leads to increased liberty, but you can find more about Reaction and liberty from Moldbug or a more recent article by Doug Smythe.

Now, I, and I assume most readers, aren’t really in a position right now to bring order to the whole country, but we do have control over a few square feet around us, and that’s a good enough place to start. “You can’t give what you don’t have,” as the cliché goes, so even an emperor can’t bring order to a nation when he himself is disordered. Think of how Confucius or Mencius constantly urge princes to virtue, or the disasters that befall Israel and Judah because of their impious kings. Reaction isn’t about self-improvement; the common advice “Read old books, lift weights, go to church, marry and have children” isn’t the goal, but it is the starting-point. So, how do we go about acquiring virtue? “Go to church” is a start, but “lift weights” is also part of it. Why? A few reasons, but the most relevant is that it builds a good habit. Aristotle wrote that virtue is habit (see book II of the Nicomachean Ethics); in other words, we are what we do. Habits, good or bad, are difficult to break, though, so attempting a huge change right out of the gate is a good way to trip right as the gates open. Rather, we can begin with simple things. Consider this video, part of an interview with Jordan Peterson. The whole thing is worth watching, but the most relevant part begins at about 2:38.

As Peterson says, we’re affected by our environment. Furthermore, the discipline gained from small tasks like cleaning our room makes larger tasks easier.

So, Reaction is oriented towards order; creating order requires virtue; virtue is a habit; habits are first established via small tasks like tidying; therefore, the most Reactionary book ever written is Kondo Marie’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

What? I’m being serious here!

Well, okay, maybe not completely serious, but I think it’s clear from what was said above that I’m not completely joking, either. I wouldn’t sink to the level of writing about a New York Times #1 best-seller otherwise.

So what is Ms. Kondo’s “life-changing magic?” If you search for “KonMari method” on YouTube you’ll mostly get a bunch of videos demonstrating her technique for how to fold laundry, organise a closet, and a few other such things. That’s all practical, worthwhile advice, but it’s also a minor part of the book. She spends much of her time explaining why tidying is important:

Let’s imagine a cluttered room. It does not get messy all by itself. You, the person who lives in it, makes the mess. There is a saying that “a messy room equals a messy mind.” I look at it this way. When a room becomes cluttered, the cause is more than just physical. Visible mess helps distract us from the true sources of the disorder. The act of cluttering is really an instinctive reflex that draws our attention away from the heart of an issue.

[…] From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.

She provides several examples and testimonials from previous clients of hers whose lives were improved after going through her method of tidying up. Deciding on what to discard, for example, helps build confidence in one’s decision-making abilities, and sorting through one’s things and deciding what to keep helps us decide what is really important to us. The tidying process isn’t exciting, except to naturally orderly people like Kondo and, honestly, myself, but as she repeatedly emphasises, this is the first step on a thousand-mile journey.

Another particularly important point is that Kondo is all about mindset, not novel methods of organising or storing things. She does offer a specific way to fold and organise clothes and a few other such things, but she criticises magazines and such that sell new closet-organising systems and the like. Rather, her goal is to encourage a tidying mindset.

I won’t go into detail on the actual tidying process, but the most important part is going through everything discarding items, using the criteria “does this bring you joy?” This works well enough in deciding what’s important to you, though it has its difficulties. For example, I like a lot of my clothes, but very few bring me “joy.” Unless I want to walk around like Michelangelo’s David, though, I had to keep some items that are merely comfortable and attractive. Similarly, does, say, my toaster bring me joy? It makes me toast, which is nice, but I’m not such a fan of warm bread that I’d call it “joyful.”

Books were the only difficult part. I had well over 900 because I enjoy surrounding myself with them, and I honestly would say that many of them do bring me joy even if I’m not a big fan of the particular title in question. Nonetheless, I did get rid of several dozen, graphic novels forming the majority of that, and for the first time in several years I’m able to get all of my books on my shelves. I also made the employees at my local Half Price Books work for their pay cheque, but they were good sports about it.

Though most of the book consists of practical advice, some of it is a little silly. Kondo loves to anthropomorphise items, discussing how clothes need to rest, unread books feel lonely, and insists that one thank one’s items while discarding them. I’m honestly not quite sure if she does think of inanimate objects having a “soul” of some kind, or if this is just to encourage a feeling of gratitude in the reader. Either way, I did go ahead and give old shirts, etc. a pat on the back with a “Thanks, bro. I only wore you once because you’re as uncomfortable as you are unfashionable, but you did your best and that’s what counts.”

So there you have it; it feels disgusting reviewing a best-seller, but rest assured, most future reviews will continue to be about books written by authors who meet at least one, and preferably all, of these criteria: dead, white, and men. Nonetheless, I do recommend Kondo’s book, so go ahead and pick it up and start tidying up. The future of the West depends on it.