Our Age of Reflection

Recently, I read Søren Kierkegaard’s The Present Age, penned in 1846. In this essay, Kierkegaard exerts a great deal of effort to explain the period in which he lived.  He calls it the Age of Reflection. Kierkegaard says that a revolutionary age is characterized by action, but in a reflective age, people react to individuals and events simply by talking about them. Kierkegaard says that reflection entices individuals because, if one reflects on anything such as power, success, or wealth long enough; he can convince himself that he, like anyone else, can attain whatever he desires. This tendency toward believing that a person can achieve anything, if only he pursues it, is rooted in egalitarianism.

Kierkegaard observes that, though men admired their superiors in the past as the greatest individual representatives of their groups, they had come to resent them for being better men. While the Age of Reflection enables men to gain a dispassionate understanding of the world around them, it plagues society with indolence and incessant talkativeness. People please themselves with the mere ideas of accomplishing tasks while they never actually accomplish anything.

To somebody caught up in reflection, the conception of action is an action in its own right. Throughout my time reading this essay, I never managed to shake the idea that we live in an age of reflection today, and I am sure that anyone who reads this essay will agree. Without using the actual term, Kierkegaard insists that his contemporaries live in a world like that understood in the idea of the cathedral. The existing system imposes its view onto the populace and the populace enforces said view in the form of critique, ostracism, or policy. No entity enforces the views of the system like the established media cadre. As Kierkegaard puts it: “A revolutionary age is an age of action; ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere;” observing the complete lack of will to take real action he continues:

“In the present age, a rebellion is, of all things, the most unthinkable. Such an expression of strength would seem ridiculous to the calculating intelligence of our times. On the other hand a political virtuoso might bring off a feat almost as remarkable. He might write a manifesto suggesting a general assembly at which people should decide upon a rebellion, and it would be so carefully worded that even the censor would let it pass. At the meeting itself he would be able to create the impression that the audience had rebelled, after which they would all quietly go home—having spent a very pleasant evening. ”

It would prove difficult for anybody to find a person who does not have visions of a better world. At some point or another, the average person will mention his hopes for the future or, more likely, his critiques of the current state of things. But he probably will never lift a finger to see his visions into reality. He would rather talk about his ideas and discontents. Of course, the most vocal people usually base their ideas in pure nonsense, and this is a consequence of their talkativeness. Kierkegaard defines talkativeness as “the result of doing away with the vital distinction between talking and being silent. Only someone who knows how to remain essentially silent can really talk—and act essentially.” As opposed to those who cannot comprehend this distinction, the people of our movement have made conscious decisions based on inward thought, because almost no man will embrace such ideas as ours for the sake of being chic. Kierkegaard continues: “Silence is the essence of inwardness, of the inner life. Mere gossip anticipates real talk, and to express what is still in thought weakens action by forestalling it. But someone who can really talk, because he knows how to remain silent, will not talk about a variety of things but about one thing only, and he will know when to talk and when to remain silent.” As inward thinkers, we begin a step ahead of our counterparts because we know what is true, and no political or popular wind can uproot truth. If one is not an inward thinker, he must strive to become one in order to have a measurable effect on his surroundings.

If we Identitarians want to call culture-war a sport, we are the only team actually capable of rebellion. Our counterparts surely act as if they rebel, but their “rebellion” parallels that which Kierkegaard mentioned above—sterile theater with only the purpose of providing the superficial sensation of accomplishment. Their innovations serve no purpose but to degrade civilized society by blurring the lines of distinction between father and son, husband and wife, master and servant, good and evil—“The distance separating a thing from its opposite in quality no longer regulates the inward relation of things… The admirer and the object of admiration stand like two polite equals, and observe each other.” Leftists and liberals of all stripes, including those who call themselves “classical”, love to play rebels in their speeches, articles, and dialogues; but their talkativeness “is afraid of the silence which reveals its emptiness.” Perhaps that’s why the establishment so obviously wants us constantly plugged into some sort of pre-approved entertainment medium.

A rebellion need not be political. One can consider any break from the status quo, however small, a rebellion—not that anybody should congratulate themselves for taking one or two steps off the beaten path. For instance, listening to wholesome music will get you identified as an oddball in a young group. It doesn’t even need to be wholesome. It need only be actual music. Try playing Led Zeppelin at a college party and see how your peers like it. While we’re on the subject of music, common themes in today’s popular music (besides the typical barbaric messages in most rap) are self-congratulation, self-indulgence, and/or self-assurance—total narcissism. It fits our reflective age.

Kierkegaard describes an age characterized by do-nothingness, undue self-admiration, and lack of leadership. Do-nothingness tempts every man once in a while. We have to do all we can to stave off sloth with productive work and only rest when we deserve it. But in Kierkegaard’s age, the allure of reflection provided a sort of exit from work. After all, is dreaming of great things not work? No, it isn’t. But believing such a thing can dull the guilt of doing nothing. As Kierkegaard’s contemporaries did nothing, those who worked and possessed great ability surpassed them. Great men always exist along with large quantities of lesser men. Europeans have acknowledged this and lived according to this fact without dispute throughout most of history, and the so-called lesser men admired their superiors while seeking to emulate them. But the so-called Enlightenment changed that admiration into envy, and the continent had begun to feel this paradigm shift by 1846. Kierkegaard says that reflection on the strata of society, especially under egalitarian influence, which had become pervasive since the French Revolution of 1789, eventually breeds resentment within people, and “in reflection the state of strain (or tension as we call it) results in the neutralization of all higher powers, and all that is low and despicable comes to fore, its very impudence giving the spurious effects of strength, while protected by its very baseness it avoids attracting the attention of ressentiment.” That “baseness” to which he refers is the hyper-critical tendency of the cathedral to denigrate anything outside the norm, elevating mediocre individuals in order to maintain normality as well as to maintain equality along the power-spectrum. As mentioned above, this base sort of character, once in power, prefers to enforce the status quo through criticism, which requires little effort or risk. A society of resentment will seek to level any implicit or explicit display of greatness the moment it reveals its existence.

The society of resentment cannot stand to see an individual with distinct and sanctioned power over it. The resentful person loathes another person having power over him but, instead of working to improve his position, he takes the easy road by undermining his superior. Kierkegaard says: “The dialectic of the present age tends towards equality, and its most logical—though mistaken—fulfillment is leveling, as the negative unity of the negative reciprocity of all individuals.” He cannot conceive himself becoming a ruler, so he seeks to create a world where every person is powerless. Of course somebody with real ambition for power controls him. This is the nature of Communism, feminism, Black Lives Matter, and this war on heterosexuality and biology that we see today. These “useful idiots” who bear these banners have the sole intent of destroying the natural hierarchy inherent in all interpersonal relations. The only progress these people can make is toward the cliff of eternal civilizational destruction. They intend to level all distinctions. A properly leveled civilization cannot sense its impending downfall, because its senses are overloaded by the unending onslaught of usually useless information and absorbing entertainment. While liberals tout individualism as their most sacred virtue, they effectively have robbed the individual of all his power and self-determination. Leveling has made truly positive reform seemingly impossible: “At its maximum the leveling process is a deathly silence in which one can hear one’s heartbeat, a silence which nothing can pierce, in which everything is engulfed and powerless to resist.

When you feel leveled, do not take the easy way out and become a spectating critic. That is the way of reflection. Only Action will change anything. Do not be fooled by those on the fringes who say that the only course of action requires your entire livelihood and the alienation of your family and peers. Any sort of utilization of one’s skills, whether it be of writing, teaching, business, campaigning, community building, lobbying, etc.; is better than spectation which accomplishes nothing. Action requires sacrifice—sacrifice of time,  of the comfort of being a reflective spectator, and of the assurance of “going with the flow”. Action begets the inconvenience of setbacks and the fear of not being strong enough, not being smart enough, that the world is too far gone, that those who hate us are too powerful. But action requires faith—faith that we are right, faith that we can achieve our goals, and faith that the world we want for our posterity is more than a pipe dream. But we already understand all these realizations and possess this faith in ourselves. And those who seek to level everything have not completed their final goal. We are the proof of it, and they hate us for it. Moreover, they Fear us for it. We have already proven that we can win hearts and minds. In fact, it feels as if we live on the cusp of another Age of Revolution, as Kierkegaard would call it. Our enemies depend on us remaining reflective, so they intentionally impede the future from arriving—but they cannot go on forever. The Present Age is a diagnosis of our civilization’s problems, not a prescription. But this brilliant work can bring us one step closer to effecting real, positive change for ourselves through an enhanced understanding of the challenges we face.

-By Murdock McLeod