You only have one death. Thus even people who would glory in heroic martyrdom have to choose their battles wisely and make their deaths count. Yes, you have to pace yourself. Yes, you have to save yourself. Yes, you can’t live as if every day were your last.
But these truisms easily serve as rationalizations for cowardice. Because, at a certain point, you have to ask what you are saving yourself for. You can’t take it with you. And ultimately, accomplishments do not come from saving ourselves but from spending ourselves. What we do not give, will be taken by death in the end.
Yet the whole Bourgeois dream is premised on evading this simple, grim reality. Bourgeois man seeks eternal springtime and perpetual peace, a “happily ever after” on sunlit putting greens, free of tragic choices and tragic grandeur, free of ideals that can pierce his heart and shed his blood.
But you can’t do battle with Sauron while playing it safe. You can’t overthrow a system you are invested in. You can’t challenge the rulers of this world and count on reaching retirement age. In the face of world-annihilating evil, we can no longer afford to be such men."
I use the term Bourgeois to refer to oligarchical and democratic man alike. The Bourgeois type is ruled by his desires. His spiritedness is constricted to the hard nub of self-love, or love of one’s self-image (vanity), and sublimated into competition for money and the status symbols money can buy. His reason is merely a technical faculty for calculating how to pursue pleasures and avoid pains. His desires basically boil down to greed and fear. His highest value is a life of comfort and security. His greatest fear is a violent death.
Bourgeois man is the source of political cynicism, for he eliminates moral considerations from politics and seeks to reduce it entirely to a calculus of greed and fear. But that itself is a moral decision: the rejection of one model of the good life for another. Bourgeois man is himself a moral type. He thinks that Bourgeois society is fundamentally good. When forced to defend it in moral terms, he lifts his head and squeals about such notions as individual rights, the sacrosanct freedom of the individual, and the moral equality and dignity of man. Then he puts his snout back in the slop.
If all men were Bourgeois men, then resistance to the system would be futile, because nobody is easier to rule than a man whose highest value is a long and comfortable life and whose greatest fear is a violent death. If a man values wealth more than honor or community or principle, he can be bought. If a man fears death more than slavery, he can be enslaved. Indeed, Bourgeois man does not need to be seized violently and sold into slavery. He will sell himself into slavery. Bourgeois man is a natural slave, whether he wears chains or a three-piece suit."