Sunday 12 January 2020

R.I.P Sir Roger Scruton

I am so sorry Sir Roger Scruton has died. He has been one of my great heroes since I read Conservative Essays while a sixth former.

The Liberal Heart, a collection of quotations and extracts from liberals that I read in 1984, was studded by attacks on him and his then outspokenly conservative views on homosexuality. They seemed bracingly High Tory then, but are thought crimes now.

Let's not forget or forgive James Brokenshire’s sacking of Roger Scruton from his unpaid job as a government adviser on beauty in architecture last year, after the latter was stitched up by the New Statesman and falsely accused of antisemitism. 

Perhaps it is why Boris did not give the wretched Brokenshire a job, even though he was the first cabinet minister to come out in support of Boris. I do hope so.

I would have spent a week with Roger Scruton in Bratislava in 1991 but fate decided otherwise. But I have been reading him and about him since I was sixteen and feel I have lost a friend. Many people do. He was one of England's very few conservative intellectuals and one of the few of them who was a true Tory, albeit one who thought discretion was the better part of valour.

I was disappointed by England: an Elegy, the only book of his I read entire. I had expected to love it or at least to agree with it, but it was too negative, like reading a hundred Daily Mail editorials, too 'Why oh why?'. He could be philistine - as when he dismissed Freud as a fraud.

Sir Roger Scruton, as he then wasn't (David Cameron gave him a knighthood a fortnight before the referendum in which he supported Leave), in 2006 spoke to the Dutch party 
Vlaams Belang, asking whether Enoch Powell was right about speaking out about immigration and being very shy of answering his own question, for fear as he says of the same fate as befell Powell.

I quote from it.

I do not doubt that there is such a thing as xenophobia, though it is a very different thing from racism. Etymologically the term means fear of (and therefore aversion towards) the foreigner. Its very use implies a distinction between the one who belongs and the one who doesn’t, and in inviting us to jettison our xenophobia politicians are inviting us to extend a welcome to people other than ourselves – a welcome predicated on a recognition of their otherness. Now it is easy for an educated member of the liberal élite to discard his xenophobia: for the most part his contacts with foreigners help him to amplify his power, extend his knowledge and polish his social expertise. But it is not so easy for an uneducated worker to share this attitude, when the incoming foreigner takes away his job, brings strange customs and an army of dependents into the neighbourhood, and finally surrounds him with the excluding sights and sounds of a ghetto. 

Again, however, there is a double standard that affects the description. Members of our liberal élite may be immune to xenophobia, but there is an equal fault which they exhibit in abundance, which is the repudiation of, and aversion to, home. Each country exhibits this vice in its own domestic version. Nobody brought up in post-war England can fail to be aware of the educated derision that has been directed at our national loyalty by those whose freedom to criticize would have been extinguished years ago, had the English not been prepared to die for their country. The loyalty that people need in their daily lives, and which they affirm in their unconsidered and spontaneous social actions, is now habitually ridiculed or even demonized by the dominant media and the education system. National history is taught as a tale of shame and degradation. The art, literature and religion of our nation have been more or less excised from the curriculum, and folkways, local traditions and national ceremonies are routinely rubbished.

This repudiation of the national idea is the result of a peculiar frame of mind that has arisen throughout the Western world since the Second World War, and which is particularly prevalent among the intellectual and political elites. No adequate word exists for this attitude, though its symptoms are instantly recognized: namely, the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours’. I call the attitude oikophobia – the aversion to home – by way of emphasizing its deep relation to xenophobia, of which it is the mirror image. Oikophobia is a stage through which the adolescent mind normally passes. But it is a stage in which intellectuals tend to become arrested. As George Orwell pointed out, intellectuals on the Left are especially prone to it, and this has often made them willing agents of foreign powers. The Cambridge spies – educated people who penetrated our foreign service during the war and betrayed our Eastern European allies to Stalin – offer a telling illustration of what oikophobia has meant for my country and for the Western alliance. And it is interesting to note that a recent BBC ‘docudrama’ constructed around the Cambridge spies neither examined the realities of their treason nor addressed the suffering of the millions of their East European victims, but merely endorsed the oikophobia that had caused them to act as they did.

In the Christmas edition of the Spectator three weeks ago Sir Roger wrote:

During this year much was taken from me — my reputation, my standing as a public intellectual, my position in the Conservative movement, my peace of mind, my health. But much more was given back: by Douglas Murray’s generous defence, by the friends who rallied behind him, by the rheumatologist who saved my life and by the doctor to whose care I am now entrusted. Falling to the bottom in my own country, I have been raised to the top elsewhere, and looking back over the sequence of events I can only be glad that I have lived long enough to see this happen. Coming close to death you begin to know what life means, and what it means is gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. I am very sorry that Sir Roger Scruton has died. Yes he was betrayed (just as I was), but he should not have given up hope - England is not dead, there are still plenty of good people and good places. Most villages are fine and so are many of the small towns and small cities (such as Wells in Somerset). It is true that the big towns and cities are horrible and that the "mainstream" media and the education system (the schools and universities) are deeply influenced by the evil doctrines of the Frankfurt School of Marxism and French Post Modernism - but this will pass, this land has known evil times before and has come back from them. Objective truth exist and so does the creator of objective truth - good will win in the end.