I CANNOT remember when I first started reading Sir Roger Scruton, but I know that once I did, my life became better. I was of course already a conservative (I’m pretty sure I was a conservative in the womb) but once you start reading Sir Roger, conservatism becomes obvious. Conservatism becomes logical – he just says coherently what you have been feeling for most of your life. This includes the truth that ‘conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created’.
Other gems are ‘conservatism, I argue, is not a matter of defending global capitalism at all costs, or securing the privileges of the few against the many. It is a matter of defending civil society, maintaining autonomous institutions, and defending the citizen against the abuse of power’. This really appealed to me. It was not the market that trumps all but society and culture, in particular, that must be nurtured sometimes even against a rampant market, against those who believe in the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Another favourite is ‘Conservatism . . . is the instinct we all ultimately share, at least if we’re happy in this world; it’s the instinct to hold on to what we love.’
I think it was when my first child came along and I was in the public library quite a bit that I found the very small section on Sir Roger and started reading. I certainly remember reading How To Be a Conservative just after my third child was born. That’s a classic.
Oh, the baby needs feeding, I’d say to the husband and retire to the bedroom. Fifteen minutes later the baby was asleep and for the next hour I got to read Sir Roger. His book Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left exposed what frauds the leading thinkers on the Left are.
But it was his thoughts on beauty, architecture and music that I enjoyed the most. In fact, Sir Roger’s emphasis on the importance of classical music to western civilisation (along with my father’s love of it) is one of the reasons I make each of my children play an instrument (violin, guitar and piano). It’s not because it sounds good, it not because I like correcting that C to a C sharp day after day on the A major scale (I mean how many times does it take?) it is because deep down, deep, deep down, I know that getting your children to play an instrument is a political act these days. Goodness, they spend enough time filling their heads with absolute garbage (yes, I know that’s my fault).
As the Times obituary explains, Sir Roger saw the preservation of great art, music and literature as a sacred duty. ‘He was however greatly pessimistic, believing that pop music and other malign forces were steadily overwhelming the fortress of high culture.’ So, I take my four-year-old to see Swan Lake, another political act, and you should too.
Kathy and I were always delighted to attend the small but ever-interesting Conservative Philosophy Group which Sir Roger chaired. When I finally met him, it was one of the highlights of my life. Some say never meet your heroes as you will only be disappointed, but that certainly was not the case with Sir Roger. He was ever the English gentleman, clever and funny; it was an honour to meet him.
Sir Roger will not be well known to the British public because he was a conservative philosopher. If he was Left-wing he would have been on your TV morning, noon and night, but the BBC tends to favour those who want to inflict communism on us and degrade the culture, rather than someone who dedicated his entire adult life to defending our liberties, culture and institutions. Shame on them.
What must be remembered about Sir Roger Scruton is that on the two greatest political battles in post-war Europe, namely defeating communism and resisting the democratic deficit caused by the European Union, he was proved right. While other political and establishment figures were busy trying to surrender our liberties to the communists and then the European bureaucrats, Sir Roger was working to protect them, including going behind the Iron Curtain to encourage philosophical thinking. This is one of his greatest legacies.
My thoughts are of course with his widow Sophie and their children Sam and Lucy. If you do want to pay tribute to Sir Roger, borrow or buy one of his books, or just turn off your TV and listen to Wagner (his favourite) or indeed anything that isn’t pop music (which he hated).
Sir Roger Scruton: godfather of conservative thinking, scourge of the left, gentleman, author of more than 50 books, hero, and person to read when you’ve just had a new baby. He was, and through his writing will continue to be, the light that shows that conservatism lives.