Believe in social justice? Think equality of outcome is a good thing? Feel a burning desire to rail against racism and neo-Nazis? Often find yourself in deep conversations about the state of the world or lost in thought about why Marxism never really caught on, and whether or not the beard was at least partly responsible?
Well then, you’re probably a lefty, and according to one leading philosopher, that’s also probably because you’re an intellectual. Which he possibly seems to be inferring is a… bad thing? Maybe?
Introducing Roger Scruton, or more precisely Sir Roger Vernon Scruton, a prominent British conservative and philosopher who is to hair as Boris Johnson is to politics: confusing.
Scruton passed a few years ago, but not before recording a lengthy interview about why intellectuals often turn out to be leftists. And we’re giving it a plug today because, well, when you watch it, you’ll understand why. Over to Scruton….
“Ever since I became a conservative, which was in May 1968 in Paris, I hadn’t a very clear idea of how to articulate it. All I knew was that when I looked down in the street and saw all these rowdy students throwing stones at policemen, I just said to myself, ‘Whatever they believe, I believe the opposite.”
The ‘rowdy students’ Scruton is referring to were protestors at an event since dubbed ‘May 68’. It marked several months of unrest led by students protesting, among other things, American imperialism and police brutality… two things Scruton presumably believes in (as conservatives go, he certainly wouldn’t be the first). It also expanded to include workers, with rolling strikes demanding better wages.
Anyway… Scruton continues: “I somewhat arrogantly came to the conclusion that if you start thinking about politics in an intellectual way, you are likely to be on the left. Because that provides a systematic solution, an answer to the questions which puts it all in a system and also gives you a rather dignified and self-congratulatory place in the system.
“But once you’ve started thinking, if you think a bit harder and longer about it, you’ll move back to what you would have been if you had never thought at all.”
So there you have it folks. From the mouth of a leading conservative, all you need to do to adopt conservative beliefs is avoid intellectualism and, most importantly, not think about stuff.
You can find an expanded interview with Scruton at this link: https://youtu.be/iawSzFZg-vw But one last word from Scruton: “That’s my view of what an intellectual conservative is. It’s someone who articulates the real reasons for not having reasons… but just feeling and doing what’s right.”
And speaking of ‘feeling and doing what’s right’, you might remember Scruton from a 2002 expose by the Guardian newspaper, which revealed Scruton had negotiated a secret 55,000 pound annual fee from Japan Tobacco International to get ‘pro-tobacco’ stories published in major newspapers and journals all over the world, including the Wall Street Journal. Scruton’s ‘articles’ included attacks on the World Health Organisation’s anti-smoking advocacy.
Scruton died in January 2020 from, wait for it… lung cancer. Does irony get any more beautiful?
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