The faggots are piled around the feet of the heretic and the executioner is about to apply the torch when a messenger rides up. The Grand Inquisitor shrugs as he reads the missive whose red wax captured ribbon flutters like a tiny premonitory flame. He gruffly commands:
- Stay your hand, release him. Roger of Scruton Hall, there has been a change of plan. You are to be raised a knight of the realm and a member of the British Academy. Wealth will be yours and fame. Depart from here, unshriven and recalcitrant.
You would have thought that heresy was a dwindling trade but Sir Roger Scruton FBA has made a go of it. He started early at the age of 24 when in Paris in ‘68 as an onlooker of the student riots. ‘Twerps’. He has not deviated from that judgment since then.
In 1980 he published his book The Meaning of Conservatism and in 2015 Confessions of a Heretic a collection of essays. So what, the young fogy has become an old fogy even if he’s right and he is . Conservatism is as various as the societies in which it is rooted. Because of this when Scruton talks out of the American side of his mouth he utters things which would shock the English cultivar. The generalisations which would assimilate both, miss the point and Scruton is correct when he holds that Conservatism is not discursive but a pre-emptive feeling of distrust of novelty and downright disgust with murderous utopian social engineering schemes.
Here he is on Environmentalism:
Environmentalism has all the hall-marks of a left-wing cause: a class of victims (future generations), an enlightened vanguard who fights for them (the eco-warriors), powerful philistines who exploit them (the capitalists), and endless opportunities to express resentment against the successful, the wealthy and the West. The style too is leftist: the environmentalist is young, dishevelled, socially disreputable, his mind focused on higher things; the opponent is dull, middle aged, smartly dressed and usually American. The cause is designed to recruit the intellectuals, with facts and theories carelessly bandied about, and activism encouraged.(from Confessions of a Heretic)
That seems to this reader to be reactive malignant Batesonian symmetrical thinking. He corrects towards the complementary after this salute to his constituency and he displays the fairness which is a strength of Conservatism.
However, the cause of the environment is not, in itself, a left-wing cause at all. It is not about ‘liberating’ or empowering the victim, but about safeguarding resources. It is not about ‘progress’ or ‘equality’ but about conservation and equilibrium. Its following may be young and dishevelled; but that is largely because people in suits have failed to realise where their real interests, and their real values, lie. Environmentalists may seem opposed to capitalism, but – if they understood matters correctly – they would be far more opposed to socialism, with its gargantuan, uncorrectable and state-controlled projects, than to the ethos of free enterprise. Indeed, environmentalism is the quintessential conservative cause, the most vivid instance in the world as we know it, of that partnership between the dead, the living and the unborn, which Burke defended as the conservative archetype.
‘Free enterprise’ - the American side of his mouth and with its insinuation of untrammelled, a proven error. I ask myself about Thunbergian doom – Have we been here before? Do you remember the Y2K bug that was to bring massive disruption and queues at the border. Or am I thinking of Brexit? Nothing happened very quickly then and now what? Let’s be prudent. Go green with nuclear power stations and less meat eating and please knock those useless wind farms that deface the land.
Both books are worth reading.