- The late conservative British philosopher Roger Scruton has much to teach us about democracy and youthful rebellion
Several British friends introduced me to the writings of Sir Roger Scruton, the philosopher and conservative provocateur who sadly died on Sunday aged 75.
Unexpectedly, I find his views on Western democracy, youthful rebellion and social revolution entirely agreeable. This is especially so after witnessing seven months of senseless protest violence in Hong Kong as it is being celebrated and glorified around the world.
I have often been accused of being anti-Western, anti-American and even racist against white people " not guilty, guilty up to a point, not guilty. I suppose if I didn't have a Chinese last name but a British-sounding one, I would merely be considered an eccentric conservative.
Here's what the young Scruton said about the French students' rebellion in 1968 as he watched them occupy university campuses, throw ancient cobblestones at police and shout "Marxist gobbledegook". "I suddenly realised that I was on the other side," he said. "What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. I was disgusted."
I could have said the same thing about young rebels in Hong Kong, so ridiculously glorified by our pan-democratic politicians and so-called public intellectuals who ought to know better. On democracy, Scruton once compared people's unexamined faith in it as a "contagion … now raging so wildly that it is possible to mistake its high flush of fever for the light of health".
Hong Kong's political crisis is also a crisis of education
Many of our young people in Hong Kong are ready to hurt people with a different opinion and destroy our institutions of higher learning to achieve "democracy", whatever that means, to the cheers of so many.
In an infamous essay, "Is Democracy Overrated?", published in 2013, Scruton criticises Western governments that speak of "democracy, freedom and human rights" in one breath when they are "three different things". Sometimes they go together; other times they don't.
Yet, like true religious believers, most democrats refuse to examine circumstances when they come together and when they fall apart. It's generally assumed, he wrote, "democracy is the solution to political conflict … a single, one-size-fits-all solution". But is it? In some cases, it was. In others, such as the Arab spring, it wasn't.
Here's what I take from Scruton's conservatism. It's to conserve what is good and great that we have inherited from the past, rather than risking all that for an imaginary ideal in a future that no one can anticipate.
RIP, Sir Roger.
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