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Posts Tagged ‘roger scruton’

What do conservatives conserve, and who do their values help other than their egos?

Teaching Table Manners to Cannibals
Matt Parrott

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“Traditionalist conservative Roger Scruton recently penned an excellent article, “Bring Back Stigma,” which vividly chronicles the decline of social stigma and the absurd and insufferable consequences of living in a shameless society. It’s a fine read, but it’s also paleoconservative in the worst possible way. He dabbles in heresy with his lamentation that “the only binding law is the law of the market.” In doing so, he deserves credit for performing the revolutionary act of identifying capitalism as a cardinal cause of our misfortune rather than the solution contemporary “conservatives” and libertarians imagine it to be.

Imagine how infuriating it would be, though, to go to a hospital where the doctors eloquently opine on every symptom of the disease, describing each blister and boil with elegance and flair. Imagine sitting there on the table in the gown for hours and hours as they describe the similarities between your own condition and the condition of former patients, validating your suffering and even providing insightful perspectives and prognoses. Mr. Scruton fully agrees that the current social order is derelict and diseased, but he’ll never diagnose it. He’ll never prescribe a treatment. All he can do and all he will ever do is lament that things are not as they ought to be.

The time has long past for a Burkean retreat to the past. There’s no norm left to conform to. The wise old men and little old ladies of today formulated their politics during the height of the Sexual Revolution. To be conservative is to embrace vintage liberalism. Taboos against identitarianism, hierarchy, and antisemitism are baked into all but the most ancient and marginalized Western traditions. It would be nice if we could merely ape all the symptoms of a healthy and cohesive community, but you can’t cure a disease by willing away or suppressing its effects. Diseases are cured by isolating the root causes and the mechanisms, then resolving those problems.

“In essence, his argument is that we must take risks and make sacrifices on behalf of a community which is virulently opposed to everything we stand for. His prescription is worse than useless, it’s harmful. It’s enabling a decadent and alienated anti-community. We set ourselves up as their prudish foils, expose ourselves to their contempt, and make their lives easier with our unreciprocated altruism. It’s like helping a whore put her skirt back on after each performance and fancying ourselves champions of modesty and virtue. It’s like trying to teach a cannibal table manners while he’s boiling you in his pot.”

 

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