Archive for January 18th, 2020

Remembering Roger Scruton: “how malleable human nature is, and how unlikely it is that truth will prevail.”

Saturday, January 18th, 2020
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Timothy Garton Ash  (Photo:Christine Baker-Parrish)

Over at The Spectatora lifelong liberal mourns a cheerfully pessimistic conservative. (We’ve written about Stanford’s (and Oxford’s) Timothy Garton Ash here and here and here.)  His remarks are one of a dozen recollections of the late Roger Scruton, who died last week:

“There’s this very interesting Hungarian called, er, I think, Soros,” said Roger, sitting in the bohemian book- and music-strewn thicket of his Notting Hill flat. This was sometime in the mid-1980s, and our shared desire to support dissidents in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary had brought us together. Incredible though it may sound, no one had then heard of George Soros.

Cheerful pessimist

Our conspiratorial missions behind the Iron Curtain were, let’s be honest, also huge fun, but what needs to be remembered is the amount of hard, thankless charitable administration that Roger undertook, between writing his 50 or so books. Yet the boring agenda of those charitable trusts would be enlivened by Roger’s outrageous overstatements about the western intellectual and political establishment, slipping from his lips with a kind of silent chuckle.

The last time we sat down together at any length was when he invited me to talk about free speech at the Inner Temple, an ur-Burkean institution he visibly adored. Afterwards he wrote an email commenting on how one rather forceful, blind Iraqi refugee questioner “had mastered the snobbery of disadvantage so effectively and so much to his own advantage” — characteristically provocative, probably unfair, and yet what a thought-provoking phrase “the snobbery of disadvantage” is. He went on “we are beginning to learn, what of course we should have known from our experience with totalitarian communism, just how malleable human nature is, and how unlikely it is that truth will prevail. But after discussions such as yesterday’s one always feels a little more cheerful.” As a lifelong liberal I shall miss this cheerfully pessimistic conservative.

Read the rest of the recollections here.