May, 1968. Riots rock the Western world. Race tensions have reached a boiling point. The sexual revolution is in its infancy. Roger Scruton is in the Latin Quarter in Paris, France scrambling alongside his friends as they tear out cobblestones from the centuries’ old streets and lob them at la gendarmerie. Other “comrades” in the struggle upend cars and set fire to garbage cans, declaring the inevitable victory of the proletariat. Revolutionary fervor coursed through the veins of the youth who took quite fondly to the label “miscreant” — or was it the mix of alcohol and underdeveloped minds?
Roger looked to his friends and asked them what they wanted and what they wished to achieve. As he would later recount, “all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook.”
In the midst of this anarchy, Roger surveyed the scene with new eyes. Looking among his self-declared comrades, he saw “an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans.” Looking to the police, he realized something: “I was on the other side.” It was in the crystallization of the thoughts formed in the towers of academia — anarchic violence — and passed down by impressionable youth that Scruton found himself lost among the crowd. It was in this moment that Roger Scruton knew he was a conservative.
Sir Roger Scruton died a celebrated British intellectual, professor, author, musical composer, ecologist, wine connoisseur, and all-around renaissance man in May of this year. His life was testament to the beauty of this world, and his legacy is like none other.
As a philosopher, Scruton carried on the conservative tradition with pristine clarity and unparalleled insight. He did not stand on the shoulders of giants, he leapt from them and flew. But, as you have read, his own intuitions weren’t even obvious to himself until he faced the antithesis of them face-to-face.
Scruton’s baptism-by-riot into maturity has much to teach us about the domestic unrest facing the world today and what role we play as defenders of the great Western tradition.
The tragic murder of George Floyd
The tragic extrajudicial murder of George Floyd at the hands of corrupted Minneapolis police officers has unleashed a (justified) firestorm across the United States. Americans from all walks of life are appalled at the tragic nature of his death, and at the racism many of our black brothers and sisters continue to face. Guided by our strong sense of moral justice and exceptional resolve to do what’s right, Americans are standing up for the underprivileged and disadvantaged in our City on a Shining Hill.
The massive peaceful protests spanning the nation show that the time for realized equal opportunity for all is long overdue. It is only just and righteous that we work together as one family to lift up the disenfranchised and eradicate the scourge of racism.
Rioters and looters
Unfortunately these mass demonstrations have been, in some cities, subverted by rioters and looters. Urban centers across the nation spanning New York City, San Francisco, Miami, Phoenix, and more have been inundated with lawlessness that has destroyed countless livelihoods. The blatant disregard for human life displayed by these miscreants goes to show one thing: those using the death of George Floyd and Americans’ rightful feeling of disgust towards racism to commit criminal acts are not concerned about either. For them, it is about the self… and the self alone. Sola ego.
Thankfully, an overwhelming majority of peaceful protesters have deplored the senseless violence and opted for a peaceful mode of protest which honors the legacy of George Floyd as well as pushes the needle on long overdue police reform and economic investment in inner cities.
To the dismay of many, however, some more radical sects — especially in Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis — have seized the moment to push, as Sir Roger Scruton said, “Marxist gobbledegook”.
Interestingly enough much of the online buzz pushing the radicalism espoused by such a small sect of the population seems to originate from an overwhelmingly young, white, and privileged segment of the nation. Though hardly scientific, the daily Instagram story-posts from my colleagues and friends attending university — overwhelmingly white and well off — have shown myself and many others that the radical ideals espoused by thought leaders such as Dr. Cornel West and Nikkole Hannah-Jones are primarily being taken up by the well-off and well-connected. Not the down-trodden and genuinely disadvantaged men and women in our nation.
Despite what Dr. West said on CNN, and has been saying for decades, there is no revolution inbound. And if there is, it isn’t anything to be excited about.
Where rioters and protesters meet
It is on an odd middle ground that the anarchists and the fringe of the protest groups meet. Impressionable youth, their heads full of the utopian rhetoric of Marx and their humanities professors, have begun to make bizarre claims which outright endorse lawlessness. Logging into social media, it is only minutes before you see hundreds of thousands applauding and reposting images which claim that “you have no right to judge the way in which the oppressed express their anger.” While completely wrong — and framed almost so horribly its comical — note that it also contradicts the truth of the matter: those engaging in petty acts of vandalism and theft are not doing so in the name of racial justice or George Floyd. They are doing it for themselves.
White nationalists have also joined in the rioting, as well as others like Youtube star Jake Paul. If they are oppressed, Jeff Bezos is a blue collar worker.
We must come to an agreement that there are appropriate forms of protest — countless — but that none of them include violence. None. Zero. Not in the United States of America or any civilized nation.
In Washington, D.C. Roy Rodman, a small business owner whose father founded the pharmacy Roy runs today in 1955, faced near destruction in the riots on the night of May 31st, 2020.
As anarchy reigned and D.C. police were spread thin, Roy and his son were forced to stay camped out in the family-owned small business all night. Despite boarding their windows up, they still faced countless looters and had to deter them by yelling and shining their flashlights at them.
What is this family’s takeaway? “…the people who broke in and looted my store had a completely different agenda than those who were protesting about violence,” says Roy, “As you drive down the street it reminds me of what the city was like after the assassination of Dr. King. It is easy for me to remember that time. The city took decades to recover. It’s a shame.”
Following the murder of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., the nation descended into a similar situation as it sits today. In honor of King’s righteous legacy of peaceful protest and impactful change, radically-inclined protesters and thought leaders must come to champion full equality for our brothers and sisters of color and deplore violence. Destroying businesses disproportionately owned and operated by people of color only worsens the divide.
A 2020 Scrutonian moment
In an essay for the Washington Post, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote about national healing and racial equality. Growing up a black woman in an America rife with overt racism, her experience was far from easy. But her upbringing, coupled with her love of nation and Western ideals, taught her many lessons:
Our country has often moved forward and been made better through peaceful protests. But our cities must stop burning. Innocent people, including many minority and immigrant business owners, are watching their livelihoods go up in smoke. There is no excuse for looting and criminality, and offenders must be stopped. But a call for calm is not enough, either. This time, we must remain vigilant and maintain our determination to make a difference.
As protesters take to the streets, they must be applauded and joined when possible. But if things get violent, and radicals continue to stoke the age-old flames of division, justice must prevail. The brave must stay true to their conscience and reject the use of violence to achieve political ends. There is no justice in anarchy, only power.
To even passively endorse radicalism within the peaceful protest movement is to be derelict of your duty to ensure that true justice triumphs.
We all have friends that are continuously pushing this Marxist gobbledegook on their social media. Before too long, the proposals to “abolish the police” and “decolonize” ourselves and our vernacular will be normalized. Those of us looking at this moment clearly, with just hearts and level heads, must reject the radicalism of the moment. We must stare this nonsense directly in its eyes and say “no.”
Despite what your well-meaning political science major friends may say, you are not a horrible person for being skeptical of dismantling society as we know it. You are only sane. And the passions of the moment despise the rational mind.
Let us fight for justice and have the hard conversations we must. Let us resolve to do better for our brothers and sisters of color. Let us move forward as one nation, under God, with equality of opportunity as our aim. Let us rise above political violence and do what America does best: better.
As we watch the cobblestones fly and cars turn over, we must continue to ask ourselves, “what is it I am fighting for?” If it is anything short of realized justice for all Americans, take it further. If your justification ends up being a bunch of Marxist gobbledegook… start over.