Dismal news over the wire from Blighty: Sir Roger Scruton, the greatest living conservative philosopher, has been dismissed as chair of the British government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission after making a few anodyne remarks to the New Statesman about the Communist Party of China. “They’re creating robots out of their own people,” quoth Sir Roger, “each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”
Predictably, the Wets and Labourites are offended on behalf of totalitarians over this nonexistent racial slight. Meanwhile, normal people are offended by the CPC’s latest experiment in social engineering, the Social Credit system, which is indeed meant to turn the populace into well-managed and safely predictable automata. To call the Communists’ machinations “frightening” is positively charitable.
Sir Roger also noted that “anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.” This was, apparently, anti-Semitic. Yet you’ll remember that the Financial Timesnamed Mr. Soros its Person of the Year for 2018, calling him “a standard bearer for liberal democracy, an idea under siege from populists.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody at the FT was sacked for anti-Semitism.
There’s no question that Mr. Soros is throwing his fortune around trying to undermine Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party, just as there’s no doubt he’s throwing his fortune around trying to undermine President Trump and the Republican Party. He certainly isn’t a progressive hero for making billions off his hedge funds. Sir Roger simply holds the improper view of Mr. Soros’s activities, and now faces the wrath of Mr. Soros’s other clients and beneficiaries.
You’ll also remember that Sir Roger’s position was honorary and unpaid. He wasn’t getting fat off the taxpayer’s dime. Nor was he a determining force in the UK’s foreign policy. Sir Roger is the most renowned living aestheticist, and his formidable talents were being put to good use: he was voluntarily assisting the government in making British cityscapes more beautiful.
This, in retrospect, may have been the most offensive aspect of Sir Roger’s appointment. Postmodernist architecture is widely unpopular with the people who actually have to live among it. Victorian and (especially) Georgian buildings are greatly preferred. On the main, it doesn’t cost a great deal more to build attractive buildings than it does these hideous, “utilitarian” people-kennels.
Yet all the world’s major cities, from New York and London to Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong, are now dominated by mortar-and-glass monstrosities. This is the most obvious triumph of Cultural Marxist thinking. For nearly a century, Brutalists exercised unquestioned control over the modern and “modernizing” world. For reasons nobody could quite explain, our metropolises were in a race to see which could most resemble a Soviet ghetto.
The Tories’ decision to buck this trend was the only really “conservative” thing a Conservative government has done since the death of Lord Salisbury (poisoned by his own ulcerated leg, alas) in 1903. That must have frightened the Left awfully, which is why they put such an extraordinary effort into destroying this great scholar’s life. Every insane accusation conceivable was hurled against him, from Islamophobia to Judeophobia. Even Hitler had the decency to choose just one.
I was an ardent Anglophile growing up, and I suppose I still am. But I wouldn’t move to Blighty now for all the tea in Buckingham, and I’m a man who likes his tea. Still, I have the deepest reverence for true Englishmen like Sir Roger who keep up the fight to save their country even when their countrymen repay them with nothing but venom and bile.
All the same, if he’s now a free agent, I say we petition the Trump administration to create its own Building Beautiful Commission and recruit Sir Roger to serve as its chairman. Even those of our cities that have long resisted the tide of “modernization”—Baltimore, Philadelphia, and my own beloved Boston—are beginning to succumb. By fighting back, Mr. Trump would earn the acclaim of ordinary Americans for generations. He and Sir Roger would go down in history as the men who saved this country’s rich architectural heritage. Let’s just make sure we pay Sir Roger for his efforts, hm?
Michael Warren Davis is associate editor of the Catholic Herald. Find him at www.michaelwarrendavis.com.