I just read Roger Scruton’s updated FOOLS, FRAUDS, AND FIREBRANDS: Thinkers of the New Left, instead of going to my high school reunion. Sorry.
btw, these are not “book reviews”. I didn’t want to do book reviews in 4th grade, I didn’t want to do book reviews in 9th grade, and I don’t want to do book reviews now.
I thought I was going to be a bank vice president and drive a Buick station wagon with plastic woodgrain on its sides. This is what I do instead. I live to figure out why people are happy or unhappy. Some people shovel coal. I don’t. I shovel books.
Scruton says that the brightest liberal thinkers write nonsense, safely ensconced with tenure behind high university walls fortified with political correctness and in a smoke-free environment, unless you count pot. They spill out books like beans.
The scary thing is, Scruton convinces me. I have, and have read, the authors he crucifies. Deleuze, Guattari, Adorno, Habermas, Sartre, Marcuse, Benjamin, Foucault, Galbraith, Lacan, Zizek. Actually, I don’t have Galbraith, Habermas, or Zizek. Interlibrary Loan headed them off at the pass, and saved me some money.
These authors are nearly impossible to read. Scruton takes them apart piece-by-piece and almost, almost, makes them understandable. But all they do is urp up verbiage that defies understanding – on purpose.
The problem is, if the left is fueled by thin gruel, so is the right. Scruton fails to convince me that conservatives have philosophy that can be turned into a political program either.
I’ve gone to the trouble to summarize all that I know about politics from all of the above authors, including Scruton and other conservative philosophers:
- It doesn’t have to be as hard as they make it.
- Political/social thinkers, both liberal and conservative, are dense and useless “players”.
- Liberals think that things are bad and can only be improved by laws, regulations, “education”, government, politics, and tax money. Conservatives think that things are pretty good and can get even better with God, prayer, and with less government, fewer laws, fewer regulations, and lower taxes.
The way that this plays out can be illustrated by, say, a school shooting.
Liberals call for gun laws. Conservatives call for a moment of silence. Liberals call conservatives Hitler and fascists on social media. Conservatives call liberals snowflakes.
It used to be that nobody called the other side names. As recently as 9/11, in fact.
This made compromise possible. Liberals could get a little gun control, conservatives could get policemen at school doors, kids were marginally safer, and everybody was happy. More or less.
Then along came Facebook, cable news, and clickbait meme sharks. Throw in your average hysterical American moron with a smartphone and a gin ‘n’ tonic, and you get unsophisticated name calling.
So now there can be no compromises. There can be no way forward. You can’t negotiate a compromise with Hitler, can you? You can’t reason with a snowflake who acts like a 4 year old, can you?
Adorno, Horkheimer, Scruton, Hayek – are all worthless. They are worthless in our current situation, and they are stand-alone worthlessnesses.
I can now turn to lighter reading fare. Unless the rare great woman or man comes along on one side or the other. Or, preferably, on both sides.