Lately I’ve found myself watching interviews and lectures by the late Roger Scruton available on YouTube. As I’ve started seeing reports of the widespread riots in the U.S., I’ve been constantly reminded of a story Scruton told multiple times about the moment he became a conservative, when witnessing the riots in Paris, instigated by Communists and Socialists, in 1968.
“The thing that most struck me about those students in the street was the sentimentality of their anger. It was all about themselves. It wasn’t about anything objective. Here they were the spoiled middle class baby boomers who never had any real difficulty to cope with, shouting their heads off in the streets, burning the cars belonging to ordinary proletarians whom those [students] pretended to be defending against some imaginary repressive structures erected by the bourgeoisie—the whole thing was a complete fiction based on the antiquated ideas of Karl Marx, ideas which were already redundant in the mid-19th century. They were acting out a self scripted drama in which the central character was themselves.”
I’ve had a similar growing feeling since the election of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for Trump, I thought he was incompetent, and I plan on voting for Joe Biden. But almost immediately after Trump’s election, reactions against him have felt oddly disconnected. As though Trump was the figurehead of an enemy in a war that had absolutely no substance for me. Which would be bad enough if I liked Trump but seems even worse because I don’t like him. The oddly mechanical feeling of new young voices suddenly injected in news media, the stark bifurcation of reality between news media of different political stripes, the persistent recasting of heterosexual male libido as perverse. When I became concerned about lockdowns harming the economy, I immediately felt concern for my former coworkers at JCPenney who found themselves furloughed, sent home without pay. I can understand the belief that quarantining is more important than the economy but rhetoric from the left typically hadn’t even a shred of sympathy for that proletariat the left is classically supposed to advocate.
And now, somehow, we’re to believe that the horrific, the absolutely despicable murder of George Floyd calls for businesses across the country to be destroyed and looted, for Nashville’s City Hall to be burned.
Again and again, I’m glad to be in Japan partly because there are so many things here I used to love about the U.S. Early on, I walked down a street with a coworker and I pointed out to her all the small business along the street we were walking down. There are so many little restaurants here, each distinctive with its own personality. I remember when San Diego was like that, before one by one nearly every place with any shred of individual personality was strangled to death by oppressive rents. And now this. I don’t know what else to say because I know the kind of Fred Madison madness I’m talking to can’t see or hear the other side. There are no eyes to see or ears to hear any appeal I can make. All I can do is hope.