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Why I Became A Conservative

Roger Scruton

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I was brought up at a time when half the English people voted Conservative at national elections and almost all English intellectuals regarded the term "conservative" as a term of abuse. To be a conservative, I was told, was to be on the side of age against youth, the past against the future, authority against innovation, the "structures" against spontaneity and life...The choice remaining was between reform and revolution. Do we improve society bit by bit, or do we rub it out and start again? On the whole my contemporaries favored the second option, and it was when witnessing what this meant, in May 1968 in Paris, that I discovered my vocation.

In the narrow street below my window the students were shouting and smashing. The plate-glass windows of the shops appeared to step back, shudder for a second, and then give up the ghost, as the reflections suddenly left them and they slid in jagged fragments to the ground. Cars rose into the air and landed on their sides, their juices flowing from unseen wounds...

That evening a friend came round: she had been all day on the barricades with a troupe of theater people, under the captainship of Armand Gatti...The bourgeoisie were on the run and soon the Old Fascist and his régime would be begging for mercy...

Of course I was naïve--as naïve as my friend. But the ensuing argument is one to which I have often returned in my thoughts. What, I asked, do you propose to put in the place of this "bourgeoisie" whom you so despise, and to whom you owe the freedom and prosperity that enable you to play on your toy barricades...for the first time in my life I had felt a surge of political anger, finding myself on the other side of the barricades from all the people I knew.

Roger Scruton is an author living in England.

Read this entire article on The New Criterion website.



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