"Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone ..." William Wordsworth

01 November 2020


On September 19, 2019, Sir Roger Scruton delivered these remarks on the occasion of being named that year's Defender of Western Civilization by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute ...
Why are we now being forced into a defensive position, when it's so obviously the case to anybody who knows anything about it that what we called Western civilization is another name for civilization as such and for all of the achievements of civilization that young people need to know about and if possible to acquire.  

The problem, it seems to me, extends largely from the invasion of the academic and intellectual world by activist groups who do not take the trouble to learn enough to know what they’re up against but nevertheless define their position in terms of political agendas. These political agendas are all about belonging together in a salvationist group: we save ourselves because we believe the right things, and we’re looking everywhere for those poisonous presences which are trying to exclude us from possession of our rightful heritage.
On the courage required to laugh at what passes for civilzation ...
The time has come, it seems to me, for people like me and the older generation of teachers to give courage to young people, to say: Look, you have a civilization and inheritance which helps you to understand these things. Giving way to activism of this kind, activism which excludes whole realms of human knowledge, is not doing yourself a favor. It’s not bringing to you the things that you actually need in the world into which you’re going to progress.

What you need to do is engage in dialogue, which is what civilization is about. Try to understand the human condition in all its complexity. And when people try to radicalize and politicize the curriculum and what is taught and thought about in universities, you don’t have to go along with this. You can even laugh at them. It still actually is legally permitted to laugh at people in our country and in our civilization. After all, comedy is one of the great gifts of civilization. And it’s up to you, I think, to exercise it.

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