Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reflections on the troubles in the United Kingdom

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." - Edmund Burke

I have a profound affection for London and the United Kingdom and have been horrified by the riots there over the past few days and am praying that all of this can be resolved as peacefully as possible. May justice and ordered liberty prevail over anarchy and destruction.

Barbarism is inside the gates of the United Kingdom and they are talking about insurrection and revolution to cover up their base motives but they do have a point. They are revolutionaries in the truest most Burkean sense. They are destroying everything around them and leaving a waste land behind. Some of the voices are driven by hatred of the rich and a desire to embrace lawlessness and legitimize it with nihilistic Marxist drivel. Others embrace Nazi ideology wanting their own brand of revolution in a race war. Either way the existing order that has endured for centuries and provided many with a decent standard of living and fundamental liberties these barbarians would destroy.

Listening and watching the news accounts reproduced below the writings of Edmund Burke and the principles of conservatism are more relevant than ever in defending civilization and understanding this moment in the UK. I invite you to read a 2003 essay by Roger Scruton originally published in the New Criterion about the riots in France in 1968 and why he became a conservative:
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. It was enough to understand this, to recognize that one had no choice, as a free-thinking intellectual, save to reject conservatism. 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. The air was filled with triumphant shouts, as one by one lamp-posts and bollards were uprooted and piled on the tarmac, to form a barricade against the next van-load of policemen.

[...] 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? What vision of France and its culture compels you? And are you prepared to die for your beliefs, or merely to put others at risk in order to display them? I was obnoxiously pompous: but 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.

She replied with a book: Foucault’s Les mots et les choses, the bible of the soixante-huitards, the text which seemed to justify every form of transgression, by showing that obedience is merely defeat. It is an artful book, composed with a satanic mendacity, selectively appropriating facts in order to show that culture and knowledge are nothing but the “discourses” of power. The book is not a work of philosophy but an exercise in rhetoric. Its goal is subversion, not truth, and it is careful to argue—by the old nominalist sleight of hand that was surely invented by the Father of Lies—that “truth” requires inverted commas, that it changes from epoch to epoch, and is tied to the form of consciousness, the “episteme,” imposed by the class which profits from its propagation. The revolutionary spirit, which searches the world for things to hate, has found in Foucault a new literary formula. Look everywhere for power, he tells his readers, and you will find it. Where there is power there is oppression. And where there is oppression there is the right to destroy. In the street below my window was the translation of that message into deeds.

My friend is now a good bourgeoise like the rest of them. Armand Gatti is forgotten; and the works of Antonin Artaud have a quaint and dépassé air. The French intellectuals have turned their backs on ’68, and the late Louis Pauwels, the greatest of their post-war novelists, has, in Les Orphelins, written the damning obituary of their adolescent rage. And Foucault? He is dead from AIDS, the result of sprees in the bath-houses of San Francisco, visited during well-funded tours as an intellectual celebrity. But his books are on university reading lists all over Europe and America. His vision of European culture as the institutionalized form of oppressive power is taught everywhere as gospel, to students who have neither the culture nor the religion to resist it. Only in France is he widely regarded as a fraud.

The offspring of Focault are speaking out:

BBC interviewed two girls who took part in Monday night's riots in Croydon have boasted that they were showing police and "the rich" that "we can do what we want".

Manners are of more importance than laws. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in. - Edmund Burke No. 1, p. 172 in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke: A New Edition, v. VIII. London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1815.

Darcus Howe, a West Indian Writer and Broadcaster with a voice about the riots on the BBC. Calls it an insurrection not a riot.

"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. - Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791)

Man laying in the street after being assaulted then falsely helped up and robbed.

Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe. - Edmund Burke

Sky Reporter Mark Stone Films Dramatic Footage of looting, As London Riots Spread To Clapham Junction

Andrew Gilligan, from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph was caught-up in the middle of the riots speaks of his experience.

Looters in Orpington, UK Looting Game Video game store

Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."- Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791)

In 1780 following the Gordon Riots Edmund Burke made the following observation that applies today in the United Kingdom in the midst of an international economic downturn that have brought tough times to many that a few would like to take advantage of for great mischief:

"If I understand the temper of the publick at this moment a very great part of the lower, and some of the middling people of this city, are in a very critical disposition, and such as ought to be managed with firmness and delicacy."