Mark Dooley

What Roger Scruton can teach his detractors

I thought I knew everything about Sir Roger Scruton. I had already written two books on his life and philosophy and was just about to embark on the last volume in my Scruton trilogy. This was to be a book of conversations that encompassed all facets of his biography and intellectual interests.

Over three days at his farm in Wiltshire, we discussed everything from religion, architecture, wine and music, to sex, farming, family and fame. Scruton spoke to me not as a fellow philosopher or journalist but as a long-time friend. As such, our conversations revealed Scruton at his most intimate and humorous.

It was, however, on the last night of my visit, while cooking dinner to Rossini, that he casually said something for which I was totally unprepared. We were discussing his underground activities in Eastern Europe on behalf of persecuted dissidents, something for which he was arrested and promptly expelled from Communist Czechoslovakia in 1986. That, while remarkable enough for an academic philosopher, was something already well publicised.

What I had not known, and what Scruton proceeded to tell me as though it were something routine, was that his work on behalf of the Romanian resistance resulted in him acquiring ‘a kind of family’. In his quiet and unassuming way, he had rescued a family of Romanian refugees, opened his home to them, and ‘saw them through their education’.

To brand such a man a bigot or a racist is simply shameful. Yet, in recent weeks, this is precisely what he has been accused of by people who believe they have a monopoly on moral courage. Has any one of Scruton’s detractors opened their homes to those fleeing or fighting tyranny? I doubt it, and yet it was because of such genuine valour that Vaclav Havel awarded Scruton the Medal of Merit – the Czech Republic’s highest civilian honour.  

To those that accuse Scruton of bigotry, I say go and speak to his adopted Romanian family.

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