Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Monday, 9 January 2006

Views on respect: Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton (pic: Continuum Publishers)
Roger Scruton was professor of aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London, between 1971 and 1991
He has written over 30 books and also writes music, including an opera entitled the Minister

The loss of respect in our society has a simple cause, which is that respect is no longer taught.

Children are encouraged to think that they are the equals of their parents, their teachers and people in authority.

They are not taught to address adults correctly or to defer to adult opinion. Insolence is seldom punished, and certainly not given the stigma that it deserves.

The respect-free playground leads to the respect-free adult community. You see this especially on the BBC, in which news programmes, chat shows and interviews are conducted entirely without deference towards the knowledge, culture or social standing of the people who appear on them.

The purpose of interviewing some public figure is not to gain instruction but to catch him out; the purpose of discussing some difficult issue is not to resolve it but to generate a heated exchange.


It is regarded as wholly permissible to make personal remarks and ad hominem arguments, and the normal titles to respect, such as knowledge, expertise and high office, are deliberately brought down to a level where they can be laughed at.

Tony Blair is right to worry about the loss of respect, since no society can survive without it.

On the other hand, I cannot refrain from pointing out that he doesn't have very much of it himself.

He has got it into his head that he is a president, rather than a minister of the Crown; he treats English customs and English identity with cavalier detachment.

He enjoys insolent pop music of the Oasis variety, and apparently even plays this offensive drivel on the guitar.

His insolence is only amplified by his smooth public school manner that leads him to disregard formalities and procedures as entirely beneath him.

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