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433. Retreat (XI)



Roger Scruton developed a term, oikophobia, to describe left-wing hostility to the local and the particular; if the right opposes cosmopolitan elites, then it is for the local—it is for the oikos; literally, from the ancient Greek, for the home. The countryside is really a nation’s health; the cities draw on raw rural power and when this is stripped bare—as in Britain—the nation, usually the imperial state by this stage, begins to draw people from the global hinterland into the cosmopolis to be melted down as well.


Hence the conservative, so maintained Scruton, will always be for the home; in particular, for the rural—for the Hobbit in his amiable and comfortable hole, with his pipe and beer; it is a very cozy scene and nothing like the pale light that falls from a million smartphones in the cosmopolis, or the cold counters at a gourmet burger joint (outlets in Tokyo, London, and New York), or the hard homeless-proof seats at the underground station. No, the oikos have armchairs and a pot of tea gently simmering in the background—crumpets with melted butter may soon make an appearance, and the gaslight is turned low.


The problem with this notion is that, being developed by a conservative, it is, as ever, a proposition intended to lose. Scruton’s idea was to create an equivalent taunt to “xenophobe”: “Well, you say I’m a xenophobe, but I say you’re an oikophobe: you just hate the particular—the boat race, the cathedral choristers, and cheddar cheese. You want to eat sushi and listen to Lady Gaga instead.” Conservatives cannot do rhetoric and taunts; the right is anti-rhetorical—so oikophobia has never caught on, not really.


Psychologically man is attracted to things, people, and objects that are “far”. This is why I feel America is great, although I know it is filled with all the mundane problems I have in Britain—similarly, the American media lauds “Europe” as if it is some paradisiacal counterpoint to America. Psychologically, we associate anything “far” with depth, coolness, and blueness—far, in time or space, seems high status and desirable to us. Near is not attractive, and this is just a fact about us. So the leftist cosmopolitan works with human nature in this case, although really they are possessed by a naïve emotion that holds the “far” to be desirable: so Africans are mysterious and exotic; Asian things are deeply spiritual in a way Christianity is not; a breakfast cereal on limited release from America is wonderful; and sushi is better than fish and chips—the list goes on.


If the right follows Scruton and defends the oikos it is bound to lose. In colloquial English, “an oik” is a lower-class thuggish person—so even in our language we have nearness encoded as low status, whereas cosmopolitanism always seems high status; just think about the once mighty Cosmopolitan magazine—everyone wants a Cosmo girl, nobody wants an oik. You have to admit that in his decision to champion such an ugly word Scruton revealed self-loathing and a desire to lose—he knew the word “oik”; he said, “I’m for the oiks; the ugly and undesirable near-at-hands.”


Yet the right can deploy “farness” in a way that is not just about a degenerate embrace of immigration or frivolous fashion and culinary trends. The right can stand for the pathos of distance: aristocracy, religious hierarchy, monarchy, and the military—“far” verticality evokes farness in its positive dimension; farness in exploration and conquest also belongs to the right, the desire to explore new planets or conquer distant lands; and, finally, farness in time: the right can reach back to the most antient times, whereas the left must despise the distant in time—stone circles and lost temples in the mist. So, against Scruton, we should ditch the oiks and embrace the far, farness is associated with blueness—the right-wing colour—so the pairing should be natural, except for conservatives; they want to be ugly losers.

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