This isn’t the only article in which I make this case, so it’s not based just on Scruton’s remarks. I’ve shown in depth how analyses of the “conservative thought” of Edmund Burke, George Wills, Julius Evola, and of libertarians entails social Darwinism and thus animalism (links below).

You strawman the left-wing, reducing it to Marxism to give you the false dichotomy between Marx and Locke. Again, I prefer to dismiss the labels of “liberalism” and “conservatism,” but whatever you want to call it, the humanism of modernity against which conservatives react can be taken in various directions, including liberalism, socialism, anarchism, egalitarianism, transhumanism, and so on. Some of these alternatives may not be sustainable. Modernity’s an experiment just as is the anomaly of our relatively godlike species.

Anyway, you have it backwards when you say leftists don’t generally think we have consciousness, freewill, or rights. That’s precisely what secular humanism says we do have, in contrast to conservatives who pay lip service to the idea that we have rights in virtue of our God-given "spirit," but whose policies always turn out to have social Darwinian effects. In a conservative society the majority always ends up being oppressed by a corrupted minority of power elites, as in the dominance hierarchies of social animal groups in the wild.

Early modern philosophers reacted against monarchy and feudalism which had enslaved most members of European populations, and those philosophers used reason (not bogus religious revelation) to formulate a secular basis for thinking that all people have rights. As this tradition developed, we realized that all biological humans have the earthly potential to realize their personhood. We’re people deserving of rights in virtue of the psychological capacities that we can scientifically understand. And it’s conservatism that stifles the potential greatness of the bulk of the citizenry, as happens in every monarchy, plutocracy, and dictatorship.

You also err in treating the current craziness of American “progressivism” (totalitarian cancel culture, etc) as representative of secular humanism or of all left-wing options. Again, these options are indeed experiments, so some or all of them may be unsustainable and counterproductive. The alternative is retreating to the matrix, as it were, to the comfy slavery of the natural default social order, which is the conservative’s dominance hierarchy.

The US is an outlier with respect to both its liberals and conservatives. You speak of the options of victimization and empowerment. Indeed, there’s a “woke,” left-wing version of identity politics (critical race theory, feel-good feminism, cancel culture) that’s all about victimization. What you’d have to show is that secular humanism, as formulated first by Greco-Roman philosophers and as recaptured in modern European philosophy reduces to that totalitarian ideology (i.e. to Foucault’s brand of quasi-Nietzscheanism that underlies it). The question is whether modern thought entails the worst of so-called postmodern thought.

In any case, the alternative of traditionalism or conservatism is hardly empowering to the majority. Most are treated as cattle (as peasants and slaves) in a monarchy or in a “free-market” plutocracy. Conservativism is empowering only to the dynasty of alphas that gets to rule according to its bloodline.

I agree that opponents of Trumpism can be smug and condescending and that average conservatives in the American South can be kind. But I have a different way of explaining what’s happened in American politics. In the US, both the left and the right have become toxic, as driven by the predominance of feminine and of masculine values in the two parties, respectively. Toxic femininity in urban areas produces overprotective cancel culture, while toxic masculinity (psychopathy) in rural ones produces the cancers of trolling and Trumpism (see the first two links below). Both sides manifest paranoia and other forms of insanity, although conservative/masculine insanity has proved far more dangerous and long-lived than the liberal/feminine kind.

Indeed, it’s ludicrous to speak of the bitterness and resentments on the left when we’ve all just observed four years of Trumpism which resulted in Republicans’ inability to admit they lost the 2020 election and who support violent insurrection to take back their country.

The real dynamic here is comparable to the one in the Middle East since it’s a question of modernization and of the slow elimination of medieval conservative traditions. The Arab Spring failed to overturn most of the Muslim dictatorships and to free the majorities from the matrix, but eventually the reckoning may come in force.

Ever since the American Revolution and the Civil War, there’s been a conservative rump in the US that prefers effective feudalism and premodern values (sexism, racism, slavery, religious fundamentalism). Secular humanism kept spreading, though, leading to the civil rights revolution in the twentieth century, so that currently the Republican Party represents a minority of the country and must cheat to win.

That’s the source of resentment on the American right: America has mostly been modernized, and the reactionaries are losing the culture war. The real culture that conservatives despise isn’t the scapegoat of progressive cancel culture or intersectional feminism. The real issue is secular humanism or modernity itself, and the only alternative to it is animalism dressed up with religious or cultish (e.g. Trumpian, white supremacist) rationalizations.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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