It’s hard to go too long without some person, corporation, school, or government agency being accused of “going woke.” And while most of us can tell that the ideas and policies those on the far-left advocate for don’t seem to align with traditional American values, it’s not always easy to understand why. Furthermore, what does “woke” actually mean?
To understand this, it’s important to trace the term back to its ideological roots, which include liberation theology, Marxism, and the critical theories of post-modernism. Then, we can explore what the woke worldview looks like so we can better comprehend how the woke think. Finally, we can discuss what the woke want and identify some of the tactics they use to obtain their goals.
1. Woke Ideology
In order to understand “wokeism,” it’s necessary to explore its ideological predecessors. First, liberation theology is a form of Christianity that believes in the inherent oppression of institutions, the Bible should be interpreted through the perspective of the impoverished, and that the poor are charged with altering the institutions and norms that oppress them.
Likewise, the woke see their mission as one of liberating who they see as politically, economically, and socially marginalized (women, people of color, LGBTQA+, etc.) and replacing the structures they find oppressive.
Marxism is another ideological forbearer of “wokeism.” According to Marx, capitalism is an irredeemably corrupt system because it alienates workers from each other, their labor, the products of their labor, and themselves. Marx believed that the primary reason the working class did not rise up against its overlords is because the super-structure of society (government, religion, and culture) creates a “false consciousness.”
This “false consciousness” blinds workers to the inherent oppression of these systems and keeps them docile. Once the working-class sheds this “false consciousness” (i.e., wakes up), it can revolt and create a workers’ paradise. The woke also see themselves as also reaching an “awokened” state of enlightenment, in which they, too, see the evils that the entire collection of systems (government, economy, society, education, etc.) perpetuates.
Finally, the rise of critical theories emerged as a response to the lack of the Marxist workers’ revolution. Early critical theorists believed that the reason this revolution never came to be was because those in power oppressed the powerless on the grounds of the latter’s identities like their race, gender, sexuality, etc. Critical theories view the world almost exclusively from a lens of power (or oppressor/ oppressed) and called for a new world order after its activists had destroyed the current order’s institutions and culture. “Wokeism” is a product of these critical theories.
In short, being woke is about realizing the oppression and injustice historically under-privileged groups continue to face and being committed to disrupting and dismantling the existing power structures across the board (economic, political, social, educational, legal, etc.). This requires action to undermine these systems. As Ibram X Kendi says, it’s not enough to reject racism, we should all be anti-racist, i.e., promoting racial equity through activism.
2. Woke Strategies
Once the woke have shed their Marxian “false consciousness,” they can adopt a new “critical consciousness,” through which they view every aspect of the state and society as an expression of oppression, domination, and power. The woke also see members of society as either oppressive benefactors or the oppressed victims of these power systems based on these members’ racial, sexual, and gender identities.
“Wokeism” teaches that the identities-based power dynamics are systemic and persist regardless of which party is in office or any policy reforms. Therefore, the woke believe that they must destroy the very norms, practices, and institutions themselves to rid society of its injustices. And to be clear, when they talk about “justice” don’t mean that those who commit specific crimes should pay for them; instead, they advocate for group-based punishment coupled with group-based privileges like reparations and equity, which means equal outcomes for all (enforced by the state, of course).
This would require a “Great Reset,” something that world leaders are trying to impose on all of us because they know better.
So, how do they pull this off, besides taking advantage of the upheaval?
One strategy is to place a premium on identity and using that to lend credence to certain arguments while demeaning anyone who dares contradict the woke. As such, an individual’s believability and moral standing is not based on a person’s merit, actions, or reputation, but it’s determined by that person’s identities. In short, the more historically oppressed identities a person has, the more status that person should have. And groups, not individuals, are what matters in this new order.
Another strategy is to import a new values system that appears to uphold traditional American values and to extend them to all. As I’ve said before, seemingly good terms like “inclusion,” “diversity,” and “equity” are not about expanding individual rights, but rather aim to determine who is deserving of rights and recognition based on characteristics fixed at birth.
This approach is also accompanied by the invalidation of western civilization and our very rights by claiming that everything is foundational to our way of life is racist. They say that America was not founded in the name of liberty, but rather to protect slavery with the 1619 project (a falsehood even liberal historians rejected before the project was published). They say that “property is whiteness,”
and that the exercise of our free speech rights is violence when anyone says something they do not like. They also reject scientific, evidence-based ways of knowing because it’s “too white,” and want to replace it with “lived experience,” which is an assault to the ways in which we think.
3. Woke Intolerance
What “wokeism” is, what it wants, and what its supporters are willing to do in order to achieve its goals are troubling enough. Another concern is that the fragility of the woke and their ideology. First, it doesn’t hold up to logical scrutiny. For instance, disparities among racial groups in and of themselves don’t support the systemic racism hypothesis. Also, if capitalism is an oppressive force, why are racial minorities in capitalist America doing far better than in non-capitalist countries?
Secondly, wokeism denies the remarkable ways in which America and the western world has become more tolerant and has recognized the rights of more individuals than any other world order like socialism (the end goal of the woke). Just look at the horrific attacks on women and other minorities in Afghanistan since American forces withdrew. While we still have work to do, America and its values have had a remarkably positive impact on the world, from fighting to end global slavery to protecting China from colonization. The woke are only able to see America’s flaws, past and present, and cannot tolerate looking at what is good.
Thirdly, the woke have a you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us attitude that reminds me of Gaston (antagonist in Beauty and the Beast), who saw an image of a beast, assumed it must pose a threat, and whipped up the entire village into a mob to serve his selfish purposes. What makes wokeism more dangerous than any angry mob is that the woke justify their means because they believe in the righteousness of their ends.
The woke are perfectly fine eliminating others’ rights if those rights are or could be a hindrance to the woke revolution. That is a quintessential part of totalitarianism. If an ideology cannot stand contradictions, reworks the entire game by rejecting things like logic, and seeks to get rid of dissenters, it’s clearly too fragile to exist in the real world. And if we reorder our world based on such a fragile ideology, the consequences will be dire, to say the least.
Stay tuned for Woke Fragility Part 2: Losing My Old Religion
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