I. What Woke Isn’t
It was said to me “No other movement made efforts to understand the danger of being out as queer or trans, or the discomfort of being racialized; no other movement made any effort to make spaces safer or more comfortable for us.”
I was asked to consider “if something needs to be built to replace it in order to further egalitarian human flourishing”
Initially I assumed that these comments came from a very young person in a very regressive country (or area of the US), who literally did not know about the civil rights movements that existed prior to 2012-ish. Upon further consideration, though, it is plausible that such a belief could come from the idea that wokeism is just another term for the liberal civil rights movement. It would be a much better world if this was true, but sadly we need the word “woke” to differentiate a new movement from the liberal civil rights movement.
The liberal civil rights movement is predicated on the idea that all people should be treated without discrimination or prejudice based on immutable characteristics. People should be treated as individuals, and judged on what they actually do. Not treated as instantiations of a group’s stereotypes. “Content of our character rather than color of our skin” kinda stuff. This is the movement that not only understood the dangers of being gay/non-white, but actually created the changes in the world that made the US significantly safer and fairer for such people.
Also, they’re still around, so unless one is living in a benighted country, there are already institutions dedicated to further egalitarian human flourishing that aren’t burdened by the rot of wokeness.
II. What Woke Is
I try to keep my definition of “Woke” as simple as possible, to avoid distractions. To me, Wokeness is the ideology that teaches that:
1. All humans have recognizable immutable characteristics – things like sex, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity.
2. These characteristics are the most important defining facts about most people.
3. People should be treated differently based on these characteristics. Specifically, women are to be accommodated over and protected from men, racial & ethnic minorities from majorities, gays from straights, and trans from cis.
III. Differences from Liberalism
This interacts with liberalism in some interesting ways. First of all, #1 is simply a physical reality. Can’t nobody argue with that.
And #3 is basically the traditional Liberal Civil Rights agenda (which may be the cause of the confusion).
The difference is in #2. The liberal civil rights movement holds that the immutable characteristics identified in #1 are basically meaningless noise. Knowing those characteristics about someone gives you almost no information about that person*. They should be ignored and treated as non-issues in all but the most extreme cases. The civil rights movement recognized that many official policies (as well as personal opinions) did NOT treat these characteristics as value-neutral. Therefore, they advocated for policy that would protect people with minority characteristics from the prejudice of others. They were often successful in this, and mostly this improved the world.
Wokeness takes the opposite view. They believe a person’s immutale characteristics are extremely important. Crucially, they allow you to rank people on a scale from Oppressed to Oppressor. Official policy should be to punish the Oppressors and recompence the Oppressed. To strive to eliminate bias and prejudice is actually a bad thing, because that would leave the Oppressors un-punished, and the Oppressed un-avenged.
In the end, wokeness is mostly just people’s natural tendency to hate an outgroup and enrich thier ingroup finding a new outlet. Some humans will always have this need, and it was clever of them to hide it under an aegis of righteousness. Unfortunately, this is having some massive fallout for liberal society.
The majority of both liberals and conservatives are moderate, and yet believe that most people of the opposite persuasion are extremists. It is a disaster that liberals in the United States are being represented by a very vocal extremist fringe. Everyone not belonging to this fringe can see that it is rife with bigotry, even if they can’t say that out loud, and they are moving away from it. Some of them are leaving the Democratic party entirely.
This results in the Right Wing of American politics gaining more power relative to the Left Wing. Having fewer people on the left wing means the right increases as a percentage in a system where only two parties have any significant power.
This is already causing harm to the groups traditionally defended by liberals. Enough institutions have been captured by wokeism that turning this around is going to take a lot of effort and at least a few years.
There is a significant cohort that seeks to slow the growing renunciations by accusing anyone who leaves the extremist left of being “racists” and “rightists” and even “Nazis.” (Despite the fact that the liberals are leaving because of the wokes’ bigotry). They can see that the right is gaining power, and blame those who are leaving their ranks with the “If you aren’t with me, I will treat you as my enemy” tactic. The primary result of this is to push everyone who isn’t in the extreme-left even further away.
(The insane overreach by the Right wing in response is the only thing that’s keeping the Left from crumbling entirely)
V. But…. Religion?
Oh, yeah, I compared wokeism to religion, that’s what started all this. That’s a deeper kettle of fish, due to the specific way wokeism has played out in the US. I first wanted to get out my core objection to wokeism, since it seemed there was a basic confusion as to what was even being discussed. Wokeism as a para-religious memeplex coming up in the next few days.
* – This is actually wrong, but it’s an order of magnitude less wrong than the woke position that they are of overriding importance.
I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.