None of the fundamental drivers of “Wokeness” have relented
I'm basically in agreement with most of this. But I'm still hopeful that the seeds of Wokeness have in fact been sown, seeds that you yourself have described here.
Specifically, your point 13--"The youth are still coddled and mentally broken."--is entirely true. And yes, this does suggest that many of the trends that have brought us to our present situation are likely to intensify for the foreseeable near future. But here's the thing: coddled, mentally broken people tend not to be very good at their jobs.
I think we're starting to see fault lines emerge, not along ideological/political/partisan lines, or even along cultural lines, but along lines of sheer competence. Take the Biden Regime, for crying out loud. These people do not come across as having the slightest clue how to accomplish anything more complicated than ordering DoorDash. They certainly don't have the faintest insight into just how complex the system is that makes something like DoorDash possible. Container ships starting to pile up outside Los Angeles? Have them park far enough offshore that no one can see them from land. Problem solved! Having trouble finding enough truck drivers? Time to fire tens of thousands of them for not getting their shots!
We're hearing about senior software engineers who haven't written a line of code in over a year because they're spending so much time managing the emotional and psychological breakdowns of new hires who aren't doing any real work either. I mean, yes, there is a lot of built up capital in Big Tech, but somebody has to do the actual work at some point.
Medical schools have started punishing physicians who insist that biological sex is relevant to medical outcomes. (Hint: it is.) So we're having trans patients report to emergency rooms having disastrous outcomes because nobody thought that it was important to ask whether the patient's biological sex might be relevant to whether said patient could be pregnant.
The Revolution isn't over. . . but weak, unstable, incompetent people can't even be trusted to enforce a modicum of mob rule. All of the Leftist movements that have started down the road of struggle sessions have eaten themselves alive. Activists become so focused on inter-elite competition that they forget to do their damn jobs.
The silver lining here isn't that this creates opportunities for opposition to make real advances. It does, but I'm no more optimistic about the state of viable opposition than you. Rather, anything that can't go on forever usually doesn't. Wokeness isn't going to end because of some eternal, opposing social or cultural forces. It's going to collapse under its own weight. That or just slam into the brick wall of reality. The food supply chain can do entirely without woke political commissars. Woke political commissars cannot do without the food supply chain for more than a day or two.
Although, being a pessimist, I agree with much of this essay, I refer to your previous essay on laughter being the kryptonite weapon against totalitarianism. I’m a gay artist, classically liberal, anti-woke. I live in Portland, Oregon. The hermetically-sealed woke monoculture here is stifling. BUT. In November my partner and I attended one of two sold-out performances by the notoriously deplorable non-person comedian Louis CK (I think he’s the greatest comedic genius of our time.) A sign of the sick cultural/political scene in Portland: there was no sign advertising the show on the marquee outside of perhaps the largest theater-venue here (for fear of woke white Twitter mobs?), and we had to be screened for weapons and reveal what was in our pockets before entering. (Vaccination cards/neg Covid test and masks also required).
I expected the audience to consist almost entirely of misogynistic males. Not so! My partner remarked that it seemed like heteronormative date-night of mostly Gen X, Millenials, and Gen Z, and quite a few Boomers like us. Probably it’d be accurate to describe the crowd as hipster, but I’m really too old (70) to know what that means any more. (Of course, the music playing during seating was classic Boomer: Stones and Led Zeppelin.) Many, many women, maybe 40-45%? 🤯 Even lesbian couples— including an overweight couple who resembled Holly Near groupies. It didn’t appear that they were all self-loathing dupes of the Patriarchy, but what do I know? A couple of younger gay guys, one with neck tattoos and pink glitter nail polish, sat directly in front of us. Evidently, there are a sizable number of people in Portland who enjoy laughing, aren’t too self-important, and have a sense of forgiveness—who knew?! Perhaps there are a lot of Gen Z who have escaped coddling? The vibe of the crowd was like what drew us to Portland 20 years ago, but which I rarely feel here any more. An outrageous, obscene and brilliant performance, I was laughing so hard for more than an hour that I was sweating. I came out feeling not so alone, culturally and politically, and with some hope.
Wow! By far the best analysis of the woke phenom that I’ve seen yet - and I’ve been trying to track it for awhile. And so well written, too. Major kudos to you.
That said, I think you may be assuming too much stability in the years ahead. If we have a second Trump victory, having a repeat of our prior round of reactive woke fervor might be better than whatever might come with the new, even more intense wave of enmity that seems sure to arise. Not to mention, the destructive chaos so expertly sowed by Trump himself, which seems to have only grown worse in its ambitions since 2020.
Alternatively, regardless of whatever party wins the Presidency, another huge stock market crash would change everything. Or a war. Etc.
Even if everything does remain relatively stable, I think that woke political commitment may be shallower than you think. True, the legal incentives and affiliated bureaucracies will likely remain intact, and that’s a huge driver. But, in my experience, the foundation world runs on pretty short cycles of fashionable (within that world) models of how to revitalize devastated communities, end white supremacy, or whatever the cause du jour happens to be. There’s always so much over-promised that it never works as advertised. So, soon there’s a collective move on to the next new thing.
Similarly, a lot of people seem to reflexively jump on whatever ideological bandwagon is trending on their favorite social media feeds at any given time, and then shift to the next thing as soon as a new wave comes along. And to keep the passions sufficiently stoked, there needs to be change. Recycling an older theme tends not to work so well.
But, that’s all speculation about what may be coming down the pike, as opposed to your very thorough accounting of what’s already in place — which, at the moment, does seem more compelling. I just suspect that there may be much more volatility ahead.
Really one of the best and smartest pieces on the Woke zeitgeist I've read this year.
It is so refreshing also after listening for years to liberals whistling past the graveyard with the usual "oh, they're just kids, they'll grow out of it," or "well, maybe the pendulum has swung too far but it will swing back."
I feel like people who are on Team Blue or even just your generic Big City liberal have had to engage in some very high level of cognitive dissonance or just plain denial as to the cultural and social changes that have overtaken the country: "Well, maybe that train rushing down the track I'm tied to will stop or derail or turn around." ;)
As someone with a background in the arts, in particular literature, I knew something had changed when I had lunch in 2015 with a small book publisher who told me he couldn't publish my book because I was a white male (so is he!); or more recently, a good friend in film told me about a petition by (I guess) young black people in documentary film to stop ken burns from making a film about muhammad ali, because burns has no right to tell a "black" story. when I gently expressed shock at the notion of any artist trying to censor another artist, my friend (a 50yr old gen exer!) said I sounded like I would have supported Jim Crow too!
What this points to for me (and hopefully pertains to the essay) is that almost every big city liberal (which pretty much describes just about everyone in art and culture) has such an ingrained reflexive fear of never ever appearing as a republican or bigot (which they consider synonyms) and also thanks to point 11 (Long marches are long) that it just seems gauche and suspicious for them to ever disagree with anything that any black person (or other minority) says on any subject (no matter how silly), that most modern liberals have no language to push back against any of this. (I guess maybe this is a long-winded way of saying that people with strong beliefs always defeat people with weak or vague or no beliefs.)
And, just to continue my last point (sorry for the length!), point 11 aka The Long March has been a smashing success (my succinct summation of the zeitgeist is: After a 50-yr campaign, the New Left has finally seized the means of cultural production), Marcuse and his coalition of the most miserable have made all of Western culture, civilization, history, its achievements and institutions, reek of feces. Thanksgiving now is about genocide, the Founding Fathers are just white supremacists, Washington and Jefferson are only slaveholders, and everyone from Plato and Aristotle to Tolstoy and Hitchcock are "pale, stale and male", all locked in a pillory and scheduled for abolishment to make room for "diverse voices".
And to get to point 12 and finally wrap up (The young are woke as hell), for anyone under 30ish (esp the young people who will be writing books, music, films and TV for the next generation), Critical Theory morality is their worldview and fundamentalism, the rock their church is built on. They really truly and passionately believe that the entire purpose of art, culture and politics is "rectifying historical injustices" aka atoning for the sins of our fathers, and anyone who doesn't profess this is automatically a suspicious heretic who needs to be cast out.
So, yes (in case you couldn't tell), I agree with Lyons: this new religion is still young and growing and gaining strength, and it will most likely dominate our culture for the foreseeable future.
This is an outstanding piece which should be at the very top of peoples' reading lists to understand wokeness.
I would make one addition. Modern liberalism's chief concern is inequality (between certain groups). As liberalism succeeds in reducing these types of inequality, its motivating passion doesn't recede. Therefore it moves to smaller, more obscure and absurd sources of difference with the same zeal as towards legitimate inequalities. Therefore we move from inequality to inequity, and from opposing segregation to concern about "fat shaming". There is no limiting principle to modern liberalism, least of all its own success.
Great analysis. I would add only one thing: wokeness will fail eventually for the same reason Marxism did, because it is based on a false view of human nature.
Wokeness posits Man as a smart ape whose behavior can be corrected (rendered sinless) given the right stimulus, thereby ushering in a golden age of equality and righteousness = Heaven on Earth. Contrast this with all 3 Abrahamic faiths, which posit Man as a good but inherently selfish and covetous creature, irredeemable by his own behavior, who's only salvation is in something transcendental. Even a non-believer can recognize sociological differences in these views.
Any governing philosophy built on a false view of Man will collapse eventually, because its policies will be antithetical to human nature. The belief that "defunding the police" would solve crime is an example of this; it fails (and will always fail) because it is contrary to human nature.
Wokeness as a governing philosophy will fail writ-large for the same reason. However, it can certainly do a lot of damage along the way: "defund the police" spiked murder rates nationally last year. You can ask the Hungarians or the Czechs or the Uygurs how bad philosophical models can cause enormous damage to society. However, in the end, Wokeness will fail, just like Marxism did, and for the same reason: it is contrary to Man's nature.
This is grim, but one of the best analyses I've read thus far.
Wow ... gasp ... cool down ... try not to slobber with admiration ...
I have read essays of the last 200 years in some languages (is this still an essay?). This is at the top and should be included by Hillsdale et al for emulation in Writing Classes.
I have read comments in many media with shock. The set of comments here below strikes me as the best I have seen yet in my life.
The form is spectacular in structure, sequence of arguments, flow and choice of words, with not one superfluous word. The first half flows like a manifesto and largely like a poem.
The break to the second half helpful as you did include details at least I didn´t know.
I always admire the humility of not quoting those libraries of all-time classics habing flowed into this. Is the author 180 years old, with three lives of reading and thinking?
You will hopefully forgive this commentator for thinking much has been said by other great minds, but this synthesis seems like the essence of the issue to me with many new insightful turns and emphases.
The content has already drawn great comments, so roughly: What about a simplistic perspective?
Wokeness is only one more stage in the growth of The State vs the citizen.
Republican 2025-2028 is the watershed: How brutally will they cut into or weed out non-elect institutions from FBI to EPA, etc., being a mixed bag from blobbies to great libertarian conservatives with innate knowledge of the radix of judaeo-graeco-Christian civilization?
Depending on how much they achieve contrary to N.S. Lyons´ well-founded doubt, the dominant issue afterwards will be: Which mix of soft and hard recession, how much bloodshed and other pro´s and con´s, on the way to the Great Reset I see: A re-founding of the heartlands of the US grounded precisely in the existing Constitution and the Great Western traditions the Founding Fathers worked so hard to bake into it in the half-century from 1760 to 1810.
I wish this text were fed to Daily Wire, Fox, Prager and all those others, even Trump who may need help with it. Nothing much would surprise them, but it deserves national attention in my view as it points so far beyond short-term perspective.
The renaissance of the classical West will grow from the right mix of "deplorables", tough guys and gals, thinkers such as this author united on a moral base.
Dear N.S. Lyons, if ever we have that drink in Texas, I will ask you how you can possibly quote Marcel Pagnol in one of your last essays. I mean, that is really not someone to stumble over ...
Thank you for this as always.
References to the Long March and the Cultural Revolution seem apt. We see how Maoist “wokeism” was transformed into state-driven capitalism and political authoritarianism and yet the ideology of Maoist “wokeism” today reminds one of East Europeans under Sovietism: everybody pretends and then goes about their business under the radar. One wonders if that is our future.
Thanks for this, worth every penny. I am encouraged to read that I am not alone in these thoughts. So many of my age group (boomers) have their head in the sand. They only see political solutions, elect the right people and voila, problems solved. Politics doesn’t solve the problems as it is downstream from culture and the rising culture is scary indeed. Keep writing and speaking your mind and know we our here appreciate it very much. God bless you and keep you.
God I hope those UFOs show up quick.
A superb piece of work. You are correct, the revolution isn't slowing down, it's not even pausing to take a breath. So what will stop it ? The woke successor ideology has a growth pattern of a forest fire or infection rather than that of green shoots, maybe that is the same with all religions, they start slow with years in the wilderness honing their doctrine then if the touch the right fuel at the right time they explode in a break out phase.
But then so does a Ponzi scheme.
Let us judge this new faith on the same rational basis we can use for other religions. Is it (or could it be) a cooperative symboite rather than a consuming parasite for the believers ? Forget about the interior of the doctrines, equality like salvation or redemption can never be measured scientifically anyway. Does the true believer prosper, live longer, is fitter, healthier with more children, defeat enemies in battle ? Need I say more ?
#9 is absolutely key. No amount of anti-CRT rhetoric or hastily-written legislation will have an impact when education schools are still pumping out activists who go directly into school administration or enforce orthodoxies for new hires while gatekeepers in academia demand ever-more stringent signals of commitment to the cause.
The left understands this. This is why they now require DEI oaths in job applications and interviews along with writing job ads for even regular positions that enforce "centering racial equity" (e.g. https://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/details.cfm?JobCode=177739246). The explicit goal of the left (openly stated, but somehow poorly understood by many) is to "infuse" their DEI dogma into every aspect of life at work and in the academy so that they can use it as a cudgel against anyone, anytime. It's working.
The right seems completely blindsided by the latest aggressive offensive by the left and barely capable of keeping up with documenting it (Rufo, Sibarium, and Hanania seem to get it, but only Rufo seems to have a popular platform; much more could be done instead of yelling about Dr. Seuss or Mr. Potato Head for hours on end), much less rebutting or opposing. This essay was a breath of fresh air on that side of things and accurately identifies some of the key battlegrounds: gatekeeping institutions like accreditors, long-service government agencies, and personnel across the board.
The next time Rs are in power nationally, they need to learn how to play the long game on the personnel side rather than just ranting and trying (unsuccessfully) to smash things.
“Why not subscribe?”…very good point!
You have presented one terrific analysis with so many important items that desperately need to be discussed--it is hard to know where to begin.
Just a few initial thoughts and questions--full of my own biases:
Is the concept of wokeness as a religious belief possibly a response to something deeper, that has been going on in our society for quite some time? I am thinking, in particular, of the idea of ever growing anomie--or the increasing inability of our culture to provide the individual with any type of guidance.
Items 2 ( the void of meaning), item 3 (increasing atomization), item 4 (this atomization as a byproduct of liberal modernity), item 6 (there is no authority or the inability of our contemporary institutions to provide any common metaphysical framework), Item 13 (Youth are coddled and mentally broken)-- all these items seem, to me, related to cultural laxity or the increasing absence of guidance from our culture.
The experience of anomie also seems to lead to, at a minimum, to a profound psychological discomfort and perhaps even mental illness (like depression).
Please, please continue your explorations of this complex beast called wokeness.