Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Wokism Cannot Make a Thing Like Christmas

 

“Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – Hamlet, Act 2, scene ii

I think my college experience has given me some insights into why more Americans, especially young Americans, are more likely to turn to suicide. I don’t want this piece to be a ranty “I hate the dirty hippies” diatribe. Yet I cannot help but be convinced that the dramatic increase in American suicide is related to the rise of what I call, Wokist philosophy.*

In college, you are “taught” that the rich are rich because the poor are poor. I use the scare quotes because this isn’t so much argued as just assumed and then all the arguments are based around the assumption without first examining the original assumption.

Along with the zero-sum fallacy young students are taught a series of beliefs that lead to depression. In no particular order, I will briefly go through these beliefs.

You are taught that capitalism is exploitative and we live in a time and place of severe material deprivation for poor people (the fact that poor people have flat-screens TVs and computers are ignored).

You are taught that we live in a society that is rife with racism and that whites are wealthier than people of color only because of their privilege (Asian-Americans, Alexander Hamilton, and George Jefferson moving on up from their past poverty are ignored).**

You are taught that past American traditions were based around oppression and exploitation and all that “all men are created equal” stuff was just a rhetorical flourish. (All the immigrants who wanted to come to America are ignored).

You are taught that the great works of Western literature are corrupt and patriarchal. Shakespeare and Dostoevsky and all the Greeks were just straight white men. (That straight whites have produced some of the best literature is ignored as is the homosexuality of many Greeks).

You are taught that religion is, at best, a silly superstition for weak and dumb people and, at worst, the source of all wars. (Islam isn’t depicted as a serious philosophy to debate but rather a brown-person thing and opposing a brown-person thing is racist).

You are taught that all masculinity is toxic and that it is more important for women to be strong and aggressive like men. You are also taught that a man can be a woman. Above all the contradictions, you are taught that society is terrible and oppressive based on something sexual.

What’s more, we live in a rape culture. If our culture was different, then nobody would rape anyone, but we are just so terrible we don’t want to change our culture. In a way that is equally both impressive and troubling, it makes sex less fun.

You aren’t taught anything about family. That would be judgmental. You aren’t taught that men have a duty to protect women. You aren’t taught that you are part of the greatest experiment in freedom that humanity has ever done so, at the very least, don’t screw it up. You aren’t taught that you are made in the image of G-d and therefore you have meaning no matter how bad things get or how lonely you are. Also, you will all die soon because of climate change and we will run out of all our resources. (They have never seen Soylent Green or read about how Paul Ehrlich was wrong about everything).

So what’s left to believe besides voting Democrat? Besides left-wing politics, what’s to connect you to something noble that is beyond yourself? Modern Wokism is empty of meaning and it is empty of the ability to connect individuals to a greater society.

Please recall how Obama often said, “that’s not who we are,” but whenever he tried to appeal to what we should be, he spoke in the most banal and vague terms. In a similar fashion, academic and West Coast tech types love saying that diversity is our strength. But what they mean by diversity is either nothing or some kind of amorphous solidarity. But solidarity towards what?

Many compare the woke campus progressives as being Communist in some fashion. If Wokism is a kind of Communism, it is fundamentally different from other Communist ideologies in one important way: It fails to inspire the way that other ideologies do. Say what you will about Marxism or Leninism or Maoism, but they could inspire people. It was a horrible inspiration but it was sincere and it was often born out of serious material deprivation. A good person could be so indignant at how Russian or Chinese peasants were treated that they would become Communist. Furthermore, many otherwise decent and intelligent people (who were often the first to be sent to the Gulag or the Laogai) really wanted to make a Communist utopia because they wanted their community, their country, and the world to be better than what it was. The true believers honestly believed that all men would be brothers and all would be equal to one another. I don’t think that Wokists have that kind of aspirational hope.

In a similar fashion to the older schools of hard leftism, modern Wokism appeals to elites who have the privilege to study the wrong ideas. But the woke crowd today doesn’t really believe that they can remake the world to be good. Now they say that they can make the world free from racism and neo-liberalism and colonialism or what have you but I don’t think they mean it and yet they aren’t lying when they tell you that. Rather, they are like a Christian who hates homosexuals and anyone not as holy as himself but doesn’t celebrate Christ’s forgiveness and love. There is an ideal of the good in both philosophies but some folks can only focus on moral condemnation without hope. In Christianity, I think such pettiness emerges from the person rather than the philosophy. With Wokism, I think it encourages such pettiness because it doesn’t really believe in its own story of redemption. (It is with dark irony that Wokism thinks of straight, white, middle-class Christians the way the most vulgar minority of Christians think of homosexuals).

This enervating and rather tiring prospect for the future is why Bernie Sanders is so inspiring among young millennials. Bernie Sanders represents the old-school version of Communism that fervently believes in the capacity for a better world.

This lack of hope is why the Woke have turned against free speech. They know that they can’t inspire people of goodwill to change their mind and become woke out of compassion. Thusly, the woke try to tell people to believe in Wokeness through intimidation.

There are some passages in Marx’s later works that suggest he believed in freedom of speech because he thought that society would naturally evolve out of capitalism. Marx was a bad historian but at least he still made arguments to people he disagreed with. Compare this with modern Wokism which doesn’t try to explain why classically liberal or conservative ideas are morally inferior or why the evidence isn’t there to support such ideas. Dennis Prager has rightly observed, (I can’t find the clip but I know he said it) Imagine someone who won’t talk to their relatives because of politics. You are imagining a woke leftist. Politics is a capital G god to a Wokist but he doesn’t believe in spreading the good news because the news isn’t good.

Compare our Wokism with John F. Kennedy’s rhetoric.

There is only one rule by which to judge if God is near us or is far away – the rule that God’s word is giving us today: everyone concerned for the hungry, the naked, the poor, for those who have vanished in police custody, for the tortured, for prisoners, for all flesh that suffers, has God close at hand. We have the ability, we have the means, and we have the capacity to eliminate hunger from the face of the earth. We need only the will.

I’m not a big fan of JFK but his pitch was that America could beat the Russkies and end poverty at the same time. For that presentation of hope to the American people, he is still revered.

John F. Kennedy’s mention of G-d reminds me of how un-Christmassy this essay is. At this time, women are watching incredibly sappy Hallmark movies, the men are watching Die Hard, and the children are unusually well-behaved. We go out wearing gaudy clothes and singing strange songs about figgy pudding even though no sensible person has eaten figgy pudding for decades. A visitor from Mars would find American Christmas strange and ridiculous. Of course, he would be right.

But through all the silliness and tinsel and wrapping paper, the traditions are based on something that connects human beings to each other. Families come together and repeat silly traditions that tie them to the mystic chord of memory. Communities bother getting together. Americans are, in a small way, united because they listen to same songs by Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Die-hard atheists sing songs about G-d saving man and feminists look at representations of he baby Jesus and Mother Mary everywhere.

There is an emphasis on charity about the poor and the disadvantaged but the focus is on private charity and compassion at the individual and community level. Santa Claus judges children by the conduct of their character and not by their color.

Perhaps the least woke of all the Christmas traditions is based on the idea that men are made by G-d and are redeemed through Him, not government.

Everything that gives life meaning and purpose is celebrated on Christmas. Wokism is capable of criticizing Christmas for being too capitalist and bigoted and nationalistic and all the usual stuff. It’s capable of being against things. It’s not capable of creating anything.

This brings us back to suicide, humans need to be for something in order to live. They need some kind of Christmas.

* I didn’t have time to discuss the right-wing version of existential despair. But this podcast very clearly explains it. Start at 19:00, listen for a few minutes and then remind yourself that things aren’t that bad.

** Boss Mongo mistook my rise up reference from Hamilton as “The Jeffersons” song. I decided to include both references.

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  1. Stad Thatcher

    Henry Castaigne: So what’s left to believe besides voting Democrat?

    You could add how voting for and putting Democrats in office only makes things worse, giving the young no hope.

    • #1
    • December 18, 2019, at 10:14 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Manny Member

    Can someone explain to me what this term “Wokism” refers to? I’m an old fuddy duddy, and I’ve only started seeing this slang the last month or so. Yes, I’m pop culture illiterate. Please someone explain it to me as if I’m a ten year old. I won’t mind the condescension in this case.

    • #2
    • December 18, 2019, at 11:44 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. Dominique Prynne Member

    Henry Castaigne: Families come together and repeat silly traditions that tie them to the mystic chord of memory.

    So beautifully said! Those memories include the foods that we go to every year to celebrate the season, the twinkling lights, the homemade ornaments from your childhood (or your kids’) on the tree and reminiscing about those dear to us that have departed this earth. No matter the trauma that life has served up during the year, there is always at least a moment at Christmas time where the light and grace falls upon you. 

    • #3
    • December 18, 2019, at 11:59 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. Mike H Coolidge

    I think it has more to do with not needing to do anything to survive coupled with the lack of a satisfying social roll. I think this would be happening even without wokism.

    • #4
    • December 18, 2019, at 12:02 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne

    Manny (View Comment):

    Can someone explain to me what this term “Wokism” refers to? I’m an old fuddy duddy, and I’ve only started seeing this slang the last month or so. Yes, I’m pop culture illiterate. Please someone explain it to me as if I’m a ten year old. I won’t mind the condescension in this case.

    Urban dictionary defines woke as: The act of being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue.

    Originally, woke referred to be being aware about how oppressed non-Asian people of color were in America. Now it refers to general leftism. Wokism is the term I use to distinguish the the progressive ideology from other forms of Marxism. 

    • #5
    • December 18, 2019, at 3:33 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  6. Manny Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    Can someone explain to me what this term “Wokism” refers to? I’m an old fuddy duddy, and I’ve only started seeing this slang the last month or so. Yes, I’m pop culture illiterate. Please someone explain it to me as if I’m a ten year old. I won’t mind the condescension in this case.

    Urban dictionary defines woke as: The act of being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue.

    Originally, woke referred to be being aware about how oppressed non-Asian people of color were in America. Now it refers to general leftism. Wokism is the term I use to distinguish the the progressive ideology from other forms of Marxism.

    Thank you Henry. I partially get it. Still not quite there but a step taken.

    • #6
    • December 18, 2019, at 6:42 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Mike H Coolidge

    Wokness is basically trying to outdo one another on taking leftist consensus on things like sexism, gender, and race to an ever increasing extreme in a performative way.

    Basically you try to post on Twitter or Facebook about this really benign sounding thing that no one else has noticed is really super racists and sexist. It’s especially prevalent among cisgender straight white men and women with an outsized sense of self-guilt.

    • #7
    • December 18, 2019, at 7:06 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. Manny Member

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Wokness is basically trying to outdo one another on taking leftist consensus on things like sexism, gender, and race to an ever increasing extreme in a performative way.

    Basically you try to post on Twitter or Facebook about this really benign sounding thing that no one else has noticed is really super racists and sexist. It’s especially prevalent among cisgender straight white men and women with an outsized sense of self-guilt.

    And you’re “awake” to the problematic racism that is hidden. I think I get it now. Thanks.

    • #8
    • December 18, 2019, at 7:22 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Old Bathos Moderator

    Very thoughtful list.

    I suggest that an important aspect of how wokeness fosters despair is missing.

    Wokeness demands that we assert fealty to ever-changing demands and that we are perpetually accountable for such stands once taken. Today we may be on Twitter destroying some hapless transgressor whose Twitter feed reveals past remarks now verboten (but correct when made) notions about homosexuality, feminism or race. But we know full well that tomorrow we could be held accountable for what we just tweeted. We are just as vulnerable as a senior Chinese Communist Party Member suddenly in a dunce cap and abused by Red Guards or like Rubashov (Darkness at Noon) awaiting execution by the revolution he once helped to lead. The revolution is whatever it is in the moment but people have histories and impermissible attachments to and awareness of the pre-revolutionary past.

    Wokeness means (a) there is no truth–PC is whatever PC says it is and there are no safe, stable places of moral and cognitive permanence; and, (b) there can be no forgiveness because there is no God nor anyone on earth with the authority to forgive.  The target must grovel before his accusers and be destroyed without hope of redemption. The intensity of the anger of his tormentors is fueled by their awareness of their own weakness and vulnerability to the whims of an all-devouring false god whom they suspect will someday devour them as well. 

    Young white heterosexual men decrying their own whiteness know at some level that they are merely delaying some horrific judgment from which there will be no escape.

    Wokeness is no truth, no God, no forgiveness. Everyone’s own nature, cognition, and our very being are deemed inimical to the revolution which is, in essence, an attack on our humanity orchestrated by an ancient enemy.

     

    • #9
    • December 20, 2019, at 6:31 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you for this beautifully composed if tragic observation of the current culture, Henry.

    I just want to add that Advent is a time to look backward to the Incarnation and a time to look forward to the Second Coming — to the ultimate coming of The Kingdom — the restoration of right-relation between God and all of creation. This is why Advent is a penitential season: repent and be reconciled. 

    Wokeism is a form of despair because we know we aren’t capable of perfecting this world. Utopia is nowhere. Without God, there is no hope. And, therefore, one can only elevate his status by preaching the “gospel” of despair. 

    The Christian message is the complete opposite. The way to increase one’s standing is to sacrifice oneself for the good of others, in imitation of Christ, and by the grace of God. No greater love than this… Our heart (nature) is restless until it rests in Thee. 

    Merry Christmas.

    • #10
    • December 20, 2019, at 6:52 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve copies your post to print and send it along to some Woke acquaintances. Giving you credit, of course.

    • #11
    • December 20, 2019, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne

    @jimmcconnell

    Fine by me. I’m all about adding to a useful debate. Steel manning and all that.

    • #12
    • December 23, 2019, at 1:59 AM PST
    • 1 like
  13. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne

    I’m should have quoted Theodore Dalrymple. Nothing like some fine dry British prose.

    And, of course, further education has vastly expanded the range of what we do not like or disapprove of. Whole swathes of further education have been transformed into schools of grievance and resentment turned into the guiding principle of life. Few are the people who, with a little encouragement, cannot become aggrieved. Almost everyone is a member of some group or other that can claim to have been ill-used at some time in the past, the effects of ill-usage being multigenerational and to increase with the passage of time as they are examined ever more closely. In these circumstances, we become ever more sensitive, or rather hypersensitive. A joke becomes the equivalent of a lynching and a remark, or even a true statement, the same as the pulled trigger of a gun.

    • #13
    • December 25, 2019, at 3:02 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    I came late to this party. Awesome, thoughtful post. 

    …whenever [Obama] tried to appeal to what we should be, he spoke in the most banal and vague terms. In a similar fashion, academic and West Coast tech types love saying that diversity is our strength. But what they mean by diversity is either nothing or some kind of amorphous solidarity. But solidarity towards what?

    Was reading a WSJ review of some books and one of them, Return of the Strong Gods by Rusty Reno, was said to address the quality of being against things as a kind of ‘weak god’. 

    It is reductive to define yourself by what you are against; and also exhausting as the list of things you can decide are wrong or evil is nearly endless – particularly if you decide that you hate everything connected to a person or group that exhibits a wrongness. This is cancerous anti-branding where despising – rightly – the actions and ethos of a post-antebellum* KKK lynch mob is transubstantiated to hatred the South in general (throw in the Midwest too, because why not?), for Christians in toto, and white people as a race unless they resonate at your same hate frequency. 

    (It is with dark irony that Wokism thinks of straight, white, middle-class Christians the way the most vulgar minority of Christians think of homosexuals).

    ‘You shouldn’t hate us because hate is wrong’ vs ‘You shouldn’t hate us because hate is wrong so we will hate you back twice as hard.’ 

    This ‘hate you back twice as hard’ may go some way to explaining Muslim antipathy to the Jewish belief that Jews are G-d’s chosen (I imagine some people on hearing the phrase ‘G-d’s chosen’ will assume that Jews think they’re better than everyone else, and really, if you suspect someone of being smug what choice do you have but to exterminate his entire race?). 

    And if there is, as you suggest, no redemption to be had in this woke ethos, and there is no afterlife then judgement is at hand; 

    Account Suspended due to violations of the code of conduct. 

    “His name does not appear in the Book of Face, Oh Lord.” 

    ___________
    *Or just ‘bellum’? 
    • #14
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:01 PM PST
    • 1 like