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Woke world is a simple, black-and-white, never-never land of good and evil, oppressors and oppressed. But everything is simple until you know something about it. Binary morality can rarely endure the light of knowledge and understanding.
In a recent column, George Will writes about “our lumpen intelligentsia”:
An admirable intelligentsia, inoculated by education against fashions and fads, would make thoughtful distinctions arising from historically informed empathy. It would be society’s ballast against mob mentalities. Instead, much of America’s intelligentsia has become a mob.
Seeking to impose on others the conformity it enforces in its ranks, articulate only in a boilerplate of ritualized cant, today’s lumpen intelligentsia consists of persons for whom a little learning is delightful. They consider themselves educated because they are credentialed, stamped with the approval of institutions of higher education that gave them three things: a smattering of historical information just sufficient to make the past seem depraved; a vocabulary of indignation about the failure of all previous historic actors… to match the virtues of the lumpen intelligentsia; and the belief that America’s grossest injustice is the insufficient obeisance accorded to this intelligentsia.
Today’s cancel culture — erasing history, ending careers — is inflicted by people experiencing an orgy of positive feelings about themselves as they negate others…
The cancellers need just enough learning to know, vaguely, that there was a Lincoln who lived when Americans, sunk in primitivism, thought they were confronted with vexing constitutional constraints and moral ambiguities. The cancel culture depends on not having so much learning that it spoils the statue-toppling fun: Too much learning might immobilize the topplers with doubts about how they would have behaved in the contexts in which the statues’ subjects lived.