The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The Woke

Those of us who disagree with the arguments that characterize Critical Social Justice Theory (CSJT) have noticed one uniform characteristic that all of its adherents adopt. They refuse to debate the elements of "wokeness" in any calm and public manner, relying instead on attacking those who question the core values of CSJT. If you question any of the "woke" dictates that now pervade our culture, you are a "racist," or a "misogynist," or a "white supremacist, or "fragile" .. you know the list of epithets. 

In fact, it goes even deeper than debate. The woke try very, very hard to silence any opinion that conflicts with theirs, working with their media hamsters to avoid interviews with the unwoke, stories that might cause others to question woke attitudes, or facts or data that call wokeness into question. That's the objective of "cancel culture"—the silencing on any dissent from the leftist line. Lance Morrow, in an article entitled "Dawn of the Woke, characterizes it this way" "Joe McCarthy was a B-movie monster. Today’s cancel culture is more like a zombie apocalypse."

James Lindsey (read the whole thing) comments on this:
There are a number of points within Critical Social Justice Theory that would see having a debate or conversation with people of opposing views as unacceptable, and they all combine to create a mindset where that wouldn’t be something that adherents to the Theory are likely or even willing to do in general. This reticence, if not unwillingness, to converse with anyone who disagrees actually has a few pretty deep reasons behind it, and they’re interrelated but not quite the same. They combine, however, to produce the first thing everyone needs to understand about this ideology: it is a complete worldview with its own ethics, epistemology, and morality, and theirs is not the same worldview the rest of us use. Theirs is, very much in particular, not liberal. In fact, theirs advances itself rather parasitically or virally by depending upon us to play the liberal game while taking advantage of its openings. That’s not the same thing as being willing to play the liberal game themselves, however, including to have thoughtful dialogue with people who oppose them and their view of the world. Conversation and debate are part of our game, and they are not part of their game.
Lindsey goes on to suggest that strong adherents of CSJT believe that the entire system is designed to oppress them and those who they perceive as victims. Hence, they argue that the United States is "systemically racist." They struggle to provide actual examples of this, particularly during the past 50 years, but the accusation is all that matters. It allows them to advocate extreme positions like "defunding the police" or promoting the anti-historical canard that the origins of the United States were formed (in 1619) to promote slavery.

Adherents to CJST have become so extreme that they view common intellectual and academic discourse as racist and oppressive (hence, a cowardly segment of academia has tripped over itself to eliminate these). Lindsey notes the work on CSJT theorist, Allison Bailey who suggests that the critical thinking that permeates Western thought is nothing but "Master's Tools" intended to keep the oppressed (in this case people of color) down. Lindsey writes:
Here, the “master’s tools” are explicitly named by Bailey as including soundness and validity of argument, conceptual clarity, and epistemic adequacy (i.e., knowing what you’re talking about) and can easily be extended to science, reason, and rationality, and thus also to conversation and debate. The “master’s house” is the “organizational schemata” laid out by Kristie Dotson as the prevailing knowing system. Her claim is that these tools—essentially all of the liberal ones—cannot dismantle liberal societies from within, which is their goal, because they are the very tools that build and keep building it.

Bailey’s point is clear: the usual tools by which we identify provisional truths and settle scholarly disagreements are part of the hegemonically dominant system that, by definition, cannot be sufficiently radical to create real revolutionary change (a “third-order” change, as Dotson has it). That is, they can’t reorder society in the radical way they deem necessary. 
The true woke are dangerous because they reject "science, reason, and rationality" and replace it all with arguments that are not supported by any objective assessment of reality. 

It gets worse. Again from Lindsey:
... the organizing principle of the [CSJT] worldview is that two things structure society: discourses and systems of power maintained by discourses. Regarding the systems of power, their underlying belief is genuinely that of the Critical Theorists: society is divided into oppressors versus oppressed, and the oppressors condition the beliefs and culture of society such that neither they nor the oppressed are aware of the realities of their oppression. That is, everyone who isn’t “Woke” to the realities of systemic oppression lives in a form of false consciousness ... 

Adherents to this worldview will not want to have conversations or debate with people who do not possess a critical consciousness because there’s basically no point to doing such a thing. Unless they can wake their debate or conversation partner up to Wokeness on the spot, they’d see it as though they’re talking to zombies who can’t even think for themselves. 
In their view, only the woke see the world accurately. Everyone else is deluded into thinking that centuries of Western thought have meaning. All that matters to the woke is a world organized into victims and oppressors. The woke believe that if you're a victim, you're too weak and propagandized (is that, in and of itself, a racist position?) to fend for yourself. And if you're an oppressor (think: the notion of "white privilege") you're beyond redemption and cannot be engaged until you repent.

Lindsey goes on to discuss other aspects of wokeness (well worth a read). Then he concludes:
One of the biggest mistakes we keep making as liberals who do value debate, dialogue, conversation, reason, evidence, epistemic adequacy, fairness, civility, charity of argument, and all these other “master’s tools” is that we can expect that advocates of Critical Social Justice also value them. They don’t. Or, we make the mistake that we can possibly pin Critical Social Justice advocates into having to defend their views in debate or conversation. We can’t.
The woke are a perfect fit for the Wonderland (and here) world we've created in 2020. They are not simply goofy ideologues who have nonsensical ideas that are so far out of the mainstream that they're laughable. They are the 21st century analog to the theorists who parented the Khmer Rogue or Chavez' Venezuela—extreme ideologues who can convince themselves that their world view must prevail by any means necessary. 

And if the new, hard-left Democrats attain power in this country, I fear that the views of the woke will hold sway. As a result, "oppression" won't disappear, it will just shift from one group to another.

Lance Morrow provides a harsh but accurate condemnation of the Woke and their propensity for cancelling their opposition when he writes:
The country’s myriad cancelers emit the odor not of sanctity but of sanctimony, and of something more ominous: the whiff of a society decomposing.

What’s happening on the American left—with surreal rapidity, like the fall of France in 1940—is sinister. Wokeness and the cancel culture represent not idealism but virtue gone clinically insane. Look up the word hysteria: “a psychological disorder whose symptoms include . . . shallow, volatile emotions, and overdramatic or attention-seeking behavior.”

The indignant woke, who imagine themselves to be righteously awake and laying the foundations for a more just and humane world, ought to pause—to draw back for a moment, and consider the possibility that they are, as it were, fast asleep, caught up in strange, agitated dreams: that they have become a mass joined in a cult of self-righteousness, moral vanity and privilege. One of these days, they will have to be deprogrammed and led back to the real world. Woke institutions will need to be fumigated.
The frightening thing is that it's unlikely that they will be.