Opinion | What It Means to Be Woke

This week, conservative writer Bethany Mandel had a moment that could happen to anyone who speaks in public for a living: While promoting a new book critical of progressivism, she was One interviewer asked for a definition of the term “wake up” – a reasonable question, but one that caused her brain to freeze and her words to falter. virus clipwhich, in turn, brings about countless arguments about the word itself: Can it be usefully defined? Is it just a right-wing slur? Is there a widely accepted label for what it is trying to describe?

The answer is yes, sometimes and unfortunately no. Yes of course something real described: The inner revolution of American liberalism is an important ideological transformation of our time. But unlike a case like “neoconservative,” in which a critical term was later adopted by the movement it describes, our climate of ideological hostility makes solve difficult nomenclature.

Personally, I like the term “Great Awakening”, which evokes the origins of neo-progressism in Protestantism – but it is clear that the secular progressives find it despicable. I appreciate the way British writer Dan Hitchens admit the difficulty of definitions by calling the new left-wing politics “Thing” – but that is unlikely to catch up with true Believers.

So let me try another exercise – instead of a brief term or definition, let me write a sketch of the “awakened” worldview, explaining its inner logic as if I also believe in it. (To the reckless reader: This is not my actual belief.)

What is all the best about America? Equality and freedom. All that remains is about, the best of it? Turn those ideals into a living reality.

But this project continued to encounter limitations, disappointments and failures. Wherever you look, the disparity persists. And that persistence will force us to look deeper, beyond efforts to gain legal rights or redistribute wealth, to the cultural and psychological structures that perpetuate oppression before laws and Policy is beginning to play a role. This is what academia has long tried to describe – how generations of racism, homophobia, sexism and heterodox power have inscribed themselves, not just on the law but also into our own souls.

And once you see these forces in action, you can’t help but see them — you’re “awake” — and you can’t accept any analysis that doesn’t acknowledge how they enter their lives. ta.

First, this means rejecting any argument for intergroup differences that emphasizes any force beyond racism or sexism or other oppressive systems. (Indeed, the very measurement of difference — through standardized tests, for example — is certainly itself shaped by these oppressive forces.) Even the differences seem stark. biologically most obvious, like the difference between male and female athletes or the body that people find sexually attractive, should be seen as primarily culturally inscribed — because doing so How can we know what is really biological until we have finished freeing people from the heavy constraints of gender stereotypes?

It also means rejecting or modifying the rules of liberal proceduralism, because in deeply oppressive conditions, liberties themselves are said to be inherently oppressive. You cannot have an effective non-discrimination principle unless you first discriminate for the benefit of the oppressed. You cannot have true freedom of speech unless you first silence some oppressors.

And all of this is necessarily a cultural and psychological project, which is why schools, media, popular culture and languages ​​are essential battlegrounds. Yes, economic policy matters, but the material arrangement is downstream of culture and psychology. Socialists merely appease capitalism, environmentalists merely regulate it. If you want to save the planet or end the rule of greed, you need a different kind of people, not just a system that acknowledges racist patriarchal values ​​and tries to tie them down.

Do you think this is too utopian? Let’s look at a proof of concept, what we’ve seen about gay rights. There, the left overthrew a deeply heterosexual oppressive system by establishing a new cultural consensus, in academia and popular culture and only ultimately in politics and law, using use arguments but also shame, social pressure and other “non-free” means.

And look what we’ve learned: That once homophobia subsides, millions upon millions of young people begin to define them as they really are, as some form of LGBTQ+, finally breaking through the shackles of heterosexuality. That’s why the backlash against the spread of transgender identity among children must be defeated – because this is the beach, the proving ground for total emancipation.

If you find much of this story convincing, even filtered through my conservative mind, whatever “wakes up” describes, it probably describes you accurately.

If you falter at it, welcome to the ranks of the unawakened.

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