A virus that is spreading relentlessly through our society, mutating into new forms against which we do not have an effective vaccine. Leaking out of a postmodern laboratory, it took hold on our university campuses and is now spreading out of control in the community.
There is no vaccine and any hope of living in a zero woke community has vanished. No child is too young to escape a lecture on inclusivity and diversity. Barbie has recorded a YouTube video to talk about racism with her friend Nikki, a doll of colour.
Thomas the Tank Engine is not an anthropomorphised version of an E2 class locomotive from the 1920s. He ‘represents a conservative political ideology that punishes individual initiative, opposes critique and change, and relegates females to supportive roles.’ The oppression is obvious. Of the 49 characters in Thomas, only eight are female including a high-maintenance diesel locomotive with tickets on herself and a couple of whiny carriages dragged along helplessly in Thomas’ wake. Thank goodness, Mr Potato Head who has been cleansed of toxic masculinity by Hasbro and will be marketed simply as Potato Head.
What we are witnessing is something on a whole new scale from what used to be called political correctness. Underlying wokeness is a dangerous, utopian ideology that has its roots in Marxism and is hellbent on destroying the institutions of liberal democracy, Christianity and the family.
Its intellectual credentials are found in the world of Social Justice studies spelt with a capital S and a capital J. It adopts the post-modern concepts that reality is a social construct, that truth is subjective, and the course of history is pre-determined by hegemonic power structures.
The scholarship, if we can call it that, incorporates critical race theory, post-colonial theory, queer theory, fat studies, transgender theory, and a range of related ‘theories’ that have been reified and turned into fact.
The most thorough examination of the phenomenon so far is the book Cynical Theories by James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, in which they describe social justice theory as ‘a kind of Theory of Everything, a set of unquestionable truths with a capital T.’
The Gospel of Social Justice is contained in a series of academic texts ‘that express with absolute certainty that all white people are racist, all men are sexist, racism and sexism are systems that can exist and oppress absent even a single person with racist or sexist intentions or beliefs, that sex is not biological and exists on a spectrum, that language can be lethal violence, that denial of gender identity is killing people, that seeking to remedy disability and obesity is hateful, and everything needs to be decolonised.’
How did this abstruse cult-like form of social philosophy spread beyond obscure academic journals to be embedded in our cultural, political, and corporate institutions?
The power of woke is that it can be seen as a status symbol, a totem that identifies membership of a tribe of educated people who see the world in clearer terms than others.
The theory of luxury beliefs was framed by American social psychologist Rob Henderson two years ago. Woke can be regarded as a niche product, like quinoa, kale, or goji berries, that proves strangely appealing to the expanding class of hipster graduates who have emerged from bloated universities with sparkling credentials but little real knowledge.
In common with privileged people throughout the ages, they are compelled to signal their superior worth. Once they would have adopted luxury goods as conspicuous displays of wealth. But with material goods now cheaper, and luxury items more widely available, they are drawn instead to a set of luxury beliefs.
Sociologist Thorstein Veblen’s famous ‘leisure class’ has evolved into the ‘luxury belief class’. Conspicuous consumption has given way to conspicuous convictions as a status marker.
The woke virus has spread so rapidly because of the shrinking influence of religion and with it the Judeo-Christian principles that shaped the once-unchallenged social conventions. In a religious society, a common faith is the basis for a common moral understanding of the world, our obligations to one another, and the measure by which to judge good or bad character.
The absence of religion leads not to enlightenment, but to moral confusion and uncertainty. In this sociological sense, wokeism is a religion, a set of unquestioned truths and sacred objects that form the framework for an internally coherent world view.
This is true even though wokeism is avowedly secular, and its adherents would bristle at any comparison between Social Justice Theory and a religious creed.
The appeal of wokeism is that it offers the allure of virtue, rewarding believers with a special state of grace. Those who accept this vision are deemed to be not merely factually correct but morally on a higher plane. Those who disagree with the prevailing vision are seen as being not merely in error, but in sin.
In the words of economist Thomas Sowell, ‘People are never more sincere than when they assume their own moral superiority.’
This moral force also accounts for its power to silence every opposing thought.
Defining yourself as being against racism, sexism and homophobia and for a just and inclusive society is an effective way to ensure your opponents keep their mouths shut, since those who object lay themselves open to being racist, sexist, insensitive and intolerant.
Conservatives are hesitant to condemn woke excesses; the Black Lives Matter movement is a prime example. The pious display of taking the knee was allowed to creep into public sporting events, despite its pernicious narrative of racial essentialism.
The challenge for conservatives is to find the courage to resist this pernicious ideology that weaponises the language of equality, diversity and inclusiveness in search of an ideal that is fundamentally unequal, monotonous and exclusive.
Far from consenting to the doctrine of woke, most Australians are silently seething, angry that their view of the world is dismissed as ignorant or even sinful.
They are looking for leadership from conservatives, just as the people of Poland looked for leadership from the church and labour unions in the 1980s to give them confidence to stand up to Soviet communism.
It would be premature to argue that we are reaching peak wokeness. Fresh nuttiness will undoubtedly surface but it is possible that the tide is starting to turn and we are developing woke immunity.
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