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Mar 15, 2023·edited Mar 15, 2023

Now that the Soviet Union is gone, and People Of Influence And Authority no longer have to toss the masses a bone or two, they would much prefer that we dissipate our energy on dreary arguments about cultural appropriation and how many LGTBQXYZPDQ+ can dance on the head of a pin, endless and endlessly performative struggle sessions, rather than raise uncomfortable questions about how the economic pie is sliced, why the humans are feasting on salmon and prime steak and the family pets must be content with off-brand dry kibble that smells musty.

Put another way - to paraphrase Chris Hedges - elites will gladly discuss race, they will decry gender inequality most piteously, they will demonstrate a touching concern for the rights of sexual and gender minorities so oppressed that they have not even been discovered yet. They are so open-minded that they will even feign sensitivity to those who call themselves a different species, for Bastet's sake. Those same elites will not readily discuss economic class.

Or, in the negative formulation - if businesses were to stop opposing unionization of their workers, the result would be a transfer of wealth, of *concrete* *material* *benefits*, to brown and black and yellow and tabby and white working class people and cats greater than all the allyship statements ever penned, all the diversity committees ever instituted, all the preferred pronoun tags ever attached to a corporate email. Which is precisely why they will not do this.

With foregoing in mind:

1. Always remember to keep your eye on the money.

2. Never forget to keep your eye on the money.

3. Always remember to never forget to keep your eye on the money.

4. Never forget to always remember to keep your eye on the money.

Everything else is smoke and mirrors designed to get you to violate one or more of above-listed tenets and dissipate your energy into something harmless.

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And on top of that, woke politics are extremely unpleasant and mean. Its adherents do nothing but wake up every morning and look for someone to dunk on.

And if something good happens for them, like Everything Everywhere All at Once winning a bunch of awards, they just can't take the W. They still find reason to yell at and scold people, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

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"I’d rather woke politics win than conservatism," particularly religious conservatism.

I re-upped my subscription just to say this. They. Are. The. Same. Thing.

Exactly the same thing. "Woke" is a "religious conservatism" for a new age. They are two sides of the same coin.

Let's take your points:

1. Academics or the church: they both set themselves up as the *superior* moral arbiters of society. Everyone else is expected to get in line and accept their betters' instruction or be condemned of heresy/bigotry for not having sufficient belief.

2. "Woke politics are overwhelmingly concerned with the linguistic, the symbolic, and the emotional to the detriment of the material, the economic, and the real." And what is conservatism, particularly cultural conservatism, concerned with? Also the linguistic, the symbolic, and the emotional. Definitely not the science-based and reality-based or the nuanced and relative.

3. Also very religious: "The structural problems (such as racism) are represented as fundamentally combated with individual moral correctness" and " woke politics typically treats all political struggle as a matter of the individual mastering themselves and behaving correctly."

4. Again, religion: "“emotionalist” rather than emotional, meaning not necessarily inappropriately emotional but concerned fundamentally with emotions as the currency of politics." In two words, belief and virtue. If you attend church it doesn't matter, what you do the rest of the week. If you paint the bullets multiple colors (Raytheon, I'm talking about you), it doesn't matter that your very business is the destruction of life, often innocent life.

5. Fatalistic? Go read Romans 3: Here's just a taste, 21 to 26: "21. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

As for the world being irredeemable, whether it's Armageddon or the "Green Revolution," both are a wiping away of "sinful" human beings.

6. "Insistent that all political questions are easy - woke people speak and act as though there are no hard political questions and no such thing as a moral dilemma." I don't think I need to say more.

7. "Possessed of belief in the superior virtue of the oppressed." The "saved" and the "damned." That's all it is, but it's right back to the Christian idea of predestination with a little of "blessed are ye who have suffered" even if they never really did so, or "suffering" to them is not having a wifi.

8. "Enabling people who aren’t Black or Southern to say “y’all” - this one is unforgivable." Amen.

I'm sorry to rant, but it's so obvious if you've spent any amount of time around religious people, or in my particular case, Christian evangelicals.

So those of us in the sane secular middle are fighting a religious war on both sides because, while we weren't looking, religion circled around (because everything is circular), transformed itself, and came raging back, even though it wears the face of secular terminology, though it's changing that terminology as you point out in #1.

But not to put too fine point on it, you really, really don't want either side to "win," because it's not a matter of picking your evil. It's the same rabidly intolerant evil with two different faces.

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Mar 15, 2023·edited Mar 15, 2023

On 2) and especially 3), I have lately been developing the notion that "wokeness" is a fundamentally neoliberal response to the problem of social injustice. Undergirding the philosophy of neoliberalism is a sort of hyper-individualism, and I think we see that manifest in wokeness. There's an acknowledgment of social problems like racism and sexism and etc, but because neoliberalism fundamentally abhors any kind of collective solution you get what we have. That this "solution" is accompanied by a whole lot of great market opportunities for DEI consultants & allows large organizations to pay their way into virtue is not a coincidence. Likewise it is not a coincidence that threatening individuals' labor income is one of the primary tactics to enforce compliance.

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Woke politics strike me as inherently being the purview of the deeply "privileged".

I mean, I'm a fortunate person. I grew up in a middle class household. I graduated from an affluent public school. I went to a perfectly good state college, followed by law school. By no stretch of the imagination am I what society would consider deeply oppressed or disadvantaged.

And yet, the pragmatic has ALWAYS taken precedence over feelings.

I've never once had the time to sit around and worry about whether I'm the victim of a micro aggression, because there have been too many actual, black-and-white aggression aggressions to deal with.

I don't want a social media banner with bad Alegria art congratulating me on the many accomplishments of women for Women's History Month; I want the time and health coverage to go see a gynecologist. Barring that, I'd probably settle for a nap and a free coffee.

I've tolerated any number of sexist comments in the workplace over the years--I didn't think those were bad places for women to work at all. I thought they were excellent places for women to work, because they hired women and paid well. I would happily recommend them as great workplaces for any woman who is working not to fulfill some deep psychic need, or to advance some theoretical cause, but to be able to pay the mortgage.

And on it goes.

Feelings are important.

Words are important.

Human beings aren't machines. The things people say to us are important, and societal messaging has a very real impact on people's lives.

But also, the amount of privilege a person has to have to HONESTLY believe that words are violence, and that the world should be governed based on the feelings of somebody else is...kind of astounding.

Because even to give these progressives the benefit of the doubt, it's clear that they're working from a very different place than 99% of the population regarding Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

By all means, teach kids that black is beautiful, and that gay people deserve to be loved, whatever other feel good message seems appropriate. But then, come up with some actual, concrete actions. Actual, concrete actions that actual people from different walks of life can all agree on, and that can realistically be implemented in the world that we presently live in. Otherwise, it is just whining and navel gazing.

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Ugh you’re right about “y’all.”

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"I’d rather woke politics win than conservatism."

Jesus Freddie - did you really just write that? So you have been ideologically captured by woke as a viable thing? Really, when the quest for free speech and free expression is your topic de jur and conservatism is the side of politics demanding the same, and woke is demanding it be destroyed as a historical relic... you are going to favor woke over conservatism?

You see... this is why we cannot have nice things.

I think "Woke" is fine because it is a pejorative. Personally, I would also consider "Woke Racist" to borrow from John McWhorter. The problem with just calling it social justice is that social justice is focused on equality, equal opportunity... it lives within the constitution and laws on the books. Woke is an ideology. It derives from the fake scholarship of Critical Theory which blatantly says that it is all about capturing political power. It really has nothing to do with social justice. The woke practitioners just exploit victim groups to their end of achieving political power. That is why rank and file Democrats latch onto it. It seems you are doing the same... accepting the evil of that Pandor's Box just because you hate Republicans and conservatism. This is not a good look... and it, along with Republicans that vote against Trump because of his mean Tweets... are the reason we even have this woke crap within the Democrat party.

This is a big deal. It is our extensional threat. But you seem to be waffling on it.

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I'm embarrassed to admit, I'm reformed woke. Like I was an early adopter, teaching the now woke the ways I was taught by the elite I was surrounded by back in 2013.

I worked in progressive politics, I started as a union organizer in the mid 00s. I grew up in a blue collar, working class household that had good years and bad years, I worked my way through college. Then I worked in politics and was surrounded by people who came from impossible backgrounds and went to schools I never heard of but I understood then to be prestigious, so out of the intense desire to fit in and not let people know about my lack of pedigree, I adopted their language then their thought process, then I endlessly battered people I care about and didn't talk to them for years.

I'm deeply ashamed of the way I behaved, though I would argue there was some pretty ill behavior in return. Regardless, this sort of Orthodox, moralist politics isn't effective, it doesn't work.

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Since you last posted on this topic, I’ve been working on a definition that I post any time someone says “you can’t even define what woke means”. Then I update it based on the responses/discussion”

I’d love to hear what people here think.

Here is my current long version:

“A morally absolute political ideology focused on ”experienced” oppression based primarily on exclusionary group identification (such as race, gender, ability, etc). These precepts are presented as self-righteous demands that must be treated as self-evident, universally true and mandatory no matter how internally inconsistent or counter-productive they may be in practice. The promotion of these ideas (and any perceived or derived concepts from those ideas) supersedes any fundamental individual civil rights such as freedom of speech and any expression of contradictory personal religious or moral beliefs. Failure to comply is punished by social exclusion and expulsion from employment.”

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Tim Urban uses the term “social justice fundamentalism”, which I find quite fitting

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Mar 15, 2023·edited Mar 15, 2023

This is perhaps what you mean by “emotionalist,” but I am struck by the predominance of therapeutic/self-help/vaguely Buddhist terminology in woke-speak. In fact I think if its linguistic tics were merely academic, wokeness wouldn’t be nearly so off putting for the uninitiated. It’s the bizarre and ugly combination of academic-ese and therapy-ese (and, to the extent that it’s distinct, activist-ese) that makes it intolerable, impenetrable, and therefore self-defeating.

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wow. this was well written and cogent. captures the essence

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Ultimately, much of the focus of "woke" purity is spiritual -- it's a fundamentalist religion for people who are no longer Christians to achieve some sense of moral righteousness. That's why it's so puritanical. Of course this is a secular movement, but the social dynamics are no different from the most severe Calvinism.

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For anybody who is interested in deBoer's exploration of "emotionalism" I strongly recommend Jonathan Haidt's Substack.

"Greg is prone to depression, and after hospitalization for a serious episode in 2007, Greg learned CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). In CBT you learn to recognize when your ruminations and automatic thinking patterns exemplify one or more of about a dozen “cognitive distortions,” such as catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, fortune telling, or emotional reasoning. Thinking in these ways causes depression, as well as being a symptom of depression. Breaking out of these painful distortions is a cure for depression.

"What Greg saw in 2013 were students justifying the suppression of speech and the punishment of dissent using the exact distortions that Greg had learned to free himself from."


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The reason for this is the argument tactic of just assuming any decent person is on board with their assumptions about the world and how it should be. That way you start an argument having to contend with the assertion you are a bigot for not just nodding along with the latest social justice axioms.

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I'd love to read a sort of memetic analysis of why this ideology has been so successful in the contemporary social landscape. How it's readily transmitted, what beliefs or practices stabilize it, what psychological functions it serves for its adherents, etc. The swiftness and thoroughness of it victory in many spaces is just remarkable. The practice of naming-and-shaming (or canceling, whatever you like) is surely a part of it--some people have submitted due to fear. But something had to normalize that practice in the first place. Maybe it was the newfound viability of recruiting huge numbers of people to gang up on someone, and the appearance of a quick and satisfying "victory" in a political climate where meaningful change is difficult and rare. That's one that sticks out to me and I'm sure has been noted before, but this thing has probably evolved a lot of interesting properties that could be useful to know about.

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