Notes on Woke

Written by Peter Pavia

Sometimes it seems as if the institutions of our seasick culture have embraced the same way of thinking, that is, that every problem is a public-relations problem crying out for a public-relations solution. This obsession with creating appearances instead of addressing realities infects the media, the academy, the entertainment industry, and is currently seen in the hilariously cynical cover-your-backside missives of giant corporations. “We at Verizon. . .,” “We at Spectrum …,” “We at Citigroup …”—all reflexively professing to be driven by DEI values: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (and to which recently, a fourth “value” has been added—Belonging. And so, DEIB). But these amorphous ideals are ill-defined except by what opposition to them signifies: bigotry. To a liberal these days—and apparently many if not most of our corporate titans are liberals—there is only one sin, and that is racism.

For at least a generation, we have been drifting from what used to be considered liberalism—Lyndon B. Johnson-style liberalism—towards the rough waters of hysterical leftism. Marxism, Maoism; whatever you want to call it, its characteristics are the same. I don’t think of my philosophical opposites as liberals. They are not. Their zeal for the fight might be rivaled only by that of a Middle Ages abbot for his order and his monastery, which is to say, their passion is religious. And yet even a zealot like Shaun King deserves to be engaged, not dismissed. (And prayed for.)

An activist closely identified with the spread of Critical Race Theory and the Black Lives Matter movement, King is a sometime newspaper columnist who purports to be black—according to his birth certificate he is white—so as to more closely identify with the “oppressed.” King made insta-news last year with his tweet suggesting that all statues depicting Jesus Christ as European are a form of “white supremacy” and deserve to be ripped down. (Makes one wonder, if Our Lord were depicted as an African, and He often is, would King hate him as much?)

Those who suffer most from the implementation of terrible ideas such as King’s hardly have the inclination or the background to oppose them, people who, for want of a better word, I think of as normal. They are living ordinary lives, with jobs and families, and this cultural struggle, which requires a profound amount of time and energy, is essentially esoteric and intellectual. It takes a great deal of effort to keep a family going, a great deal of discipline to show up at a job day after day, and a certain amount of sacrifice to send children to decent schools that don’t exist simply to enrich union members. Despite the fact that my own exertions have tended heavily toward the intellectual (I’m basically a deadbeat writer; somebody’s gotta do it), I have a great deal of experience with the former.

Not to pick on King, whom I consider pathetic, but his fifteen minutes of fame may have expired with his rip-down-the-statue-of-Euro-Jesus tweet. We haven’t heard much from him since. Still, it’s only natural that his ilk seems to be winning the argument over some apolitical mother who’s juggling three children and a job, trying to keep the lights on. She has greater obligations, bound to spiritual and biological destiny. King has, or had (somewhat shopworn by now) media skills that kept him in the white-hot spotlight of controversy, but that light is dimming.

History begins with family. If you were seeking to wipe out history, in order to start anew at some arbitrary and chimeric Year Zero, family independence is what you’d target first. Because with the majority of its citizens dependent on the state, the state can then consolidate its power. It can tell everyone in its “family” what to do. On its official website, Black Lives Matter declared that eradication of the family was a priority; but critics noticed, there was an outcry, and it was edited out. Too late. Everybody had already apprehended one of the movement’s true objectives.

The racialist and identity-politics practitioners consider themselves “woke,” a word we’ve heard hurled about the past few years, implying, of course, that anyone who does not believe as they do is asleep, and they’ve enjoyed their wins (“We at Verizon…”). But the landscape may be shifting. The drive to undermine the family through the educational system, for instance, has hit a rumble strip. While public education appears a lost cause, this is not the case in schools where people spend a lot of money to send their children. Spurred on by an anonymous letter, parents at the elite Dalton School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side rebelled against an aggressive push by administrators to incorporate Critical Race Theory, with its equity gobbledygook and insistence on white self-hatred, into its curriculum. It was time to push back, and some did, removing their children from Dalton’s posh halls.

This was followed by another letter, one that circulated among parents at New York’s prestigious all-girl Brearley School, written by the father of a student who compared the school’s anti-racist obsession to the Chinese Cultural Revolution. At both schools the revolt was led by prosperous Manhattanites, hardly right-wing maniacs. And then, as if on cue, what once happened in a bygone world where the aspirational classes sought to imitate the affluent, the CRT fight filtered down to local school board meetings around the country, which, for a while earlier this summer, became nightly televised donnybrooks with people of all backgrounds and races calling rubbish on the DEIB agenda.

There is something to be said for seizing a political moment, and the tumult of the Trump years sent an electric charge into denizens of the Left, who, like Shaun King, sniffed out their opportunities and pounced. But the cultural aftermath that should command the attention of us all is the ongoing wounding of ordinary people—their families, their children—on whose behalf progressives always insist they are acting. Their policies, more concerned with shaping appearances—or virtue signaling—than tackling realities, undermine their stated goals, brushing aside, for example, disgraces like the abysmal proficiency percentages in the reading and math scores of students marooned in their unionized schools.

But ordinary people have discovered a work-around. The home-schooling movement is booming, fueled by the education that pandemic-marooned parents got observing their children at Zoom school. And I’m starting to hope that the pernicious future I once feared can be kept at bay while traditional thinkers and common-sense folks retake the high ground from our peacock class of preening leaders and the minority of footmen (and women) whose genuine interests they serve. While I can’t predict what the Left might have lurking around the corner, it seems an electric charge may be now animating the Right, and there is no question in my mind that we are past peak-woke.

This article was originally published at The Human Life Review.