Black pilled British philosopher John Gray recently wrote about the unpleasantness currently taking place in the late, not-so-great-anymore US; the title of his piece neatly summarizes the content: “The woke have no vision of the future.” In it, he compares the woke revolutionaries (Wokeists? Wokeati?) not so much to Bolsheviks as to millenarians (autocorrect is prompting me to change this into “seminarians”–Stalin, anyone?) who, “released by divine grace,” raged against moral and societal restraints several hundred years ago.
He crystallizes this sentiment in the following: “Yet the impulses that animate the woke uprising are different from those that energised Lenin or even Mao. For the Bolshevik leader — an authentic disciple of the Jacobin Enlightenment, or so he always insisted — violence was a tool, not an end in itself. In woke movements such as Antifa, on the other hand, violence seems to be mainly therapeutic in its role.”
His elaborates conveniently on this two paragraphs later: “Woke activists, in contrast, have no vision of the future. In Leninist terms they are infantile leftists, acting out a revolutionary performance with no strategy or plan for what they would do in power. Yet their difference from Lenin goes deeper. Rather than aiming for a better future, woke militants seek a cathartic present. Cleansing themselves and others of sin is their goal. Amidst vast inequalities of power and wealth, the woke generation bask in the eternal sunshine of their spotless virtue” (emphasis mine).
In contrast to this, poet and cultural commentator extraordinaire Linh Dinh makes the case in “Your Black Future” that “[t]o better understand what’s happening, though, we should reexamine Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Lasting a full decade, it destroyed much of China’s cultural heritage and tore that society apart, all in the name of getting rid of the ‘Four Olds’: old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas.
It was a reign of terror against man, civilization and China itself, but it had to be done, for there was a socialist utopia at the end of the blood splattered tunnel, said Mao.”
Achieving a socialist utopia, as the secular version of crossing the River Jordan, as the motivation for Mao’s revolution supports, I think, Gray’s contention that at least Maoists had a guiding vision while today’s useful-idiot Wokeists have nothing more than meet-ups during which to strategize the statues that will fall next.
Perhaps the reason that Dinh makes this comparison is because of the undeniable resemblance of attitude and methodology: “Mao’s shock troops were high school and university students, woke idiots, in short, with their little Red Book. They denounced professors, intellectuals and artists, torched temples and monasteries, burnt books and paintings, smashed art objects, tore bits from the Great Wall and vandalized the 2,400-year-old cemetery of the Kong Clan, where Confucius himself was buried. Digging up one of his descendants, they hung the naked corpse from a tree.”
As far as I know, no one has yet discussed digging up men of oppression and desecrating their corpses, but is it inconceivable given everything else? Really, had I the time and energy to be a troll, I would start an anonymous Twitter account with the aim of proposing the most outlandish ideas possible simply to see how many would soon start parroting them, but unironically. (The time has come to send those of European descent back to Europe! Let them continue to practice their institutionalized forms of racism in countries that their ancestors abandoned in order to spread oppression to the New World. Only those who will bend the knee will be allowed to stay, provided they continue to develop advances in medicine, maintain infrastructure, and create labor-saving technology that will rightly and justly benefit people of color! [Notice how young girls and revolutionaries alike lurv to use exclamation marks.])
In reference to Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (a book that I have had on a shelf for ten years and have still not read), Gray states: “For Cohn, the study of medieval millenarians was an essential part of understanding modern totalitarianism. It is also useful in understanding the woke movement. Medieval flagellants and woke militants combine a sense of their own moral infallibility with a passion for masochistic self-abasement. Medieval millenarians believed the world would be remade by God when Jesus returned after a millennium of injustice (millenarians are also known as chiliasts, chiliad being a thousand years), while the woke faithful believe divine intervention is no longer necessary: their own virtue will be sufficient. In both cases, nothing needs to be done to bring about a new world apart from destroying the old one.”
Like the chiliasts, the Wokeists believe that there is no need to first remove the logs in their eyes, for, lo and behold, there are no logs to remove. Thus, they can spend all their energy on pointing out the perceived specks in the eyes of others (who do not even get the benefit of being told this in a spirit of loving fraternal correction, as the Biblical basis would show us should be present if we are going to say anything at all)–even if it involves the removal of another’s eyes to get at the specks, as historically we have seen done to statues destroyed by Islamic “renovation” forces. However, it might be more accurate to say that once catechumens abase themselves publicly, a ceremony that, like baptism, unites them to the community of believers, they are thus freed from the original sin of racism and are now free to cast aspersions on those who willfully remain stained by this modern reinterpretation of original sin.
Call me cynical, but I doubt that a desire for justice animates this movement–if it can be called even that. I have studied ideas and language long enough to know that when a call for justice is made, usually it is intentionally left vague enough to accommodate any ad hoc political demands that follow. I have not studied the official platform of Black Lives Matter, so perhaps something cogent and particular has been laid out. Yet going by the disparate media I have consumed, I have not heard anything more than reiterative demands to defund the police, remove offending statues, and attack institutionalized racism. As a consequence, though, statues have been removed and will continue be removed. The four officers involved in the death of George Floyd will be tried. Police departments all across the country are reconsidering the amount of training in conflict resolution given to officers, and many will probably experience funding “reallocation.” Yet in listening to the mostly incoherent and vapid discussions, what I detect is not just anger at how black males are treated by cops (justifiable anger in many cases), but that black males are arrested at all–or at least at the rates that they are.
Anyone who cares to look, though, can easily find studies and statistics that should deflate the narratives being floated through the media. According this study published in 2016, officers are more hesitant to shoot armed black suspects than white ones and less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than white ones. This very recently published study reports that blacks are more likely to be killed in encounters with police; however, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, relative to population size, blacks are much more likely to be involved in violent crimes than whites. One staggering statistic is that while blacks currently make up only thirteen percent of the US population, blacks were responsible for more than fifty percent of homicides (mostly of other blacks) from 1980-2008. In addition, given absolute population size, more whites than blacks are killed by the police. Of course, no one would argue that cops–like anyone else of any color–are incapable of racism or have never acted in a racist manner. Still to insist that systematic racism infests the police flies in the face of reputable evidence. Then again, if historical reminders can be toppled, why not studies and statistics?
None of this will quiet the clamoring mouths or still the frantic fingers of those whose idea of justice is that blacks, relative to their population, should have arrest rates, conviction rates, and incarceration rates comparable–if not lower–than that of whites. This, however, leads to issues that go far beyond the criminal justice system. This leads to the notion that a truly just and a truly fair society would see comparable rates of success and prosperity across the board, race notwithstanding. The problem with this is twofold: One, uniformity of results is not a logical extension of the idea of justice, and two, a phenomenon that has never been observed (comparable rates of success by all persons or groups considered) should not serve as the take-it-or-leave-it standard by which an institution–or nation–is judged worthy to persist.
I think that ultimately what we are seeing is a movement against the only sane and historically accurate view of humanity, one that allows for both the inspiring heights and sobering depths of human potential. A recent episode of !fabulous! Milo’s Friday Night’s All Right (I think one can view this only if a subscriber to Censored TV) with the University of Chicago Medieval studies professor Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown as his guest sent me down various rabbit thought trails. One is that statues remind us that extraordinary people have existed and maybe still exist. They might not be the most moral, but they are still undeniably important and demand our attention. Today’s nihilists do not want to believe that anyone can be momentous because that will then challenge them to examine how lackluster their own lives are, given over to their destabilizing passions and self-centered interests. Another, as pointed out by Milo and Dr. Brown, is that the statues that have been toppled bear the traits of neo-classical design, a style that attracted–as opposed to alienated–the observer. How many abstract monuments are we seeing removed or defaced? This seems to reveal a hatred of the high aspirations of art that were once encouraged in the West–and thus a hatred of the West. Finally, as Dr. Brown reminded us, America is a nation founded by iconoclasts. Our roots were planted in the fetid soil of the Protestant Revolution, err, Reformation. After all, is not the spirit of the Reformation to be always reforming? Is Black Lives Matter any different in spirit than quitter monk Martin Luther? (Perhaps it is God’s warped sense of humor that the figure who plays so prominently in the movement was named after the perfidious priest. In fact, MLK’s shouting “I’m fucking for God!” while cheating on his wife by screwing prostitutes sounds like something that could have come straight from Martin Luther’s Table Talk…)
To return to the musings of the author who opened this essay: The Wokeists are performing their psychodrama with no script in hand on a national stage as the world watches, using violence for the catharsis of the actors themselves, not the audience, reversing what Aristotle wrote was the purpose of theater. Every performance ends with a “to be continued” at the next monument. Heaven help them–and us all–when the theater curtains catch fire.