“Look on My Wokes, ye Mighty, and Despair!” or Brothers, Don’t Lose Hope

N.S Lyons has a Substack article No, the Revolution Isn’t Over, subtitled None of the fundamental drivers of “Wokeness” have relented. It’s a masterful presentation of the basic facts that explain our dire conditions.

Almost everything he say is correct and important. But the situation is not quite as hopeless as one would think from reading Lyons. There are always reasons for a guarded anti-pessimism. (“Optimism” may be too strong a word.) Since Lyons’s outline of wokeness is useful I quote his section headings, summarize his points, and then give reasons why it’s not quite as hopeless as it first appears.

*

  1. One does not simply walk away from religious beliefs.

Lyons correctly says that Wokeness is a religion in the sense of providing metaphysical principles to order human life. It is based on a simplistic dualism of Good and Evil and rather than being a new invention, Wokeism is deeply connected to the tradition of Western religion and philosophy stretching back thousands of years. Lyons does not develop his opening assertion that one does not simply walk away from religion but if wokeness is an organic development of our civilization, it is not easily rejected.

I add that since Wokeism is egregiously absurd and wicked, no society ordered by it can survive long. Wokeism can do a lot of damage before we discard it but it will eventually be discarded because it doesn’t work.

It is said that you cannot fight something with “nothing,” meaning that you cannot rally the people by condemning evil and nothing more. But the absurd wickedness of Wokeness will eventually break its spell over mankind, leaving the way clear for sane religion to be noticed by the masses.

 

  1. The void of meaning still hasn’t been filled.

Lyons begins his essay by noting a recent spate of hopeful articles predicting successful counterrevolution soon. In response he observes that no new spiritual movement against Wokeness has gained any traction. Wokeness is still the only religion with mass participation and massive influence.

I add that below the surface, away from the Sauron-like eye of the legitimate media and the officially-tolerated national discourse, true religion is strengthening itself by losing its fair-weather adherents and gaining the loyalty of quality people. The Mainstream Structure is still strong, but beginning to corrode and weaken. Beginning with L’Affaire Floyd, residents of the West have had their faces rubbed in the foulness of Wokeness. Previously, those who wanted to ignore the ominous signs could do so. But now the Revolution seeks everyone. Now, it’s personal. People are being forced to take sides. Wokeness is making a lot of enemies.

 

  1. Social atomization hasn’t reversed.

Lyons correctly says that the “little platoons” (families, cohesive neighborhoods, organizations based on shared interests or convictions, mom-and-pop businesses, etc.) which make society actually adhere have been weakened or disbanded by Wokeist action. In their place we have deracine social atoms easily manipulated by oligarchs, demagogues, and bureaucrats.

I add that the murder of traditional society is teaching modern man in the strongest possible way the value of traditionally-ordered society. Nothing makes you value food like being deprived of it. In the recent past modern man believed that the foundational goods of society were an unchangeable given, like the rising of the sun. Now he is learning that he must fight for the goods that mankind needs.

 

  1. Atomization is probably the inevitable byproduct of liberal modernity.

Lyons correctly notes that

…liberalism made the autonomy of the individual its highest good. To maximize individual autonomy, the state therefore found itself obliged…to exercise its power to help progressively liberate the individual from all limits and constraints,…

And also

[Wokeness] often seems mixed up and chaotically self-contradictory: … On the one hand it is actually a kind of anti-liberal reactionary movement, a blind, emotional scramble to grasp desperately for collectivism in the most basic, tribal sort of community seemingly still available: in identity groups…. But, on the other hand, it simultaneously attempts to continue embracing the boundless autonomy of individual choice as its most sacred principle,…

I add that in the long-term logic of things, the toxic results of liberal modernity will eventually discredit it. At his blog View from the Right, the legendary, late blogger Lawrence Auster once observed that liberalism (the articulated doctrine of modernists) can be seen as the verbal description of what it feels like to live in the contemporary world.  (This is from memory; I cannot find the link.) If so, rejection of liberal/Woke policies brought about by the widespread recognition of their destructiveness will limit acceptance of the metaphysical principles underlying these policies.

 

  1. The information revolution is still reverberating.

Lyons notes that

Social scientist Jonathan Haidt, for example, traces [Wokeness] directly to the 2009-2012 period, when Twitter added the retweet button and Facebook added the share button. The resulting acceleration of memetic virality revolutionized the whole dynamic of how people interact with each other on the internet and suddenly made concentrated ideological coercion via distributed online mob[s] a common occurrence.

[Haidt refers to the “universal outrage machine.”]

I add that the ubiquitous woke mobs and universal malevolent surveillance wrought by the Info. Rev. have also awakened people like nothing before to the danger facing them. When you cannot hide, your only option is to fight.

 

  1. There is no authority.

Lyons correctly notes that

[No] institution today is now able to establish any kind of common metaphysical framework, common moral narrative, common vision of a properly ordered life, common norms, or even a common reality that most of society will respect, trust, follow, and collectively defend [.]

I add that our obvious lack of authorities who can teach truth and rule justly is noticed by the masses. They are aware of the problem and are seeking a solution, even if they lack clear self-awareness of the situation. Potential solutions will present themselves, and be sorted out, in time.

 

  1. Political parties can’t choose their policies.

Lyons correctly notes that the Donkey Party cannot just jettison crazy woke policies and initiatives: there are Powers (some behind the scenes and some onstage) who will not permit it.

I add that this kind of thing is always so. No political party that depends on massive numbers of votes can afford openly to defy conventional thinking. The good news is that when enough people reject wokeness, the parties will also reject it.

 

  1. Majorities don’t matter.

Lyons correctly notes that the direction of a society or a political party is always determined by the zealous minority that is willing to use force to achieve its goals and to take as many casualties as needed to achieve victory.

[N.B. “Force” does not necessarily mean “violence,” and casualties need not mean physical injuries.]

I add that the Woke Zealots are indeed fanatical, but they are also fragile of body, mind and spirit. It is not clear that they could win a sustained campaign against a determined foe who can withstand more punishment then they.

Also, quantity has a quality all its own. Enough normal people can sometimes overwhelm a tiny elite.

 

  1. Personnel is policy.

Lyons correctly notes that it does not matter what a new law, President, governor or CEO wants to achieve. In the modern world all operations are controlled by cliques of certified “expert” managers who always execute “best policy.” Executives nominally in control who disagree cannot get anything done because they have no control over the engines or the helm. Wokelings simply ignore orders with which they disagree.

I add that new laws can be the basis for lawsuits whereby recalcitrant managers can sometimes be fired or brought under control. There are enough sane judges that this happens with some frequency. It can happen with more frequency if the anti-woke push harder. True, the nature of society cannot be changed by a few new laws and personnel. But new laws or personnel can increase resistance to wokeness and lots of new laws and personnel can make a big improvement.

 

  1. All the institutional high ground is still occupied.

Lyons correctly notes that wokeism still has formal control of all the important institution.

I add that wokeness is also an albatross around their necks, as noted above.

 

  1. Long marches are long.

Lyons correctly notes that the Left was patient in seizing control of the institution. It began when the 1960’s radicals failed in their bid openly to seize power, and another strategy was formed, one of slowly insinuating their personnel into Western institutions. By 2020 they had enough of their people in positions of real power to start the open and widespread woke revolution.

He also says

And yet, in response, [conservatives and non-radical liberals] appear to have no patience whatsoever for executing their own counter-march through the institutions, instead mostly trying to either force the institutions to behave differently through political power (mostly pointless), or fleeing from the institutions entirely in a bid to create new ones from the ground up (a longshot, if more promising).

I add that the liberal takeover was a one-off, unrepeatable event. The currents of Western thought had been preparing our leaders to accept liberalism and then wokeism for hundreds of years and the Left only succeeded in taking over because the former masters of the institutions permitted it. They either agreed with the initially-small reforms pushed by the leftists or failed to understand the danger.

The Wokelings will not make the same mistake. They will not permit a “long march” of conservatives through their institutions. Their defensive system is designed most of all to detect and repel conservatism, and they have no ancient traditions of free speech and tolerance (in the classic sense of permitting what you disagree with in order to secure the greater goods of community and human decency.)  If Lyons is maintaining that the Right is missing an opportunity, he’s mistaken.

But woke institutions are vulnerable in the long run because nothing governed by wokeness can function properly, and because they will eventually be swamped by all the enemies they make.

 

  1. Culture wars are generational wars, and the young are woke as hell.

Lyons correctly notes that today’s youth believe all sorts of crazy stuff, especially the craziness of  wokeness. And today’s youth will take over society when today’s non-youth go the way of all flesh.

I add that as the young age, they often shed the foolishness of youth. Especially when they leave school and see with their own two eyes what wokeness actually does.

 

  1. The youth are still coddled and mentally broken.

Lyons correctly notes that Gen Z has higher rates of mental disorder than older generation and the rates went even higher during the madness of the “pandemic.” He speculates that much of this is a result of youth being treated simultaneously as fragile snowflakes who must be protected and unacknowledged noblemen whose whims must be honored.

I add that psychic distress is the inevitable response to being told lies about the most important aspects of human life (God, sex, religion, honor, family, race, etc) as well as to being told, sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly, that reality has no meaning and therefore you are worthless.

Without minimizing the atrocities inflicted by wokeness on the young (who never experienced sane America and therefore do not initially know that wokeness is insane), I point out that the experience of living often straightens out the young eventually. Many of these tyrannical snowflakes will wise up one day. When they do, they will not like wokeness.

 

  1. Elite overproduction is still in overdrive.

Lyons correctly notes that elites are a destructive army and the rate at which elites are credentialed and let loose has increased in recent decades, flooding the market. And what does an elite do when he fails to secure a sinecure?  Become a freelance woke clergyman, a bully on behalf of wokeness.

I add that participation in college and university has declined noticeable in the last few years. There is hope that the production of elites may scale back.

 

  1. “Wokeness” is still required by law.

Lyons correctly notes that Wokeness is, de facto, the law of the land, both in the sense of legal code and of being a governing principle of all organizations.  Nowhere does anti-wokeness have official status. “Practically speaking, this means any claim by conservative politicians that they will put an end to Wokeness if elected to office is pure theater.”

I add that wokeness is drawing increasing flak. The more wokeness is preached and practiced, the more it offends normal people. Some publicity is bad publicity.

 

  1. Money is still power.

Lyons correctly notes that “philanthropy” no longer means helping the downtrodden, but rather funding woke socio-political activism and destruction. The foundations (woke, all of them) have a strong destructive influence on our nation. And that’s to say nothing of the oligarchs.

And conservative politicians have no effective response to the juggernaut.

I add that there are limits on what money can accomplish. No sum of money can make the masses like wokeism, nor can it get people to support something that violates their metaphysical beliefs.

What the woke really need to do is change the metaphysical beliefs of the masses. They have succeeded partially, but they may be reaching the limit of the number of people that their money can buy. When that limit is reached woke leaders will have to decide whether to go full Josef Stalin (and his way eventually failed) or return to relative sanity.

 

  1. The opposition is still only political.

Lyons correctly notes that we also need “resistance on the cultural, educational, economic, technological, and media fronts as well, at a minimum,” and he sees no evidence that these are being done seriously.

I add that forming an army takes time. As the need for resistance becomes unmistakable, the army will eventually be created.

 

  1. Partisanship is still getting worse, and Wokelash 2.0 is entirely possible.

Lyons correctly notes that Trump as President lit the fuse on the bomb of wokeness, and if the Donald wins in ’24 we may see French-Revolution-level crackdowns on the sane people.

I add that although this is certainly possible (remember, the Russian revolutionaries initially pledged to avoid French-Revolution-levels of terror), the woke will be steadily accumulating enemies and weakening the nation and their institutions as we move toward the Dreaded Day.

 

  1. None of the levers of power have changed or will change hands [in the 2022 general election.]

Lyons correctly notes that the ruling bureaucracies (which officially Make Things Happen) are run by functionaries who ignore their putative masters: the elected executives and legislatures. Governmental functionaries are member of a de facto ruling class which has the means to ignore or block contrary orders from above.

If that weren’t bad enough, these desk-jockey elites have decided that they hate all you uncouth non-elite racist rubes. And they have the means to punish you and to close ranks against any force seeking to expel them.

I add that many elites have Second Thoughts. They go along with the woke gang in order to keep their heads attached to their bodies, but they don’t like wokeness. A ruling class needs members who are loyal to the group but many elites are members of the classes that the woke denounce. These people have a personal grudge against wokeness. When the cost of defying the thing they hate drops below the cost of being punished for disloyalty, we will see many defections.

 

  1. Leviathan has a’woken.

Lyons says

But it seems to me that the woke revolution, as co-opted by the elite, is being tailored to point not towards dissolution and lawless chaos [as in the Mao’s Cultural Revolution] forever, but towards a re-ordering that brings with it a great centralization and unification of power. In this revolution the liberation and safety of the individual by the state becomes the greatest good. Each individual comes under the tender, empathetic care of the state alone, which ensures their “liberty” through safety. The state contains only autonomous individuals, whose general will is represented by the state. Hobbes’ Leviathan wakes.

In other word, the Masters of Wokeness are betting they can buy off the masses and justify a Final Jihad against the Deplorables by delivering non-transcendent goods such as easier access to pleasure, the formal outlawing of irritations that accompany normal human interaction, and the elimination of economic poverty through universal subsidies.

I add it is theoretically possible that they will succeed. Our own Bonald has often expressed his belief that they will likely get away with it.

I am less pessimistic. With God as the Supreme Being, man is limited in his destructive ability. The wokelings are Hollow Men, and Hollow Men cannot last. They cannot resist determined opposition forever.

Mankind has had apparently-bulletproof tyrannies before, but they have never lasted. This one probably won’t either.

 

17 thoughts on ““Look on My Wokes, ye Mighty, and Despair!” or Brothers, Don’t Lose Hope

  1. Quick thoughts:

    That there is no authority cannot be disputed, even though I believe there is at least one perfectly valid authority which has fallen asleep and is not doing much to stand guard and prop up the world. These authorities must needs awaken, and they will, but I am curious what it will take.

    Long Marches are Long–there are some cultures, the Chinese notably, who take a centuries long view of the world. They are willing to lose now in order to win later. American culture at least and probably western culture in general can barely see beyond the next quarterly filing.

    The comment about philanthropy is a fascinating one. Properly ordered charity is essential for a healthy society. The perversion of philanthropy has contributed to social ills. This idea merits more thought.

    I don’t like to hold out hope for a revolution. The powers that be are still entrenched powers. I think many revolutions are conceived at any given moment in history, but most miscarry. The only revolutions that come to term are ones born when the powers that be are already dead. King George the Third was a sad, unhealthy, crazy old man, and he left a power vacuum in the Americas. The power in the Americas was already gone, it took the revolution to bring the reality on the ground into alignment with the political reality (or vice versa). In any case, reality is often more disappointing than our dreams, and the prospect of social change is always making people salivate but never satisfying them. The Woke Tyranny is doomed to fail, in my opinion, it’s just a matter of “when”. This sort of thing tends to be self immolating, and they are the establishment whether they like it or not, so their revolutionary fervor can’t very well turn against themselves. They also tend to be replaced with different sorts of tyrannys, no Utopia was ever born out of a revolution, nor was there ever a Utopia to begin with which was ruined by a revolution. We tend to hop from one dystopian pot into another dystopian kettle.

    Final and unrelated thought: This is the third instance of a reference to a substack article I have seen in less than a week. What is going on? First JMSmith, then Ed Feser, now this! Is that where the kids are these days?

    • Thanks for your comment, Scoot. Regarding Substack and its ilk, yes, that’s where the cool kids are. Mainstream journalism has sworn allegiance to the Masters of Wokeness so real journalism has been forced underground.

    • They reproduce memetically. I saw someone make this point over a decade ago in response to handwaving optimism in the WSJ to the effect that “we have kids, they don’t.” Yes, they’re coming for your kids.

      • Fortunately, we are on to them. A lot of children are groomed into wokeness, but children of the based are generally protected.

  2. Thanks for this useful summary. I appreciate your cautious optimism but cannot bring myself to share it, because, as item eight states, majorities do not matter. I’ve called this the Sleeping Giant Fallacy, and my sad understanding of this fallacy came of observing the failure of the “Silent” and “Moral” majorities. And of course by watching social norms slide in one direction while experts conspicuously worried that they might begin sliding in the other.

    If there is an anti-Woke majority, it is composed of weak, demoralized, leaderless, and slightly baffled people. They are outraged by events, but have no coherent theory to explain those events, and the keywords in that theory cannot be spoken because they are blasphemy.

    “Wokeness is making a lot of enemies,” but it is also not losing many battles. I don’t know if it is true, but I’ve just read that GoFundMe donations to the Ottawa truckers are going to be redirected to BLM. It seems incredible, but then it also doesn’t. Having a lot of enemies is good if you control the narrative, represent those enemies as dragons, and yourself as the dragon-slayer.

    When you say “the toxic results of liberal modernity will eventually discredit it,” it seems to me that you assume the liberal modern doctrine of popular sovereignty. The “go woke, go broke” mantra is false because those who “go woke” thereby join a sort of global syndicate that has monopoly power. My understanding is no doubt somewhat skewed by my work environment, but, at a personal level, the mantra is “go woke or go broke.” Woke is the not-so-secret handshake of Good Ol’ Whatevers who run the world, the lapel pin of the eager beavers of the globalized world.

    I frankly do not know how a resistance movement fights when it cannot hide. I don’t think we have reached the state of absolute robotic surveillance, but it cannot be far off. The War on Terror perfected the use of data mining and AI to identify suspicious activity, and the Antivaxer-White Supremacist narrative has rationalized the use of this technology against the dissident Right. The only way to “fly under the radar” is to speak and act exactly as if you are Woke, or convincingly act very stupid.

    I agree that Wokeness cannot go on forever, because nothing under Heaven goes on forever, but I think it can go on for a very long time. Soviet communism wrecked the lives of three generations and would have survived much longer were it not for determined enemies. Wokeism rationalizes the envy of relatively unsuccessful people, assuages the guilt of relatively successful people, and fertilizes the roots of the ever-expanding global bureaucracy of Good Ol’ Whatevers. And when it goes too far and makes people really mad, the Robot Gestapo has more data to put in its files.

    Sorry to be such a Puddleglum.

    • Thank you for your comment, JM. I did say that my stance was more like anti-pessimism than optimism, but even a glimmer of hope helps to sustain one.

      Also, when I referred to wokeism being discredited, I meant in the minds of the people. That’s the first step toward recovery.

  3. I don’t have time to properly organize these thoughts.

    Because I work inside the woke imperium, and have repented of ever having made the compromise that got me inside (agreeing to not publicly condemn abortion), I have decided to “retire” early. This is going to mean a beans & greens diet for the rest of my life, if you know what I mean. I am not rich. Financial advisors routinely write snotty articles about deplorables like me who bought food and paid the rent inside of going on the stock market and now consequently have only 150K to retire on.

    As a result of this vow of poverty, I intend to take my revenge upon the woke, those who conned me into this enormous suck of a J.O.B., who abandoned the peace movement to bring us gay marriage and who abandoned civil liberties (and right after Dick Cheney shredded the Constitution) to bleat instead about equity. And this is not to even begin to get into how I feel, how I IDENTIFY as a barren woman and part of the reason why is feminism… in short, my infertility had everything to do with age, issues the girls never bothered to bring up …

    Do I hate them? Well, only my husband knows the full extent of it.

    What revenge will I take? I will at a bare minimum spend the rest of my life being the crazy aunt who tells her nieces and nephews all about how evil the woke are behind the scenes and drops helpful hints about how to sabotage them at work. At best, I will be organizing philanthropies who actually do something about the plight of poor and working people instead the ongoing stupidity and evil nonprofits churn out now. I’m imaging what if Chesterton & Lewis sat down with Orwell to get this distributionism thing really going and then they hired Merle Haggard to oversee cultural affairs and then they made Wendell Berry head of their farm bureau.

    Friends, I’ve got clothes to wash.

    • Nell, let me say this from the bottom of my heart: God bless you and God speed. And if you do get one of those charities working, do please come back and let us know some of the details? My money should go somewhere truly useful while it still has any value, after all.

  4. This one certainly won’t last – but what does lasting mean?

    Soviet Russia got so bad millions starved in Petrograd because food was nearly impossible to obtain at any price. Similarly firewood, so countless people froze. Records of eyewitnesses at the time all agree: this cannot last.

    And then it went on for another 70 years. Not with exactly the same policies, but still ruled by the same demoniacal cult, and facing even worse horrors.

    This is not a message of despair. Rather it is a call to harden your heart against the false hope that leads to despair. When the dawn breaks on another red day, keep going. Keep up the fight, and pass it to your children.

  5. Pingback: Sunday 6 February: Waitangi Day. – Dark Brightness

  6. Wokeism can do a lot of damage before we discard it but it will eventually be discarded because it doesn’t work.

    I don’t predict things will go this far, but we could reach the “hunting down people with eyeglasses” stage of social devolution before Leftism gets discarded. Holiness spirals don’t end until someone breaks them with force.

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