The current ideology goes by various names: wokeness; political correctness; intersectionality; critical race theory; critical theory (simpliciter). All of these modes of thought derive from neo-Marxism, with its eternal conflict between groups in society; only in today’s versions, the class struggle of workers vs. capitalists has been replaced with the struggle of people of color, women, sexual minorities, and immigrants vs. white, male, heterosexual and native-born Americans. No acts of virtue, no purification of thought, no bestowal of grace can cleanse the Oppressors from their guilt. Only lifelong penitence and learning from the newly-empowered Victims can bring – to some of them -- the status of Ally.
The “Allies” sound like Gibeonites – those permitted to be hewers of wood and drawers of water under the new regime, but actually, those allies who learn their catechism best can advance significantly as advocates for the New Order of Things. The rest of the Oppressor class are left to the status of “bitter clingers” and “deplorables,” and serve them right. So the bewildered and desperately poor white Appalachian must learn to confess his white privilege and remain in poverty while elite whites sycophantically parrot their guilt but proceed to order his life minutely – and not to his advantage – as usual. It’s all very much like the Cultural Revolution in China, with the Intersectional Allies acting as the Red Guards, exiling the well-educated to the countryside for re-education, overturning “the four olds” – Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas – and ensuring the supremacy of the Party over all.
If it sounds like Chinese Communism, that’s because before there was wokeness and all that, there was Communism. Before Red China, there was Soviet Russia. Before the birth of Communism in Soviet Russia, there was Karl Marx, formulating his revolutionary theories. This is the language of revolution, sure enough. And before revolution came to Russia, it came – to France. 1789. Everything old was to be overturned, and the world begun anew. Literally: the government of Revolutionary France even created a new calendar, starting with a new Year One. The ideology of revolution in France was articulated by Thomas Paine, who believed that the world belonged to those presently alive, to be made into whatever they desired.
He was opposed by Edmund Burke, who divined – even before the Terror – where this was all going. Burkean conservatism is built upon a “hereditary” principle: that the world does not belong to those now living, to make of it what they please, but is held in trust by those living in the Present as a bequest from those of the Past, to pass along to those of the Future. The dead, the living, and the unborn are all bound in relationship with each other. We have no right to strip the unborn of their inheritance by our folly and greed. Likewise, we must be humble in acknowledging the faults of our predecessors: they did the best they knew how to do; we must strive to do better than they, honoring them for what they did well, and striving to correct what they did not, in order to give to those who will live after us a better world, informed not by ideology but by generations of lived experience.
But back to that “systemic” thing. Let us suppose that you are struggling with something nasty, something tough and enduring, something aggressive and invasive – like kudzu. Once established, it’s very hard to get rid of. It seems to be everywhere, and it overgrows everything. But is it “systemic?” “Systemic” doesn’t just mean “widespread,” “enduring,” or “undesirable.” To call kudzu “systemic” is to say that kudzu IS the essence of landscaping. The only thing to do with it is to dig up – everything. No more grass, no trees, no flowers. Everything is tainted by kudzu! We will pave it all over with asphalt and have Astroturf installed in its place.
This is what Paine and his co-revolutionists desired for France. It is not enough to replace the current king with a better one. It is not enough to limit the powers of the king, not enough to balance his power with other powers. We must get rid of kings! We will be a republic. But the old king – Citizen Capet, as they called him – what about him? Well, getting rid of kings means getting rid of kings, so “to the guillotine with him!” He wasn’t the first to be guillotined, and he certainly wasn’t the last, but he was emblematic of the whole system that was to be replaced.
Oh, but nobody is saying anything like that about America! Oh, are they not? What else is The 1619 Project but an attempt to define America as irredeemably racist? It defines America as a system of racism. America is not “the last, best hope of earth,” not “a shining city set on a hill,” not “sweet land of liberty.” America is Racism. “America” must be replaced with something else – something freed from the taint of racism. This is what “fundamental transformation” actually means – and the meaners really mean it.
Most folks believe that racism is bad, and that we must make room for everyone at the American table. We believe that room can be made, and we earnestly desire that it be made. But when you say that racism is “systemic,” you’re saying that the American table upon which the bounty of liberty is spread is itself irredeemably bad, and must be replaced with something else.
And that thought itself – that sounds so reasonable, so tolerant – is not built upon Reason, and is as intolerant as any revolutionary’s creed. It is hate. It is fanaticism. And it will end not in liberation, but in new forms of bondage, as it always has, wherever it has reared its ugly head. There’s more to landscaping than kudzu – but Woke Culture is ideological kudzu.