What is Woke? Part 2
In What is Woke (part 1 of this series) I explored what “wokeness” is and where its roots lie. The basic claim was that the traditional social justice project has been fundamentally changed, and is much more aligned with destructive movements in history. It is at odds with true liberalism and relies on assumptions that are unverifiable, such as the existence of hidden power dynamics throughout society.
This next section will explore one of its core assumptions which gives it the force and power in people’s hearts and minds that it has.
There is a tendency among those influenced by Critical Social Justice to view the subject of marginalized identity as deserving an almost religious type of reverence. As a result there seems to be an assumption that any issue of marginalized identity is of unique moral significance, over and above other moral considerations.
This attitude is likely rooted in Critical Theory because in the postmodern worldview, power dynamics are everything. So it makes sense that any issue dealing with those dynamics would take on supreme importance, even above ideas like forgiveness or tolerance of other’s views — hence the waning support among young people for free speech, especially when racism, sexism, or speech against sexual minorities is concerned.
But I am not the first to characterize wokeness/CSJ in this light. Harvard Social Scientist Jonathan Haidt claims that our entire moral paradigm seems to be going through a shift.
(Haidt’s point about the shift in our moral thinking begins at minute 26 and ends around minute 33 but the entire talk is included in the video below)
I would paraphrase Haidt’s analysis this way:
One’s moral standing, no longer centered on one’s commitment to the intrinsic value and dignity of the individual, is increasingly centered around group identity and the degree of one’s claim…