Articles on the “Woke” phenomenon are appearing on every hand and the movement is steadily coming into focus. Victor Davis Hanson, for example, outlines a “Great Awokening,” an allusion to the Great Awakening, a religious movement. In a similar style, “woke” status is a matter of religious conversion and zealotry.
German philosopher Eric Voegelin was on to the idea back in 1938 with The Political Religions. As Voegelin saw it, totalitarian regimes created political cults and modern ideologies borrowed from religious ceremonies and redemptive paradigms. Where people had previously been redeemed from iniquity, they were now to be liberated from oppression.
Once liberated, their object of devotion was the state, more specifically those who ran it, and in some cases, they could even surpass divine status. As American Communist Anna Louise Strong proclaimed in I Change Worlds, “one must not make a god of Stalin. He was too important for that.” Stalin was about creating a workers’ paradise, a veritable kingdom of heaven on earth. For Voegelin, the woke of his time set out to “immanentize the eschaton.”
Political religion also deploys its own demonology, a concept charted by French historian Hippolyte Taine, author of Origins of Contemporary France. In his chapter on the French Revolution, Taine wrote:
Nothing is more dangerous than a general idea in narrow and empty minds. Since they are empty, they would not encounter any knowledge that would be an obstacle to it. Since they are narrow, it does not linger to occupy them totally. Consequently, they are no longer their own master. They are mastered by it; it acts in them and by them; in the proper sense of the word the man is possessed.
The general idea du jour is a classless, socialist society, run by an enlightened elite that has somehow escaped the oppressive conditioning under capitalism. A vast body of work, from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and Malcolm Muggeridge’s Winter in Moscow to Paul Johnson’s Modern Times and F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (to name very few), documents the failures, deprivations, and mass atrocities of such societies. For the woke faithful, these are forbidden books to be avoided at all cost. So on the key issues of our time, their minds remain empty.
For the woke, as Orwell explained in 1984, ignorance is strength. To be “woke” is to submit to the dictatorship of the subjunctive mood, a regime of enforced unreality. For example, according to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), “facts don’t matter when you are morally right,” a statement on par with “property is theft” and “Big Brother is always right.” And as Jean Cocteau put it, “the trouble with the modern world is that stupidity has begun to think.”
The woke seek no exchange of ideas or facts in a debate among equals. For the woke, any adversary must be afflicted with homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and so on.
Government education cultivates narrow minds, so the woke live in a state of permanent occupation. As Taine had it, these zealots are literally possessed, and that dynamic is now on full display. True to form, the first recourse of the woke is to call their adversaries Nazis, fascists, far-Right, conspiracy theorists, and worse.
The woke religion proclaims people to be evil because of the way they were born, or due to conditions they cannot control. Witness the imputation of guilt for being “old” and “white,” with exceptions for people such as Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Nancy Pelosi. The actions of distant ancestors impart guilt in the present, apart from anything their descendants might have done or said.
If one contradicts a woke disciple, that can only be due to “white privilege”; but on the other hand, “silence is violence.” Sink or float, in the ongoing woke witch trial the accused is always guilty. For the woke, these sins do not exist in a vacuum. Their purpose is to justify hostile action against the unwoke, and Taine was on to that dynamic.
“From the beginning, Danton understood the final object and definitive effect of the revolution, that is to say the dictatorship of the violent minority.” So he quickly founded “a tiny independent republic,” packed with “fanatics, hotheads, all available scoundrels,” along with “murderers from the government or the marketplace.” For a modern parallel, recall the riots of 2020.
Antifa thugs created “autonomous zones” in Seattle and Portland, stockpiled with weapons. In cities across the country, rioters torched businesses and attacked unarmed innocents. Rioters murdered retired police officer David Dorn and live-streamed his execution. And so on. The Democrats passed it off as “mostly peaceful protest” and for Joe Biden, Antifa is “an idea, not an organization.”
And now abide ignorance, illusion, and hatred, but the greatest of these is hatred. With fundamentalist wokeness now the establishment religion, more violence will not be long delayed.