A few weeks ago, I offered commentary on wokeism as a new iteration of Karl Marx’s notion of religion as the opiate of the people. Specifically, I made the case that wokeism is not so much Marxism but a heretical Christian construct that oligarchs exploit for the sake of their own preservation and dominance. Wokeism hoodwinks labor—those we often call the forgotten middle class—into serving the interests of monopolistic Big Tech and Wall Street capital, and its handsomely compensated technocrats (those Marx called the petty bourgeoisie).
Other recent pieces, including “The Art of Spiritual War,” by Michael Anton (which discusses wokeism as a parallel to the corrupted Christianity of Machiavelli’s day) suggest a growing consensus that wokeism, rather than something new under the Sun, has characteristics of something old, namely religion. Understanding wokeism as a religion, cult, or spiritual phenomenon may help us challenge and defeat it.
They Believe In Something Else
Permit me to borrow for a moment a thought from a friend. Deion Kathawa wrote recently that our modern, technology-driven immorality may represent “a worldview that is closed off to the supernatural.” But this is only a superficial closing off. It is a fundamental feature of human psychology that it is never truly closed off to the supernatural.
Allow me to illustrate with a Cold War trope about Russians.
If a Russian tells you he does not believe in God, he is simply telling you he believes in something else.
Russians have a history of supernaturalism and superstition. For example, depicted in the painting above is the arrest in 1671 of Feodosia Morozova, who would eventually die in prison. Her crime? She believed the sign of the cross should be made with two rather than three fingers. Supernaturalism is not unique to Russians. From Salem to Washington Irving to the countless sects, gentile and Jew, that have animated American religious life, America has a long history of explicit supernaturalism and superstition. This principle of ineradicable belief—of believing in God or believing in something else—is not just true of Russians. It is true, I submit, in one way or another, of all people.
When someone denies “the supernatural” he simply believes in something else outside and above nature and refuses to call it supernatural , lacking understanding and serious curiosity about the experience of his own beliefs
If all men, in addition to being created equal, are equally compelled to believe in in one way or another in the supernatural, then the problem of the supernatural is inescapable and serious. An intelligent man reflects seriously—or ought to—about his relationship to the supernatural. An imbecile either supposes he will have no relationship with the supernatural at all, or confuses his relationship with the supernatural with his relationship with nature. Today most imbeciles fall into the former category. A habit of certitude, devoid of conscious distinction between their facts and their superstitions, makes such people bad at cultivating their own small virtues, and a drag on the virtues that might be cultivated by better people.
A Philosophic Embarkation
Herman Melville wrote his masterwork, Moby Dick or The Whale, with the pious ambition of making himself the American Shakespeare through an exploration of belief and disbelief. Early in Moby Dick, Melville discusses the biblical story of Jonah and the fish.
With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at God, by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men, will carry him into countries where God does not reign but only the Captains of this earth.
Jonah of course learns that he cannot cut himself off from the supernatural when God sends a fish to swallow him up, foreshadowing Ahab’s fate. The Pequod of Melville’s novel is manned by a crew of superstitious men each fleeing one thing or another. Ishmael flees his venial sins, his own nasty temperament. The two most superstitious men on board are the most primitive, Queequeg, and the most sophisticated, Ahab. But it is Ahab who is the most superstitious and obsessive of the two, as he recklessly seeks a final confrontation with the white whale, whose supernatural hue “shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation.” Melville’s illustration of the inexorably supernatural character of human psychology proposes no solution, only a warning.
Was Melville’s contemporary, Friedrich Nietzsche, familiar with Moby Dick? It’s not clear. Melville does not appear to have been familiar with Nietzsche, although he was familiar with Arthur Schopenhauer and Georg Hegel. Nietzsche did not, as far as I know, comment on Melville. Regardless, Nietzsche would have been indifferent to Melville’s warning had he been familiar with it.
Nietzsche wrote his masterwork, Also Sprach Zarathustra, with the impious ambition of displacing the Bible with a nihilist saga. Unlike Moby Dick, Zarathustra proposes a solution to the modern problem, How do you reconcile man with a cosmos stripped of divinity? Put another way, it is one thing to get man out of God and the teleological cosmos, but another entirely to get God and the teleological cosmos out of man. In this spirit, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra says,
“Ich lehre euch den Übermenschen.” (I teach you about the Supermen.)
Nietzsche’s answer is to give man something to believe in that is explicitly, if remotely, godless and non-teleological: belief in the Übermensch (Superman). In order to extirpate supernaturalism, Nietzsche proposes the willing of an imaginary man who superhumanly (because no actual man can do it) dispenses with supernaturalism.
Let’s place Nietzsche in a broader (but brief) context. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason grounds all knowledge in a priori categories, or things that are knowable apart from experience. For Kant, the fundamental constructs of reason, such as causation (if-then), space (here-there), temporality (before-after), and object (common noun), have no ground in experience. This represents a departure from classical thinking, where the ideas (the within) and experience (the without) are connected. In Kant, however, the division of the universe into noumena (ideas) and phenomena (experience) cannot in the final analysis be reconciled. For Kant, these have no knowable connection.
Hegel builds on Kant’s thought, but restores (in part) the classical view that noumena and phenomena are reconcilable. For Hegel, experience is finally reconciled with idea through progressive History. By a series of contradictory dynamics, which Hegel called historical dialectic, of thesis and antithesis, History reveals the Idea. Thesis and antithesis clash, producing, in time, synthesis. Synthesis becomes the new thesis giving rise to a new antithesis. This repetitive dialectical action brings phenomena (experiences), closer to noumena (Ideas), until the experience and Idea are similar (reconciled) at the End of History.
Hegel’s Idea is in fundamental respects supernatural. God (the Idea) and His (Its) morality are revealed through History. Conveniently for Hegel and Protestant Christians, this end is something like the Prussian state: monarchy, representative institutions, civil service, and dominant Protestant Christianity. For the rest of us, Hegel’s allure is to induce a belief in an invisible process—and, more importantly, an invisible (and benign) End of History—which is not fully understood and therefore taken on faith.
Marx identified the notions of divinity—and the parochialism—in Hegel’s thought and rejected them. As Marx put it, he turned Hegel on his head. What Marx meant was, rather than being driven by the head (noumena or the Ideas), History is driven by the feet (phenomena, in this case economic imperatives). According to Marx, the exclusive driver of both thought and History is man’s relationship to the material means of production. All of man’s thoughts, including all thoughts about the divine, are in one way or another derived from his interaction with the means of production.
The purging of Hegel’s Idea permitted Marx to claim that his doctrine was entirely empirical, or truly scientific (in the modern sense). Every aspect of thought and socio-political relationships could be empirically determined if one simply had access to all the data, the most important of which would be commonplace things such as receipts, accounts, deeds, and other artifacts that reflected economic transactions. The science of ideas, ideology, could be no different from the science of paleontology. Just as one might study the fossil record to learn the origins and history of animals past and present, one might study the minutiae of the economic record to learn the origins and history of ideas past and present. For our purposes here, however, there is no need to digress too far into Marx’s wholly (but paradoxically indemonstrable) empirical world.
Marx replaces Hegel’s Idea in History with a thesis and antithesis of class struggle, labor versus capital. At each stage of History this clash creates new relationships of labor and capital which reconcile in a synthesis which leads to new, and more unstable, more exploitative, relationships of labor and capital. The beginning of the end ultimately comes with the industrial revolution, after which, according to Marx, the relationship of labor and capital explode, and revolution brings about the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Once the means of production are controlled by this dictatorship, and the vestiges of class struggle disappear, the state withers away. Utopia, which satisfies every desire, ensues.
In practice, however—as every attempt to implement Communism has shown—memories are long and family claims linger. A secret police becomes necessary for the liquidation of the capital class and its handmaidens. Incompetence in the administration of state industries leads to poverty and the concentration of even greater privilege in the new elite. The new rulers borrow the secret police for their own security. So much for the utopia.
The disastrous attempts to make Marx’s doctrines actualities (for example, the Soviet Union, Cuba, Cambodia, Burma, and Mao’s China, among others) are all too familiar. These failures for a long time served as a popularly sufficient basis to condemn Marxism and its variants, as dangerous and murderous doctrines. Marxism’s deadly impulses came, in part, from the fact that despite Marx’s attempt to purge divinity from the front end (the Idea) he left it in at the back end. Supernaturalism remains in Marxist thought in the idea of History and the End of History. The Marxist has to believe, superstitiously, in the utopian destination. Thus Marx’s empirical doctrine is no less rooted in what Thomas Hobbes would have called “invisible things” than Christian disputes over transubstantiation and consubstantiation.
Returning now to Nietzsche, the nihilist philosopher recognized that Marx’s End of History, with its fantastical withering away of the state and satisfaction of all desires (where a man can “fish in the afternoon [and] philosophize after dinner”) is built on a remnant of supernaturalism, a species of providentialism. Nietzsche amends this, radicalizing History. History is going nowhere, and comes from nowhere. Nietzsche extirpates History’s supernaturalism by denying it any end or purpose;. it is an arbitrary and meaningless string of events, none inevitable, all signifying nothing. The Übermensch is an arbitrarily willed end, which serves to translate man’s supernaturalism into the will for a man, who unlike all other men, has the power to overcome supernaturalism.
Martin Heidegger further radicalizes Nietzsche’s thought. Where Nietzsche had expunged History of any meaning, Heidegger terminates the possibility of philosophy and metaphysics, leaving only the “authenticity” of the thinker. Heidegger’s being is one in which Technik (technology/phenomena) and Wahrheit (truth/noumena) lose their distinctiveness. Modernity, which begins with the attempt to replace strains of Christian supernaturalism with scientism, finishes with deifying the autonomous human will.
Popularized, every man is an Ahab, a superstitious, sinking lunatic. Today we find modern Western thought, which began with Niccolo Machiavelli, exhausted, and wokeism, as well as elsewhere, amplifying rather than muting superstition.
We can see, then, at the risk of repetition, how the human mind is dependent on supernatural constructs to comprehend the whole. Even when explicitly and dogmatically rejected, supernatural beliefs are reconstructed without conscious appreciation of what the mind has wrought. But in so doing, human reason shuts itself off from the serious study of this essential part of man’s understanding of the whole and himself. By rejecting the existence of the divine—of God—man becomes a construct in his own mind with supernatural characteristics.
As I said at the outset, borrowing from the Bible, there is nothing new under the sun. In that spirit, observe that this corruption is at least as old as the story of the Tower of Babel. Just nine sentences in the Bible, the story of Babel is an account of technological power devoted to bridging the distance between nature and super-nature.
Placing the story in context, Babel follows the destruction of all living things in the Flood. The Noahic Covenant represents the promise of God not to destroy the living world again (at least not by waters). The descendants of Noah, still as afflicted with original sin as Adam, all speak the same language and are part of essentially the same nation. All humanity lives in a universal community, not unlike Marx’s stateless End of History or, more vaguely, the claims of modern globalism.
The descendants of Adam and Noah at Babel grasp the space between themselves and the Divine—a tragic consequence of the Fall—and seek to remedy it with a new technology (“they had brick for stone,” Genesis 11:3). Their undertaking misapprehends the character of God, their own nature, and the condition of the Fall. No technological effort can succeed at what is fundamentally a spiritual demand triggered by knowledge of Good and Evil (“ye shall be as gods” Genesis 3:5).
The Tower of Babel represents a massive devotion not just of physical but of intellectual exertion. The construction of the tower, we can imagine, required every resource from the brightest, even more than from the brawniest, of all mankind. Further, the scale of this exertion, we can speculate, would only be possible with a united—or global—mankind speaking the same language. It is only possible if everyone participates.
But this intellectual engineering and organizational effort displaces intellectual contemplation of the supernatural on its own terms, thereby increasing rather than closing the space between man and God. The equivalence of the technological and the supernatural (in a way anticipating Heidegger’s equivalence of technology and truth) fails. Babel’s reliance on technology simply makes the supernatural a technological construct and the technological supernatural.
God shatters the Tower, scatters the descendants of Noah “over the face of the earth” and, critically, gives them all their own language so they form many nations. Man seeks to draw closer to God and God reacts, isolating man from man into their respective cities and tribes, so that they may pursue reconciliation and redemption through spirit rather than machines.
Destroying the tower, and scattering the people, God lays the ground for the future, building a nation from the children of Abraham, which will serve as the pivot for the spiritual reconciliation of man and God. In creating many languages, God creates many distinct cities and tribes. From this he can elect a people, and in the fullness of time, give them law and make from them “a light unto the nations.” Is there another nation—a city on a hill—you can think of that is similarly conceived?
Babel, you see, in so many ways had modern (and, as the kids would say, relatable) problems.
Do Social Justice, Love Monopoly, and Woke Dumbly with Thy Superstitions
If I am reading Anton correctly, German émigré philosopher Leo Strauss, who made the rejection of Machiavelli’s modernism a central thesis, may also have thought Machiavelli’s project could be excused at its inception on account of necessity. That is, to further belabor a much belabored metaphor, it was necessary to destroy the village to save it. Machiavelli had to target all teleological views in order to destroy a particular teleological view, for the sake of breathing room for sound sciences, primarily political and secondarily natural. The problem is the thoroughness of his victory.
Indeed, in his Natural Right and History, Strauss identifies Thomists and classicists as being “in the same boat” with respect to the problem of modernity because “they are all modern men.” In other words, the Thomists and classicists of Strauss’ time were thoroughly dominated by the stubbornly non-teleological cosmology of modern man, a descendant of the thought of Machiavelli, that there were no apparent immediate avenues to full restoration of classical thought. The rebirth of classical rationalism would require the bringing to ruin of Machiavelli’s non-teleological cosmos. Unable to see a way to accomplish this, Strauss made no exoteric attempt to restore the metaphysics of classical thought, and his project became the restoration of classical political rationalism.
One can start to appreciate the need for, in addition to the immediate exigencies of our situation, a very, very long game. The revival of a competent and confident teleological endoxa, or opinions and beliefs, of the West, requires a confrontation with modern science. This is an extremely tall order. It is, however, perhaps something that becomes more possible as modernity—–and with it, science—sinks deeper into superstitions, producing a corresponding failure to deliver good technology to man. Man may need relief from his natural estate, but he does not need technology that renders him an idled dopamine addict to be both exploited and subsidized by turns.
Science has been struggling with these problems for much of the 20th century, unseen (because apart from the fields that produce popular technology that is popularly embraceable, its works are too recondite for public opinion to access). But I will give you two examples I spot from my inexpert perch.
One is string theory, which rivals the most absurd medieval doctrinal thinking in its construction of mathematical edifices thought to be “true” because with a little fudging they produce some kind of reconciliation of general relativity and quantum mechanics, despite an extraordinarily poor track record for making accurate predictions (yet commanding time on billion-dollar colliders). While the origins of this error are found in the success of Albert Einstein’s thought experiments first devised more than a century ago, one has to look to the monasteries of the Middle Ages to find a comparable wasteful investment in technology to probe metaphysics.
A second example is biology, where the absence of a teleological understanding of life leaves biological science in the befuddled position of being reductively able to describe living things in minute detail while being unable to process, other than sentimentally, observable fundamental characteristics of life. Machiavelli’s “new modes and orders” so succeeded in rescuing science from a malign teleology that now biological science appears to need rescue because it is riddled with superstitions about sexuality and gender which ignore the inherently teleological character of the generative behavior of living things.
Modernity then, is highly superstitious, but unlike past superstitions it is unaware of its dependence on superstitions. Even the Puritans in the depth of their persecution of suspected witches acknowledged the supernaturalism of their undertaking, and spoke of “spectral evidence” as an unusual category of evidence which demanded special regard. Modernity is less evolved. It cannot comprehend its own superstitions because it does not—despite living nearly entirely in one—believe in a supernatural world.
This brings us back to wokeism. Anton, as I noted above, discusses whether Machiavelli confronted a problem having parallels to wokeism. Machiavelli’s project was to overturn a Christian corruption that had come to dominate Western thought and had arrested political wisdom, leaving not just Italians but all of Europe exposed to a volatile and incompetent politics. The dominant metaphysical understanding—which was derived from Christianity but was not itself Christian—cut off man from virtue or, as we would say today, from realizing his full potential. Being unable to do anything meaningful about it in his own time, Anton argues that Machiavelli chose to do something about it in the future. Machiavelli threw a “Hail Mary and then died not knowing if anyone would catch it.”
In Machiavelli’s case, a teleological view of man and the cosmos had become hopelessly interwoven with a debilitating metaphysics (neither wholly classical nor wholly Christian, but a bastardization of both). The answer appeared to be to reject teleology altogether. That is speculation, but it is plausible. A completely corrupted conception of telos could be inferior to no articulated telos at all; after all, the obvious directedness of nature would remain evident to common sense. (From acorns to oaks, you can’t miss it.) But leaving any formal window open to classical teleology would have been to let in the floodwaters of corrupted metaphysics, leaving the Western mind drowning, once again, in the seawaters of what was neither Christian, classical, nor competent thought.
Wokeism: The Elite’s Opium Den
Our problem today is a form of Christianity wrapped, contradictorily, around a non-teleological view of man and the cosmos. Wokeism, as I said in “Wokeism as Salem Daydream,” is a splinter heresy derived from America’s Puritan past, which is bred into the American bone, and is aggressively evangelizing everything it touches. Wokeism offers an anesthetizing drug to modern man, all while conveniently securing both his wealth and social status.
Recognize that even concentrated capital is not entirely cynical. The fortunate wealthy have a deep need to assuage their sense of guilt which arises from their massive material acquisitions. Wokeism provides that assuaging much like the Christian impulses that drove the robber barons to build universities and libraries bought them indulgence for a life of materialism. Wokeism provides relief from feelings of sinfulness and embarrassment that arise from the rank materialism of today’s oligarchy. Bumping commercial flights on your approach to Aspen in your Gulfstream GVI feels a lot better if you are, in your mind, striving elsewhere to be a saint of wokeism.
Not only is wokeism providing the “something else” for people to believe, it is also aligning with powerful economic interests. Simple spiritual and economic incentives give shape to wokeism, offering a form of redemption to capital classes that simultaneously protects their monopolistic economic and political power. The structure of woke thought has come to dominate not just the economic scene, but the private and political lives of nearly all Americans. Thus ordinary Americans are caught up in a capitalist redemption myth in ways that neither serve nor save them.
But this is of course wildly contrary to Christian redemption (as well as Jewish commitment to law and justice). C. S. Lewis had an incomparable way of simplifying the interface of Christian redemption and the lives of ordinary people. In The Screwtape Letters, he writes from the point of view of a demon on the corruption of a person with sincere impulses to be a good man: “Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy [God]: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable [i.e., sinful] qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us.”
Wokeism performs fabulously in this capacity. The woke have little need of kindness for anyone in their immediate circle. In fact, such affections are a detriment to the saintly woke work of scolding and harming the sinners. What is important for the woke is that they hold the right opinions about people with whom they have little to do directly; all that is required is to embrace wokeism’s doctrines about the environment, race, gender, and sexuality. Blocking traffic is extra credit. Destroying someone’s career—and putting his family in economic jeopardy—is fine behavior, as long as it is done in accordance with woke doctrines.
The corrupted Christian character of wokeism can be seen in the increasingly enervated doctrines of mainline Protestants, particularly the Episcopalians and the lineal descendants of the Puritans, the Congregationalists. Many of these churches and their ministers pay more attention to Pride Month than to the Lenten and Advent seasons. It’s hard to see how this could be based on the revelation they purport to embrace as the Word of God. But if you were to ask, the mainline Protestants would adamantly deny the incompatibility of their au courant practices with revelation, and denounce your own “superstitious” reading of the Bible. They would tell you—as the people of Babel would have done—that their teaching is the product of Science and God (they might also throw in History). Then they would call your employer to discuss the prudence of your continued employment. Still, to their modest credit, at least the mainline Protestants still maintain many of the traditional religious forms while nevertheless abandoning their substance.
Wokeism is therefore the mashup of beliefs that results when a “something else” has been cobbled together to satisfy both the superstitions and capital interests of various constituencies. Indeed, the majority of impulses behind wokeism and the mainline Protestant embrace of its doctrines are driven by the incentives of capital to want more and to keep what it has.
Capital, as a class, is very clever. This should be no surprise. People who have, and who are able to retain and maneuver capital, possess not just property but often a proven capacity for abstract thinking and deferral of gratification. A good part of wokeism is a collective effort by capital, not as part of a conspiracy, but rather by a large number of relatively simple—but compelling—incentives to protect its interests against a mass of people who have little to no capital and few prospects of acquiring it, under a system of trade and policy that serves monopolistic structures and depresses the value of unskilled and semi-skilled labor. Absent some doctrine to induce their cooperation, in a responsive republican form of government, change would be forced by public outcry and ultimately ballots
Wokeism renders government less responsive to electoral inputs. Witness how wokeism—in the form of #theResistance—hobbled the Trump Administration’s efforts to effect the policies Trump campaigned for and was elected to implement. But wokeism also is an instrument in majority formation to mold electoral inputs (whether genuine or manipulated) to support capital. Wokeism inspires the corruption of electoral integrity, because ballots are not a means of public deliberation and choice, but an instrument to achieve a predetermined end. Results of elections which reject the woke agenda are, to the woke, inherently illegitimate. The arc of history bends towards justice; consent could bend just about anywhere.
Wokeism sets America’s echelons of fake Marxist revolutionaries—those who read Mother Jones (and sometimes Vox) and listen to WBAI in New York and Radio Pacifica in San Francisco (and sometimes CNN)—against the echelons of ordinary men and women who are in spirit (often expressly) 1776 revolutionaries. But if America’s faux Marxists paused for a moment, and the scales of wokeism fell from their eyes, they might see that, at least for the present, their interests are aligned in overturning the structure of trade and labor that we call globalism. Their interests, Trump voter and Sanders voter alike—white, brown, black, straight or gay—are aligned in revolution against a corrupt oligarchy.
It Starts With an Earthquake
Thucydides’ History of The Peloponnesian War records the sudden shifts in opinion that natural events, such as earthquakes, droughts, famines, and plagues triggered. Athenian and Spartan politics could reverse themselves rapidly in response to an unexplained natural disaster.
Our politics are similar today. A hot summer day or a forest fire can inspire wild political spasms, as opinion stampedes towards wokeism’s eschatological understanding of environmental Armageddon, a change from prudent stewardship to spiteful panic. The COVID-19 pandemic, possibly manmade, has radically shifted opinions with respect to privacy and autonomy, as well as distributive fiscal policy. Opinion drifts between catastrophes, and then moves sharply with their occurrence. But, in this, the stampeding woke actors maintain a belief that their behavior is driven by wisdom instructed by carefully curated empirical study; the root opinion of their irrationalism is the belief that they have dispensed with all irrationalism.
While wokeism has won most of the recent battles triggered by catastrophe, it is important to remember that opinion is perhaps more fluid than it may otherwise appear. Sudden and forceful action at the right time may permanently shift opinion in favor of the possibility of the restoration of sound—or more sound—broadly shared beliefs and opinions (endoxa).
For better or for worse, America stands today on the precipice of a catastrophe of one kind or another. The United States is insolvent. The national debt to GDP stands at 127 percent, and when you include benefit obligations, at a multiple of GDP. Much of the debt denominated in treasuries is held by foreign governments, the largest holder of which is a strategic adversary.
The national government is incompetent. It is gerontocratic, headed chiefly by people over the age of 75. It is dishonest, among other things, having probably funded (under the care of a then 78-year-old physician!) the genetic engineering of a virus, without supervising it, resulting in its physically and politically devastating release. The United States cannot convince as much as half the electorate that its elections are free and fair. With political voices gagged by mainstream and social media, no serious person believes public deliberation which is the basis of choice in free elections is fully possible.
Despite being accustomed, as the American people are, to security, the United States is even vulnerable militarily. The United States Armed Forces, while hyperfunded and leading technologically, has lost every war it has waged in the last two decades against foes inferior in every way save their stubborn determination to win. America’s strategic adversaries are increasingly able to match our military technologically, and such adversaries are not wedded to dogmas that have driven unachievable war aims, the conflation of tactical with strategic victory and, most recently, a spasm of woke politicization.
Whether it will be a military crisis, an economic one, or a natural disaster, or some or all of these, no one can predict. But when the cataclysm breaks as a wave upon us all, as it surely will, anticipate opinions to shift rapidly, like Thucydides’ Greek politics reacting to an earthquake. The elite will attempt to drive public opinion in the direction of wokeism. A natural disaster would provide cause to end our use of fossil fuels. An economic disaster would be cause to increase transfer payments according to identity politics, and to assume more control, leaving favored private actors in place, over the economy. Civil unrest would be cause to treat more Americans as foreigners while treating more foreigners as wards. Military humiliation, whether incremental or complete, by a foreign power will be cause to celebrate the punishment of the America of 1619.
But at the same time as the Woke try to drive opinion into line with their articles of faith—supernaturalisms disguised as evidence-based policy and empiricisms—there will be opportunity to discredit wokeism, to reveal it for what it is (so long as we know what it is), and to build anew on its collapse with creditable notions of both the natural and the supernatural.
There is no certainty in the timing of such an event nor in the course of any change, favorable or unfavorable, in the American endoxa. The time between Thomas Hooker’s coordination and articulation in sermons on the ground of The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (long before the Declaration of Independence, Hooker preached “the foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people”) to Salem’s feverish persecution of witches spanned about 30 years, roughly the same amount of time from the United States’ victory in the Cold War to present-day woke America. The time between Salem’s insanity and the Declaration of Independence was roughly 85 years. In a span of about 100 years, a radical corruption and then rehabilitation of American thought took place, with the ground for that rehabilitation kept alive and refined in study, awaiting events, until the astounding economic growth of the colonies and the sanguinary results of the French and Indian War shifted popular opinion in favor of freedom.
It is difficult, at this juncture, to say exactly what is possible in the future.
Yet we are obliged to hope for better things. In order to do so reasonably, however, hope must be backed by a stubborn effort—which may come at a cost. We must labor to keep alive opinions about the natural and the supernatural—those things endowed by our Creator, revealed or otherwise known—that are the ground of freedom.
In the context of wokeism, a phrase for this stubbornness is religious dissent. So we may as well get on with it. Call out the woke over their false religious doctrine. Say it behind their backs and to their faces. Confront superstition by its name. Align with people who share your convictions. And dissent.