Wokeism Is a Cruel and Dangerous Cult

Wokeism has been described by its critics as the omnipresent use of race—and to a lesser extent, gender—to replace meritocracy and thus ensure equality of result. What follows from implementing that ideology are reparatory actions to reward those of the present by atoning for the injustices done to others in the past. 

Some see it as an update of 1960s cultural Marxism fads. Others scoff that it is just a return to 1980s-style political correctness. 

Still more see it as the logical successor to 1990s-type race, class, and gender obsessions—albeit with a shriller and more dangerous Jacobin, Soviet, and Maoist twist. Wokeism’s hysteria also invites comparisons to the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism. 

But few have described wokeism as the cruel creed that it is. 

Wokeism’s natural logic is to destroy the lives of people of both genders, of all races, and—if need be—those of every age, all to leverage an otherwise unworkable ideological agenda. It is nihilist and destroys everything it touches. It tears apart foes and friends alike, whether by fueling media-driven hatred of Donald Trump or faux-deification of the disaster that is now Joe Biden. 

Woke’s Victims 

Defunding law enforcement and defaming police resulted in record numbers of murders in 12 U.S. cities. A wave of violent crime is even hitting America’s suburbs. 

Without much fear of arrest, indictment, conviction, and incarceration, emboldened violent career criminals for the past year have robbed, assaulted, and killed the innocent with impunity. 

The victims at the bus stop, the subway, or in the furniture store do not seem to warrant media or progressive attention, much less sympathy. 

They are the ignored—the unnamed, and the forgotten collateral damage from the grand experiment of redefining crime as a social construct. The guilty are the elite academics, activists, and billionaires like George Soros who are untouched by what they birthed.

We have all seen videos of the vast expanse of flotsam and jetsam strewn by train thieves along the Union Pacific tracks in Los Angeles. Yet the Wild West mess is still more than just the concrete manifestations of Los Angeles County district attorney George Gascón’s unhinged efforts to excuse criminals from legal consequences. 

The packages thrown along the ground by thugs and gangsters represent, among other things, lost COVID-19 test results of the ill. Presumably, they unknowingly are waiting still by the window for the delivery of results that never arrive. The package in the dirt was, perhaps, a key tractor part eagerly awaited, in vain, by the broke farmer in the Central Valley. The mess included the life-saving medicines shipped to the sick that disappeared. 

And our elected leaders did what in response? Governor Gavin Newsom apologized for using the insensitive word “gangs” to describe those who plunder, loot, and trash railcars. 

Always In Search of Targets 

It is a cruel thing to indoctrinate children with the lie that they are innately guilty of oppression due to their skin color. One accurate definition of racism is collective ill-treatment of an individual due to his innate appearance—on the pretext that such bias is deserved, given the target is deemed mentally, spiritually, or morally inferior because of said traits. But that, in a nutshell, is the essence of critical race theory: the destruction of all human traits and unique characteristics, as demonized individuals are reduced to stereotyped, faceless members of a collective.  

For over a half-century, female athletes have sought to achieve parity in society’s attitudes to sports. Title IX forced universities to ensure rough equality for both female and male sports. 

But the woke effort to redefine transitioning biological males as identical to biological women will assuredly destroy the life work of thousands of pioneer athletes. 

Ironically, the sexist woke movement has allowed men to take hormones and undergo surgery to become females—even as their immutable skeleton frames, muscularity, or organ characteristics ensure an unfair and asymmetrical contest. 

The lives of thousands of young female athletes will likely be diminished. Each sprinter, every swimmer, and all female pole-vaulters will now inevitably at some future date have a rendezvous with career implosion—defined by losing to a transgendered female/biological male. 

Records are being rewritten, the very nature of individual women’s sports changed, and soon there will no longer remain an idea of “women’s sports” at all. 

The Forgotten Broken Eggs of the Woke Omelet 

The green wokeists postulate that they are saving lives by radical efforts to restrict gas and oil production, to raise fuel prices. They want to force Americans to buy high-priced alternative sources of wind- and solar-generated power and battery-powered cars. But away from the faculty lounge, millions of Americans are colder and less mobile this winter, paying far more to heat their homes and to drive to work. 

Most of the woke climate change activists rarely see the poor trying to empty their purses to scrounge combinations of cash and credit cards to leverage over $100 to fill their cars’ gas tanks. Tesla drivers might be the architects of last year’s war on carbon fuels. But real-life victims pay for their piety—those who have no such options to buy high-priced electric cars. 

For the cosmopolitan woke, the border is many things: a mere xenophobic construct, a racist barrier, a nationalist tic. 

But the thousands who live near the Mexican border see their homes and farms overrun with drug traffickers—and during a pandemic thousands of unvaccinated and possibly sick illegal aliens. They suffer firsthand from daily violence as all security disappears. 

For the American poor, who rely on government health clinics and state entitlements, the influx of thousands of illegal aliens into their communities becomes a zero-sum game. The more noncitizens put demands on such already oversubscribed services, the fewer citizens there are who will have access to quality care. 

The woke lecture that colleges and universities must now go beyond their former de facto racial quotas for admissions and hiring, already mostly based on proportional representation and disparate impact. But now a sort of reparations system emerges. It is what the Left itself used to call in derision “overrepresentation.” 

Equity in our Orwellian world is not equality, but payback. Again, it is the idea of making the current generation pay for the supposed sins of the long dead of centuries past. 

Aside from the destruction of merit by the substitution of racial criteria, millions from a discarded generation will have doors slammed on their careers—simply because of the color of their skin. And they will never forget that. 

The woke do not even make the effort to admit that class matters as much as, or more than, race. By doing so, they doom millions of poor white and Asian students, who managed in poverty to achieve excellent grades and test scores, from being admitted to top-tier schools. Their actual achievement, despite their absence of wealthy, college-educated, or well-connected parents, means little. 

Once a morally bankrupt society—for naïve, utopian, or ignoble reasons—begins to calibrate graduation ceremonies, dorm space, roommate selection, achievement, and grading standards based on race, then it not only will lose its standard of living, but it will deserve to. And it may have a future date with the violence of Rwanda, Iraq, or the Balkans. 

Power, Not “Equity,” Is the Creed 

In sum, wokeness is not about kindness, equality, fairness, or morality. 

It is the power agenda of the elite of all races. For differing reasons, they rig the game in their own interests, without a care about who suffers. 

Rich white people assume that they possess the money, the influence, the networking skills, and the connections to navigate around the very exclusionary rules they make for others. For them, there are seldom costs. But they win apparent psychological gain at feeling spiritually superior while driving a Range Rover. 

They get high on the sense of power they wield to engineer the lives of millions deemed less important than they. And to the degree they feel guilty about their own monopoly of wealth and leisure, such transient superficial remorse is alleviated by abstract caring for the “other.” 

If they can ensure that 50 percent of TV commercials highlight African Americans, then they worry little about the nation’s existential crisis of 800 blacks murdered in Chicago last year. And no such television execs have a clue—or likely a concern—about how to stop it. 

The woke take out a medieval contract that all their material indulgences can be balanced by virtue-signaling caring for the less fortunate—although always at someone else’s expense. 

Woke = Wealthy Careerists 

And for the millions of the affluent, elite nonwhite? The resurgence of racial obsessions conveniently destroys the old idea of class, even though now it is the far more precise calibration of inequality. 

For all the woke talk about “constructs” of gender, race is somehow alone exempted and declared innate, definable, and immutable. One’s appearance becomes the permanent victimized refuge—even of NBA multibillionaires and billionaire rappers alike. 

A Ward Churchill or Elizabeth Warren can desperately seek to leverage a career in becoming Native American, apparently as if they were almost trapped in their own white bodies. Yet they can still not manage to construct such assumed identities in the manner of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. 

If race is now the sole immutable barometer of who is a victim, who a victimizer, then LeBron James, Jay-Z, Kayne West, Chris Rock, Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey are always to be among the eternally oppressed. The enormous influence, power, status, and wealth they wield never negates their victimhood, despite a nation three generations into affirmative action. 

In the immoral calculus of woke, the poor white or Southeast Asian offspring of poorly paid high-school dropouts constitute “the privileged.” And a multimillionaire racist like the TV anchorwoman Joy Reid claims to be the perpetual victim, not the inner-city African American retiree who in 2021 has lost local police protection. 

No wonder the woke elite and the affluent leftists fixate on race, given they are now the ruling class. Otherwise, their own privilege would be the obvious target of the once-beloved “Revolution.”  

So, they fear that by their own prior left-wing standards, they too could end up on the wrong side of their moral Maginot Line. Wokeism’s obsessions with ferreting out “white privilege” are a way for rich people to head off (so to speak) the fate of Marie Antoinette. 

Totalitarian Wokeism 

A final note. We know wokeism is both contrary to human nature and antithetical to democracy and constitutional government. 

Without public support, it has instead embraced an entire array of cruel, Soviet, and Maoist means to achieve its own self-interested ends. Woke talk about “racists” eerily emulates Soviet boilerplate about “counterrevolutionaries.” Today’s wokeist spouts things that could come right out of the mouth of the novelist Boris Pasternak’s character Army Commissar Strelnikov, or Mao’s Little Red Book concerning “suppression of counterrevolutionaries.” 

No wonder the woke, so-called “humanists” are the first to resort to Trotskyization and iconoclasm. They are masters of censoring, blacklisting, scapegoating, deplatforming, ritual humiliation, doxxing, cancel-culture, ostracism, and disbarring. 

Wokeism’s logic is the eternal one of the bully Jacobin with his guillotine lists of the revolutionary unpure, the 19th-century lynch mob storming the frontier jail, the Red Guards hounding the counterrevolutionary, and the forced mental hospitalizations of the Soviet Union. 

But above all, wokeism is a cruel cult—created by and for the careerist benefit of the privileged.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

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