Can the Woke Heed the Call to ‘Know Thyself’?

Once, the Greek philosopher and dead white male, Socrates, taught that “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” True, in the past one might have written the preceding as “Once Socrates famously taught”; however, given the postmodern, know-nothing Left, notably its Manichean minions in academia, one no longer enjoys the luxury of such assumptions.

Indeed, Socrates’ teaching is not merely dismissed by our lettered “betters”; his teaching is the target of their exorbitantly expensive, taxpayer-fueled indoctrination factories. (Spare me the “some universities are private”; with the notable exception of places like Hillsdale College and Grove City College, all of these institutions take some measure of federal funds—either through student loans or otherwise.) America’s institutions of higher learning are the avowed enemies of critical thinking, which is vastly different than the warmed-over communist, agitprop ladled out as “critical [fill-in the Leftist cause] theory.” The former is education; the latter is indoctrination.

In days of yore when higher learning stalked the leafy autumnal grounds of academe, these institutions treated coeds as adults. This made eminent sense, as the goal was to educate and, critically, to empower the individual with the ability to think. Then hope was that the end result would lead to the coed becoming an independent, self-reliant adult, able to fit his mind to the world regardless of what life threw at him.

Not so much today.

The overpaid, unaccountable indoctrinators spewing their hateful, delusional leftist cant for profit, promotion, and prominence—a.k.a., their “greater good”—have deconstructed and devolved the literal “old school” into their personal brainwashing emporiums. The Left supplanted the primacy of education with indoctrination: intelligence is conflated with obedience, and independence is considered both selfish and dangerous.

This is reflected in the rigid adherence to the prevailing leftist ideological pedagogy required to be hired for a position. The students entering these leftist salons are treated like children by this phalanx of leftist ideological proselytizers. Students who protest, which includes seeking other viewpoints to consider, are coerced back into line by ideologically weaponized grading systems, codes of conduct, and pressure from their already indoctrinated fellow students. The Left believes bullying conducted by their fellow travelers among administrators, professors, and coeds is necessary and proper if in the service of indoctrinating the unwashed for the “greater good.”

The result? There are three possibilities.

First, the newly credentialed graduate has learned to “grin and bear it” and “go with the flow.” These graduates often don’t really believe in the leftist ideology, but they are convinced combatting it is not in their personal or financial interest, especially if they are looking for work at a corporation, in the regime media, or the in the government. After spending precious years of their lives and thousands upon thousands of dollars, all they’ve learned is how to be servile.

Second, newly freed from the leftist shackles that chafed them throughout their pursuit of the credential requisite for their future careers, these graduates continue their battle for the freedom of conscience and all God-given, constitutionally enumerated, guaranteed rights wherever and whenever they can.

Third, a new leftist is minted, succored, and rewarded by the collective.

Can those in the first group be said to be among those who “know thyself”? Maybe. They do know what they don’t particularly like: leftist ideology, but they don’t necessarily know why—let alone know why they should care enough to do anything about it. Unfortunately for them, and ineluctably, the time will come when unchecked leftist ideology again intrudes upon their lives in ways that make “grinning and bearing it” no longer an option. And, having been cheated out of the ability to think critically and act with courage, they will be flustered to find they are ill-suited to defending themselves and their loved ones.

Of course, members of the second and third groups may have heeded Socrates’ admonition to “know thyself.” But can the same be said of the new leftist ideologues? 

After all, they will spend their whole lives virtue signaling through sundry performative public displays, such as posting one of those “We Believe” lawn signs professing their progressive faith. Why do they engage in such performative acts? Why do they crave the external validation of their fellow leftists? Because, lacking the capacity to think for themselves, leftist ideologues rely upon emotion. They cannot summon the intellectual ability to validate themselves regardless of how the world views them. Consequently, unable to think, they need to feel. Enter the need for external validation just to get through the day, if not to be able to sleep through the night.

In 1987, another dead white male, Alan Bloom, wrote The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. Bloom’s daunting proclamation is misleading as to the difficulty of the dilemma confronting the newly minted leftist ideologues. Especially if unlocked, a closed-door can be opened. But thanks to their fellow travelers engaged in indoctrination in the academy, their minds have been encased within an air-tight sarcophagus of ignorance and lack of self-awareness. The misery their deluded leftist ideology wreaks upon society and, foremost, upon themselves is patent, as their need for external validation evinces.

Ideologues of any stripe are notoriously incurious because they feel “enlightened” by the screeds they read and believe them to have provided the prism through which they view all the answers. Consequently, and tragically for all involved, one doubts these newly minted ideologues know anyone with the critical thinking crowbar required to open their minds to the reality and beauty of the world around them, so they may one day claim to be among those the philosopher admonished to “know thyself.”


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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

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