Monday, 13 December 2021

The woke wars

"Woke": being alive to injustice. The cultural and social movement of 'wokism', born in the USA, crosses the Atlantic and creates havoc in France where it bumps into the traditional republican idea of universalism: everybody is equal for the law and people should not be devided in groups on the basis of ethnicity, gender, amorous taste, shoe size, hair colour etc. etc. because human rights are the same for every human being.

The culture wars around wokism have influence on cultural institutions, including classical music, because Western classical music can suddenly be seen as a symbol of 'white suprematism' and an instrument to suppress people of colour. Also the repertoire which was born in times under 'discriminatory regimes' can suddenly be seen (and heard) as tainted by association, as if composers from the past were guilty by association of the circumstances they found themselves in. It goes without saying that this is pure nonsense.

Wokism is at the center of a paradox: we know there is much injustice in societies as a result of discrimination of all kinds, and the theoretical universalism is supposed to work against this. But you cannot force people to reject their prejudice by law, it is only by information and education that prejudice can, in the long run, be overcome - if it can ever be overcome. Woke strategy however wants to define groups of minorities because their life experiences are different from other groups. Wokists say that race, colour, gender do matter, because people have different experiences depending on those factors, and so public policies need to differentiate between different groups. 

The result is, that individuals are first and foremost seen as representative of a group with a label, which is pushing them back into anonimity which is dehumanizing. This problem - which was and still is a problem of theoretical multiculturalism - has been described by French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut in his 'La défaite de la pensée' (1987) which is a critique of defining and thus labelling groups in society.

Although entirely understandable as an attempt to change people's primitive prejudices, wokism plays into the herd instinct of the masses, where individualism is easily sacrificed to the security of group think and ethno speak. It can easily lead to serious aggression between groups in society, while the original idea was to correct a systemic imbalance in the practice of civil rights.

This problem and paradox which is at the heart of the current woke wars, is currently being played-out in France, where this paradox is much more visible than elsewhere:

Interesting article about the Great Awokening, described as a 'religious' reaction against market materialism since the eighties: