The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How Wokeness is Creating Nostalgia for Political Correctness

If someone had told you back in the nineties, that the time would come when we would look back with nostalgic longing on the days of political correctness, what would you have said?

You probably would have laughed and assumed that he was either crazy or under the influence of some dangerous mind-altering substance. Yet, here we are in 2020, and political correctness is now passé, old hat, yesterday’s news and so very twenty-five years ago. That which has replaced it, wokeness, is much worse by far.

The differences between the two are mostly differences of degree or scale. There is a noticeable difference, for example, in the size of the circle of influence of the two. Political correctness was taken seriously in academe, but largely treated as a joke outside the halls of ivy. Indeed, Bill Maher hosted a late night comedy television show devoted entirely to being “politically incorrect” from 1993 to 2002. Wokeness, by contrast, in addition to dominating the campus to a far greater extent than was ever achieved by mere political correctness, extends its tentacles of influence into every area of culture and society.

Think about what a television show that treated wokeness the way Maher’s show treated political correctness would look like. Can you imagine such a show being given the green light by any network today, let alone aired for nine years?

The other major difference between political correctness and wokeness is in terms of what it demands of us.

The demands of political correctness were basically limited to the language we use. It started by telling us that we should use this word instead of that to refer to such-and-such races. I do not mean that it started by telling us not to use racial or ethnic slurs. The use of such words, at least in the hearing of anyone to whom the slur referred, violated the older rules of politeness, etiquette, and good breeding as well as the newer ones of political correctness. Rather, it told us that the non-pejorative common terms for races needed to be changed. In some cases this was done several times over for the same race. The obvious example is when “coloured” and “Negro” became “black” which became “Afro-American” which became “African American” and which has come almost full circle to “people of colour.”

Political correctness expanded from the category of race into other categories but still remained mostly confined to language usage. It told us to use gender-inclusive language, which was a much more awkward requirement than the changing of race names. For example, where previously the custom was to use the third person masculine pronoun in the double capacity of a neuter pronoun if a person is being discussed in situations where the sex of the person is unknown, political correctness demanded that we use either a cumbersome and absurd phrase like “him or her” or the plurals “they” “them” or “their.” Similarly it required that “man” or “men” be replaced with “person” or “people.” It also told us to replace BC and AD with BCE and CE when referring to the calendar year so as to remove explicit references to Jesus Christ.

It was because political correctness was mostly thought of in terms of demands of this nature that it was treated as such a joke outside of the universities. Except, of course, by those of us on the right who were paying attention to just how seriously it was being treated inside academe and were aware that the Marxist professors who were pushing it there were doing so as a preparatory step towards a much more extensive form of thought control.

I remember discussions regarding political correctness from about twenty years ago. There were those who thought of it as something benign, an update of the principles of politeness for the new era of diversity and pluralism. (1) Others just thought of it as being silly. There were centrist-libertarians who would agree that it was a problem, but could conceive of that problem in no other terms than that of select individuals imposing their private values on the whole of society. From their perspective anyone who took the position that political correctness was the first campaign in a culture war and that we needed to fight back against it with everything that we have because by the next campaign it would have evolved into a race war was just adding to the problem.

I wonder if they still think this today.

What such people had failed to take into account is that political correctness began in academe as the result of a neo-Marxist takeover of the institutions of higher learning. Marxism in all of its forms is theory that exists to promote and serve revolutionary movements. The end for which all revolutionary movements exist is the seizure of power. Revolutionaries inevitably justify their cause on the grounds of existing abuses of power, but due to the nature of power, which corrupts the most those who seek it for themselves and especially those who usurp it through violence, revolution does not produce a net decrease in the abuse of power but rather an increase. (2) In its classical form, Marxism promoted the revolutionary cause with a theory of history as the struggle between economic classes created by the private ownership of property which divided mankind into the “haves” and the “have nots.” In classical Marxist theory, the propertied class, the “haves”, were always guilty of oppressing the “have not” classes. Neo-Marxism was developed when the events of history made the classical form of Marxism untenable through the failure of Marx’s major predictions. Capitalism did not worsen the living conditions of the working classes, but rather did the exact opposite, and when the general European war came, national and patriotic allegiance proved stronger for the working classes than class solidarity. Since the theory existed to serve the revolutionary cause and not the other way around, Marxists did not see the debunking of their theory as reason to say “oops, we were totally wrong, sorry about all the trouble we tried to stir up” but instead formulated a new theory, this time defining historical oppression in terms of categories such as race and sex, as well as class.

By the time the 1960s rolled around, the Marxist takeover of the universities had been well underway for almost a century. The social sciences succumbed first – sociology was practically Marxist from its very beginning in the nineteenth century, North American anthropology had been dominated by the far left school of Cultural Anthropology headed by Franz Boas since the earliest decades of the twentieth century, and around the middle of the twentieth century Claude Lévi-Strauss, et al., effected a similar left-wing takeover of European anthropology. In the 1930s and 1940s the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research, a neo-Marxist think tank made it their project to develop a cross-disciplinary Critical Theory that would unite the social sciences and the humanities in the service of the revolutionary cause.

Then in the 1960s, students who had been radicalized rather than educated by these Marxist professors, organized a student revolutionary movement that supported the various causes of the New Left – opposition to the Vietnam War, the Palestinian Cause, the Black Power movement, second-wave feminism, etc. All of this would have been a mere display of the ignorance of youth were it not for the changes this movement demanded in academe itself. A strong case can be made that all of the former was merely a misdirection tactic and that the latter was the true goal of the movement which received its direction, after all, not from the students themselves but from their Marxist professors. These demands were of basically two types.

First, there were the demands that professors the Marxists disapproved of be silenced and research the Marxists disapproved of be cancelled. For the most part these were psychologists, biologists, and anthropologists whose writings, lectures, and research focused on the hereditary aspect of human nature and/or behaviour and intelligence – Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Richard Herrnstein, Thomas J. Bouchard and Vincent Sarich to give a few examples. Second, there were the demands for the establishment of new disciplines such as Black Studies and Women’s Studies.

With regards to the first set of demands, the student revolutionaries largely failed in their short-term goal of ending the careers of the men they targeted but succeeded in their long-term goals of establishing Marxist influence over hard science disciplines that were otherwise resistant to the sort of infiltration that had worked in the soft sciences and instilling in these disciplines a taboo against the publication of the findings of the kind of research the Marxists hated, at least in any straightforward manner.

The second set of demands met with great success, and the new disciplines, each built upon the foundation of Critical Theory, which had undergone a re-energization in this period through the input of post-Saussurean language theorists such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, were created. These disciplines came to exert a powerful influence over the study of language, art, history and culture – the humanities – just as Max Horkheimer had dreamed of back in the 1930s.

This was the backdrop to the genesis of political correctness in the academic world. It can be understood either as the first stage of the Marxists exerting their new power on campus, an attempt by university administrators to appease the Marxists’ demands, or a combination of the two which is likely the best interpretation.

Today, we are seeing the result of higher learning having been under this type of Marxist control for forty some years. Those who have underwent the brainwashing in Critical Theory based classes under the mistaken impression that they were getting an education have become the “woke” who are employing tactics similar to those used by the student revolutionaries of the sixties and seventies, only this time on all the other institutions of Western Civilization outside of academe. Just as the universities had already been largely taken over by Marxism through infiltration prior to the student revolution, so the other institutions have experience a similar takeover in the decades leading up to this woke revolution.

The demands of the woke go far beyond those of mere political correctness. A few years ago, Dr. Jordan Peterson noted the distinction between prohibiting speech and compelling speech. The Liberal Party of Canada under the leadership of the Trudeaus has done both, the former in the notorious Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, the latter with Bill C-16 in 2016. The difference is between saying “you can’t say that” and saying “you must say this.” Political correctness involved elements of both from the beginning, but originally leaned more on the side of prohibiting speech. By the time Peterson was discussing this distinction it had shifted more towards the compelling of speech. This is but one example of how the wokeness of the present day goes beyond the demands of the political correctness of yesterday. Consider what else we are seeing today – the demand that historical figures be weighed in the balance of the ideals of the neo-Marxists of 2020 and erased if they be found wanting, the vandalism and arson of Church buildings, the requirement that white people and authority figures genuflect before black people. All of this brings to mind similar acts by the French Jacobins, the Maoists in China, and the Khmer Rouge.

It is almost enough to make one nostalgic for the relative tameness of the political correctness of twenty-five years ago.

(1) Apart from the superficial similarity in which both ask you to watch what you say so as not to offend people, politeness and political correctness are polar opposites. Politeness asks us not to say things that virtually everyone would have been offended by without some ideologue telling him that it is offensive. For example, it asks us not to go around telling other people to “eff off”. Political correctness tells us not to use words that have been ideologically defined as being offensive to specific groups that it says ought to be protected against offensive because they have been assigned “historical victim” status. For example, it tells us not to use the pronouns “he” or “him” to refer to someone with a set of XY chromosomes who nevertheless self-identifies as a woman. Why “eff off” is universally considered offensive does not really require an explanation. The politically correct rule requires such an explanation and it is long, complicated, and boring, something along the lines of “gendered pronouns are offensive because they violate the right of the individual to blah, blah, blah, and perpetuate the false binary so-on-and-so-forth ad nauseam ad infinitum.”
(2) This is why the answer to the evils which the Cromwellian, American, French, 1848, Bolshevik, Maoist, and other Communist revolutions have unleashed upon the world is not another revolution. As Joseph de Maistre put it, “what we need is not a revolution in the opposite direction but the opposite of a revolution.”

1 comment:

  1. I remember having to challenge normies who would bleat on about 'political correctness gone mad' that political correctness IS madness... And that if they didn't oppose it itself but only its extremes, it would continue to gain ground culturally.

    And they didn't pay heed.