Why Woke Won’t Win (But Be Wary Anyway)

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Mark Lehain
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Do you remember that brief period in the spring when the country came together to fight COVID19, clap for carers and Protect The NHS?

I hoped that when lockdown lifted people would keep the niceness going. I thought that we’d use the COVID-reset as a chance to focus on bread-and-butter issues, and stop paying lip service to gimmicky political correctness. After all, why pander to pronouns when you’ve not even prepared for a pandemic? 

Obviously I was wrong.

The culture wars are back. The horrific death of George Floyd may have sparked things off again, but it’s pretty clear that activists had continued laying the tinder during lockdown.

That’s the thing about radicals: while the rest of us are busy looking after loved ones, they’re constantly campaigning. It’s why their march through the institutions was so successful to this point.

However, whilst at times it feels like the woke shall inherit the earth, I’m increasingly confident that woke won’t win.

First of all, it’s based on false premises and riddled with contradictions. It sees all relationships and interactions in terms of power, completely ignoring other important factors such as love, family, friendship, or a unifying greater good.

It also tries to be simultaneously communitarian and hyper-individualistic. You are both defined by the community of victimhood that your colour or sex places you in, but also entitled to self-define in a zillion different ways. These are hard things to keep in your mind at the same time, and cause the whole thing to fall apart upon inspection.

The second reason why woke folk will increasingly struggle from here is simple: most people just don’t buy into “white privilege”, “gender identity”, and all that jazz.

Research carried out for the launch of the Campaign for Common Sense really highlighted this: 4 in 5 felt that “you have to walk on eggshells when discussing certain topics today”, and two-thirds thought that “political correctness had made divisions in our country worse”. Also, 7 in 10 agreed that political correctness “divides society even more by pigeon-holing everyone.” PC doesn’t pass the sniff test, and people aren’t having it.

Even when respondents say they accept these ideas, it’s normally because they have down-to-earth definition in mind, not the weird versions beloved of academics and angry radicals. Don’t believe me? Ask someone in your local pub what they think it means to be “anti-racist”, and then compare it to the definition given here on Wikipedia.

So given the illogicality & lack of acceptance, how have these ideas been able to make such an impact? It’s simple: their proponents have been clever in how they’ve spread and enforced them.

They’ve convinced parts of our elites that adopting woke mantras and policies is a way to stay in power & keep the status quo whilst appearing to be progressive and fluffy. In parallel, they’ve unleashed activists online and on the streets to scream down those who have not acquiesced, accusing them of character crimes and ending careers.

However, this leads to the third and most important reason why woke will fail. As it’s moved from campuses and online into real life, people have noticed. Like the Emperor’s new clothes, as soon as its flaws are pointed out, it becomes ridiculous. Proponents have reacted by becoming even more authoritarian and shrill. And so like every other radical movement in modern history it has overreached and started eating its own.

We saw this happen recently with trans activists pushing too hard and alienating people who might otherwise sympathise with them. In the end it just took Liz Truss to stand up in Parliament and announce that the government wasn’t proceeding with self-ID, and the bubble burst. For all but the most extreme campaigner now, the issue has kicked the bucket and shuffled off its mortal coil… It is an ex-issue.

The same is happening across a range of other issues where previously activists were shaping the agenda largely unchecked.

So woke won’t win. But we should be wary anyway.

History shows how much hurt and damage similar movements did whilst they ran their course, so the sooner we call this stuff out, the better. However it can still cause a lot of pain during its retreat. The woke elite won’t give up their power without a fight; they’ve carved out comfortable livelihoods telling the rest of us how awful we are.

The confrontation is necessary though. We’ve got real issues to be dealing with, especially given COVID, so we need to push thes eccentric and divisive ideas back to the fringe where they belong. We just need our leaders – political and otherwise – to say they won’t play these games anymore, and the bubble will burst, and everyone will win.

Mark Lehain


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