Paranoia, fear & implication hypervigilance in the church of Wokeistan
But, no, it's not a new religion
This is part 2 of subscriber-only reflections on what seem like quasi-religious facets and tics in leftish1 political discourse. For subscribers who missed part one, here it is - Repent, motherfucker.
The idea that 'Wokeism' is a religion has been done to death. Just because something shares characteristics with something else is insufficient reason to say that it is that thing.
So I suspect it's just become fashionable to say that the beliefs and behaviour of social justice activists and their mooks2 manifest as a 'new religion'.
It's easy to point to common strands, ranging from concepts like 'original sin' (which now famously flows from being white) to features such as fundamentalist all-or-nothing belief, endless judgement of people's essential goodness or evil and encouragement of personal guilty feelings for breaching moral boundaries enforced by a kind of 'priest class'.
In an abandoned iteration of this piece (messily discursive and rambling) I tried to pull a trick to illustrate these similarities.
I'd stumbled on an article headlined These 10 thought processes trip up former bible believers which sought to portray the lingering negative impacts of their old faith. The plan was to lift all 10 and present them (only lightly edited) as portrayals of social justice ideology. Then do a big reveal - haha! this critique of 'wokeism' is actually an article about former fundamentalist Christians!
It would have been a gimmicky cheap shot, though, mainly driven by personal disdain for the posturing and flattening style of discourse favoured by 'Instagram Socialists'3, basking in a meme-driven culture of grievance-worship and finger-wagging at the great unwashed who typically languish well below them in the educational pecking order.
Playing it straight, the 10 factors listed (if you aren't going to read it for yourself) are; all or nothing thinking, focus on good vs evil, never feeling good enough, hyperactive guilt detection, sexual hangups, inability to be in the moment, the concept of an ultimate reckoning, idealising leaders, simplistic answers and intrusive self-doubt.
Straight away we can see that some of those things are also features of the Trumpian right. I mean, when you've seen as many renderings of a beatific flag-toting Trump astride a tank, as I have, you're never swallowing a line that leader-worship is an exclusively leftish thing. The same goes for all or nothing thinking. While the online warriors of the leftish never tire of telling us how welcome all migrants are, their culture war oppos are telling us that all refugees are potential terrorists and that all of Western civilisation will end up subject to Sharia Law if we help anyone out who faces in a certain direction to pray. All or nothing bollocks is ideology-agnostic.
Perhaps the mistake pundits make when labelling social justice ideology as a religion is that they're failing to notice that focusing on appeals to 'fairness' have always been the bedrock of left wing thought.4 And because the concept of fairness has mission crept from equality of opportunity to equality of outcome, in this small but influential rump of activist academics and media professionals, it has become a preachy, shaming (and bullying) hyper moralistic dogma.
In the end it's partly this preachy quality of social justice ideology that tricks detractors into seeing it as a religion along with its hard-to-explain/understand critical theory underpinnings, which have an esoteric quality like the writings of some eastern faiths. There are probably lots of psychological cross-overs between extremely devoted political stances and religious faith, such as hero struggles, purpose and meaning underpinned by sacred values. And many have pointed out the evangelical hue colouring politics in general, especially since God died.5 But QAnon also features much of this nonsense. And, come on, those Trump memes. I mean...6
Incidentally, if you fancy a diversion into Trumpian aesthetics, this piece is interesting/depressing/hilarious.
So I think it's mainly confusion over hyper-moralism among the citizens of Wokeistan that gets them branded as religious maniacs or hapless captives of a cult, in an even less charitable take.
But let's face it, the leftish don't have the monopoly on cultural jihad, even though they do put many people in fear of their careers for speaking out of line and scare many others into keeping their thoughts to themselves. And, in fact, do so openly and proudly.
What's personally interesting is how this hyper-morality has seeped into my own consciousness and how some of the canards it spawns are repeated so casually, by quite unpolitical people. It's not like I'm even all that cancellable. I don't have to work to survive and I've mostly retreated from the hell of online chit chat and the pressing need for 'followers'. But still I notice, even in the privacy of my own space, moral dimensions popping up to cloud interesting or entertaining moments.
This happened recently.
Hearing a couple of old favourite songs I noticed that they might be deemed 'problematic' in the current cultural atmosphere.
First there's You Are What You Is by Frank Zappa. It's a wry commentary on consumer culture and people who attempt to reinvent themselves for appearances sake. It
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