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hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
5 months ago

Wokeness begins from the assumption that it’s core assumptions are unequivocally correct and that those who don’t share these assumptions only do so because:

  1. They’re ignorant and need to be “educated”
  2. They’re stupid, and can’t grasp the complex tenets of Critical Theory that the benighted woke Brahman class can
  3. They’re evil. ie they (the evil ones) know the truth but are motivated to maintain an unjust system to benefit their evil outgroup

With any debate beginning from that vantage point, and with a belief system that is unfalsifiable by its design, debate is impossible.
And the trouble with that is, when there is no option for meaningful discussion the only way to resolve conflicts about how to order society is through violence.
Sadly, even those who oppose this brand of leftwingism are also embracing left-like thinking, assuming anyone who expresses an opinion outside of their group orthodoxy, be immediately labelled as “one of them” without the need to interrogate the issues being raised.
As such, I get it in the neck from both sides, most of the time.
Unless all sides commit to enlightenment values centered on empiricism, evidence and reason and re-start civil dialogue around these core tenets, we are doomed, in my view, to violence.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
5 months ago

Well said. The article is too benign and diplomatic in suggesting that “we have all lost the argument”. The plain fact is that one side, the modern left, has given up on the premises which make argument possible: evidence, probability and truth. They are reduced to objecting, for example, when one professor calls another “eloquent”; they trash the reputation of a dead psychologist because he asserted the value of evolution to his field of study; and centre their objection – disingenuously – on his description of anthills as “colonies”. You might think that such puerile inadequacy disqualifies the modern left from further notice, but alas, that we heed it at all is testimony to their preponderant institutional power. Dark times.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
5 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

It’s more common on the left, and more pernicious there (at least at the present time) but it’s not exclusively the preserve of the left.
The people you point out are more toxic because they, unfortunately, have colonised the major institutions.
I recently had a chat with a friend of mine, for example, who abandoned Christian fundamentalism. The reasons she gave were identical to those I gave for leaving “leftwingism”: The hypocrisy, the unreason, the “them and us” thinking, the rigidity, the self righteousness…I could go on.
It reminded me that Orwell’s message in 1984 is actually far more severe than we often imagine, because it is not, as I’d first thought, a comment on the pathology of the left, but a comment on the pathology of human nature itself. It is, in that way, relevant to all societies in all times.

Last edited 5 months ago by hayden eastwood
Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
5 months ago

Indeed. I am as disturbed by the rush to ‘other’ the “modern left” as a homogeneous mass by some on the right as I am by the intellectual shutdown against any difference of opinion by *parts* of the left.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
5 months ago
Reply to  Lord Rochester

Lord Rochester, I doff my cap to you.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
5 months ago
Reply to  Lord Rochester

“Othering” – wokespeak designed to prevent the discovery of turpitude. In this case the left’s clear rejection of enlightenment principles.

Michael K
Michael K
5 months ago
Reply to  Lord Rochester

Yet it’s very important to see that it’s specifically people on the left who are being gripped by this weird, new way of collectivist cult-thinking, which clearly comes with a political flair.
That does not mean that everything on the right is correct and good – that claim would follow the same erroneous way of thinking – but it does mean that we have to realize there is a clear problem on the left specifically. This realization is so incredibly important because it’s the prerequisite to solving our current issues, which have only come about by too much tolerance and acceptance from conservatives. The left has now taken the active role and uses the old tactic of “accusing the other side of what they are doing”. There’s psychological warfare going on, and it’s straight out of the Marxist playbook. Unfortunately, you can’t solve it by being tolerant, as that’s literally how it came about to begin with.

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
5 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Well said.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
5 months ago

No, they are not more toxic purely because they occupy positions of power – and they do – but because they are rejecting the enlightenment, lock, stock and barrel. True, the fundamentalist religious do the same but there are crucial differences.
One, the religious refer to textual or traditional authority to which many have access and may hence deploy in their own defence. The left, in full Orwell’s O’Brien mode, determine truth as they like, regularly changing the codes of permissible speech for instance without much room for appeal.
Two, the religious frequently reserve their authority to the metaphysical realm and allow for research and debate where purely scientific matters are concerned; the “woke” are busily censoring and distorting scientific enquiry.
The time for bland “plague on both your houses” complacency is done. To persist with such clapped out bromides is at best just whistling in the dark.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
5 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Absolutely. We need to be much more confrontational towards wokery.

Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis
5 months ago

Hayden bang on – I was organising a discussion on Critical Justice and Wokeism for a local humanist group and did some research into Critical Justice and I remain aghast at what I learnt – it did not take me long to realise this whole edifice of ‘scholarship’ was untethered from reality and was deliberately set up to undo enlightenment values of critical based reasoning and evidence based reality checking. I could not agree with any of the assertions of underlying most these of these post modern ideologies and cannot believe that this brain rot is being taught in universities. The basic assertions underlying Critical Justice ideology don’t stand up to 5 minutes of intelligent challenge or evidence. I remain astounded that CRT, Gender Ideology, third wave ‘feminism’ and all the descendants of this nonsense have any traction at all – everything it touches turns to discord and division.

Last edited 5 months ago by Anthony Lewis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
5 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Lewis

Precisely. Which is why talk of “both sides” and “othering” are so wildly misplaced – or disingenuous.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Lewis

Indeed. My studies at college have touched upon Critical Justice. It’s actually the opposite of Justice.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
5 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Lewis

I suspect that might be deliberate, so that world ends whilst we are busy being distracted by discord and division and ignoring the common good, which is needed for continuing life together on a shared and sisintegrating planet.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
5 months ago

Excellent as usual, Hayden! I look forward to your contributions.

Warren T
Warren T
5 months ago

Your last sentence sums up what is wrong with us today. We each believe we own our own set of facts. And when we are confronted by this, we refuse to acquiesce.
I think the main culprit is social media algorithms, which only give us information based on our previous search habits. If half the room believes the picture they are shown is of a giraffe and the other half of the room vehemently argues that the picture is of an elephant, we need to come together and acknowledge that we are each being shown a different picture rather than thinking the other half is simply crazy or ignorant.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
5 months ago

Wokeness assumes that objective truth is unobtainable, because the only truth is the one experienced by the individual. It seems to follow from that proposition that, for all .its fervour and commitment, all the Theories – critical race, queer etc are condemned by the same idea: they cannot be objective either; and the views of the unwoke are as equally valid.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago

It is a feature of today that everyone has something to say. What’s more, they know that they’re right. So every conversation seems to me to be two monologues with neither side listening. Twitter-type media forums (also UnHerd) have made it easier to speak because you can do so without revealing your identity. So, you can upset your neighbour without them even knowing it.

I also note that on UnHerd most people don’t listen. They have a point and they say the same thing on every occasion. The discussion could be about devolution in the UK, Covid-19, political battles in the USA, feminism, trans issues, sport.. and the answer is, “The Left”, “The Left”, “Progressives..”, Democrats, The Left.

This comes from fear. The world is changing and we can’t change fast enough with it. So we sit in front of our computers and we have to blame somebody. There follows a rant and the moment has gone.

The answer to all this is to listen to all views, think and then come up with new ideas. We are all too nervous of looking foolish, even with our names hidden so new ideas are out and old ideas remain festering.

Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, there is a vocal, blue-rinsed demographic below the line here which has found its own little echo chamber on the internet. It is a shame, and I do worry that it has led to an increasing conformity of perspectives among the pieces published above the line.

I remember a perfectly interesting piece in Unherd by a London gardener where he pondered whether the small changes he saw in the gardens he tended were connected to the impact of the anthropocene, or not. He was belittled, misrepresented, and had his manhood questioned in a really vile ad hominem manner by a group of the usual posters. It was quite disgusting. And it was no different to a Twitter pile-on.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
5 months ago
Reply to  Lord Rochester

Yes I remember that, very unpleasant comments and, ironically, full of herd thinking.

Last edited 5 months ago by hayden eastwood
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
5 months ago
Reply to  Lord Rochester

Yebbut his views were wrong.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The answer to all this is to listen to all views

Well, apart from those of the left, obviously.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

However you define Left, it is already there, already in power. The view here, I think, is of a Left waiting to step in to take over. Everything has already happened; only the traditional view (unions, etc) has gone quiet.

IMO, we should be be learning to live with some aspects of the left (despite Mr Dennis accusing me of defeatism) because it is at least partially generational.

Like you I think, I am particularly worried about Socialism and the environmental clampdown. But I can see positives. By going away from gas we will cease to be dependent on Russia for our energy. The idea should be for us to retreat from gas every year until it starts to hurt and then delay, delay, delay, until our other systems (nuclear) come in to fill the gap.

By going away from oil, we are removing pollutants from the cities, things which cause breathing problems, asthma, cancers. Maybe there is no proof of this but it seems intuitively correct.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

No mention of pollution caused by tyre dust. Yet! “Everyone” knows that tyres wear but who thinks of where that ‘wear’ goes? Oops! Hope there’s no ‘greenies’ lurking here.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I’m assuming that your second sentence was facetious, or at least I hope it was. Listening to all views does mean listening to the left, otherwise you just enter a right-wing echo-chamber, and I can’t see how that is more virtuous than a left-wing chamber.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
5 months ago

I was being facetious, but I don’t think you can really have a right-wing echo chamber. Firstly, there isn’t really a recognisable suite of right-wing positions equivalent to the identikit predictable left-wing house views of the BBC, NGOs, etc. For example, some on the right opposed gay marriage because they were conservative, while others supported it because they’re libertarians. Secondly, people who are right of the centre tend to be pragmatic rather than doctrinaire and self-congratulatory. Thus their opinions are not simply issue-by-issue polar opposites of the left’s, they are less likely to hate people for being so wicked as to disagree with them, and they don’t reflexively close ranks into an echo chamber. Any attempt at creating one will always allow inward leakage of leftery.
If you consider the left-wing media – the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC – these are literally devoid of right of centre voices on any subject. The Guardian routinely sensors and bans commenters from the right. On the BBC, their farming correspondents are anti-farmer, and a programme like Countryfile‘s idea of farming-related content includes ludicrous items about black women going for walks in the country. The Telegraph, in contrast, regularly hosts left-wing opinions and columnists.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

You may be right about the lack of a definitive suite of right-wing views, but there is right-wing consensus on a mumber of issues; in fact, on this site, the comments that I have seen are pretty homogeneous on a number of subjects e.g. mask-wearing, climate change, trans issues. Don’t get me wrong, on one of those issues I am in danger of joining an echo-chamber too, so I do take care to read papers and speak to people who do not share my views. However, although I certainly agree about the self-rightousness of “progressive” left (and I do differentiate between the Left and the “Progressive” Left), there is certainly plenty of hate coming from some sections of the Right; they might not be calling opponants wicked, but “unpatriotic” and, in the US, un-American are favoured terms of abuse.

Left-leaning papers are devoid of righjt-wing views, that’s true, but then I don’t think the Mail is renowned for giving voice to left-wing views. I do think that the papers have become more polarised over the last few decades, though, which has done nothing to foster understanding and advance mutual respect.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

More woke comments here tend to get plenty of thumbs down but, as far as I can see, don’t get removed as right wing arguments tend to be in the Guardian comment sections unless carefully presented. Equally, the Guardian will not allow any comment on articles where they anticipate a significant number of challenges to the article. In contrast many articles here are fiercely criticised without censorship – apart from the automatic system that seems to rely on filtering out what it interprets as vulgar abuse.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Jeez you really think the pile on about parties and Johnson’s competence isn’t part of a right wing echo chamber seeking to replace him with someone more to their political liking? I read it every day here in the Unherd comments.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

There is no point in listening to the wokists, because they simply won’t return the courtesy. Moreover, they have already accumulated a great deal of power and influence via their long march through the institutions. Wokery does not merit respect. It’s a disease which needs to be beaten.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

If I may provide a little push-back on this: My wife often accuses me of ‘not listening’ when in reality she means ‘not agreeing’.
Because there is a more fundmental point that is being missed. All societies require a common base of principles and beliefs – things we (the majority) accept unquestioningly.
Until recently, this was the set of morals we inherited from the Judeo-Christian tradition, from which classical liberalism was born.
What has happened is that this set of values and beliefs has fractured. A new one is being created. This is not about how we debate. These are competing value systems. And history shows us how that is resolved – through the exercise of brute force.
Will traditional liberal values rally sufficiently well and coherently to stage a defence and counterattack against the emergent woke cultural? Are they, by their nature, too highminded to withstand the challenge of a blunter, more visceral ideology?

Warren T
Warren T
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

No matter how much I listen to someone’s views, nothing will cause me to come up with new ideas to accept some of them. Here are some:

  • Practicing racism to solve racism is wrong.
  • A biological male, with full functioning male genitalia and chromosomes will never be female and get pregnant.
  • Believing that humans can alter the trajectory of global climate is something I will believe in the moment we find a way to prevent a volcano from erupting or an earthquake from taking place. I would even start with our ability to prevent a small rain shower from occurring.
  • When someone explains where the rocks in outer space came from to create the “big bang”, I will then question my faith in God.
  • Aborting a child in the womb is something that is abhorrent and a stain on humankind. I also think it should continue to be legal, just like many other sins are legal.
  • Molesting a child is never acceptable.
  • Physically beating someone into submission is never acceptable.
  • Genocide is never acceptable.
  • Murder is never acceptable.
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
5 months ago

As a civil lawyer it was my professional business to be looking for areas of compromise to save the client from expensive litigation and most civil legal issues are compromised short of full scale litigation.
However, it is hard to see where compromise can take place with many positions espoused by the left.
Robin de Angelis, for example comes across as a thoughtful academic in YouTube clips rather than a ranting extremist but her basic premise that if you are white you must be racist appears to defy compromise, as it doesn’t seem to accommodate the idea that having a pale skin could say absolutely nothing about your attitude to someone with a darker skin.
Left wing positions are often structured in such an uncompromising fashion to the extent that anyone opposed to them must be doing so from uninformed or evil intent. Those espousing left wing positions tend to be keen to accuse others of bigotry but their own positions are far too often not subject to modification by facts that counter the narrative and are therefore ipso facto bigots.
As in civil litigation some people take up positions that are not open to compromise and have to be fought all the way.
I would add that this unbending attitude has been successful in practice as the majority who are unideological are too often willing to compromise and accept that say a men can become women by saying they are to compromise on something that is thought to affect only a small number only to discover it has extensive ramifications in society.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
5 months ago

Listen carefully and remain calm and patient. Do not call anyone names or belittle their point of view or imply that they are irrational….Anger and hostility will turn them away. 

I don’t see how identity politics can possibly absorb these tenets. It is about demanding special status for people who identify themselves as victims. Where there’s a victim there’s necessarily a perpetrator, who obviously deserves to be hated. QED.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jon Redman
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Couldn’t agree more. There is no such thing as identity politics without noise.

The danger of course is that the noisier the politics, the more that quiet, ordinary people shy away from it. Then it wins by default.

In the Welsh Assembly elections last year a region candidate for Plaid Cymru was a 23-year old trans. About two weeks before the election there was a shouting match between him and another Plaid Cymru candidate. She said something like, “You’re just a man dressing up.” She was sacked and he withdrew.

The point is that ordinary people have to sacrifice themselves to stand up to the identity politics. I can’t see many volunteering for this.

Last edited 5 months ago by Chris Wheatley
Peter LR
Peter LR
5 months ago

Thanks, that was really informative. It explains why after 2015 I don’t bother watching the leader debates before elections: pure ad hominem theatre.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
5 months ago

“Polls consistently show that most people don’t want to participate in culture wars, if indeed they even know what they are. They want compromise and settlement, without which a democratic society cannot function.”
I would very much like to agree, but how exactly does one deal with the scourge of wokeness without being extremely confrontational? These people HAVE to be told NO. Otherwise there will very quickly not BE a democratic society.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
5 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Especially that part of Bristle opposite ‘M’ Shed?

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
5 months ago

The media’s love of conflict has got completely out of hand. Mild dissent is now routinely billed as Outrage! and journalists who report on uncontroversial or converging opinions may have to choose another career.

David McDowell
David McDowell
5 months ago

“Polls consistently show that most people don’t want to participate in culture wars, if indeed they even know what they are. They want compromise and settlement, without which a democratic society cannot function.”
How does this work in the context of a culture war? Where one side holds ground the other side wants to take. Is it by legitimising criminality as in Bristol?

Peter LR
Peter LR
5 months ago
Reply to  David McDowell

David, I think the Bristol jury decision was a majority one rather than unanimous; and could reflect metropolitan views rather than the whole country.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Bristol: that hotbed of metropolitan views and sophistication.

LOL

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
5 months ago
Reply to  David McDowell

A very mild bit of vandalism at the expense of a statue that half the country hated, isn’t “criminality.”

Calling it that, insults victims of real crimes and real vandalism.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
5 months ago

Wow, couldn’t formulate it any better, spot on! Thanks!
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Just for arguments sake! Or for arguments sake?
Monty Python: The Argument Sketch
Sketch
https://youtu.be/xpAvcGcEc0k
Text link
https://montycasinos.com/montypython/scripts/argument.php.html

Last edited 5 months ago by Raymond Inauen
Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
5 months ago

Social media’s business model depends on perpetual rancour and the amplification of extreme points of view.
YES !
We argue about how we are arguing, and we do it every day.
NO !
‘We’ do not. A small bubble THINK that everyone does.

Stephen Williams
Stephen Williams
5 months ago

If I want an American perspective, I can subscribe to The Conversation, which is where this piece and several other recent American culture perspectives should be. Unherd might like to have wider ambitions, but not with my Subscription, please.

john zac
john zac
5 months ago

I believe on something else Dorian—social engagement. There are rules to social engagement, respect, compassion, understanding, empathy, reason. We’ve thrown that all away because power/authority needed to do away with them. So we are left with this noise until we realize things have to change

Andrew Currie
Andrew Currie
5 months ago

Perhaps the author should have tried his luck here:
Man: I came here for a good argument.
Mr. Vibrating: No you didn’t; no, you came here for an argument.
Man: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
Mr. Vibrating: It can be.
Man: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
Mr. Vibrating: No it isn’t.
Man: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.
Mr. Vibrating: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
Man: Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’
Mr. Vibrating: Yes it is!
Man: No it isn’t!
Man: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
(short pause)
Mr. Vibrating: No it isn’t.

Anyone who has no idea what this is can find the full script here:
http://montypython.50webs.com/scripts/Series_3/27.htm

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Currie

Is he Mr. Vibrating or Mr. Barnard?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
5 months ago

I have noticed that in all walks of life, agreeing to differ, which was normal in the 60s and 70s when I grew up, is becoming ever more difficult.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

People are more fraught, anxious, insecure now.

That’s globalisation.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
5 months ago

I had a formative experience when political discussions via the internet first arrived pre-2000, when I engaged in forums about Northern Ireland politics. The extremism of the participants, who were intelligent and informed people, was shocking to me.
Having been brought up amidst the NI extremism in my community and family I knew extremist views existed, but I didn’t realise that intelligent people could be so partisan and blinkered to alternative views. When debating such issues with my friends and relatives, sometimes quite awkwardly, it was possible to move forward in our understanding – but that obviously gave me a false impression of other people.
I learned my lesson back then, and stopped participating in such debates – I limit myself to reading comments, making comments and watching debates on sites such as this.

Last edited 5 months ago by Ian Stewart
Andrew Currie
Andrew Currie
5 months ago

Oops!