By Victor Davis Hanson
History is replete with examples of nations, successful and not-so-successful alike, that abruptly committed suicide.
The ancient polis of Corcyra devoured itself in a bloody conflict as a collective madness took hold of the island city-state during the Peloponnesian War.
The Jacobins in 1793 hijacked the French Revolution and turned a movement toward a constitutional republic into a totalitarian, year-zero effort to destroy the past and ensure equity for all—or else. The Reign of Terror—and eventually Napoleon—followed.
The effort to force war-weary Czarist Russia to reform into a constitutional monarchy ended up being kidnapped by a small but lethal clique of Leninist Bolsheviks. What ensued was the destruction of Russian life—and millions of corpses—over the next 70 years. Ditto Mao Zedong’s various murderous resets culminating in the cannibalistic “Cultural Revolution.” Mao’s final tab was 60-70 million deaths of his fellow Chinese.
French, Russian, and Chinese wokists all toppled statues, canceled out the nonbelievers, wiped away history, tore down monuments, and declared themselves the purest of all generations in their year zero—before getting down to the business of dividing up the spoils and settling scores.
Most of these bloodbaths started out with the supposedly noble idea of delivering social justice, equity, and fairness before they inevitably went deadly and feral. We should be just as worried about our own woke pandemic.
Start with the idea that “wokeness” is an ideology divorced from reality. Nearly all of its premises are complete distortions. Between 2017 and 2020, minorities had made the greatest gains in employment in U.S. history. Women currently represent about 60 percent of all college students.
Recent wage gains for minority middle-class Americans outpaced those of the white working- and middle class. The latter were underrepresented in college enrollments and as graduates—but vastly overrepresented (at twice their percentage of the general population) in the toll of combat dead in Afghanistan and Iraq. Asian-Americans and a dozen other ethnic groups outpace so-called whites in per capita and household income. “White privilege” is usually a sloppy term that applies mostly to the white elites who use it to smear others.
America was in our sixth decade of “affirmative action,” the euphemism of ensuring equity of result by calibrating race and gender—but not class—in hiring and admissions. Proportional representation and disparate impact continued or were even enhanced. But they became increasingly selective as entire fields from the Postal Service to professional sports were somehow exempt from racial set-asides applied to others. Quotas disappeared when the marginalized were “overrepresented” in a field.
The historical reparatory effort of the massive programs born out of the Great Society continued to address the baleful legacy of slavery that had ended over 150 years ago, as well as Southern Jim Crow laws that had largely disappeared 40-50 years ago, and the fumes of such racial toxicity. So, Martin Luther King’s “content of our character” rather than the “color of our skin” was still embraced as the melting-pot ideal of the Civil Rights movement that had fought for integration and full assimilation into American society. Meanwhile, intermarriage has never been more common.
The desperate Left had therefore been forced to invent adjectives and phraseology like “systemic racism” and “microaggression” and “whiteness” given the vast majority of Americans did not feel or express or act out on “racism.”
In other words, wokeness created the mythology that the nonwhite were worse off than ever before—a typical revolutionary fabrication to evoke the sort of hysteria necessary for an otherwise unpopular agenda. But then again, we live in an age where we were assured Hunter Biden’s lost laptop was “Russian disinformation”, the Steele dossier was iron-clad proof of something, and a pangolin or a bat birthed COVID-19.
The wrongful death of George Floyd in police custody—despite his later angelic deification, Floyd was in fact a felon with a history of violence toward women, arrested in the act of passing counterfeit U.S. currency—was the work of a cruel rogue cop and his incompetent enablers. Otherwise, data and statistics did not show that African American males were dying while in police custody in numbers greater than their proportions of those yearly arrested. Nor were they the victims of some pandemic of interracial hate crimes. Indeed, blacks statistically were more likely to commit rare violent interracial crimes than were others, including targeted hate crimes against other ethnic and racial groups.
Another great lie was the propaganda that the woke movement was a grass-roots movement. Yet statue-toppling, vandalism, Trotskyism, and cancel culture remain largely the work of college students, upper-middle class white coastal elites, celebrities, and privileged minorities in the media, academia, law, the corporate world, entertainment, and professional sports.
In a reductionist sense, much of the woke movement became a battle among elites to leverage diversity czars in universities, reparational quotas in administrative hiring and college admissions, and a sort of racialized intramural reseating among first-class passengers on the corporate and government Lido deck.
While wokeists harangued New York and Hollywood for more nonwhites in TV commercials, thousands of young African American males continued to be slaughtered in the inner-cities, as schools in those places resisted reform and remained indifferent to the poor quality of education offered residents. Because the culpable municipal officials—hard-Left diversity mayors, neo-Marxist district attorneys, and “reformist” police chiefs—were themselves woke, no one cared about derelict governance. And so, the killing continues unabated, surrealistically unremarked upon by the wokest.
Class considerations were suppressed, given that the beneficiaries of wokeness were not necessarily previously poor and oppressed. In our racialized madness, billionaires like LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, and Beyonce, multimillionaires like the Obamas and Colin Kaepernick, and moneyed political, corporate, entertainment, military, and sports grandees—play-acted oppression and victimization from their villas and privileged perches, in perfect Marie Antoinette fashion. All they lacked was fake peasant garb and a village at Versailles.
The architects themselves of wokeness mostly cashed in on the supposedly toxic capitalist system that they had so harangued as the ground zero of “systemic racism.” So, BLM cofounder and self-described “cultural Marxist” Patrisse Cullors is now “retired”—and the savvy owner of four new homes, residing in nearly all-white tony Topanga Canyon, with a new $35,000 security gate. How else could she best use her black privilege to direct her multimillion-dollar war against “white privilege”?
Professor Ibram X. Kendi (neé Henry Rogers), whose “antiracist” new industry calls for racism to stop racism and discrimination to end discrimination, now charges his corporate and university clients a reportedly $20,000 penance fee for a phoned-in Zoom chat. (He apparently has no discount rate for the poorer of his clients). Kendi no doubt took Lenin to heart (“Capitalists will sell us the rope to hang them with.”) when he hawks his video indulgences at $333 a minute.
The cultural revolutionary Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates was customarily already one step ahead and has moved on from the woke movement to a multimillion-dollar career writing black-themed comic books or adapting them to the big screen. Barack and Michelle Obama, long ago known for their cinematic creativity, leveraged a $50 million “consulting” movie deal with Netflix, whose founder is best known in California for his efforts to fund the campaign against Larry Elder, including commercials starring . . . Barack Obama.
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