During a recent conversation about changing attitudes in America a dear friend said to me, “Butch our time is past.” But my friend’s words didn’t really resonate until I read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch American activist, feminist, author and scholar who opined that free speech in this country is being threatened by those who she referred to as the “Woke” crowd.
Ali noted how during the last 20 years the far left has gained influence on campuses, in the media and in corporate America. And perhaps that’s why many young people today appear to have more in common with the intolerant doctrines of dogmatic religions than with the secular thinking of classic liberalism.
Classic liberalism is predicated on a diversity of ideas and viewpoints about life and the nature of society, while advocating for civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom. Notable individuals whose ideas contributed to classical liberalism include John Milton, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, F. A. Hayek and Ayn Rand. But to the far-left ideology of what Ali calls “Wokeism,” i.e., the cancel culture, social justice, critical race theory and intersectionality, classic liberal philosophy is anathema.
“Woke” ideology has been described as a cross between Marxism and radical Islam. Consider; the founders of Black Lives Matters are trained Marxists who have made clear their goal is to divide society into myriad identities. At the same time, “Wokeism” incorporates many aspects of radical Islam, i.e., it is certain of its own rectitude; it claims to pursue ideological purity yet refuses to engage in reasoned debate.
Perhaps my old friend was correct, attitudes are irrevocably changing. Nonetheless, I cannot reconcile with the cancel culture. From an early age I was exposed to the notion that the individual and the individual alone is responsible for his or her happiness in life; and for better or worse, our attitude towards life is what determines life’s attitude toward us.
I recall too when the prevailing social ethos was one of equal opportunity not equal outcome; and that success in life, however we chose to define it, came only with personal responsibility. We re-shaped the environment by reshaping our own attitudes towards the world and living contentedly didn’t mean redressing each alleged grievance. Meanwhile, the Woke are outraged at every perceived “microaggression” while exalting victimhood and political correctness.
When we look at what’s happening on the streets of our cities, we see the Woke crowd acting as judge, jury and executioner regarding the ills of society. Yes, there are some bad cops, and no one argues that blacks haven’t suffered at the hands of errant policing, but as Ali opines, these aren’t the drivers of the riots and destruction we’re seeing in our cities, which are in many cases orchestrated by well-to-do young white elitists.
Having experience of the horrors of radical Islam firsthand, Ms. Ali drew several interesting comparisons. Islamists shout “Allahu Akbar” and “Death to America”; the Woke chant “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.” Islamists pray to Mecca; the Woke take a knee; and both seem to enjoy burning the American flag.
Islamists inveigh against “blasphemy”; the Woke want to outlaw “hate speech.” Islamists use the word “Islamophobia” to silence critics; the Woke use “racism.” Islamists despise Jews; the Woke claim they just hate Israel, but their anti-Semitism is transparent Meanwhile, both seek to destroy existing systems (see Raqqa, Syria or the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle.) And in both instances, violence isn’t just tolerated it’s encouraged.
Both Islamists and the Woke believe that those who refuse conversion must be harassed, whether it’s someone driving in their car or families dining in outdoor cafés. And as Ali cynically noted, both share a fondness for tearing down statues
The cancel culture is slowly being revealed for what it is. And c’mon, does anyone believe their grievances are about the police? I do not have a crystal ball, but I do believe two absolute truths; first, these are not people of good will, and secondly, they do not they mean America well.
Yes, America’s cultural landscape is changing.
Quote of the day: “This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised, and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly.”—Barack Obama