Wokism or the great return of idealism

Abstract: Wokism marks the resurgence of idealism. Great pendulum movement in response to deconstructivism. But something has changed. Those who practice wokism have changed. New generation of individualists who no longer try to collectivize the ideal but to impose it in its intact, radical version. The pendulum movement is also from the soliDary to the soliTary.

The young shoot of idealism

Wokism is an intellectual movement started in the American center-left. It is said to be liberal and progressive. To enter into ‘wokeness’ is to awaken to the great problems of society, to be concerned with one’s personal moral hygiene. Awakening is not something you do, it is something you are. But little by little, the movement became hegemonic and peremptory. Each political subject is divided between the right words of enlightened people and the others, stuck in drowsiness or even stultification. It is no longer really necessary to confront thoughts since one is morally higher and it should be enough to understand it to inhabit it. No “crisis of conscience” would be necessary. Inner conflicts are avoided by the fact that one thought is ‘pure’ and the others are degraded versions.

You easily recognize, in this description, idealism. The term ‘wokism’ is just a packaging, inevitable in the era where the past no longer interests in the face of a future that unfolds every day with spectacular novelties. Idealism has awakened!! But has it fundamentally changed?

An elitism that weakens social cohesion

Idealism is elitism. Thought tries to tear itself away from the blind and imperturbable chaos of the world. It needs bright landmarks to bend its course. The ideal is the North Star of the Higher Human, allowing her to tear herself away from her primary instincts, conceived in the evolutionary mud, in the rough early stages of life. The ideal is spiritual emancipation. But today what the mind needs to extract itself is from the right-thinking, from the social and political routines that lead the world to its doom. Idealism awakens in a context of ambient catastrophism. Let us remember that the last time it did, two destructive world wars followed. Freedom comes at a high price. The ideal, however, seems something universal. Why, then, does it trigger such dramatic confrontations?

Armed truth

Wokism offers idealism modern and effective tools of inquisition. It leverages network technology to encourage mutual oversight and track down the smallest deviation from the goal. And punish. The “armed truth” is in ambush, flies over all conversations. The minions of the woke ideal are cerberus who go through the discussion groups and bring back their reports, submitting them to the gurus of the movement. The ideal is made more striking by a constant hardening of comments, as long as it has not spread everywhere. If it stagnates it is because it is too soft. In the society of the spectacle the competition is hard. Your truth must strike, capture those flickering glances and unable to concentrate for long. It is necessary to bludgeon, to replenish every day the scene of the ideal with firecrackers ever more intimidating.

Willingly revolted by the inertia of the targets, the wokist adds more, traffics and caricatures, steals the information of the opposing opinions to disguise them and integrate them into her patchwork. She understood that to make the world conform to her will, it is the world that must be rigged and not the will of others, too quick to rebel. With wokism, idealism has oscillated from best to worst, from spiritual escape from a frozen world to the most abject totalitarianism that can be exercised on the world to disguise it.

The Transvestite Ball

Aware of the criticism, wokism is now spreading by masking its fiery heart behind a rounder and more pleasant face. The era of radical cults and aggressive proselytizing is arguably already fading, after a spike marked by Trumpism, meToo and suicide encouragement to save Gaia. Today groups promote the boundaries of the ideal more than its purity. They work on connections with existing reality. The most symbolic terms are replaced by peripherals. No more fundamental rights, let’s talk about anti-racism; No more communitarianism, let’s talk about intersectionality; No more equality, let’s talk about equity.

But has the intolerance at the heart of idealism evolved? The ideal remains fundamentally hostile to what is likely to distort it. The idealist often resents the one who wants to influence her diplomatically more than the declared enemy. With the enemy things are clear, the dispute is frank. While with a mediator the outcome will be bastard, the ideal always distorted. The idealist is less desperate to see the contrary ideal win. This success is likely to be temporary. The radicalism of the other will be its weakness. There is still a chance to impose the purity of one’s own ideal. While a compromise seems set to last. The revolution will never take place.

Tolerable intolerance

Intolerance becomes quality when the ideal is morally right. No compromise possible on raw racism, basic human rights, equality of citizens and genders, etc. But the slide is fast towards positive racial or gender discrimination, the protection of professional and antisocial troublemakers. There is no ideal in this world… outside of our mental schemas. How, then, to refer to just ideals without being devoured by them?

Something has changed

Observers of the woke movement all conclude that something has changed. It’s not the same wokism as it was a decade ago. The idealistic and “artisanal” little whistleblowers have been replaced by scandal professionals, with well-rehearsed broadcasts surrounded by targeted marketing. The ‘massification’ of wokism has diluted and distorted it. It has become a political tool like any other, manipulated by more or less well-intentioned individuals, all the more sincere, dangerous and excited because they are mythomaniacs.

But then, what value remains to the notion of alert when it has become a consumer good of the society of the spectacle? The sad side effect of wokism is that we no longer pay close attention to a major alert. They all are! Fast food scandal where neurons become obese from its permanent overconsumption and indifferent to its quality. The retirement age mobilizes more in France than the fate of a Ukrainian population under the bombs. “Great pains are (far too much) silent,” says Denys de Béchillon, because they are drowned in a deluge of small ones, created by the injunction that one must awaken to all its causes of ill-being, make them public, exist through them… Wokism has turned us into a population of whiners.

Suckling, me?

Is my article a reaction, a return to conservative intellectual elitism, which wants to prevent others from thinking? Who says that such a cause is more important? Who projects her choices on others? Why can’t we, each of us, rank the priority ideals in our little heads? The criticism of wokism comes rather from the intellectual elite, while the gurus of wokism have a less rich pedigree, a training often self-taught, with lay followers but delighted to embark on the train of ‘those who know’. So, is wokism a class struggle?

I specify “intellectual elite”: Neither the place of birth, nor the diploma, nor the age or the sex, but the general intelligence certainly yes. General intelligence or G-factor is not that of the specialist —we all have excellent specialized intelligences on the subjects we have to deal with every day. The G factor, on the contrary, is the ability to understand and organize information in a field where we are still novices. It is revealed in the speed of learning, in the ability to intervene brilliantly on a wide variety of problems, propose new solutions, unlock dead ends.

Interlocking our intelligence

Good general intelligence is by definition eclectic. It collectivizes all information instead of compartmentalizing it as idealism does. The difference between the intelligence of the wokist and that of the scholar is radical: the former is entirely dedicated to the ideal while the latter cannot be limited to it —yet another resurgence of the fundamental principle T<>D1Everything emanates from a conflict between individuation and collectivization. Between “I am” and “belong to”. Between the T for soliTary and the D for soliDary: solitary intelligence versus soliDary.

It is therefore not a question of a class struggle but on the one hand the ideal struggling to expand within the collective, without changing its individualized character, while on the other hand the elite of thinkers tries to collectivize it, to make it truly soliDary. Choosing sides is a dynamic tension between the identity and collective self. If I bring the ideal too much into my identity I become it, and I could no longer collectivize myself. Ite erects walls that are too high. If none of my intelligences are specialized in this specific field, it is better to trust a good general intelligence rather than the guru. This is the essential role played by journalists, philosophers and thinkers of complexity.

And the personality of the wokist?

Less often summoned, psychologists are just as necessary. We unpack the wokist speech and savor it, but who delivered it? What recipe? We did not have access to the kitchen. Did the discourier use good quality ingredients? Knowing the personality of the chef is essential. But we are almost afraid to enter it. By identifying with her, the criticisms that concern her could apply to us too…


Of Course You Know What “Woke” Means, Freddie deBoer 2023

1 thought on “Wokism or the great return of idealism”

  1. I think I understand your reasoning, JeanPierre. I can even see the idealism with which you are excited and feel the warmth of a fresh, moral breeze. I heartily welcome all of that. All good things aside, though, the climate for idealism here and now is turbulent. The terror mongers and promoters of anarchy are powerful influence…this is not the idealism of my youth in the 1960s. Laws have changed and/or been abrogated in some way or another, such that original aims have been subsumed. There was a privacy statute on the books in or around 1976. I don’t know if it still exists, or if anyone cares. There is an American idiom you may know: waiting for the other shoe to drop. That is how the climate seems to me. Bon jour, mon ami.


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