I had a feeling that my response might have been a bit intemperate and wanted to give your article a closer read. I pretty much agree with where you end up but continue to disagree with the path you take there.

Let me admit first that I’ve found Foucault useful (and, also, my high water mark: Lacan and Derrida are too simply way too contorted for me to enjoy reading.) The error to me is to confuse bracketing any text's truth claim (which I think is eminently supportable) with the bracketing somehow nullifying that truth claim (which is pretty odd considering that the argument is using evidence and analysis as well — precisely the tool of the text being analyzing. This is likely exactly what you mean by the inherent self-defeating core.) It’s useful, and very probably necessary, to bracket the truth claims of scientific writing and see what shows up. But one thing worth noting when you go meta is that a large part of scientific text replicates under strict and unique rules and this uniqueness accounts for its revolutionary impact on the world over the last 400 years and an increasingly accurate picture of ourselves and the universe around us.

Anyway, second, a pet peeve of mine is rants about Millenials, woke culture, and etc. that 1) tend to fire at random into the crowd targeting a worst-case collection of traits and not the median, and 2) that show up in major newspaper op-ed columns and in Fox ‘News’ commentary by folks complaining about how their voice is being silenced by people who lack anywhere near their clout and who are generally mostly trying to point out they’re full of shit and should be called on it. (And I’m definitely not implying you’re one of those folks; just pointing out why this topic tends to chap my hide.)

There’s another component. Folks in their late teens and twenties generally have a lot of passion, not all of which can be sublimated cheering for the home team. If I remember from my past, the thought process goes something like:
> things are seriously fucked up (generally correct)
> no one truly realizes the seriousness but us or they’d have fixed it (generally incorrect)
> if we scream loud enough folks will notice, agree, and things will change (pretty much always wrong)

A group that can accidentally drink themselves to death can’t necessarily be expected to moderate their political action.

The humility you talk about generally only kicks in when you’ve had to realize the times you’ve simply been raggedy-ass wrong about something and that typically takes both time and honesty. You only get there by putting it out there and being willing to take some lumps.

So of ‘wokeness’:

…amount[s] just to a wakeup call about the “unintended impact of our actions,” the twilight of the idols, and the search for the deepest truth.

But that hardly distinguishes the practice of wokeness, does it?

You’re phrasing. Actually, I’m kind of thinking it does in most cases.
Or my phrasing:

…accepts agency and hence a responsibility for the impact of their actions. Awaking to the way, oh say, racism is baked into our language, institutions, and our implicit assumptions creates an extension of awareness and hence an extension of agency and responsibility.

Granted, I’m forming my opinion on all this based on interaction with people I know well: friends and their kids and parents and siblings…perhaps a sample of 50 ranging from age 25 to 75…that have been community organizers or educators or political activists (or coders or business people) either as vocation or avocation and that tend to find what you’re pejoratively terming the wokester cult to be overall a positive thing. Though I don’t really know anyone claiming to be ‘woke.’ Frankly it’s pretty hard to see the wokester as the chilling vanguard of neo-Foucaultian civilization-destroying amorality.

As you say, let’s make this clear with a little dialogue.

PERSON A: Tells a joke…say something about Jews and money.

PERSON B: You just committed a microaggression and should be ashamed of yourself.

PERSON A: I told the joke, sure, but what’s wrong with that?

PERSON B: What’s wrong with it? An ethnic joke is often simply a racist statement in drag. There are lots of jokes you could tell. This particular joke feeds into dangerous tropes about secret Jewish banker cabals, Jews as greedy and self-centered, and hence Jews as a poison undermining society. A joke seems a small thing but summed across instance after instance, and what is our common culture beyond the action of each of us, action like this have significantly contributed to the humiliation, misery, and death of Jews.

PERSON A: Hey, I have the right to go about my business without being confronted by the mischief, nagging, and bluster of you naïve progressives.

Nobody is pure, but I have more sympathy with PERSON B.

And meanwhile, here’s some cancel culture humor probably teaming with micro-aggressions. I’ve been chuckling about this for days.



Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at http://altabor.org/

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Alan Tabor

Alan Tabor

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at http://altabor.org/

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