Where does wokism come from, and what are its foundations? It is like the Evangelical Revival of 200 years ago. French philosopher Jean-François Braunstein explores these questions in his essay “La Religion Woke”.
The woke ideology has grown religious features, Braunstein argues in his essay. According to him, it fills the perceived void of a higher truth in the post-religious society of today.
The influence of the woke ideology seems to have reached all different corners of society. Braunstein mentions the examples of the Disney company that invites its white employees to reflect on their privileges, political activists who determine the academic climate at universities and track down old-school professors and the multiplying number of courses on anti-racism.
“In the name of the fight against discrimination, a new intellectual terrorism is taking place in Western societies”, he writes, as reported by Famille Chretienne. Braunstein warns: This movement overthrows all the usual frameworks of thought and its objective is to “deconstruct the cultural and scientific heritage of a West accused of being systemically sexist, racist and colonialist.”
The woke movement was born in American universities but now conquers Western societies quickly. Braunstein points out that its rise is similar to that of the Protestant revivalists in the 18th and 19th centuries. According to the philosopher, it is the first time in modern history that “a kind of cult is born in universities, with its own vision of the world, its dogmas, its followers, its rights and its quasi-sacred texts.”
Even though wokists pretend to have invented a new theory, they do not act as if they work for a better world, says Braunstein. “Their religion is a religion of purification and magical thinking, where forgiveness is absent.”
Wokism is very similar to the Christian heresy of Gnosticism which grew in the 2nd century, Braunstein writes. “The body was considered to be inherently bad. The utopian vision of a pure consciousness imagined a reality in which the human spirit could be totally free from the weight of the body and at the same time from sexual differences.”
The same elements are seen in wokism, according to Braunstein. “I can feel like a man or a woman, but also an animal, a river. However, it is only in the metaverse world that you can change your body at will. In reality, doing so will lead down a catastrophic path with irreversible damage.”
The thing the French philosopher worries most about concerning wokism is that the young generation is bombarded with the ideology of the movement everywhere. Yet, it is hard to counter this movement that is sweeping over Western societies, Braunstein writes. “The ambiguous role of the academic world in its development makes scientific and rational criticism almost impossible. No argument has any effect on them. We can try to stop them but not convince them.”
At the same time, Braunstein refers to an experiment that showed that the woke ideology is not based on scientific facts. He writes about researchers Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian, who exposed the corruption in research. They made up several shocking articles and attempted to get them published. Despite their writings lacking any basis or proof, they were able to get them into peer-reviewed publications.
That wokism can gain ground so quickly in the higher levels of society, such as in the political arena, is due to the gap between the elite of society and reality, Braunstein argues. He quotes Christopher Lasch, who stated in 1995 that the “intellectual classes are fatally removed from the physical side of life. They live in a world of abstraction and images as opposed to the immediate, palpable physical reality inhabited by men and women.”
The causes for this are multiple, Braunstein explains. “Youth feels the need to fight, a form of tyranny of benevolence in which part of this American youth from a privileged background was brought up.”
Some argue that wokism is born from the Christian ideal of compassion. Braunstein acknowledges that the idea of a victim needing help and understanding constitutes the background of the woke ideology. “These identity ideologies work because everyone wants to be a victim today, and this has become the absolute reference. But at the same time, the compassion claimed by these ideologies is a mad compassion detached from reality and reason. It justifies all the inversions of value and the most absurd political choices.”