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Douglas Murray: Tyranny of Woke

The "Woke" revolution is ruining our view of history and tearing up our culture. “Woke” activists pose as self-righteous “warriors for social justice”.

"Woke" was originally used as a mildly radical expression in universities, by newly graduated gender activists or by TV presenters who wanted to ingratiate themselves with the torchbearer of the "Woke", Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, better known under the abbreviation AOC. Meanwhile "Woke" has become a curse that is supposed to destroy everything on its uncompromising and unstoppable path. Douglas Murray dissects this “revolution” in an exclusive interview with Die Weltwoche . He observes that the unpleasant, depraved, and divisive elements that are increasingly worrying were there from the start. The best-selling British author of the book “Madness of Crowds" claims that "these people are not only ignorant but presumptuous and raise themselves to be judges, juries and enforcers over the past without understanding anything of history."

Die Weltwoche: Not so long ago, “Woke” was a positive word that denoted someone who reacted particularly sensitively to “intersectional” circumstances such as class, race, gender or sexuality. Now we are experiencing something completely different, something that divides, destroys and is tyrannical. Douglas Murray, when did the woke culture spoil?

Douglas Murray: Well, it was spoiled from the start. But it was actually used as a positive term about five years ago. In 2015 and 2016 you could actually still hear people saying "she's so woke" to praise someone. As if that person has all the beliefs we can all agree on. People liked to refer to themselves as a "woke". They don't do that anymore. Something has changed there.

The English Guardian claimed that I and others had invented the term. But we have only used the word with which the "woken" refer to themselves. The Guardian until a few years ago carried articles by people who referred to themselves and those who admired them as "woke". Until the negative aspects came to light. But the uncomfortable, rotten, and divisive stuff was there from the start.

Die Weltwoche: This movement is enormously dynamic, but a key message is difficult to make out. It seems to be heterogeneous. What do you see as the main forces behind this “wokeness culture”?

Douglas Murray: There are different ones. I describe one aspect in my book “Madness of Crowds” and that is the disappearance of private and public speech. Now every speech is always and always potential for the whole world. All our life, until about two years ago, we were able to distinguish between private and public communication. For example, a newspaper article was a public communication and a conversation with a friend was a private one. But the advent of social media has damaged that, so now a private conversation that might have gone wrong can become a matter of public concern, even if you're not actually a public person.

This is a very important change for our species in terms of communication. It means that people who are very aware of this, especially young people, are now always trying to speak in a way that everyone thinks they can accept.

In this communication process, they try to give their speech a universal aspect that consists of anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia and much more. But that is not based on agreements. The whole thing remains highly contradictory, even in itself. And it is based on an incredibly poor mindset that has developed in some American universities since the late 1970s and goes by the ugly term intersectionalism. This intersectionalism has provided something that modern woke activists refer to.

At this point I should point out that a whole range of schools of thought have been incorporated. One of these is a form of vulgar Marxism, especially the idea that a meaningful life should consist of countless, endless battles against fiends, fiends that actually exist, but which must be exaggerated in importance in order to present oneself as brave warriors against them to be able to.

Die Weltwoche: If you want to get rid of all symbols, not just the symbols of slavery, but those of injustice in general, you will not be able to stop until the Acropolis, this symbol of a democracy that is now understood as “fake”, is destroyed. Or the pyramids of Egypt, which were built by slaves, will be blown up, just as the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues of Bamiyan. Where is this supposed to end?

Douglas Murray: It won't end until everything is destroyed or until these people are stopped. Or until a state is reached that appears to be meaningful to these people. When the monuments began to be destroyed, some said: “Aha, Douglas is against it! But then he is arguing on slippery ground.” But the terrain is slippery because there is no consistent ethical norm for who or what can be preserved from the past, especially in view of the astonishing speed with which our social and moral norms shift.

And it's not just about shifting norms, we are also witnessing what the ignorance of these people can do. Not only are they ignorant, they are presumptuous as well. They rise to judges, juries and executors on the past without understanding anything of history. You seem to think that preoccupation with history means being able to condemn any historical person who did not know what we know today or who disagrees with what we decided a few weeks ago to find right and important. Anyone who understands the slightest thing about history knows that it is an impossible conception of history.

I suppose everything would calm down if these people could understand that one of the reasons for a philanthropic, liberal, and tolerant person to study history with open-mindedness is a generous mindset. At the same time, it is an appeal to our posterity to treat us with understanding. Because we too are doing things now that future generations will look back on in amazement or will judge.

They may look back with horror and amazement at our attitudes towards abortion. Or that our descendants will ask around 2050 or 2090: Why did they continue to bring up animals in order to kill and eat them, when “today” we have such great methods of producing meat substitutes?

Or a future age may say, “Why did these people destroy statues of historical slave owners in 2020? The monuments were erected on them not because they were slave owners, but for other reasons. Slavery was a side issue.” You may wonder, “Why did these people use all their energy to tear down monuments out of hatred for slavery, but at the same time buy cheap t-shirts that were sewn in Chinese sweat shops and themselves not interested in the working conditions of the people there?” Then maybe you will discover that we didn't care! And that although we fought against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, we were not interested in slavery in the 21st century. And then maybe ours Statues will be destroyed.

Die Weltwoche: The current age that the Wall Street Journal calls "American Jacobinism" could also change direction, as we all know from French history. The children of the revolution may eat themselves.

Douglas Murray: Yes absolutely! This is the phase that I am looking forward to.

Die Weltwoche: But it will be bloody if it happens similar to 1790.

Douglas Murray: Of course it will. But I really hope they'll incapacitate each other.

Source: Die Weltwoche (interview by Urs Gehriger).
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