I'm old enough to remember the dawn of the hippe movement and shortly before that, though I was at the beginning of my teens at the time, the growth of the civil rights movement. These two things were connected by a collective desire of the part of their followers to create a society free from injustice and inequality, in which traditional prejudices did not define people. Those laudable aims have, in a few decades, morphed into the excesses of progressive thinking and the screeching authoritarianism of the 'woke' movement and its ideology. The fact that politicians ranging from Ron DeSantis to Rishi Sunak deploy “woke” as a battle cry against pressure groups who hold that on any issue there is only one acceptable opinion and only one correct way of thinking. Not only conservatives and classical liberals (like myself,) but many socialists are increasingly uneasy with the form it has taken.
The woke discourse today is confusing because while it appeals to traditional left wing values: empathy for the marginalised, indignation at the plight of the oppressed, determination that historical wrongs can be righted, it adopts many of the tactics favoured by tyrants and totalitarian regimes in trying to win its arguments. Thus the high minded principles are undermined by a range of theoretical assumptions — usually expressed as self-evident truths — that ultimately undermine them.
The concept of unity or universalism once defined the Left; solidarity was its watchword and the idea that the common bond of our shared humanity overrode considerations of nationality, race and religious affiliations distinguished it from the Right, which recognised no universal connections, and few real obligations, to anyone outside its own circle.
The Left claimed there was only one race, the human race. Being a socialist or a liberal meant: caring about striking coal miners in Wales, or Republican volunteers in
Spain, or freedom fighters in Africa, the ruination of good land by strip mining, the pollution of seas and rivers therough unregulated dumping of waste, and the exploitation of the many by the few. What united the left was the conviction that behind all the
differences of time and space which separate us, human beings are deeply
connected in a wealth of ways. To say that histories and geographies
affect us is trivial. To say they determine us is false.
Going all in on racially and socially divisive identity politics, making everything political, and making politics itself a zero sum game had to end badly Followers of the 'woke' ideology loudly and aggrssively declared everyone not aligned with their way of thinking an enemies to be marginalised and 'cancelled' (excluded from social activity,) they shouted down anyone who tried to warn that the path they are on is dangerously authoritarian. Even now, with pushbacks growing stronger every day, they still seem incapable of truly understanding the Law of Unintended Consequences or the corruption of power. “Authoritarian tendencies?” “Undermining democracy?” That is what the progressive movement with its 'woke' ideology, have been doing!
Much of the Classical Liberal Left has already abandoned them. They are called “far-right” now by the modern left even though they were not the ones who decided they love corporate power, political establishments, authoritarianism, hating on the rural and global poor and their innate conservatism.
Progressives have abandoned the philosophical ideas that are central to
any liberal or Left-wing standpoint: a commitment to universalism over
As a liberal I was always cautious about such principles as unregulated immigration and the abolition of principles, simply because sometimes pragmatism must outweigh idealism, but even so many like me felt the progressive cause was a necessary and sometimes even admirable part of our politics. But now?
Now, progressivism has become more associated with the behaviour of Atilla the Hun. The only way to stop this new fascism, (an accurate description of what it is) is forcefully – just as force historically has always had to be deployed against fascism in all its many forms – both Left and Right
I don’t think the distinction we should pay attention to is between tribalism and universalism, but between authoritarianism and genuine liberalism. There are and always have been authoritarians out there in society, and what sham philosophies they parrot are always just the tools they’re trying to use at any given time to get and keep power. Presently, they’re pretending to be Progressives, but the censorship, government control – including violence – and infliction of their mandates by way of public shaming just shows them to be the same old wolves in lambs’ clothing. The trend in history leads in fits and starts and occasional reverses against them, and gosh do they hate that. They’re just mean and always have been.