Is Pope Francis Joining the European War on American Wokeness?

Europe is in some ways more leftist than America, at least on economics, but political correctness and identity politics are much more American. Their systematization and projection are being met with growing hostility in Europe.

Especially in France.

Prominent French politicians and intellectuals say that the country faces a growing threat: U.S.-style activist movements that are foisting American multiculturalism and gender politics onto France.

In recent months, President Emmanuel Macron, government ministers and other high-profile figures have said that activism on a range of issues—from gender-neutral language to condemnation of French historical figures for racism and sexism—is threatening to cleave the republic along the lines of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

That, they say, contradicts France’s republican ideals, which call for citizens to subordinate such group identities to the country’s universalist values of “liberty, equality and fraternity.”

To characterize the purported threat, some have adopted the English term “woke.”

There's obviously some pushback in America, whether it's from liberals like Bari Weiss or the hard Left like Glenn Greenwald or the International Committee of the Fourth International aka the World Socialist Website, but it's still largely an aberration, whereas in Europe the opposition is becoming louder.

Pope Francis appears to have issued his own ideological condemnation.

Pope Francis lamented “cancel culture” in an address to diplomats at the Vatican on Monday.

“As a result, agendas are increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples.”

“As I have stated on other occasions, I consider this a form of ideological colonization, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions.”

While the pope delivered his address in Italian, he said the phrase “cancel culture” in English.

It's truly become international.

What Pope Francis is actually saying is a bit tricky to make out especially when accounting for linguistic differences and terminology. 

But at least the official Vatican translation has him saying, "the centre of interest has shifted to matters that by their divisive nature do not strictly belong to the aims of the organization. As a result, agendas are increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples. As I have stated on other occasions, I consider this a form of ideological colonization, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the “cancel culture” invading many circles and public institutions. Under the guise of defending diversity, it ends up cancelling all sense of identity, with the risk of silencing positions that defend a respectful and balanced understanding of various sensibilities. A kind of dangerous “one-track thinking” [pensée unique] is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of present-day categories, whereas any historical situation must be interpreted in the light of a hermeneutics of that particular time, not that of today." 

There are a few familiar points wrapped up in there.

1. Presentism - Judging past figures and events by modern mores. And projecting current ideological categories onto the past.

2. Collectivism - Diversity is anything but diverse and actually imposes a single mindset on everyone.

Neither is a particularly original criticism, but they align Pope Francis with liberal criticisms of wokeness.

3. Francis appears to be making an argument that this "ideological colonization" displaces values and culture. The wording is ambiguous and in what seems to be a typical fashion for him, he sticks to the philosophical generalities while avoiding specifics, but it's not hard to guess where the ideological colonization is coming from. Even the Vatican may be encountering the behavior of American wokes and their European allies hijacking organizations, demanding that they adopt intersectional and anti-racist statements, or be canceled. 

 

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