The rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem is Woke. Gallup reported on March 29, 2021 that for the first time Americans with no affiliation to any house of worship outnumber those who are so affiliated. When Gallup first measured church membership in 1937, it was 73%. It remained near 70% for six decades.
In place of America’s founding value system, Woke offers a new mythology, economics, ethics, etiquette, and a new psychology. Woke informs the macrocosm, in the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars, and it informs the microcosm, in how one receives “likes” for a Facebook post.
A post recently came through my feed inviting me and all women to claim privilege and power. If I declared myself a victim of “the patriarchy,” which I hoped to “smash,” I could forgo normal demands to be nice and polite. I could insist that my pain has priority over others’ pain. I could look askance at all men, and verbally abuse any non-participating women, as potential threats. Though I am a feminist, I strive to comply with a Christianity-informed ethics, etiquette, and, indeed, psychology, so I declined this invitation, as I describe, below.
Woke is an ethical and economic mythology that demands money and power. The Woke anthem lyric is “Gimme.” Black Lives Matter admits to receiving $90 million in donations in 2020. Michael Erik Dyson says that whites should pay for black people’s massages. Evanston, Illinois, is using taxpayer dollars to provide reparations to black residents, whether they are descendants of slaves or recent black immigrants to the US from Africa or the Caribbean. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan allocates $5 billion to black farmers, that is, half of the money to go to all farmers. Biden directed that other funds go directly to Asian Americans.
The recipients of funds are deemed worthy because their ancestors suffered. No one denies slavery, Jim Crow, the mistreatment of Chinese railroad workers, or anti-Asian immigration laws. That the taxpayers providing these millions of dollars in reparations are the appropriate parties to pay these funds, or that these funds actually settle any score, is questionable.
Tens of millions of Americans are not descendants of slave-owners, or are themselves recent immigrants or children of recent immigrants, and did not benefit from slavery or Jim Crow. Seventeen million white Americans live below the poverty line. That is a larger number than Black, Hispanic, Asian- or Native Americans living below the poverty line. Many white Americans descend from people who have suffered. Whites were lynched, including Italians; Slavs were worked under harsh conditions and were shot dead when they protested those conditions; Jews faced discrimination in education, accommodation, club membership, and housing. Poor WASPs from Appalachia have faced a variety of forms of discrimination.
Woke commodifies black suffering. White suffering is delegitimized via the concept of “white privilege.” White privilege was invented by a rich, white liberal woman, Peggy McIntosh. The impact of the doctrine of white privilege is to convince other rich, white liberals that poor whites do not deserve compassion or respect.
White poverty is waved away with a magic wand. Dorothy A. Brown holds the Asa Griggs Candler professorship of law at Emory University, where a “typical” professor salary is $204,037. Brown holds an endowed chair, and of course earns more. Brown, as an African American, denounces any concept of American meritocracy as false, contradicting the simple reality of her own quite evident financial and professional success.
Brown’s 2021 book, “The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans–and How We Can Fix It,” insists that US tax law is white supremacist and focused on impoverishing black people. In fact, Brown does not really talk about race. She’s talking about how tax laws can adversely affect working class and poor people in comparison to rich people. In Brown’s economics, and indeed in Woke economics, all rich people are white and only white people are rich, and all black people are poor and the only poor people are black. Suffering, as a commodity worthy of reparation, is the exclusive property of people of color.
Woke doesn’t demand only money. Woke demands social capital, including a carte blanche for anti-social behavior. Rioting and looting are okay because Woke. See Baltimore’s mayor saying that she gave protesters “space to destroy.” NPR promoted a book justifying looting. BLM leader Hawk Newsome promised “We will burn down this system.” Nikole Hannah-Jones proudly claimed the “1619 riots” moniker.
Not just riots, arson, and looting, but one-on-one anti-social behavior is condoned, if the abuser is classified as a member of a suffering tribe and the abused person is classified as an oppressive recipient of privilege. Witness a November, 2015 encounter between Jerelyn Luther, a young, black, female Yale senior and Dr. Nicholas Christakis. Christakis holds both an MD from Harvard and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He has an adopted sister who is black, and an adopted brother who is Chinese. Christakis has published award-winning, bestselling, popular and scholarly books on health, evolution, and society. Christakis was, at the time, a gray-haired, white, male Yale house master. His crime? He stood up for freedom of expression, a foundational value of Western Civilization. Immediately before Luther screeched at Christakis to “Be quiet!” Christakis had the audacity to say, “Other people have rights, too. Not just you.” Christakis and his wife said that Yale students should not be punished for wearing Halloween costumes.
Jerelyn Luther abused Christakis because she opposes freedom of expression. Luther supported a proposal that campus authority censor Halloween costumes and punish transgressors. In the video recording of their encounter, Luther screams obscenities and other abuse at Christakis. “You are disgusting,” she shrieks. The older, more accomplished man sheepishly submits to his public scourging, as he must, under Woke values. His wife Erika, also an accomplished scholar, was forced to quit teaching at Yale. These Woke ethics re-enact the Maoist struggle session.
Luther opposed students wearing Halloween costumes that imitate national costumes. Such costumes are a Woke sin labeled “cultural appropriation.” Ironically, Luther was herself appropriating someone else’s costume. Luther was pretending to be a member of the oppressed. She is not. Luther is from Fairfield. Fairfield lies along Connecticut’s Gold Coast. Money magazine ranks Fairfield “the best place to live in Connecticut.” Luther’s family home was appraised at $760,000. Luther’s unhinged abuse of a scholar did not harm her upward career trajectory. In 2020, after graduating from Yale, she was a Public Interest / Public Service Fellow at Columbia Law. These realities do not matter. What matters is Woke mythology: Luther is black; Luther has suffered; Luther’s suffering grants her the right to regulate Halloween costumes and publicly abuse and humiliate an older white man of greater accomplishment.
Woke condemns being “nice” and “polite.” Niceness and politeness were invented by white men to support patriarchy and white supremacy. Robin DiAngelo points out that “niceness” is merely a façade white supremacists have developed to camouflage their evil. To be “nice” is actually to be “violent” and white supremacist, reports the group “Women of Color and Allies.” Women “need to embrace the discomfort, the edges and the messiness of overturning that which has kept us in the number two slot of the power and privilege pyramid for over 500 years … niceness destroys people of color.” Niceness and politeness belong in the same museum with whips and chains.
In reality, of course, it is not oppressed women who can forgo niceness and politeness. When I was cleaning houses, and when my mother before me was cleaning houses, for rich, liberal women, neither my mother before me nor I ever dared to be anything but deferential to these women.
Only the truly privileged can appropriate the victim costume, forgo niceness and politeness, and rage at, and destroy, their alleged “oppressors.” At Smith College the annual cost for students is $78,000. In July, 2018, Student Oumou Kanoute falsely accused low-wage Smith workers of racism. She doxed the accused on social media. One cafeteria worker was so stressed she had to be hospitalized.
Jodi Shaw, a low-level Smith administrative worker in the department of residence life, questioned the subsequent campus-wide “anti-bias” indoctrination. Paid facilitators ordered Shaw to talk about what it was like to be a white child. When Shaw nicely and politely declined to perform, the facilitator denounced Shaw in front of her peers as acting out a white supremacist tactic. Shaw – nicely and politely – described this so-called “anti-bias training” as a public humiliation that wouldn’t be fit for dogs. Shaw squirmed under the heel of a college with a two billion dollar endowment. Shaw was put on leave, placed under investigation, and she now no longer works at Smith. Shaw now airs her grievances – nicely and politely – on YouTube.
In his 1998 book, “The Content of Our Character,” Shelby Steele recounts a devastating anecdote. Steele and his friend are in a hotel men’s room. There, Steele’s friend bullies a white man into giving the elderly men’s room attendant a twenty-dollar tip. Steele’s friend depicts the elderly men’s room attendant in the most pathetic way possible. “He made a display of his own racial pain and anger.” Steele’s friend acts “against all that was honorable in him.” The white man is deeply moved, and he acknowledges what everyone knows, “Your people got a raw deal.” The white man, who had initially left a dollar tip, now gives the men’s room attendant twenty dollars. “A sum that was generous by one count and cheap by another.” That is, twenty dollars is a lot to leave a men’s room attendant, but there is no way that twenty dollars, or any amount, can ever erase the agony felt by enslaved persons.
After dropping that large tip, no doubt feeling uplifted by his own largesse, the white man leaves. But Steele, his friend, and the men’s room attendant all feel so debased that “my friend and I could not look at the old man, nor could we look at each other … It was not an encounter of people, but of historical grudges and guilts … The encounter had all the elements of a paradigm that has been at the heart of racial policy-making in America since the sixties.”
Participation in Woke economics, ethics, etiquette, psychology and mythology are rampant among social media posters. Posters display themselves as victims of systemic oppression. Because of this systemic oppression, they suffer. Because they are suffering, they deserve benefits. They deserve the right to forgo normal niceness and politeness.
Would I feel better if I could claim all the endowments granted those who adopt victim identity? Would it pleasure me to carry as my trophy, even if only metaphorically, the decapitated head of masculinity? Would raging and name-taking feel like rewards to me?
No. I don’t want reparation dollars. I also do not want to be rendered so powerful by the tide of grievance that I am freed from any expectation to be nice or polite. That was brought home to me forcefully when a Facebook post crossed into my feed in March, 2021.
On March 20, a woman who calls herself “Right Brained Mom” posted about running last summer. This post received over five thousand likes, almost two thousand comments, and 1.5 thousand shares. The post was shared to a page called “Scary Mommy,” where it received sixty thousand positive reactions, almost ten thousand comments, and ten thousand shares.
The post is accompanied by a selfie. RBM stares at the camera, with eyes that are large and yet squinting. Her lips are tightly compressed. She looks as if she is taking names for a lifetime of slights. The selfie calls to mind Nurse Ratched and Madame Defarge.
RBM was running along a wooded road. A “lonely old guy” “yelled and waved at me from his porch.”
RBM asked him why.
He responded, “You run by my house all the time and you never say ‘hello’ or even wave.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. Well, hello then,” she said.
RBM said that this encounter made her “furious.”
“What do I owe this man who is a complete stranger to me? If he’s lonely, is it up to me to entertain him? … He believed that his needs were more important than mine … How many times have I been violated? Too f—ing many … Women do not exist to please men.” “I’m going to keep on smashing.”
In a subsequent post, RBM compared men to poisonous mushrooms. By analogy, if you wave at a neighbor who happens to be male, you could die. She illustrated this post with a photo of wood carved in the shape of mushrooms. In another post, RBM invoked Ted Bundy. Men could rape you, kill you, and desecrate your corpse, as did Ted Bundy.
Interspersed with these posts are ads for RBM’s goods and services, that is, ads for homemade wooden toys and coaching in “online creative workshops.”
“I wish we were friends because I think you are amazing and I truly admire everything about this. F— the patriarchy!” read one typical enthusiastic reply.
“I’m a woman and you do not speak for me,” I said. “Your victim stance in unwarranted,” I said. “You bash all men,” I said.
In response, my polite post was met with feminist respect and sisterhood. That was a joke.
A series of posts unleashed holy hell. “Danusha is a Trump-loving racist troll,” one posted. I had not mentioned either Trump or race. No matter; “racist” and “Trump-lover” are the go-to insults of the Woke. Several ordered me to “Shut up.” One poster compared men to venomous snakes. “I don’t know of a single woman who has never been victimized by the patriarchy,” said another.
When I was young and stupid, I hitchhiked, alone, coast to coast, in the United States. I also traveled, alone, in Africa, Asia, and Europe. I had some ugly encounters: threats, manhandling, and coming close to death a couple of times. But the more common experience was very different.
An eighteen-wheeler driver, a black man, pulled a handgun on me. He said, “See this? It’s a gun. It’s loaded. A lot of truckers travel with loaded guns. You are alone with me in this truck cab. I could hurt you, dump your body, no one would ever know. You shouldn’t be hitchhiking. Please stop.” And he put the gun away, and drove me to my destination.
A truck caravan of Muslim Arab smugglers, who spoke no English, drove me hundreds of miles at night through uninhabited rain forest, across an African country under siege. I was alone. They could have done anything. Not a single one laid a finger on me, or even looked at me in a disconcerting way.
I fell asleep on top of a strange man on a night train in Burma. I woke up and felt utterly embarrassed. The man was gracious. I had hundreds of dollars in my money belt. He could have done anything. He was just … Nice. Polite.
A rickshaw driver in Agra, India, where I had gone to see the Taj Mahal, refused to accept any payment, in spite of my every attempt to pay him. He told me I was different from other tourists and he enjoyed talking to me. This young man’s limbs were almost as thin as the spokes on the rickshaw’s wheels. Rickshaw drivers in Agra make between one and three dollars a day.
Given my vulnerability, it astounds me that so many men, at so many levels of society, on four continents, exercised the same quality: chivalry. Men – “complete strangers to me” – were protective. Completely strange men bought me food. Completely strange men carried my bags. Completely strange men haggled with ticket salesmen on my behalf. Completely strange men went out of their way to smooth the path of an unknown woman they knew they’d never see again.
RBM says that she thought that the old guy on the porch might be calling out to her to warn her about a bear. Six years ago, I was walking along a wooded road. My sister had died the day before. Antoinette had given me earrings in the shape of a bear, and I was wearing them. Suddenly, a black bear appeared. The bear walked beside me, at my speed, for quite a while. I took it as a sign, but I was also aware that just seven months earlier, a Rutgers student had been killed by a bear not far from where I was hiking. A monster pick-up truck, with huge tires and shiny gear, pulled up beside me. The driver was “a complete stranger to me.”
“There’s a bear over there. Do you want a ride?”
“Yes, please,” I said, and I got into his very macho truck.
He owed me nothing. He gave me something, anyway. Niceness. Politeness. Chivalry.
About the elderly neighbor who waved to her, RBM asked, “If he’s lonely, is it up to me to entertain him? If he’s sad, is it on me to make him happy?”
RBM runs. I walk. I am frequently stopped. Women and men pull their cars over and say, “I’ve been watching you for years. How many miles a day do you walk? Is it a religious vow? Are you trying to lose weight, or do you just enjoy it?”
No, I don’t want to provide personal information to strangers, but I also want to be nice and polite. After I respond, as often as not, the person who has pulled over says, “You inspire me. I see you walking in every weather and it makes me want to exercise. Thank you.” Without my realizing it, I inspired these folk, and their telling me that inspires me.
Twenty years ago, I used to pass a man I called “The Old Gardener.” He was a “lonely old guy” who tended a garden in the inhospitable terrain along the railroad track I used to follow to campus. “That’s a beautiful garden you’ve got there,” I once said. “That’s a beautiful body you’ve got there,” he replied. I was taken aback. We never spoke again. But then, one spring, his sprouting onions went untended. The Old Gardener had been gathered in the ultimate harvest. I cried. This “complete stranger’s” tenacity had inspired me.
RBM was “furious” because “a lonely old guy” stole from her the peace she gets from running alone. I understand. At Garret Mountain, one of my favorite spots to walk, where I seek the peace that comes from not talking to anyone, I repeatedly encountered a “lonely old guy.” He would talk to me as if we knew each other, and I felt awkward. He didn’t hear well, and he seemed to forget some things he said just after saying them. I felt obligated to be nice and polite. But it was challenging, and, I have to admit, some days I altered my route to avoid him.
One day this “lonely old guy” mentioned walking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.
Oh my gosh, I thought. Oh my gosh.
When I was 14 years old, I was becoming a serious birder. I had gone to a hawk watch, that is, a ridge where birders gather to observe migrating raptors. There was a local celebrity present that day. This strapping specimen could pick out and identify raptors hundreds of feet in the air, raptors I could barely see. I knew of this man because articles about his exploits appeared in the local paper. He was a combat veteran, with a trim, muscular build. High school friends tell me that back in the day, I talked a lot about how this man had inspired me in my bird watching and in my urge to travel the world. In all the decades since, whenever I see a raptor high overhead that I am trying to identify, I think of those inspirational moments at the hawk watch. Yes, this man, my childhood hero, had walked the entire Appalachia Trail.
Now it was 2020, and I suddenly realized that the “lonely old guy” I kept running into was that very man who had once inspired me so much with his knowledge, his daring, and his physical fitness. Life had handed me a golden opportunity to express my gratitude. All I had to do was just spend a few moments, a few days a week, talking to him about birds and hiking. I had done so, but grudgingly. I felt ashamed.
Foot travelers need something a lot more primal than inspiration: a toilet. I live in a poor and dangerous city. Rather than chain stores, I pass tiny mom-and-pops operating on a shoestring and sorely pressed by homeless men and heroin addicts. Even so, no espresso bar of elderly Italians clinging to the old neighborhood, no newly opened shop staffed by one Muslim woman in a hijab, has ever refused me the use of the restroom. What do these “complete strangers” owe me? Nothing. Their niceness and politeness are the kind that helps hold society together, and keeps dog-eat-dog chaos at bay.
To redeem my suffering coupon to the Woke banquet, I must declare that men oppress me. But the idea that men are like mushrooms, and if you wave at an old man sitting on a porch you might be raped and dismembered, is not accurate. I know because I eat wild mushrooms. An intelligent, prepared woodswoman can distinguish between different species, and dine with confidence. Destroying angels, that is Amanita bisporigera, are deadly poisonous. All Calvatia gigantea, or giant puffballs, are edible when young.
And therein lies the problem for Woke. Preparing girls for the world requires stating truths that are anathema. These taboo truths include the following. Women and men are different. Women and men must comport themselves differently. Women need to learn to differentiate between bad men and decent men. Going to a frat party where there will be heavy drinking entails risk. Sexual continence offers benefits. Committed marriage to a loving partner offers satisfactions.
To the Woke, a man can be a woman and a woman can be a man. Teaching different behaviors to girls and to boys is sexist. Training young women to navigate the world cautiously is “victim blaming.” Instead, all men must be demonized and emasculated.
RBM concluded her post, “Women do not exist to please men.” That is objectively false. Women do exist to please men, and men exist to please women. The first time God uses the words “not good” to describe something He created, He uses it to describe human isolation. “It is not good for man to be alone.” As feminist theologian Phyllis Trible has pointed out, until the creation of Eve, Adam is merely a “sexless earth creature” who takes on his full identity only after Eve’s appearance defines him as a man.
You’re an atheist? Great. Women are the only mammals to have permanent breasts. Other mammals’ teats recede when they are not nursing young. Evolutionary biologists theorize – do we really need scientists to tell us this? – that women have breasts exactly in order to attract men. Evolution has fashioned men, similarly, to please women. Men’s deep voices, for example, are the result of women’s choices in mates, argues one scientist. In countless ways, our bodies and our behavior are designed exactly to please the opposite sex. Woke rebels against God and Darwin.
And how evolution – or God – has made women is not just about sexual attraction. It’s about the maintenance of human society and civilization. In moments of stress, where men practice “fight or flight,” women practice “tend or befriend.” Of about 6,500 species of mammals, menopause is unique only to humans and a handful of aquatic mammals. The “grandmother hypothesis” proposes that post-menopausal women’s penchant for nurturing even children not their own has helped advance human civilization. For most women – no, not all but yes for most – strengths will lie in something like niceness and politeness. Evolution has fashioned us this way, and our being fashioned this way serves the wider human society from which we benefit.
Men’s greater aggression is also harnessed to serve the wider society. “Women do not exist to please men.” Next time there is a draft, some young man should say, “I do not exist to fight and possibly die to defend the freedom of a woman who is a complete stranger.”
Here’s a thought experiment. RBM posts that “a lonely BLACK guy” waved to her, and she interpreted the lonely black guy’s wave as a “violation” that made her “furious.” Yeah, we all know that that post would have been received far differently. RBM is an actress performing the Woke script of demonizing white men.
At Yale, Jerelyn Luther pretended to be oppressed, when in fact she had the power to humiliate a Yale professor and contribute to getting another fired. Dorothy Brown insists that there is no meritocracy in America, and that black people are economically doomed, even as she occupies an endowed chair and publishes well-reviewed, bestselling books. Woke is just so much dinner theater.
Similarly, the “Smash the patriarchy!” posts on RBM’s page are performance art. I clicked on the names of RBM’s fans who attacked me. Every single one I clicked on was a pretty blonde, natural or from the bottle. Every single one depicted herself living a traditional bourgeois life, pursuing stereotypical feminine pursuits. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this is hardly a crack team of Ninja Amazons sacrificing all to smash the patriarchy. Rather, these women are participants in it. They ganged up on me as a “racist Trump supporter.” In another era, these same blondes would be mocking me because my poodle skirt was not poofy enough. Woke is another fad; the Woke another vicious clique rejecting thought and enforcing uniformity.
The woman who told me to “Shut up” is a pretty blonde, with a new baby, a nice house in the Midwest, and a large husband who wears flannel shirts. Another pretty blonde posted a photo of a youthful ballerina, possibly her daughter. Teach your daughter to be an anorexic dying swan. That will smash the patriarchy! Another pretty blonde posted an ad for “sensuous and supportive” lingerie underneath a recipe for chicken mushroom casserole. So, after a tough day of breaking the back of the patriarchy on Facebook, you cook up a casserole that is “always a hit at parties and church potlucks!” “My husband said it was definitely a keeper to make it again!”
One of the patriarchy-smashers who bitched at me (yes that unpleasant word is necessary and exact) had a unique, aristocratic, multi-syllable, hyphenated last name. I googled it. It appears that the woman letting me know I am not Woke is related to a family of Prussian war heroes, stretching back a hundred years, right up to World War II, and including a Nazi Wehrmacht officer who served on the Eastern Front. My father’s family were Polish peasants. Her ancestors colonized, oppressed, and massacred my ancestors. Now that’s peak Woke.
I don’t strive for niceness and politeness because I’ve never been victimized, any more than Black Conservatives like Shelby Steele have never suffered the scourge of white racism. No one has ever lived in a perfect world.
When appropriate, I can tell my rape story (it didn’t happen while I was hitchhiking, btw). I can tell of the bosses who sexually harassed me. Two of them were hardcore leftists who made my work life miserable while I was working in hard-left institutions. I choose not to dwell on these events.
I make this choice because of my religion, which tells me to love. It tells me how: “Love … is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” Both Jews and Christians cite this verse. The concept of Heaven and Hell assures me that those unrepentant folk who hurt me will get their comeuppance. I don’t have to “even the score.” My religion tells me that God loves me in my humble state. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” Someday, I will know peace in place of any wounds. My religion tells me that God dwells within, and God loves, even the people who hurt me. Proverbs 15:1 teaches, “A soft word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I have seen, in real life, people of faith turn a belligerent, even threatening person into one amenable to reason. And they have done it with “soft words.” In short, persons informed by the Judeo-Christian tradition bring a attitude to citizenship that can facilitate the smooth functioning of society.
Not just the Judeo-Christian tradition advises us against keeping a little black book listing the names of those who hurt us. Dwelling on the negative and presenting oneself as a victim damages the psyche, say psychologists. “Repeating in your mind negative experiences in the past, replaying conversations that you had, dwelling on the ‘injuries’ and ‘injustices’ that you have suffered” makes one “more likely to get depressed and stay depressed,” according to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema at Yale University.
On April 5, RBM posted that “nothing makes sense anymore.” “Some people choose to only hear the lovely bits” of song lyrics. She hears, she says, lyrics that feel like “a punch to the gut.” “There was also a time when I was quite pleasant.” But now “I’m walking around looking as though I’m always smelling a bad smell.” She seeks, she says, something that “can lift my spirits and improve my mood.”
Woke demands constantly scanning for “microaggressions.” Woke prods believers to regard everyone they meet with the cold, condemning eye of a Stasi agent. Woke consigns entire populations to the irredeemable. Woke demonizes the courtesy that holds society together. Woke rewards volcanic eruptions of unhinged rage. Woke incentivizes thinking of oneself as a suffering victim who must lash out. Woke destroys the health and careers of its victims and the psyche of its practitioners. Woke will drive individuals and society mad.
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery