Whatever happened to our pluralist, liberal society?

The woke have no vision of the future by John Gray on Unherd.com

Whatever happened to our pluralist, liberal society that we are now in a model whereby the only outlet for mainstream voices is the election or referendum – a private affair where we can speak freely without fear of being singled out?

In John Gray’s analysis of the woke movement he highlights how it has revised history and rejected old fashioned liberal values as complicit in oppression. Their instruments of power through the cancel culture are social marginalisation and economic ruination. Like with Lenin’s show trials they demand public repentance. The vitriol on social media and meetings leaves no room for debate. Frighteningly, we are being shouted into a corner where there is only one worldview, that of the righteous mob. As corporate entities jump on the bandwagon with companies like Sainsbury giving certain groups safe spaces we wonder from what? Who needs the safe space? Who is being victimised and marginalised? Companies brand themselves as woke-safe to avoid negative publicity.

John Gray likens the movement to a cathartic act of public cleansing but without the vision that Lenin, for all his faults sought to build. The public acts of taking down monuments does not change history but it does symbolise severing the present from the past. John Gray brings all this together and asks where their policies are that fashion the future. He permits the one example of de-funding the police, although ethnic minority communities in many American cities respond that they want this protection, so what future does this give? There is a specific issue in America of police forces being better trained to use the gun that to engage with communities, which gives argument to different ways to fund community policing. But the latter is a pragmatic solution different to the ideological one of dismantling a repressive institution (and replace it with peace?)

Woke power in America (and exported to Europed) is emerging in universities and parts of the media and social media with a religiosity that strips out those that did not bow to the sermon. At the same time the disenfranchised face automation and mass unemployment and have only the ballot box, however, unpalatable the option, to use to be heard. This is creating a tension in how populist governance seems at odds with a part of the population that neither voted for it nor has a policy of what it wants for the future.

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