Is This Awokening a Revolution, or Not?
Can there ever be a true revolt that is led by the spoiled Children of the Élite? If so, what would such a ‘revolt’ mean in America?
Well, 25-years ago, a prescient American cultural historian, Christopher Lasch, foresaw just such a revolution. He wrote a book – Revolt of the Élite – to describe how, already in 1994, he perceived what lay ahead: A social revolution that would be pushed forward by radical children of the bourgeoisie. Their leaders would have almost nothing to say about poverty or unemployment. Their demands would be centred on utopian ideals: diversity and racial justice – ideals pursued with the fervour of an abstract, millenarian ideology.
And their radicalism would be resisted, Lasch predicted, not by the upper reaches of society, or the leaders of Big Philanthropy or the Corporate Billionaires. These latter, rather, would be its facilitators and financiers. Yet the revolt would be resisted. Resisted, paradoxically, by ‘the masses’ and by traditional upholders of America’s ‘golden age’ virtues: “It is not just that the masses have lost interest in revolution,” Lasch wrote, but “their political instincts are demonstrably more conservative than those of these self-appointed spokesmen, and would-be liberators”.
Lasch was undoubtedly prescient; but in fact, we have seen this before – in Russia of the 1860s, where a type of reductive, abstract ideological obsession developed which was fundamentally divorced from shared physical and political realities, as well as the emotive qualities which drive humans towards empathy and compassion. Those early Russian revolutionaries sought action, for action’s sake. And they practiced not just ‘action’, but also ‘destruction’ for its own sake, too.
It is in this context that the emerging generation of 19th Century Russian radicals popularised the notion of the complete renunciation of all, and everything, standing as ‘Russia’, and its flawed past.
One of Lasch’s key insights was how future young American Marxisants would substitute culture war for class war: “The culture wars that have convulsed America since the sixties are best understood as a form of class warfare”, he wrote, in which an enlightened élite (as it thinks of itself), do not deign to persuade the majority (Middle America) … by means of rational public debate – but nonetheless, maintains the conceit of it bearing the torch for human redemption.
It is essentially then, a revolt not against any powerful, socially élite, classes, but one targeted against American ‘deplorables’ and ‘reactionary’ conservatives: “The new elites are in revolt against ‘Middle America,’ as they imagine it: A nation technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middle-brow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy”, Lasch wrote. They share a belief that humanity is on a Grand March toward Progress. It is the splendid march on the road to ending institutional injustices: It goes on and on, obstacles notwithstanding.
The woke attribution of bigotry and backwardness to their non-college educated compatriots has inculcated in today’s radical college graduates a snobbism and contempt (as also happened in Russia in the 1800s) that forecloses on empathy for, or any iota of co-compatriotism with fellow American ‘reactionaries and dullards’: see here for an example, as one bare-breasted, ‘bourgeois socialist’ leader sneers and screams at the police for their lack of a college education, their lack of bookishness, and yells at the back policemen “Traitors”.
Lasch suggests that once, it was perceived that it was a ‘revolt by the masses’ which threatened the social order, but today, the threat comes from ‘the top of the social hierarchy’, and not from the masses. “It is the élites however, those who control the international flow of money and information, that preside over philanthropic foundations and institutions of higher learning … that have lost faith in the values, or what remains of them, of the West”.
Lasch was prescient too, in predicting that the main threat would come from those who preside over big institutions – and foreseeing the latter’s potential symbiosis with the woke generation. For these CEOs and college presidents collectively, of course, are their parents; they are the hedonist Woodstock radicals of the 60s, made good, who now sit at the apex of the institutional world, and Big Business. No surprise then that Big Philanthropy shares aspirations and funds todays radicals. Big Philanthropy activities today bear no relation to what most Americans suppose. The ‘revolution’ has already taken them. Rather, the commanding heights of American philanthropy today are occupied by massive, well-heeled institutions that have nothing but contempt for that traditional idea of philanthropy. Schambra and Hartmann write:
“[Foundations in America] have seen the need to shift away from merely coping with the symptoms of problems—which is all one could expect from local amateurs inspired by retrograde morality and religious superstition …
“Instead, this philanthropic ideal is manifested in an effort to bring about deep structural change within society, challenging what are seen to be the fundamental institutional injustices of the economic and political orders. In the words of Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation—one of the most towering pillars of liberal establishment philanthropy in the United States—it’s time to move “from generosity to justice”.
This means shifting power once again, away from the detached professional class of managerial elites prized by the first stage of the philanthropic revolution. Since these elites were so often white and male, they were, and are, part of society’s structural injustice—so the story goes. They are now dismissed as “white saviours” in need of “decolonization.”
Current thinking therefore, calls for putting foundation wealth directly into the hands of those who have been systematically victimized. Edgar Villanueva, the progressive author of Decolonizing Wealth, recently released a statement saying “philanthropy must take accountable action and release an unprecedented amount of unrestricted funds to fuel long-term Black-led movements for racial justice. This moment requires absolutely nothing less, if we profess to be dedicated to justice …”.
Since Villanueva’s book was released in October 2018, there’s scarcely been a professional meeting or training in the world of foundations that hasn’t featured his message”.
This important ideological shift needs to be absorbed: Big Philanthropy, Big Tech and Big CEOs are with the ‘woke’ and BLM militants, and are ready to release Big Funding (some of these foundations have resources that eclipse those of states). Big Philanthropy gives BLM $100m (including $40m from Ford Foundation for capacity building). And with big funding – inevitably – comes ‘guidance’ (apolitical ‘naturally’). There is a multiplier effect here too, as Big Philanthropy, Big Tech and Big Biotechnology act as an interconnected network system. They foresee a (dehumanised) tech and AI-led future, led by a multicultural aristocracy (i.e. ‘them’).
Fairly obviously, the deplorables and traditional Christian conservatives don’t exactly fit with this vision.
Lasch wrote: “Those who covet membership in the new aristocracy of brains tend to congregate on the coasts, turning their back on the heartland and cultivating the international market in fast-moving money, glamour, fashion, and popular culture … Multiculturalism “suits them to perfection, conjuring up the agreeable image of a global bazaar in which exotic cuisines, exotic styles of dress, exotic music, exotic tribal customs can be savoured indiscriminately, with no questions asked and no commitments required … they illustrate how the western élite has burned the candle at both ends – welcoming migration that transforms society from below, even as the upper class floats up – into a post-national utopia, which remains an undiscovered [and frightening prospect] for the people left behind”.
Let’s unpack this a little further: “floating up into a post-national utopia” – isn’t this just the WEF ‘Davos’ Great Global Reset’ project? Doesn’t this fit exactly with the objective of floating up into a post-national, climate, bio-health and financial, global governance? A world of fast moving, money, glamour, and celebrity, as Lasch saw it.
Who was Lasch? By training, Lasch was a historian of nineteenth and twentieth century American culture. He came from a left-wing intellectual family and married into another. He was thoroughly on the Left during the 1960s. Indeed, he later moved further in that direction.
Roger Kimball has written of Lasch’s searing retrospective on the Woodstock generation, entitled The Culture of Narcissism: “What one witnessed in its pages, was the spectacle of an intelligent, politically committed man of the Left struggling to make sense of a culture in the grip of a radicalism that had turned out to be almost entirely bogus”.
Kimball writes, Lasch “understood that … consciousness-raising in the 1960s and 1970s was mostly a blind for moralistic self-indulgence. Promises of liberation and transcendence, he saw, often concealed new forms of tyranny and irresponsibility”. It was nonetheless exactly this radicalism of the preceding Woodstock generation, combined with the commitment to ‘Progress’, that would lead to extremism and division in the succeeding gilded generation, he believed.
Lasch also saw that the eroding of a common culture, values and standards, which was the major legacy of 60s cultural radicalism, ended up creating a gulf between social classes. If there were no common values to hold people together, what was to stop the rich and powerful trampling over the rest of society, cloaking their self-interest in furious self-righteousness?
And so it has come to pass.
So, what can we make of all this? The US has suddenly exploded into, on the one hand, culture cancelation, and on the other, into silent seething at the lawlessness, and at all the statues toppled. It is a nation becoming angrier, and edging towards violence.
One segment of the country believes that America is inherently and institutionally racist, and incapable of self-correcting its flawed founding principles – absent the required chemotherapy to kill-off the deadly mutated cells of its past history, traditions and customs.
Another, affirms those principles that underlay America’s ‘golden age’; which made America great; and which, in their view, are precisely those qualities which can make it great again.
A third – more cynically – swims with this woke tide, offering to ‘take the knee’, hoping to shape and mould the woke uprising, in ways that serve the end of toppling Trump, and paving the way to a tech and AI vision of the future.
The woke 20+ and 30+ year-old revolutionaries however, have already invaded and culturally captured virtually all the principal institutions of Big Media, Big Money and Big Philanthropy. And even West Point Military Academy too, it seems. Or, perhaps we should say, the old ‘Woodstock ethos’ of sympathy for corporate organisation has (reciprocally) captured them too.
The Culture War has long since been lost at the legal level. Even conservative parents have had little choice, but to sacrifice their children to the altars of top-tier colleges and universities. It is just not possible to chart a path into the rarefied world of ‘Big Anything’ if you are not part of the élite sorting structures. Smart parents know this. They see it every day; but nevertheless these colleges and institutions precisely are a part of the industrial manufactory of woke. And Big Tech has played its part: It has seen to it that young imaginations are filtered through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat – all dominated by the fully woke.
The US lies in the flood plain of a cultural tsunami – and the question is whether there is anything on the horizon that will provide a stopper, or a levée that will hold? Will an appeal to Law and Order traditionalists, or to a newly-formulated nationalist culture, succeed in stemming the ‘Demographic ring’ from snapping-shut on white conservatives in November? (That constituency has been a minority for some years, already).
Once the nature of the woke cultural war is understood, the problems become obvious. Any defence of traditional sources of American identity will be construed by the woke ideologues as racially offensive. Traditional American nationalism, in the woke view, is white nationalism. But the woke coalition (Big Media, Big institutions) will not accept to fight on a ‘nationalism’ terrain. They simply will insist that traditional American beliefs amount to race hatred. How can you have ‘cultural nationalism’ when the forces of woke believe that the nation itself is irredeemably racist and bigoted?
Nothing is certain for November: there are too many unknowns. What we might conclude however, is that today the US is ‘rhyming’ with (if not repeating) history – 1860 Italy to be precise. An ambitious rising ‘class’ intends to displace an old aristocracy, and install itself in its palaces. Then, it was a rising, increasingly prosperous, middle class that was intent on becoming the new aristocrats, in place of old aristocracy. Today, however, it is the old ‘Anglo’ imperial aristocracy that is being targeted by the cosmopolitan ‘thinking aristocracy’ of Silicon Valley, of Wall Street, Big Pharma and Big Philanthropy. The woke troops are simply their chaff.
America’s ‘Golden Era’ nostalgia may be the strongest player on the board, for now. But to all other players, the latter is viewed now as so toxic, that the aspirant new ‘aristocrats’ of the ‘Grand March toward Progress’, may push aside old rivalries very quickly, to combine for the defeat of the ‘old’. The old aristocracy ultimately may opt for peace at any price, in which case the political ‘ring’ – along with the demographic – will snap shut. It did in 1860. It was over.