Liquid Modernity

Wokeism radically challenges the system: “You have succeeded by virtue of your visible identity alone.”

U.S. pollster Dr Franz Luntz, after a mega round of polling and focus-group sounding in the U.S. and Britain, warned starkly that woke culture wars are on course to become the biggest dividing line in British politics – as they are already in the U.S.. Some may argue that Britain is not Europe (post-Brexit). But those that cling to that life-raft of hope are surely deluding themselves. The European young are addicts to screen-time and to (mainly American-led) social media.

The woke-populist divide was Luntz’s key focus, (albeit on a definition of Populism that is lacking – defined as being simply ‘not-woke’.) His analysis has caught the attention. However, in amongst the 3,000 interviews on which the survey was based, is a relatively less noticed underside; It is as important – maybe even more important – than his headline thesis.

It showed that British voters are as fed up with business as they are with politicians (whom they revile as self-seeking mercenaries). They reject the corporate money-centred, Wall Street-centred ethos; they resent the big disparity of wealth, and the young regard Capitalism as a dirty word: To be a capitalist is to place a big red target ‘X’ on one’s front. See this video interview.

Just focus on these three ‘take-aways’ – they are stunning: First, in response to the statement: “when I look at the corporate leaders and how they treat us, I just think ‘f**k them all’”, 77% of respondents either agreed, or were neutral – and only 23% disagreed.

Secondly, less than half the country (43%) feels “invested” in the UK. Worse, only 27% feel that the UK is invested in them. “That is the single most alarming finding because it suggests rougher times ahead”, Luntz warns.

And thirdly, “The core component of both populism and wokeism is that the economic and political systems (and the people who run them), are stacked against you – no matter what you do” (Luntz). Both sides use this same weaponised rhetoric against each other. The perception of a rigged system already exists among more than a third of the population.

There is a marked difference among generations. The old remain relatively untouched by these new currents swirling through their societies, but a significant proportion of the young (say under 50 years) – are turning their back on the system, and on their country. 22% of voters believe Britain has failed them. 37% of voters said the United Kingdom was ‘institutionally racist, and discriminatory’. Less than half the population (44%) believe the next generation will have a better quality of life than they do.

And you think that when the pandemic pulls back, and the economy opens, we will be returning to the ‘Old Normal’? You think that when the corporate economy cranks back into life, the popular ‘feel good’ factor will surge? No way. Say farewell to the ‘Old Normal’. Faith in democracy itself is at an all-time low. When 70% of the population think their representatives are in politics either for themselves, or their party, you have a problem. But when the voters think they’re either “ignored” or “irrelevant”, or both – you have a crisis.

“We gave people 18 different descriptions of how British economic leaders make people feel. The result: eight of the top ten choices were negative attributes, led by “disappointed” and “ignored.” We then asked a simple question about what the public thinks business and economic leaders in Britain care about most. The Top Four results were decidedly negative. ‘Profit over people’, ‘They put shareholders first, not ordinary people’, ‘Excessive CEO/executive compensation’ and ‘Avoids paying taxes’”.

What do the younger generations want? Their response to the question: “what is the single most important objective of the government” should serve to tell us precisely which way the wind blows: Protecting the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable is #1. When do you hear sentiments such as that coming from Europe’s political élites? “F**k them [the political élites] all” was the overwhelming voter response to its leaders – with only 20% in disagreement.

You don’t see it? You think it will be Cabaret time, 1920s style, when the economy fully opens, and we all party?

Research from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) confirms Luntz’s findings that younger people are deeply hostile to capitalism, and hold positive views of socialist alternatives: 67% say they would like to live under a socialist economic system; 75% agree with the assertion that climate change is a specifically capitalist problem; 78% blame capitalism too, for Britain’s housing crisis.

The IEA suggests its own findings should serve as a “wake up call” to supporters of the market economy. Luntz reports that even the word ‘capitalism’ itself has become “a disaster” – his polling and focus groups show its connotations to be all uniformly negative. Perhaps this hostility goes some way to explain the paradox troubling U.S. bank forecasters as to why unfilled job openings are soaring, whilst unemployment remains high. Is it perhaps the case that those who are presently unemployed are simply saying “f**k these jobs” – at least whilst the Biden ‘stimmy’ cheques continue? Many have had it with the work regime of employers like Amazon.

The internal convulsions of the U.S. however, are one thing. But the implosion of social trust, and now personal safety in the U.S. (following the ‘defund the police’ campaign), is radiating out across the globe. If the imprecarity of our times – compounded by the virus – is making us nervous and tense, it may also be because we intuit that a way-of-life, a way-of-economics, too, is coming to its end. If so, Dr Luntz would say, our intuition hits the nail.

The fear of social upheaval sows distrust. It can produce the spiritual state that Emile Durkheim called anomie; a feeling of being disconnected from society; a conviction that the world around one is illegitimate and corrupt; that you are invisible: a ‘number’; a helpless object of hostile repression, imposed by ‘the system’ – a feeling that nobody is to be trusted.

People today live in what the late sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called liquid modernity. All the traits that were once assigned to you by your community are now being redefined by woke doctrine, according to how you look – and according to fixed categories – irrespective of your sense of own self, your own ethics, your biological gender, your education, your human merits – and the place and ties associated with your historic belonging.

Biology no longer applies. Your gender is not what you thought: It is liquid, and can (and perhaps should) be changed. You are ‘white’, therefore supremacist; you are ‘white’, therefore racist; élite – therefore privileged.

Wokeism radically challenges the system: “‘You’ have not succeeded by your own efforts, or merits. You have succeeded by virtue of your visible identity alone. That identity reaches back hundreds of years, and precisely rests on opportunities deliberately denied to others. Therefore any semblance of success you have had in life – is illegitimate. It is not deserved. And it is right to take it from you. Wokeism is truly hostile to history, culture and tradition. They don’t respect it – and they insist they are right. It is not up for debate”.

Luntz concludes: “If you become Woke, you reject everything around you. You reject other people’s success. You identify them by how they look, rather than what they have achieved – and I am so pessimistic – because of the combination of wokeism, social media and politics: Politics divides the country; seeks to weaponise the language of wokeism – and social media allows you to disseminate it. It is getting worse in the U.S., you are getting worse here [in UK]. It’s not what you want; but it’s coming anyway. There’s no vaccine to stop it”.

Liquid Modernity

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