By David Montgomery
extraordinary how in the past year the terms “woke” and “critical race
theory” have gone from producing blank incomprehension in 99% of the
population to capturing the attention of a vast majority. Rod Dreher’s book Live
Not by Lies, with its theme of how big business imposes soft
totalitarianism based on woke sensibility and white guilt, has become a best
seller. Public schools are being outed for indoctrinating students with false
versions of American history and imposing woke views on sexuality. The new
Administration’s actions affecting the military, health, education, and
religion appear to have turned control of wide swaths of public policy over to
its most extreme Progressive elements.
be possible to spend 24 hours a day reading reports, analysis and arguments
about these topics. There are some brilliant one-liners, clear and accurate
descriptions of the origins and meaning of wokeness and critical theory, and
well-stated concerns about where our country is heading. Yet I see few, if any,
convincing proposals for how to turn the tide.
pondering the future, it seems to me that it is worthwhile to distinguish two
aspects of wokeness. One is happening in private affairs and is ably described
by Elizabeth Ochoa in this issue and in our recommended readings. To me, it is
typified by the circular firing squads into which trendy media, universities
and some professions are arranging themselves. These are frequently amusing
episodes in which ever-changing rules are applied to long past statements to
discredit an editor or writer who had previously done the same to someone else.
aspect is the granting by governments of preferred status to the new grievance
identities constantly being invented by the shamans of the woke cult of
critical race theory. In this I would include the collaboration of Big Tech,
that is blocking the expression of contrary views in books and social media. This
development is of the highest importance, as it threatens fundamental rights
former, by its nature, is likely to kill itself off. Those good people who lose
friends and livelihood or care about their children or grandchildren,
unfortunately, get caught in the crossfire. Rod Dreher has the solution I
favor, of intentional communities that support each other in business,
employment, child-rearing and education — and thereby move out range of the
concerns all good people, on whom governments will impose increasing
requirements, restrictions and punishments on behalf of the newly privileged
identity groups and causes. There is no obvious internal limit on how much this
repression can grow or places where it can be escaped.
of wokeness cannot agree on how to limit this encroachment. Their twitterstorms
have turned into mutually destructive debates in which each party proves that
the others’ proposed responses will be ineffective. There does seem to be a
general lack of confidence that some Democrat and all the Republicans will
defend and use the filibuster to block HR1, which would require all states
adopt the electoral shenanigans that gave the Democrats control in 2021.
current Administration, whose social policies are carrying out the most extreme
wishes of the woke, succeeds in subverting the voting system so that it
perpetuates one-party rule, the plan to “vote the bastards out” in the next
election is doomed. That leaves only civil disobedience: refusal to obey new
laws and regulations that restrict the traditional freedoms of speech,
religion, association, property and self-defense or that enable and perpetuate
the government that imposes them.
I jump to civil
disobedience because it is a strong tradition in American politics, and because
I see little hope for going underground to avoid the impositions of the new
totalitarianism. Even Rod Dreher, who advocated such a strategy in his Benedict
Option, is far less hopeful now. Aside from true survivalists, such
communities need trade with the rest of the economy to survive, and that brings
the tax man and the power of the state right in.
disobedience might take the form of instructions from their bishops to American
Catholics to refuse to obey laws restricting the free exercise of religion (and
excommunication of politicians who violate church law), organization of general
strikes led by workers groups unwilling to tolerate employment discrimination
and indoctrination, refusals spearheaded by parents to pay taxes that support
schools indoctrinating students in CRT and perverse sexuality, a more broad-based
campaign to discourage payment of taxes, or state and local refusal to follow
biased Federal election procedures.
disobedience needs to succeed is broad agreement on where to draw the line on
woke repression and a leader or leaders who can inspire coordinated responses. Neither
is yet apparent. Symbolic gestures of civil disobedience by one or a few might
or might not inspire imitation, but surely come at great individual cost.
disobedience can succeed if it gains sufficiently broad support. The government
might perceive this quickly and change direction, or only after it learns that harsh
actions have turned sentiment against it. These are the hoped-for outcomes.
reaction of woke authorities is harsh and an unyielding regime makes itself
broadly unpopular, civil disobedience might be replaced by armed resistance. That
resistance, in turn, is likely to be crushed unless it has the kind of deep and
widespread support that leads, as it did in the Color Revolutions against Communist
rule, to refusal by the military to defend the regime.
success of any of these efforts to overthrow rule by a small minority that has
rigged the electoral process might be continent-wide or regional. The balance
of power between remaining supporters of the woke Federal government and
potentially seceding regions, and which the military supports, would determine
current Administration seems to be aware of the crucial role of military
loyalties in these endgames. The military now appears to be the first place in
which total woke rule is being imposed: opening the ranks at all levels to
LGBTQ+ candidates, promotions based on identity and loyalty to woke principles,
indoctrination in propaganda of critical race theory, and encouragement to report
comrades for thought-crimes. Together with a volunteer service with drastically
lower recruiting standards and inadequate pay, these policies remove the
historical safeguard of a military that is a cross-section of the civilian
population and identifies with it.
three at least temporarily stable outcomes seem possible: a totalitarian state
enforcing woke principles that keeps control because of apathy or defeat of
popular resistance, a return to constitutional government through electoral
victory or civil disobedience, or fracture into two or more independent
countries through secession of regions in which resistance to woke
totalitarianism is strong and uniform. In only one of these outcomes is the
prosperity and global preeminence of the United States like to be sustained.
of these forms of government is likely to last forever. Totalitarian
governments ultimately fail, not least because Christianity thrives under
persecution, constitutional democracies were facing severe challenges even
before the current crisis, and a fractured North America could reform into a more
stable confederacy. But the current time is —remember the [trigger alert!] Chinese
curse — interesting.