The Church of Wokeism
Liberal Arts Becomes Dogmatic
Excerpts from Snakes in the Ganga by Rajiv Malhotra & Vijaya Viswanathan
The stated goal of liberal arts education is to equip students to process complex and diverse ideas, engage in abstract thinking, and consider opposing opinions with open minds. The teacher should provide students theoretical grounding from multiple perspectives and encourage them to engage each other and the faculty, and debate opponents with mutual respect. Such education should enable them to challenge beliefs, assumptions, and conventions. In practice, however, liberal education has become the exact opposite. Students are no longer encouraged to think for themselves but are tutored in the teacher’s specific ideology and social justice morality. Academic institutions are not sanctuaries for open inquiry and alternative viewpoints. The conservative thinker Allan Bloom was blunt in his influential book, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students, attacking American universities for spreading dogma as theory and for indoctrinating in the guise of scholarship. Ironically, in the name of ridding society of its power structures, academicians have created their own enormous power structure. Since the old structures are seen as stumbling blocks, they are to be demolished. This includes not just dismantling structures like religions, nation-states, and traditional values, but also objectivity, rationality, and meritocracy.
Genuine science is about formulating hypotheses and subjecting them to empirical testing, debate, contestation, and falsification. The social sciences, however, too often blur the boundaries between
facts and moral values. The power of social sciences in society comes not from their ability to theorize like the hard sciences, but from their ability to undermine societies. In addition, the globalization of liberal arts has had a colonizing effect. To be truly liberal, each society should develop its own content with its own cultural underpinnings and resist global homogenization. But domination by American scholars, institutions, theories, and funding sources has undermined local cultures. The system of academic rankings and global evaluation indices is also controlled by the West and undermines local excellence. We use the terms social sciences, humanities, and liberal arts interchangeably because of the inter-disciplinary movement to cross fertilize across them.
The term ‘Woke’ was already popular in Black culture, but it became mainstream in the aftermath of George Floyd’s (a Black) killing by a White policeman. Becoming Woke is a general-purpose term
referring to being aware of social injustice according to the framework of Critical Race Theory. It means fighting all the invisible power structures that govern societies. We will use the terms Wokeism and Critical Race Theory are interchangeably; the latter is the more formal academic system, while Wokeism is its popular, informal version. Though we empathize with the oppressed and support movements that help them, we disagree with many of the methods being suggested by Critical Race Theory. We find that activist leaders are not persecuted innocent freethinkers but advocates of censorship, Cancel Culture, and aggressive evangelism of their newly founded religion. For instance, we disagree with Wokeism’s premise that rationality is a problem because the clever, upper-class elites have been using it as a tool for exploitation. The movement is not interested in constructive engagements. It is not open to free speech, debate, discussion, challenge, evidence, etc. This will be elaborated in a later section of this chapter. It is reasonable to think in terms of the Gospel of Wokeism as a dogma belonging to a new kind of Church. The high priests of Wokeism are the autocrats deciding who is underprivileged and entitled to special treatment. This is a powerful new institution with its own ideas of blasphemy. Those who disagree are to be attacked viciously. Dissent is not allowed. Woke is a form of groupism and tribalism, seeing society in terms of us/them, and waging an all-out war against its opponents. The table below shows some of the similarities between this movement and the dogmatic structure of some Churches.
Just as Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin that has inflicted everyone ever since so also systemic racism is the Original Sin of the founding fathers and all others involved in nation-building.
Individual merit is overshadowed by the structural Original Sin. Another similarity we find with organized Christianity is the use of victimhood. Wokeism inherited this from Marxism’s Frankfurt School whose leaders defined a new class called ‘the subaltern’ as ‘the oppressed’. This was a new kind of proletariat defined as those deprived of cultural power. This cultural hegemony has many names and forms: feminists call it patriarchy; sexual names and forms: feminists call patriarchy; sexual minorities call it heteronormativity, and racial minorities call it White supremacy.