In the Civil Wars that rocked Britain in the 17th Century a certain pattern emerged that may seem familiar to people today. Calls for reform went ignored for too long leading to an explosion of violence. New values came as a result of that but the people who most strongly voiced those values in positions of power went on to advocate for cosmetic retooling of social issues at the expense of actually changing anything when it came to social organization or fairness. Oliver Cromwell’s reign over ‘The Protectorate’ kept or even re-invigorated all the old institutions and preferred to focus on creating a ‘Kingdom of God’. Largely inward looking, Puritan rule left no great monuments (such would be prideful) nor works of infrastructure. It did not increase the living standards of anyone in any measurable way. But it was revolutionary in a purely social sense. Now England and Scotland were ‘free’ to ‘contemplate God’ and ‘perfect themselves.’ Free from the past and dangerous foreign ideas they were now nothing but slaves to the present. A serfdom belonging to a ruling class obsessed with chasing virtue and then creating a scarcity of it so that they could retain a monopoly over it. Pure Protestant pathology distilled. It was probably the most oppressive government that British Isles had ever been subjected to, and despite all of this it changed so very little in the long term.
Cromwell’s legacy is strong in all societies culturally descended from England. Especially in America. Wokeness thrives in the Anglosphere and most influences places with strong socio-economic ties to it. There is even a great Chinese term for it.
Just two entries ago I wrote about how vital and necessary the George Floyd protests are. That is still true. But unsurprisingly, they have opened up a vast power vacuum that grifters and charlatans have been all too happy to walk right into. Promising not meaningful change but self-flagellation, serious conversations on structural issues can be made palatable to certain demographics without actually threatening their pocketbook.
In no way is this more overt than in meaningless genuflections such as companies pulling past content as if the past can be edited to fit perfectly with the present along some invented concept of universal and eternal values. Animated fictional characters voices must now match their real world ethnicities because…reasons? Victorian racial essentialism has been re-tooled and repackaged by corporate HR grifters like Robin Diangelo so that companies can better divide their workers but do so with a woke veneer. Such were the tactics of the English puritans and such are the tactics of their cultural descendants today. It is not a coincidence that the most militant of the woke puritans come from above average incomes and often originate in parts of the country that are utterly homogeneous in a cultural sense. They move to large cities only to find their views are no longer edgy or revolutionary and they must invent new competitive standards to stay atop their the pyramid of self-regard they have been creating since their time in debate club or musical theater.
The weirdest thing of all about this purely academic and media driven ‘anti-racism’ is that its bizarrely xenophobic. Woke culture, a decidedly Anglo-phenomenon, is considered to be world culture. Much like the neoliberal economic models who they find themselves in company with, this is a project of world conversion. Starting with the now infamous Kony 2012, the general trend has been for large business and government interests to weaponize the ‘we must do something’ sentiment to increase military and market penetration abroad. The Christian delusion of one universal set of right and wrong and a grand struggle towards redemption lives on in the campuses, HR departments, and mass media. Management has more tools to divide workers below them. Whatever you do, the implied message to workers goes, don’t look up.
One of the reasons I suspect this is so xenophobic is because among the bien pensant posers who make up the followers-of-the-elite classes there are constant demands for ‘representation’ from fictional genres that are plenty diverse…but not necessarily in the English language. Film is global yet people who only watch Hollywood blockbusters and British twee-comedy are angry that they don’t see enough of the world reflected in that. This is because they are assuming that English language culture *is* world culture and are too lazy and nativistic to seek out and watch foreign films from across the planet. Something it is easier to do now than ever before.
Fiction writing seems the most relentless assault from these people. Despite regularly reviewing on goodreads, I tend to avoid most of that site’s culture because 80% of the users don’t read anything overlapping with what I read. This is good because on the occasion that I catch a glimpse of what is going on outside my areas its inevitably horrifying. The cultural dominance of crunchy wine moms in their 40s who still read young adult fiction is stultifying, and one can see many behaviors such as what I deem ‘checklisting’ or making sure they read things where the narrative includes only characters with a requisite of diverse backgrounds.
Almost none of these diversity-upholding authors are from outside of Britain and its majority white ex-colonies. The stories are often formulaic and an unspoken agreement seems to be that a woke present neoliberal veneer is to be applied to preexisting genre tropes. The only innovation is in casting *not* in storytelling. Since fiction is expected to uphold liberal values along with fantasy moral ones.
For just one particularly striking example of how this perforative diversity is actually nativistic in nature, read the negative reviews of Marlon James’ ‘Red Wolf, Black Leopard’ to see this phenomenon in microcosm. Here you have something that on the surface meets the criteria for woke checklisters (gay Carribean author, African influenced fantasy setting) that is aggressively hated by moral guardians/ex theater nerds and woke white women. They hate it because it is experimental, transgressive, and morally ambiguous. It is diversity in storytelling, not just in checklisting. And the virtue demographic loathes it.
Marlon James (and others less noticed by the mainstream) pull from real history and mythology to tell unique fantasy stories from across space and time. Currently, China is producing tons of new and vibrant science fiction. Horror writers from the Middle East and Africa are making waves and Japan has been plugging along since Edogawa Rampo. But if it makes McSkaleighlough Connecticut-Kaleton uncomfortable by breaking Anglofied expectations than it must be of the devil. What these people really want is simple good vs evil narratives, Lord of the Rings in blackface. The Christian narrative secularized into liberal gruel. An affirmation of norms highly specific in time and place but assumed to be desirable to the entire world. After all, without these norms wokeness would be impossible.
Mainstream Anglosphere conservatism could be described as an attempt to defend the honor of high school history teachers to never move beyond the level of understanding they impart. Now, mainstream American liberalism finds itself in the same boat but for topical culture. They can diversify all they want, but the message remains the same: There is only one way, the way we grew up. The deviate from received wisdom is dangerous. Everything works fine if the cast is diverse enough. Please don’t look for alternatives outside of Cromwell’s Protectorate.
This is a new version of the ruling class, but its still a ruling class every bit as out of touch and irritating as the one it is replacing. They don’t wear top hats anymore and they are very aware of racial injustice. But they aren’t interested in doing anything but mining it for their own social prestige and holding people far below their income level accountable for the problems that they themselves support and create. And if you fall for this, you are dupe. The mud-stained peasant who thinks Cromwell’s social purity and witch trials will lead to a better world for him and his family. Never mind that the neighbors were just denounced for breaking the Sabbath.
Here is hoping we can at least make it through this phase and live long enough to see whatever our cultural equivalent is to the restoration of Charles II.