Boo Boo loves Mellow
I’ve been avoiding writing about the whole ‘Woke’ phenomenon, mostly because I’ve written about it before, in smaller pieces throughout this blog. But I decided it was important enough for folks to understand the memetic implications of what Woke is all about, and decide whether they want to promote this or not.
I define Woke as the current social justice movement to relationally define everything outside a given individual’s agency and judgment. If you meet a Black/Hispanic/Lesbian/Whatever (the list is almost endless) you must follow a predefined script, created by a cross-section of academics and ersatz intellectuals, or in the preferred end game of these self-appointed elites, you lose your livelihood. That’s been the defining characteristic of the Woke playbook. You will do what you’re told, or you will starve. There is nothing more darkly humorous than hearing a Wokie say “Free speech has consequences!” Which means, of course, if you step outside the lines to color, you will deserve to starve.
Wokism is often portrayed by its proponents as a high empathy strategy for a better society. But it is far from that. What wokism really is is a relational power grab, with increasingly complex set of protocols, that functionally neuters and isolates everyone in the society outside a given, and small in-group. It’s targeted currently against white folks, and justified as a strategy to redress past wrongs (slavery, discrimination and so on.) But considering my own experience with the larger population in the U.S., where basically any coherent version of history has been under attack for the last 30 years, it’s mostly arbitrary, and outside large-scale documented phenomena, like chattel slavery, it lacks any detail or meaningful narrative besides a top level perspective. Your character is defined by your phenotype, and there is simply not much you can do to change it.
From a memetic perspective, this makes it a combination of the Tribal, Authoritarian and Legalistic v-Memes, with the largest weight given to the Authoritarian knowledge structure — what you see is what you limbically get. Once we understand this, there are a couple of larger memetic questions we should be asking. Caste systems of all sorts have shown up in history around the globe, and have proven to be remarkably stable. India and China both have them, with India’s being explicit, and China’s far more implicit. Maybe it IS better to leave relational definition to some group of societal betters, and just go along with it.
And make no mistake — Wokism is a call to a caste system, since moving beyond such a system inherently implies mixing of the various castes to establish a new, synthetic normal. And that will require independent relational definition.
In a modern society like the U.S., in order to move into an explicit caste system, some level of relational devolution is mandatory. What that means is that, at least for a time, psychopaths must be in charge of its implementation, in that people must be broken down and lose some culturally asserted agency in establishing it as the de facto protocol. This then inherently leads to warping of the concept — psychopaths are going to use mental models extant to establish their own power and control — until either the population’s larger spirit is crushed, or people kill each other in the numbers necessary to correspond to the amount of complex information available to run the society. Those are the social physics, folks. You’re going to bubble up with your assigned in-group, only approaching the other out-groups under Legalistic, dictated protocols.
The problem with all of this, besides the fact that the emergent goal is to make everyone as miserable as possible, through some societal level of narcissistic “Golden Child/Scapegoat Child” dynamic, is that it profoundly cuts down on a society’s ability to deal with change of any sort — but especially rapid change. I have been a strong proponent of diversity my entire professional career (check my resume’ sometime) and still am. But the way agency-driven diversity works is create interaction scenarios between different groups where individuals decide whether to trust, or not trust others. This pushes the society much higher up on the evolutionary scale, as well as driving community-building and goal-based knowledge structures and behaviors.
But Wokism responds to this with increased fragmentation and a multiplication of reconcilable strategies of intersectionality. You have to have that as well, in a country with 331 million people. Which then might lead to a more sophisticated society, but one increasingly out of the control of all outside the priestly caste generating the rules. And sooner or later, that’s going to get down into the infrastructure of actual society — food webs, transportation, and so on — and cause the material disruption and migration to the Survival v-Meme it needs to get people to start killing each other, which is, unfortunately, the outcome of that simplification.
And if anyone thinks it is somehow going to be executed fairly, or within the bounds of some nonexistent, universal moral code, well, that’s not in the social physics. The psychopaths propagating will also likely be killed, but the timescales in their brain indicate they don’t care. I love this clip from the Dark Knight of the Joker and Two Face in the hospital. Chaos, as the Joker says, from a moral position, is fair.
There are larger population dynamics going on with all this, that I can only surmise. My Taiwanese wife insists the caste system in China was set up during the Song Dynasty, and most was an outflow of intense rule-followers, likely autism spectrum disordered, who became promoted through the introduction and modest social mobility of the Chinese civil service exam, which didn’t focus so much on executing civil service. More, it was a knowledge sophistication test through the lens of ancient Chinese poetry. Societies before my writing had implicitly figured out the whole relational mapping to other subjects’ complexity before me (remember my tagline is ‘As we relate, so we think.’ ) But as I have noted, doing so freezes societies and their aggregate cultures in time. Not so good for dealing with wide-scale disruption that might occur in a global society.
There also is no doubt that looking at Chinese history, with its frozen-in-time model (they didn’t call it Jungguo — The Middle Kingdom for nothing) gives important insights on psychopathy in such a society. Psychopaths will, over time, get shunted to the side even in Authoritarian societies, often through cultural adaptations. No one knows psychopathic games played better than the general Chinese population, and things like chengyu spring up. People need happiness, and will find ways to find it through intimate understanding.
But you have to get there first. And in a country with 331 million people, we either double down on creating people in our society that navigate issues on their own. Or we have to expect the inevitable decline our memetics serves up, along with depopulation. Wokism is both a coupled cause and a symptom of where our own society and culture is at this moment.
One last thing. Advancing societal sophistication — increasing the cascades of categories that our academic elites dream up — may start as an imposed exercise of equality, equity or what have you. But in the end, the people who benefit from these sophistication cascades will be the elites. Why? Complicated cultural codes take spare energy and time to master, lest you make a mistake and get canceled yourself. That implies those with the best proxy — money — for both energy and time, are the only ones that will master them. What may start as an attempt to recognize the huddled masses really isn’t for them. What is fascinating is that we’re starting to see this adaptation increasingly in corporate America. The winners are going to create codes even if it is against their monetary interest — that’s simply how powerful the downward evolutionary pressure of the memetics are.
And odds are if you’re reading this blog, you ain’t it. You can’t fight social physics. So the next time you are getting called out for some element of nonsensical BS, you might remember this. The multi-faction civil war that is emergently being promoted is going to kill your children too.
Sidebar — I’m going to cut this off — I have a lot more detail in this post on Information Fractalization.
One more note — recently listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with Naval Ravikant and David Deutsch. I’m not really a David Deutsch fan, but his concept on Wealth Creation — which is essentially cross-conceptual and paradigmatic mapping to create a culture of optimism– is spot on. One might think about how Wokism intrinsically affects wealth creation (basically destroys it, which then fits into the devolutionary relational spiral I’m discussing here.) David doesn’t do so well in the actual Theory of Everything category. But he’s still a smart guy.
4 thoughts on “Woke Dynamics and Societal Devolution”
The following is from an email I sent a friend. For the most part, it needs to be attributed to William Briggs. I just cut and pasted some of his ideas on the definition of woke and added a few words. However, I like the simplicity of the definition and it cuts to the core…….
I’ve been reading multiple articles that are trying to define what “Woke” is? Most invariably fall, at some point, into a similarity to that old pornography definition of, “I know it when I see it”.
Then, I stumbled upon the best definition so far, that “Woke is a stubborn denial of reality”. I pondered that idea as I was very receptive to it at first
Then it struck me! If that were all woke was, a stubborn denial of Reality, then it could be ignored. Alas, woke is actually so much more. It is also a hostile denial of Reality. The woke are angry at Reality. Very, very, very angry. Reality is not fair. And they simply will not acknowledge, or be reminded of it!
Their hostility means they must insist that you, too, deny Reality. They will censor you; cancel you; indeed, make the state force your denial! Your simple observations, understanding, endorsement and actions in accord with Reality will be illegal or proscribed. You will absolutely be forced to put the pinch of woke incense into the fire, or suffer, suffer, suffer. If you watched Game of Thrones, then you’ll understand the comparison….if you do not bow to the altar of Wokeness (it truly is a religion) then you WILL be forced to do the Cersei Lannister Walk of Shame (Shame, Shame)!!!
Hey Dr Chuck,
Wokeism surely exists on a spectrum, right? Perhaps I’m coming from a different definition but the part about self-entitled elites taking on an enforcement role feels like the most extreme end of the spectrum.
I’ll admit I still struggle to comprehend the various memetic levels you discuss, but I am curious to get your thoughts on what might be on the other side of ‘woke’, the trend that is ‘trolling’ or ‘owning the libs.’ The apparent action taken to deny or counter what one might consider a ‘woke’ idea.
For example, I suspect some would equate support for LGBT rights to be ‘woke,’ while political action to curtail LGBT rights would be serving to primarily ‘own the libs’ or fight ‘wokeism.’
What I am most interested in is the utility or popularity supporters of such political action get from ‘owning the libs.’ Is it purely Tribal identity? Schadenfreude?
Complete woke superiority for the purpose of alienating others / seizing power is wrong (that’s what it seems like you are talking about) but some of the individual elements related to equity, undoing racism, etc., seek a better society. In their isolation, why is there an apparent appeal to fighting these ideas via anti-woke efforts?
Ryan~ An EXCELLENT comment. Of course, there is a spectrum. The problem seems to be that the concentrating effects of social media have really changed the dynamics of philosophy of leadership. I’m just out of the hospital with limited energy (nothing good!) but I didn’t want you to think I wasn’t paying attention.
Re: I’ve written a couple of pieces on exactly your question. The key thing as we swim through this time is to keep an open heart to all that are not actively attacking others. Always keep the door open — and realize when you’re dealing with a real disruptor/troll. They can’t be fixed. But most people are just trying to live their lives.
Here are the pieces:
One more thing — go find my friend Daniel Goetz. He writes about meta modernism, which is the other side of Woke.
Feel very lucky to have Daniel in my life.