The Three Languages of Politics—"I Am Become Woke, Destroyer Of Nations"
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This week’s campus riots illustrate the terrible destructive power of the Woke ideology.

I mentioned in my Diary at the end of April that I had been seeing so many references in news commentary to Arnold Kling’s 2013 book The Three Languages of Politics that I had ordered a copy through my local library, but had not yet gone down there to pick it up.

Since then I have done so, and read the book. (The copy I got was actually the 2022 edition.) The book is shorter than I expected, not much more than a pamphlet, and I wasn’t very impressed by it.

Kling’s three languages of politics, just to remind you, are:

  • Progressivism: in which everything is analyzed in terms of Oppressors vs. their victims
  • Conservativism:  where the foundational viewpoint is Civilization vs. Barbarism
  • Libertarianism:  where it is Freedom vs. Coercion

The currently dominant ideology in the Western world, the one we call Woke, is entirely Progressive. Once you have decided who is oppressing whom, you are off and running with ideological passion.

I’m a temperamental conservative, speaking the second of Kling’s three languages. I’ll certainly grant that there is cruel oppression in the world, but nothing like as much as Progressives tell us—in the Western world, really none at all. It’s certainly not a major organizing principal of any society outside a few hellholes like Iran and North Korea.

I’m sympathetic to Israel because it is a small island of civilization in a region with a whole lot of barbarism. I’ll allow some qualified certificates of civilization to Jordan and some of the Arab monarchies, but Syria? Iraq? Yemen? Iran? Egypt I’m not sure about, but Libya? Oh my God!

(I’ll note in this context that the Trump administration pretty much agreed with me on this. They tried, and very nearly succeeded, to bring the Arab kingdoms together with Israel in an alliance of civilization against barbarism. That all ended in January 2021 because, you know: Orange Man bad!)

Libertarianism? Well, I enjoy my liberties and shall do what I can to defend them. However, I think civilization needs to defend itself against barbarism with some firm controls. Lunatics should be institutionalized, criminals should be incarcerated—humanely in both cases, of course. Rioters should be put down with… hey, why not water cannon?

Where rioting and disorder are concerned, I favor what a great British journalist called ”the smack of firm government.”

Arnold Kling is a libertarian. His book is in fact published by the Cato Institute. So on his own thesis, I speak a political language different from his. Since the author’s libertarianism comes on quite strongly in his text, this makes much of it hard for me to take in, as if indeed it was written in a foreign language. Perhaps I’ll give it another try.

Whatever: Kling’s insight about the oppressor-victim axis around which Progressivism—our dominant politic ideology—revolves, is good and useful.

Immature young minds—especially female ones—yearning to be in line with the latest fashion will greet the appearance of a new victim group with wild celebration.

As well as being new to their young ears, ”Gaza” has the further advantage of being easy to spell and remember, so the war over there, with Israel seen as oppressor and Gaza as victim, has had all the young airheads fired up.

Until last fall none of them had heard of Gaza; then, with some prodding from professional agitators, in no time at all they were running out to buy Palestinian head scarfs and spit on their Jewish classmates.

The remedy for this barbarism is good social control: parental, administrative, municipal-state-and-federal—the smack of firm government.

Unfortunately we don’t do that anymore, certainly not at the college-administrative level. The presidents of our elite universities might, with some prodding, offer the feeble, hesitant tap of limp authority, but nothing more.

This is the legacy of Woke. If we don’t get control of it, our civilization will fall. Watching these ructions, I slip into Oppenheimer mode: ”I am become Woke, destroyer of nations.”

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