Edmund Burke warned us not to wake up
Burke warned us that this could happen. No, not Tom Brady … although the 18th century Anglo-Irish statesman’s fondness for antiquity and attempt would likely have led him to predict that the GOAT is capable of one more Super Bowl run. Rather, I am speaking of the increasing subjugation of America’s dominant cultural and political institutions to a stifling wokeism. Indeed read Reflections on the Revolution in France In 2021 one wonders again whether the good Mr. Edmund Burke gave an apocalyptic vision of John the Revelator, what the West expects.
Perhaps Burke would have the means, too, if he were so foresighted about the problem.
It is no secret that Burke, perhaps the most prophetic and incisive critic of the French Revolution, viewed radical political and social changes with great suspicion and caution. Among his many concerns, the great parliamentary speaker realized that part of the problem with the radical revolutionary ideal is that it becomes a permanent self-immolation Raison d’être that gradually undermines body politics. You cannot build a society on self-hatred.
“I confess to you, sir, I never liked that constant talk of resistance and revolution or the practice of making the extreme medicine of the Constitution their daily bread,” he said. “It makes the habit of society dangerously valetudinary: it regularly takes doses of sublimated mercury and ingests repeated provocations from Cantharids to our love of freedom.” Was Burke talking about the Jacobins or our own contemporaries who so viciously slander patriarchy, heteronormativity and white privilege? If it is power structures that need to be dismantled, the work of the awakened revolutionary will never be done.
Yet, as Burke cautiously notes, “revolution or nothing” turns into the meanest triviality and tokenism. Revolutionaries “often think lightly of all public principles; and in turn are ready to give up for a very trivial interest what they find of very trivial value. “This is how our inauguration reminded us, liberal experts kept reminding us, of the first black, female, nationally elected executive officer to be sworn in by the first judge of the Latina Supreme Court. And the new administration could include the first Senate-approved transgender federal official. Such “firsts” are fleeting, however, and one must forever recognize the next glass ceiling to be broken. There is always history to be made, my friends!
Moreover, because the revolution is proclaimed in such dramatic, earth-shaking binaries, it creates resentment and malice towards those who fail to see the good in the endless attempts to immanent the eschaton. “The worst thing about these revolutionary policies is this,” wrote Burke, “they temper and harden the chest in preparation for the desperate strokes that are sometimes used on extreme occasions.” That describes pretty well our contemporary culture of annulment, which slanders the unconverted and transgressor against our ever-changing norms. Burke warns that granting such people social and political power undermines the state’s ability to seek its natural goods. He explains: “In general, those who are ordinarily busy finding and reporting errors are not qualified for the work of the Reformation: because their minds are not only unfurnished with patterns of what is just and good, but habitually take no pleasure in them in contemplating these things. By hating vices too much, they love men too little. “
Before writing essays on the religious character of wokeism was a cliché, Burke had already crossed this terrain. He mocks revolutionaries who, while disdaining the patriarchal power structures of tradition and religion, “have their own bigotry; and they have learned to speak against monks with the spirit of a monk. “Like Jeffrey Bilbro of Front Porch Republic in his Read the timesPositivism, the Whiggish story, and the Hegelian dialectic have led us to give eschatological significance to every new event on the right side of history. “What an eventful time this is!” Burke explains cheekily. “I am grateful that I lived it; I could almost say, Lord, now let your servant go in peace, for my eyes have seen your redemption. – I have seen a spread of knowledge that has undermined superstition and error. “
Long before the southern essayist Tom Wolfe made the radical chic of hypocritical elites who wanted to polish their progressive references with anti-establishment agitators so ruthlessly ridiculous that he took advantage of white guilt, Burke recognized the entrepreneurial dimensions of la revolution. He noted, “We will believe that these reformers are then honest enthusiasts, not as we think them now, scammers and cheaters, when we see them throwing their own wares together …” Of course, American elites have learned that it is far better to co-opt them than to leave their own cultural and economic power to wokeism. A yard sign here, a social media post there, corporate diversity and corporate integration initiatives everywhere – these are the congratulatory brands of a technocratic class that are sure to be on the right side of history.
Sure, some money has to be thrown at snake oil sellers … I mean diversity and inclusion advisors like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi. But maybe we can get the government to subsidize that too, or at least offer a tax break. “They are passed blindly to every projector and adventurer, alchemist and quack,” notes Burke. Nor do we need to be overly concerned with the socio-cultural revisionist programs. As long as they promote the latest academically certified “science” on racism, sexism and bigotry, it will exempt the establishment at least until the next fiscal year. Burke says, “At these meetings of all kinds, any lawyer, depending on how daring, violent, and perfidious he is, is viewed as a mark of a superior genius.”
This “rolling revolution,” as Scott Yenor calls it, will inevitably create new hierarchies based less on merit than on racial, sexual and gender identitarianism, which requires different quotas to be met, and even darker identities will be celebrated when these themselves lead to unjust results and generate new forms of resentment and anger. “After destroying all other genealogy and family differences,” notes Burke, “they invent some kind of family tree of crime.” Yes, there will be victims of such social engineering – the working class, “backward” religious groups, white men, sportswomen – but such outcomes are the inevitable outcome of the realization of the “arc of the moral universe”. Burke warns: “You have the power, like that of the Evil Principle, to undermine and destroy; but not to build any other than machines capable of further subversion and further destruction. “
Conservatives are necessarily suspicious of such positivist, Hubist efforts, also because they are irrationally biased versus The old. Burke writes: “They have no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it off with a very full level of confidence in themselves. With them it is sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things because it is an old one. “Because of this, we are careful about the revisionist history in public art and change the names of various public institutions. Although some efforts may be justified – why to do We have a military base named after a Confederate general who was hated even by his own troops. – We find no restrictive principle in such efforts. This explains why Lincoln and other American heroes, and even Francis Drake, have also been targeted. “I don’t like it when something is destroyed. any emptiness created in society; every ruin on the face of the land, ”explains Burke.
Rather, conservatives revere the “prejudice of the ages”, a preference for those old and venerable opinions and traditions that have proven to be worth emulating in the melting pot of human history. In contrast, we reject those socio-political visions that promise the moon and trigger a dystopian catastrophe. Burke astutely asserts, “If it’s a panacea, we don’t want it. We know the consequences of unnecessary physics. If it’s a plague; It is such a nuisance that the precautions for the most severe quarantine should be taken against it. “
Is “plague” too harsh a word to describe wokeism and its revolutionary aspirations? In its allergy to human nature and objective truth, in its embrace of absurd histrionics, and in its elitist, exploitative practices, Wokeism proves to be no better and far worse than its predecessors. “There is something other than the mere alternative of absolute destruction,” says Burke. It is prayed that America will hurry to the Anglo-Irish’s admonitions before we witness an anamnesis of the reign of terror he so accurately foretold.
Casey chalk covers religion and other subjects for The American Conservative and is a senior writer for Crisis magazine. He has a degree in history and teaching from the University of Virginia and a master’s in theology from Christendom College.