Michael Brendan Dougherty had a similar impression. I suppose we’ve reached the stage of complaining that all we do is complain about wokeness, for lack of anywhere else to go, conversationally speaking. Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money was; we talk about wokeness because that’s where all the cultural energy is, sadly enough. I’ve started reading Ross Douthat’s book The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, which seems to encapsulate a lot of my own thoughts from the last several years. The ideal of progress, which has carried Western civilization so far for so long, seems to have run into the law of diminishing returns. We’re sated with affluence and jaded by our technological marvels. There are no inspiring frontiers to be found. “High” culture almost seems ashamed of its own existence, and even popular culture has devolved to endless remakes and reboots of films and music from decades ago. The parasitical ideology of wokeness has taken advantage of this weakness and paralyzed its hosts — religion, politics, and culture — allowing its young to devour them from the inside. Establishment comedy itself has become just another form of po-faced preaching from people too oblivious to realize that they have become the insufferable tartuffes they used to mock, which is pretty ironically amusing, when you think about it.
I’m not an artist or a thinker. No one will ever pay me for my insights. I’ll never get to thank you for attending my TED talk. But for whatever it’s worth, it seems to me that these complaints about our woke preoccupations miss the point. There will be no “return” to a healthy, inspiring ideal of progress and civilizational self-confidence circa — gestures vaguely at the period between the American Revolution and World War Two — whenever your chosen golden age was. All we can do is make the best of the time in which we happen to find ourselves, with whatever tools come to hand. And so, rather than lament the fact that Dave Chappelle devotes the entirety of his latest comedy special to the trendy topic of transgenderism, we can ask, well, why wouldn’t he? That shit is hilarious.
I mean, come on. It’s simply funny to watch people desperately try to pretend to be other than they are while insisting that everyone else play along with them. It’s funny to watch the cultural ruling class trip over themselves to praise absurdities for fear of being treated as uncharitably as they themselves have treated countless other people. It’s funny to see our age’s contribution to the perennial human comedy, where the actors go out of their way to avoid self-awareness and, in the process, stumble from one slapstick adventure to another. And is anything funnier than having humorless prigs stand there stamping their feet while insisting that this is not funny and you will stop laughing this instant? Self-deception, vanity, status-seeking, folly; it’s all in there. Wokeness, like it or not, is what passes for religion and politics in our day. Well, then, until the extraterrestrial barbarians come to take over, let’s treat it accordingly and have some fun with it.