Short Take: Brooks On Wokeness, Co-Opted

Having been binge-watching a show on Hulu, a commercial for Lexus is played repeatedly. Every time I see it, I have the same thought. “So empathy is buying a Lexus?”

The commercial is idiotic. The dialogue is idiotic. I hope Emmanuel Acho got paid a fortune for the gig.

David Brooks writes that fear of wokeism is overwrought, as it is already being subsumed by capitalism.

The meritocracy has one job: to funnel young people into leadership positions in society. It’s very good at doing that. Corporations and other organizations are eager to hire top performers, and one sign of elite credentials is the ability to do the discourse. That’s why the C.I.A. made that widely mocked recruiting video that was like a woke word salad: cisgender, intersectional, patriarchal.

Brooks gives a shoutout to my pal Nick Clairmont, who wrote a great post about the language of privilege, the tedious pseudo-intellectual rhetoric that strives to use three words wherever one would suffice in order to reduce thoughts into vague gibberish that can simultaneously mean anything and nothing while being used to beat Philistines to death.

But as the discourse gets more corporatized it’s going to get watered down. The primary ideology in America is success; that ideology has a tendency to absorb all rivals.

Corporations and other establishment organizations co-opt almost unconsciously. They send ambitious young people powerful signals about what level of dissent will be tolerated while embracing dissident values as a form of marketing. By taking what was dangerous and aestheticizing it, they turn it into a product or a brand. Pretty soon key concepts like “privilege” are reduced to empty catchphrases floating everywhere.

A rather cynical view of the corporate co-optation of wokeiosity, as if maple walnut ice cream being the most intersectional will be used to sell HäagenDazs to the passionate idiots. On the one hand, Brooks shrugs off the silliness as it will have no longer legs than the hippies of the ’60s as they learned that “greed is good.” On the other, Brooks doesn’t appear to recognize, or appreciate, the legal shifts happening that will have a similar lasting impact as the “tough on crime” laws of the crack epidemic. But hey, what’s the big deal about a few hundred thousand people in prison, whether it’s for dealing drugs and murdering their street corner competition or for being credibly accused of stare rape or being too rich?

Brooks isn’t worried because in the end, only the good will survive.

This would be fine with me. As I say, there are (at least) two elements to wokeness. One focuses on concrete benefits for the disadvantaged — reparations, more diverse hiring, more equitable housing and economic policies. The other instigates savage word wars among the highly advantaged. If we can have more of the former and less of the latter, we’ll all be better off.

Why bother with the silly “savage word wars” when there are concrete benefits to be had: reparations, more diverse hiring, more equitable housing and economic policies. At least it’s fine with Brooks.

25 thoughts on “Short Take: Brooks On Wokeness, Co-Opted

    1. SHG Post author

      There have been a good number of bodies sacrificed in the wake of the “cause,” you being one of them. Just collateral damage.

      1. Hunting Guy

        Peter Arnett, misquoting an Army officer.

        “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

  1. Danny Block

    The little girl’s look of confusion reminds me of the child in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

  2. Hal

    Years ago, while living in Europe, I noticed that even good French or German dictionaries had only a fraction, no more than 20-25%, as a good English language dictionary (and I’m not talking the OED, but simply a good unabridged dictionary). English simply has a much larger vocabulary to work with, than do many/ most other languages.

    Because of the richness of our vocabulary it is possible to speak w/ a degree of specificity and accuracy not afforded by other tongues.

    For this reason, I view w/ suspicion those who feel compelled to create new words, or insist on new and different meanings for existing ones and any arguments that rely on them.

    There’s an old joke, allegedly told by Abe Lincoln of two men listening to a politician make a stump speech (in those days it might have been from an actual stump). One man, a little deat, is having trouble hearing and asks his friend; “What’s he sayin’?”. The friend, listens a moment longer, then replies; “He don’t say”.

    There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

    1. Sgt. Schultz

      Oh cool, Hal. I can’t wait for a debate to break out about the relative number of words in various languages, since that’s really what this post is all about.

  3. Elpey P.

    What a relief, those of us who worried that corporations and the government might be the true victims of a demagogic and indiscriminately punitive social movement can rest easy now that corporations and the government are co-opting it.

  4. Paleo

    I personally am not terribly eager to spend my money with a company that seems to think I’m a white supremacist. Just my fragility showing, I suppose.

      1. B. McLeod

        Wait . . . Isn’t that the pricey Toyota?

        I think any truly wokey consumers would buy a used Prius, or forego cars entirely in favor of the much greener bicycle option.

        1. SHG Post author

          What better way to show you’re a privileged ally than to drive a better car than the oppressed?

  5. John Barleycorn

    Time to push out the morning grumpy and have another cup of coffee…

    P.S. I wonder if I could get your readers to buy my first world problem poems on toilet paper?

  6. Ray

    From time to time when I come to this blog, usually in the morning while I’m having my coffee getting ready to go to work, I read a post that just resonates.

    So I just want to say to you, that despite any differences between us: I hear you, I feel you, I understand you. and, oh yes, I love you.

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