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 Häagen–Dazs 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.