Know, O prince, that between the years after the USSR fell, and the years of the rise of Chaos, there was a global world undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars – Washington, Moscow, Beijing, London and Brussels – connected by a spider-web of container ships, floating cruise palaces, nonstop air transportation, fiber optic cables. But the proudest civilization of the world was Christendom, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither rose a class of sullen-men, with the power of that great civilization in hand, with gigantic pathologies and gigantic visions, determined to replace the Western foundational principle “under God”, or at least “under reason” with “under us”.
That ruling elite was so bedazzled by its legacy that they felt unbound, even to the moral and intellectual legacy of the civilization on whose shoulders they perched upon. Psychologically freed at a stroke from the past, they embarked on projects to radically remake humanity and the planet, not according to possibilities, but according to desires. It was possible, through the use of information technology, to create a universe of illusion, “a single, universal and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)” in which we will all live; while underneath, unheeded and forgotten, hums a physical base layer providing power, water and food, perpetually maintained and renewed by marvelous automata. Voters living in this world of magic would lose track of sordid reality, while the Woke would be kings and the masses along for the ride.
The most singular aspect of the rise of Woke mumbo jumbo is its relationship with the astonishing technological development that sustains it; enabling what may be called a “sword and sorcery” regime. Quasi-theocracies are upheld by technology so advanced it appears to be magic, at least to the general public, who have only a vague and awestruck knowledge of the mechanisms involved. “This man is woman,” a counter disinformation bureaucrat might intone, and all would nod in assent. Those in the virtual crowd who disagree will remain mute, for they know that with a gesture, the functionary can zap any dissenter with cancelation, so that he can be excluded from the metaverse entirely, through a process few understand but all fear.
That very vagueness enhances their authority. No one knows how powerful the magi actually are, because no one is really certain how potent the magic is. At the minimum, defying the Woke could ruin your career and social standing. They claim to be actually powerful enough to conjure real wealth into existence — print money ex nihilo. Yet the technology behind this sorcery is at once both enemy and friend, simultaneously serving and menacing the Woke elite, an ambivalence nowhere more sharply drawn than in the phrase “woke math,” which limits or waters down student access to mathematics, in order that they might not fail the subject. Here magic and reality collide. Hundreds of university professors said in an open letter, “we write to express our alarm over recent trends in K-12 mathematics education in the United States… particularly the California Mathematics Framework (CMF). Such frameworks aim to reduce achievement gaps by limiting the availability of advanced mathematical courses to middle schoolers and beginning high schoolers.”
But why should the students need the actual “essential mathematical tools such as calculus and algebra” if the California Mathematics Framework will give them the credential in lieu; providing the magic cloak, the printed money, the “man is woman,” the authoritative statement of competence that makes anything real? Maybe magic is not enough, for as Helen Raleigh pointed out in a Newsweek article, if China taught algebra in 6th grade while Woke educrats never taught it at all then soon California would be out of magic. China would have all the magic. The fatal crisis at the heart of a sword and sorcery regime is sorcery cannot maintain its claim of primacy in the face of its dependence on the technological sword. And that sword is rooted in the intellectual soil of the past which they would remake.
For the sorcerers, the absence of roots is no disadvantage. Politicians seem to think it possible to conjure a carbon-free world into existence, with Joe Biden dismissing the nationwide gas shortage and price crisis in Newsweek as a temporary inconvenience on the road to the commanded state. “And when it comes to the gas prices, we’re going through an incredible transition that is taking place that, God willing, when it’s over, we’ll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels when this is over,” he said. Never mind Russia. Never mind the war in Ukraine. Never mind where the rare substances for batteries will come from. Shazaaam! If Woke politicians will it, it will come. That mindset lies at the heart of sorcery and it is profoundly antithetical to technology. Still the spells fly thick and fast. New York Goverrnor Kathy Hochul tweeted, “New Yorkers: You can now choose ‘X’ as a gender marker on your driver license. Every person deserves to have an identity document that reflects who they are. This is a historic change in our fight to make New York a more inclusive and just state for all.” And that’s what it takes to change who you are.
Or is it?
Magic, twentieth century authors observed, was mathematics with all the steps omitted, like a calculator. It Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography, it describes how an imperfectly numerate person accepted the result of civilization without understanding. “Then she got into the lift, for the good reason that the door stood open; and was shot smoothly upwards. The very fabric of life now, she thought as she rose, is magic. In the eighteenth century, we knew how everything was done; but here I rise through the air; I listen to voices in America; I see men flying – but how it’s done I can’t even begin to wonder. So my belief in magic returns.”
What a wonderful feeling to be in command. The elevator rose because the passenger entered it. The radio spoke because someone turned the knob. The cellphone works because the On Switch was pressed. But change the problem a little, and because we have omitted all the understanding, the magical appliance may not work at all and we have no way to fix it. This is perhaps the reason why our politicians, the modern sorcerers with all the clanking machinery of the End of History at their disposal, are surprised when their confident plans to boost the economy, flatten the pandemic curve and replace nuclear plants with windmills unaccountably take off in unknown directions. The usual explanation is it’s not that Woke sorcery has stopped working; it’s bad luck. Or maybe it’s because they forgot they were standing on the shoulders of giants and carelessly discarded what came before.
Perhaps the Woke have confused sword with sorcery all along. What they take to be sorcery is just technology; but there’s more to civilization. We have to accept that knowlege is hard won; our understanding imperfect and mutable; our survival always in question and never guaranteed. We have to rediscover our sense of numinous; find the hope to face a universe unfathomable save only by the lights we’ve kept burning. This strictly speaking is not even technology but it is the true magic. As for “bad luck” …
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.” — Robert Heinlein
Elon Musk tweeted on May 20, 2022 that “unless it is stopped, the woke mind virus will destroy civilization and humanity will never reach Mars.” Maybe Elon means it.
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