By Jonathon Van Maren
Over the past few months, we have been treated to a torrent of encouraging think-pieces declaring that wokeism has peaked and that the progressive vandals demolishing Western civilization are on the run. With a growing backlash from parents against the ideologies being taught in public schools and a handful of electoral races (most notably in Virginia) swinging to the GOP over CRT and gender ideology, it does appear that people are finally getting fed up. The Daily Wire grandly called it the “Turning of the Tide.” Old school liberals such as Andrew Sullivan hastened to declare that the insanity on their far-Left flank was dying down.
I’ve certainly been encouraged by some developments—especially the pushback against gender ideology in Europe, where many intellectuals are getting restive over the deleterious effects of ideologies imported from the U.S. (America returning the favor for the Frankfurt School.) But over at his essential Substack The Upheaval, N.S. Lyons has a grim but fascinating piece titled “No, the Revolution Isn’t Over.” Lyons says that wokeism may have faced setbacks, but these are skirmishes rather than conflict-defining events—and supplies a devastating list of reasons that he believes this is the case, noting that progressives still own the institutions, that public schools will continue to promote the same ideologies under different names and—most importantly—that people don’t change their religion over setbacks.
It’s an important essay, and everyone should read it. For the moment, I wanted to single out one particular observation that stood out to me:
Majorities don’t matter. Unfortunately for those dreaming of harnessing a majority anti-woke popular will, the truth is that, as statistician and philosopher Nassim Taleb has explained in detail, it’s typically not the majority that sets new societal rules, but the most intolerant minority. If the vast majority generally prefers to eat Food A instead of Food B, but a small minority is absolutely insistent on eating Food B and is willing to start chopping the heads off of anyone who disagrees and serves Food A – and the majority doesn’t care enough to get all bloody dying on this particular culinary hill – all restaurants will soon be serving only Food B, the new national cuisine. This is especially true if the intolerant minority already holds a disproportionate position of influence within the system.
I’ve never seen that point articulated so effectively—and it explains a lot. The majority of people in Canada, for example—which has been accurately dubbed the world’s first “woke nation”—hold views much more similar to my own than to those of Justin Trudeau. Most Canadians do not believe that some women have penises and that some men get pregnant. In fact, millions of Canadians who are recent immigrants from more traditional cultures are not yet on board with same-sex marriage, which is considered a secular sacrament at this point by every major political party. So how do we explain the fact that trans activists have conquered every institution and have even supposedly common-sense premiers like Doug Ford firmly by the nethers?
It is because majorities don’t matter. The vast majority of normal, common-sense people who will never get profiled on the CBC as a non-binary two-spirited Sufi struggling to make it in the Toronto indy music scene (and would have no idea what that even means) are just getting on with their lives. They go to work, struggle to make ends meet, and hope that their kids will have better lives than they do. And while they work, they send their kids off to school to be educated by teachers who introduce them to the gender unicorn, and children’s books about transgender crayons, and why the values they’ve been raised with are bigoted. A generation or two later, and Canada’s multicultural patchwork has been poured directly into the woke melting pot, with model woke citizens emerging from the public school conveyer belt in endless rows.
This is why our nations have been transformed in just a few short decades, and it is also why a few elections and some badly-needed parental pushback are no indication that the tide is turning. We’re going to need much sterner stuff than that, and a far more clear-eyed analysis of where we actually are. I applaud the parents seeking to fix their public schools, but they should do that while also pulling their kids out. Progressive educators cannot be trusted. Mobilizing is important, but we must also recognize that we need volume, staying power, and strategy before we can even hope to halt the woke advance, much less turn the tide. Progressive activists are as religious as we are, and far more fanatical about their religion than we are—and in many ways, to our shame, more faithful to it.
I’m not trying to provoke pessimism or cynicism here. I have kids, and I have no desire to warm myself by the flames of a burning civilization. I’d much prefer the peace, order, and good government Canada was founded on—or to turn to my other citizenship, the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness promised by America. But in order to achieve that, we’re going to have to fight for the ground we stand on. Raising a family isn’t going to be easy, but if we commit ourselves to that first and foremost, we can begin our own long march. The company, at least, is very good.