Language is the device with which we communicate. To examine the culture wars, we must look specifically at the words we use in day-to-day conversation. A plethora of new words have entered our lexicon in recent years such as “toxic masculinity”, “cisgender” and “mansplaining”. Amongst the 47 “words of 2020” are “black lives matter” (BLM), “systemic racism”, “cancel culture”, “decolonize”, “virtue-signalling” and “wokeness”.
2020 was the year the culture war brought out the heavy artillery. One only had to open a magazine or switch on a television, and we were assailed with articles and stories telling us that everything was racist: free speech, the countryside, yoga, beer, mushrooms, tipping, toothpaste and even the entire canon of western philosophy. There was a time when the term “woke” meant being “alert to injustice in society, especially racism” – a noble and honest idea. But over the last few years the term has been co-opted by the social justice movement, irrevocably intertwined with illiberal left-wing activists obsessed with identity politics.
It is this pervasive and almost neurotic obsession with racism that is the hallmark of the woke. Where no actual evidence of racism exists, they create it using pseudo-scientific and methodologically flawed “unconscious bias” tests, which apparently prove we all have inbuilt racial prejudice. Deny this and you are either racist or, at the very least, you have “white privilege”. This is logically akin to a circular firing squad. The blame in part lays with academia and our educational institutions where critical race theory and postcolonial studies push grievance narratives and perpetuate the idea that slavery was Britain’s original sin. The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton – someone else we sadly lost this year – would’ve labelled these disciplines as part of the “nonsense machine”.