The “wokes”: providing misleading answers to the wrong questions

History points out how human civilizations and societies have evolved. From the simple hunter-gatherer groups of peoples to the extremely complicated and interconnected relationships built through globalization, humans have definitely found ways to persevere and achieve greater human development that would even leave our ancestors astonished. However, beyond these marvelous achievements of the human race, some sectors of our society ended up becoming victims of our own successes, creating marginalized individuals who demand inclusivity in the political economy.

To address these kinds of social issues, the “wokes” grouped together, stood up, and continue to denounce prejudice and discrimination present in the society. These wokes preach about equality by correcting the wrongs of the past, calling for a levelling of the playing field. This can be done, they say, through government intervention and personal action. The “stay woke” movement sounds like music to the ears of the oppressed, but it is an ideal obviously a bit removed from the realities of life. This can be observed in what these wokes are practicing and embracing: identity politics and cancel culture, which create further division and confusion, while indirectly oppressing the most vulnerable sectors of the country.

Identity politics is when a person aligns himself/herself accordingly on identifying factors based on identities that include but are not limited to ethnicity, religion, gender, ideology, and social class. With identity politics, they create a political agenda based on what is more beneficial to them, whether basic human freedoms are trampled on or not. An example of this in the United States is when vocal members of the LGBT community and hardline believers of the Islamic faith publicly abhor discrimination, but cannot find common interests that they can align themselves with. In turn, a language of continuous animosity is created in between them and, as a result, there is no middle ground for constructive dialogue to exist. Tolerance and acceptance seem to be utterly absent in their agenda.

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On the other hand, cancel culture is when an individual or groups of individuals are called-out as a form of ostracizing them from the society. They can be denounced through various social platforms, where in severe cases, the victims’ economic capabilities are degraded by boycotting their products or services. Practitioners of cancel culture point out that their actions promote accountability and as to what is socially acceptable. Unfortunately, as a free country, such behavior is reprehensible because it curtails vital civil liberties through censorship.

This lethal concoction of identity politics and cancel culture that the woke movement has been actively involved with seems uncannily similar to this dictatorship of the proletariat that numerous Marxists, leftists, and communists have been proclaiming relentlessly. In his book The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek, a noted Nobel Prize laureate in economics, was quick to point out that this dictatorship would end up destroying personal freedoms. The wokes hope to propagate the notion that in engineering a society dedicated to equality lies the greater good for all. However, a mixture of identity politics and cancel culture ends up disenfranchising the majority, further alienating these minority groups, and creates further subservience to what is popular instead of what is practically sound. This “us versus them” mentality that can be observed from such a social movement is inherently divisive and unwise, chaining our integral liberties that make our country a liberal democracy. Quoting another Nobel prize laureate in economics in Milton Friedman, “A society that puts equality before freedom will achieve neither”.

Further exploring the possible repercussions of what these wokes are practicing, we find that they endanger the society by creating extractive institutions in the long run, both in the realms of politics and economics. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s book entitled Why Nations Fail shows how countries and civilizations end up failing because of these extractive institutions, where significant portions of the population are unable to participate or outright prevented from participating in economic activities and affairs. Boycotting businesses that have an opposing ideology or political belief than what they have is definitely a concrete example of activities that galvanize extractive institutions. These kinds of institutionalized means of extracting economic capabilities would just further empower an economic and political elite as the only beneficiaries, which these wokes undeniably dream to become.

What our countrymen should advocate should never be what these wokes are embracing. We should focus more on creating and preserving inclusive political and economic institutions. Inclusive institutions allow participation of the different sectors of the society in both political decisions and economic activities, which would prove to be highly beneficial to the marginalized groups. These include rule of law instead of trial by publicity, incentives for increased productivity instead of punishment or humiliation, and honest competition instead of underhanded tactics. Through these, opportunities to innovate arise via creative destruction, where a nation-state is given a chance to shun outdated and obsolete policies in favor of greater productivity and greater returns of investment.

With the incoming 2022 Philippine General Elections, Filipinos are in the middle of a crossroad. Voters are duty-bound to decide whether Philippine society should allow itself to continue to be deluded by the promises and one-liners of certain candidates supported by the wokes, or not. If the Philippines is indeed on the path towards economic prosperity, it would be counter-intuitive to elect these woke-supported politicians because the kind of economic growth that they would approve of would be extractive and unsustainable, where these financial gains will be enjoyed not by the great masses of the people, but by the aforementioned elites. A preview to this can be seen in the on-going degeneration of contemporary American society.

Numerous social scientists rang the alarms over the United States’ decaying political and economic situation. American politics is increasingly becoming more polarized, pitting the conservative Republicans against the liberal Democrats, where centrists can no longer win elections, thus turning the elephant more to the right and the donkey, more to the left. The gap between the affluent and the poor has been widening and deepening. The woke movement has exacerbated these problems, believing in the fallacy that limiting freedom yields accountability.

The Philippines shouldn’t fall victim to nor dwell on the likes of identity politics and cancel culture, specially with the elections coming this May. Ordinary Filipinos have been provided a golden opportunity to come in sync as one voice in forging inclusive institutions. Thus, it is imperative for the Philippine electorate to choose candidates who are dedicated to genuine nation-building and move on from the chilling effects of ostracism, which are directly or indirectly perpetrated by these delusional wokes.

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