Saturday, July 16, 2022

Musings on the Standards of Political Legitimacy of "Woke" Millennials

         By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Woke is a liberal political movement seeking to reshape concepts of racial and social justice; and millennials born between 1977 and 1995 are the face of the woke generation.  They are challenging traditional standards of political legitimacy, beginning with concepts of freedom and equality, with innovative standards of equity, fairness and providing for the common good.

  For freedom and equality to coexist in a libertarian democracy their limits must be defined by law; and the law must accommodate changing concepts of equity, fairness and providing for the common good.  Even so, equity should not be confused with equality; and in woke vernacular those terms are often considered as moral equivalents.

Rather than confusing equity with equality, equity should relate to fairness and providing for the common good.  When woke vernacular confuses equity and equality, it muddles the important distinctions between those terms.  Communism has claimed the moral equivalence of equity, equality and freedom, but no communist regime has ever achieved that ideal.

Early Christians experimented with communism and “held everything in common” (Acts 2:44); but it was short-lived.  They discovered that “from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs” was an unrealistic ideal that precluded fundamental freedoms; and that axiom of Karl Marx has since been confirmed by all communist regimes.

Hugo Grotius and John Locke were theologians who considered the primacy of freedom in libertarian democracy consistent with Christianity.  So did Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and championed religious freedom in America; but as a slaveholder Jefferson was a hypocrite on individual freedom being a universal “inalienable right.”         

Woke millennials either ignore history or revise it to conform with their utopian norms,  rather than learning from it.  I was born in 1942 and belong to the Silent Generation.  We are considered by millennials to be culpable for the mess the world is in today.  We may share culpability, but a woke blueprint for the future that ignores history won’t clean up the mess.

George Will is a member of the Silent Generation who hasn’t been so silent in his criticism of woke millennials.  “Millennials grew up relishing a radical discontinuity with the past.  The know-nothing thirty-year-old today is the twelve-year-old who dropped his books and took up the [social media] screen.” Now they are adults. Sort of.”  

While equity is a term often associated with racial and economic justice, inequities that extend beyond racism can cause economic disparities that threaten democracy.  A stable democracy depends on a strong middle class, and when income disparities created by a concentration of wealth and economic power threaten the middle class and political stability-- as they do now--woke millennials should be promoting ways to limit those income disparities.


Charles McNamara has explored equity as it relates to equality, fairness and the law, and why the Right is so upset about it.   He cites Christopher Caldwell warning that we “might call equity a no-excuses imperative to eliminate all collective racial inequalities. Rather than see equity as “a new name for something that Americans have been arguing about for two or three generations”—the equal treatment of minority groups and the expansion of civil rights—Caldwell and others argue that “the equity movement is radically new.” More specifically, Caldwell claims that “equity is derived from so-called critical race theory,” and warns that calls for equity constitute “an invisible legal revolution.” McNamara then cites Christopher Rufo’s presentation of equity as a novel principle designed to undermine “equality under the law.” McNamara cites Aristotle praising the rule of law, but worries that laws alone might  sometimes work unfairly.  McNamara notes that equity comes with its fair share of hazards, and that we should strive to make better fairer laws that don’t need to be bent so often [to accommodate equity]. See

George Will cites Mark Bauerlein who rejects the idea that “millennials, the first generation suckled by their digital devices, would dazzle the world with the sublime personal and social consequences of their mind-melds with those devices. Bauerlein anticipated that millennials were going to become “unsatisfied and confused” adults, bereft of the consolations of a cultural inheritance, which is unavailable to nonreaders. They would be bewildered by encounters with disagreement, which they find inexplicable; and immersed in social media that have “contracted their horizon to themselves, to the social scene around them,” unable to “think beyond the clique and the schoolyard,” they pay the severe “opportunity costs of digital diversions” with mind-maturing activities” forgone, such as following the real politics of governance. Bauerlein knew in 2008 that his lament about “a low-reading, high-viewing childhood” would get him dismissed by many; but today, he has nothing to regret but the fact that he was prescient. In 2010, with 15-year-olds averaging eight hours of media a day (42 percent more minutes in lower-income than in higher-income households), children were constantly absorbed in youth culture and peer pressure, all of it flooding “the pleasure centers of the developing brain.” Confined to the moment, children relished “a radical discontinuity with the past” because it “lifted the burden of the monuments, the greats, the heroes and geniuses, all the things that can make an adolescent feel small.” A teacher would not be a “sage on the stage” but a “guide on the side,” with students “taking ownership” of their education. The stage was set for the “overproduction of elites,” churning out college graduates who felt themselves of historic importance because they lacked knowledge of history. Which is a chastening record of the wreckage of egalitarian utopias imagined by people boundlessly pleased with themselves for being the first to understand “social justice.” Bauerlein is telling the origin story of today’s cohort of aggressively illiberal, censorious young adults: “The fractious, know-nothing thirty-year-old is what we got when we let the twelve-year-old drop his books and take up the screen.” Those 13-to-17-year-olds who had mobile devices in 2010 were, according to Nielsen data, averaging more than 100 texts sent a day (3,339 per month). Now they are adults. Sort of. Unacquainted with literature, they are Ignorant of history, and hence of political possibilities, they cultivate bitter victimhood. “If there is no past that deserves their attention, if they are given only yesteryears fraught with shame, heroes with clay feet and clay hearts, too, the present becomes a barren habitat,” he writes. In a flattened world drained of greatness, today’s steep decline of humanities majors among undergraduates is a lagging indicator of lack of interest in humanity’s lessons learned on the path to the present. Given this nation’s unhappy present, it is remarkable to remember that the arrival of screen-soaked lives was cheerily announced as the next stage of the “information age.” LOL

Other commentary on Christianity, capitalism and economic disparities:     

(3/8/15): Wealth, Politics, Religion and Economic Justice

(8/9/15): Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities

(10/18/15): God, Money and Politics

(6/4/16): Christianity and Capitalism: Strange Bedfellows in Politics

(10/1/16): The Federal Reserve, Wall Street and Congress on Monetary Policy

(2/11/17): The Mega-Merger of Wall Street, Politics and Religion

(9/16/17): The American Civil Religion and the Danger of Riches

(2/17/18): Musings of a Maverick on Money, Wall Street, Greed and Politics

(6/15/18): The Prosperity Gospel: Where Culture Trumps Religion in Legitimacy and Politics

(8/18/18): Musings on Religion and the Morality of Socialist and Libertarian Politics

(4/27/19): Musings on the Legitimacy of Crony Capitalism and Progressive Capitalism

(8/24/19): Musings on How a Recession Could Transform Religion and Politics in 2020

(2/8/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Love of Money and Lack of Virtue

(5/9/20): Exposing the Corruption of Crony Capitalism

(6/27/20): Musings on a Zombie Economy Fostered by the Federal Reserve

(8/15/20): Musings on Racism, Reparations, Racial Disparities and the Federal Reserve

(8/22/20): Musings on America’s Two Economies: One for the Rich and One for the Rest

2/6/21): Musings on the danger of economic disparities and excessive debt in America

(2/27/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Debt as a Vice or Virtue

(3/6/21): Musings on Socialism, Capitalism, Democracy and Debt in Politics and Religion

(6/5/21): Musings on Why Socialism is no Substitute for Altruism in Politics

(7/31/21): Musings on a Socialist Experiment in a Nation Burdened by Pandemic Debt

(9/25/21): Musings on an American Economic Apocalypse

(10/30/21): Musings on Modern Monetary Theory, and Why National Deficits and Debts Matter

(5/14/22): Musings on Inflation, the Stock Market, and the Economy

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