Society

How Wokeists are Working to Destroy the Family

Daryl McCann

Frequent contributor

We all sense our absolute singularity, but who can be counted upon to comprehend our uniqueness from the very start? Mother, father and closest relatives—the family. Even our naming at birth, maintains Noelle Mering in Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology (2021), “contains a whisper of intimacy and irreplaceability—the child is not just anyone, she is particular”. The authority of the family, then, is the genesis of our deepest and most enduring personhood. Not surprising, therefore, that latter-day progressives or wokists, bent on collectivising the individual, should view the traditional family with such enmity. The destruction of the authority of the family, argues Mering, is the great goal of the wokeist insurrection. But as she adds: “The plot has been largely successful but does not have the last word.”

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Although Awake, Not Woke is a profound critique of progressive ideology, virtually no copies exist in Australian bookshops. The scarcity of Awake, Not Awoke, in Australia at least, likely points not to its inconsequentiality but the opposite. Our progressive bookshop owner, with a compilation of LGBT+ volumes on permanent display, is not likely to welcome Awake, Not Woke onto his inventory. Not when it contains such haunting passages as this:

Abortion is the sacrament and greatest symbol of woke religion because in one act, it destroys each icon of the family: the child, the father, and the mother. All three are corrupted and made to become contrary to their nature. Man is able to impregnate woman but obligated to neither the woman nor the “product of conception” (in the sterile vernacular of the abortion industry). Meanwhile, woman is also liberated from any bond to a man or their child inside. In this dystopian vision of humanity, each of us is an island, autonomous and adrift—void of duty and hardened to love. Woman and child, united in one body, walk into Planned Parenthood and emerge dismantled and shattered: one literally, the other symbolically and spiritually. Another tie is severed, and she is deeply and profoundly alone.

Awake, Not Woke recognises wokeism as an ideology-religion seeking to destroy and replace the authority of the family as a key objective. Paradoxically, perhaps, it’s a proposition about which anti-family radicals, from the New Left’s Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, going all the way back to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels via Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, would agree. Conventional Marxists, informed by Engels’s The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), emphasise the economic role of the monogamous nuclear family in perpetuating capitalism by making the connection between private ownership and family wealth. The Frankfurt School, 1930s left-wing German emigres, attempted to synthesise Marx’s war on the bourgeoisie (the owners and controllers of the means of production) with Freud’s aversion to the traditional family (that is, bourgeois morality). Marx and Freud might have been incomprehensible to each other, and yet the fusion of their very different anti-bourgeois doctrines has provided the foundation of wokeism.

Thus, the bohemianism of the 1950s and the sexual revolution of the 1960s, not to mention second-wave feminism in the 1970s, were all recruited, knowingly or otherwise, to the cause of New Communism, more commonly referred to as the New Left. Some kind of shift, obviously, occurred between Marx proclaiming “Workers of the world unite!” in 1848 and Frankfurt School associate Wilhelm Reich in the 1930s calling for a sexual revolution to bring down capitalism. Wokeism, as a consequence, is a merger of the political with the sexual, the guiding principles of Black Lives Matter an obvious case in point:

We are committed to fostering a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking … We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree mothers, parents and children are comfortable.

The Frankfurt School, according to Noelle Mering, made other contributions to today’s wokeist movement, one of them being Herbert Marcuse’s contention in Repressive Tolerance (1963). In brief, nobody on the Left has to take seriously classic liberal notions about free speech and fair debate, not while the capitalist class and their allies retain control over society. Only when a socialist America emerges, and everyone is liberated and equal, can free speech and open debate be free and fair. Until then, tolerating different (that is, bourgeois) opinions only serves to perpetuate a repressive society. Marcuse advocated “liberating tolerance” which involves the “withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly” for conservatives or, in truth, anyone critical of progressive ideology. Wokeists, emboldened by Marcuse’s polemic, are audacious enough to be unapologetically anti-liberal. The opinions of those voices already privileged by the dominant narrative—white, “heteronormative”, Christian, male—need not be tolerated, since the marketplace of ideas is no less unjust than the actual marketplace.

Another conceit borrowed by the wokeists from earlier radical icons is the Hegelian dialect: ideas (“the spirit”) advance in a forward direction through the interplay of thesis followed by antithesis followed, in turn, by synthesis. Marx appropriated Hegel’s wishful thinking to serve his own prophetic formula: feudalism followed by capitalism followed, in turn, by socialism. As Marcuse sadly reflected in One-Dimensional Man (1964), Marx’s designated agent of revolutionary change in the West, the industrial proletariat or working class, turned out to be not so much revolutionaries as consumers (and, we might add, family men). This is why the New Left looked to students, academics, bohemians, racial minorities, the Muslim Brotherhood, non-heteronormatives, trans-folk and so forth to replace blue-collar workers at the barricades. As this new identity politics has gained traction in America, the old optimism (or millennialism) associated with Hegel-Marx dialectics returns to the fore. Tomorrow, in other words, belongs to wokeism.

Take, for instance, presidential candidate Joe Biden, back in 2020, declaring transgender rights to be “the civil rights issue of our time”. Many in the West—whether they agreed with him or not—would have understood immediately the progressive hubris informing Biden’s un-evidenced assertion. And so, on June 15 this year, President Biden signed an executive order calling on the Department of Health and Human Resources to forbid government funds being used to preference traditional notions about the authority of the family over “transgender health care”. Rachel Levine, Biden’s openly transgender Assistant Secretary for Health, endorsed Biden’s defence of tolerance: “Today’s executive order continues the Biden Administration’s work against prejudice and makes it easier for people living in this country to live their lives openly and freely without fear of harassment, scorn or attack.”

However, as Bernard Lane notes in his invaluable Gender Clinic News, transgender matters are not quite so clear-cut as progressives such as Biden and Levine would have us believe: “The American Academy of Pediatrics has reportedly gagged debate on a resolution calling for an independent and rigorous review of the evidence on treatment of youth dysphoria.” This comes at the same time, Lane reminds us, as an international shift in non-partisan medical and psychiatric thinking away from “gender-affirming treatment” and a new questioning of the merits of “hormonal and surgical intervention” for young people experiencing gender dysphoria. In short, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and body modification surgeries, such as double mastectomies and vaginoplasties, are not good for the well-being of a twelve-year-old girl who believes she is trapped in a male body or vice versa. Nor is it any good for the well-being of the families involved. As a commentary by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) recently observed:

The Tasmanian Law Institute recently released a Report that recommends far-reaching restrictions on your biblical beliefs and even your private conversations on gender and sexuality. Parents, pastors, medical practitioners, and all Tasmanians would effectively be banned from helping anyone who is struggling with sexuality or gender confusion. If you do, you could be criminalised and deemed a child abuser.

Similarly problematical outcomes are likely if South Australia’s new Labor Premier, Peter Malinauskas, who identifies as a family-friendly Catholic, agrees to the “Change or Suppression Practices” legislation which, according to local ACL director Christopher Brohier, is unprecedented in scope:

It is of great concern that, based on untested, 30-year-old allegations from another state, a government minister is calling for laws to restrict parents from talking openly to gender-dysphoric children, prohibit clinicians from providing responsible advice to people seeking assistance and stop pastors offering support to those in their care.

This well-being of the family, Mering asserts, is not merely collateral damage resulting from “the civil rights movement of our time”. Progressive ideology sees zero-sum relations existing on most fronts, much in the same vein as Lenin’s Who, whom? maxim. Somebody is the exploiter, somebody the exploited, in most relationships: black/white; indigenous/non-indigenous; man/woman; heteronormative/non-heteronormative and so on. These fissures are to be encouraged because amplified misery maximises the sway of the progressive movement and, of course, advances the cause of revolution rather than settlement. Wokeists try to acerbate tension between (say) a black male and white male by emphasising the difference between them which, technically speaking, amounts to no more than the quantity of melanin in each. On the other hand, the genuine biological/chemical differences between males and females are dismissed as a fiction. The wokeist insurrection, then, is forever in search of what might cause the greatest social distress and dissension. Mering adroitly summarises their stratagem: “While deemphasizing the difference between men and women leads to estrangement, deemphasizing the differences between race leads to friendship.”

The real zero-sum relationship in American society and throughout the West, Awake, Not Woke makes clear, is between wokeist supremacism and family privilege, the latter a Christian innovation. Pre-Christian families, according to Mering, were mostly matrilineal, relatives identified by tracing exclusively through females from a founding female ancestor. On the other hand, pagan Roman families were patriarchal rather than matrilineal and granted the father absolute control over his family group, this system largely limited to Rome’s elite. The genius of patrilineality, as adopted by Christians living in the Roman empire, was that (a) it applied not only to the privileged but also to ordinary people, and (b) husband and wife played complementary roles in rearing a family. An individual’s family membership was now, admittedly, derived from the lineage of the father—not the mother—and yet there were (and are) significant advantages to this arrangement. For instance, the husband has extra reason to remain faithful and committed to the family even if transitory desires point in other directions. And retaining a responsible and disciplined male adult in a household with children, despite BLM’s enmity towards “the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”, has vast social and human advantages, not least enhanced protection for children.

Additionally, a traditional nuclear family, Mering shows, is a poverty buster. A single-parent family—which in many (but not all) cases means the father is absent—results in yet another generation of poverty. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. It is not impossible to escape poverty in a one-parent household but the odds against it are higher than in the traditional family.

Let us also acknowledge that mothers who raise a child or children on their own, often after resisting pressure to undergo an abortion, are worthy of our esteem and encouragement. The Babes Project, founded by Helen Parker in Victoria, walks the talk of pro-life, providing comprehensive support for those experiencing a “crisis pregnancy”. Though the services of the organisation are available to women in conventional marriages, implicit in Parker’s mission is provision for women on their own and overwhelmed by pregnancy: “By addressing challenges and allowing space for her to create a future for herself and her children, we have seen women thrive in their early parenting, leading to positive outcomes for their family.”

But the fact remains that a traditional two-parent family is optimal. The downward trajectory of poorer American blacks since the early 1960s says it all. Mering cites the 1965 Moynihan Report, the results of a study carried out by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then serving as the Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Johnson. While helping the White House to formulate its War on Poverty program, Moynihan noticed that “the gap between the Negro and most other groups was widening”—which had not been the case back in the 1950s—and that the “steady expansion of welfare programs” in black urban communities was a function of the “steady disintegration of the Negro family structure”. Although Moynihan acknowledged the enduring effects of slavery and racism in the hardships faced by black Americans, nevertheless it was the trend towards single-parent families and matrilineality in black ghettos that demanded “national action”. Progressive opinion might not have been as radicalised as it is today, but it knew that “the system” was to blame for black poverty and that Moynihan’s explanation for the continuing poverty of many blacks—much less the ones raised in monogamous nuclear families—was racist. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, we might add, was the kind of independent-minded thinker who would be unacceptable in the Democratic Party of today. 

In the light of this, and the more general trends towards single-parent families, sexual infidelity, no-fault divorce and so on, Mering dismisses the idea that “patriarchy” is to blame for our societal woes as wrongheaded. The problem is not too much masculinity—“toxic masculinity”—but a diminishment of masculinity. To put it bluntly, as Mering does, a man’s momentary pleasure can result in a woman being landed with the most demanding—albeit the most rewarding—task in the world: motherhood. To classify a father’s subsequent commitment to be faithful to his partner and do all he can to protect and help raise his offspring as “patriarchal”, “toxic” or “authoritarian” is either absurd or, more likely, an attempt to blow up one of the pillars of Western civilisation. The mistake of the wokeists, influenced no doubt by Theodor Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality (1950) and the anti-establishment obsessions of Michel Foucault, is to conflate authority with power.

Authority, writes Mering, is rightful and necessary in any advanced society and mostly granted to individuals on account of their knowledge (as in parents, teachers and so on) or appointment to office (government representatives, police commissioners and so on). Authority, so defined, is both earned and accountable and carries with it as many responsibilities as it does advantages. It is as much a privilege as a burden and is to be distinguished from power, a scenario more associated with domination, control and exploitation. It was Adorno who first introduced the patriarchy malarky into public discourse, arguing that the modus operandi of a traditional (we could say Christian) family correlated with fascism or Nazism. All we need to say about this ridiculousness is that by 1939 even Freud, the arch-enemy of Christian or bourgeois morality, recognised Christianity, more specifically Roman Catholicism, as the only ethical-creedal holdout against totalitarianism in Germany. Nazism, to summarise, was an apocalyptic millennialist psychosis. A genuine conservative, of any religious or non-religious persuasion, who retained their moral compass would have viewed the madness of the Third Reich as a veritable horror show.  

A second fallacy is the assertion that monogamous marriage is a denial of the authentic sexual self. If, as Freud declared, we are not heterosexual or homosexual but exist on some kind of sexual (and now gender) continuum, then the authentic person is the person who finds himself/herself/themself on that continuum. It follows that dull “heteronormative” men or dreary “cisgender” women are less likely to be authentic than (say) androgynous, “multigendered”, “gender nonconforming”, “third gender” or “two-spirited” folk. Today we are bombarded with wokeist neologisms—from “pansexual” to “asexual”—about the search for identity. In contrast, married couples, fully committed to their family, are unlikely to give a second thought to their so-called heteronormativity: it is a given in their experience of loving and sharing in a micro-community called the nuclear family. The wokeists, through their bohemian lens, would dismiss this as, at best, suburban nihilism; more critically, a cornerstone of the repressive system they are hell-bent on destroying.

Noelle Mering’s conservative counterview could not be more different. It goes something like this: every human being is flawed, and capable of imagining or contemplating any number of transgressions, but the discipline of the monogamous nuclear family makes for a life of reason rather than the self-destructive chaos of forever chasing unbridled desire. The genuine family life, with all its sacrifices and compromises, is a recipe for the good life.

The third wokeist fallacy, in Mering’s opinion, is defining a person by their group association—ethnicity, gender, sexual preference and so on. Family custom, in sharp distinction, emphasises the uniqueness and irreplaceability of its members. Any child in a highly functioning nuclear family is loved and valued for no other reason than being born into that family. Mering, always recognising the Christian angle, likens the beneficent love of the father and mother for their children to God’s beneficent love for humanity. It is, in a very real sense, mysterious and unexplained. In contrast, the radical utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer has argued that family privilege is irrational and iniquitous. For instance, a parent faced with the choice of rescuing their child from a house fire or rescuing a number of unrelated children from an adjacent bedroom is likely to save their own kin. To turn Singer’s jaundiced hypothetical on its head, how wonderful to be the child rescued from certain death because your parents love you enough to preference you over any number of other children. Irrational and iniquitous as family privilege may be, it promises a far more likely sanctuary for children than the BLM’s vague talk of “villages” providing care “to the degree mothers, parents and children are comfortable”.

For wokeists, an individual’s humanity is a function of identity. But there is a catch. Possessing the skin (or genitalia) of victimhood, does not in itself guarantee membership of the rainbow of discontents. Grievance privileges require submission in the form of ideological compliance. Therefore, participation in the LGBT+ “family” involves not only being a lesbian, gay, black, queer or transgender but also possessing the appropriate progressive mindset. It is not enough, any more, for an approved feminist to possess two x chromosomes; she must agree that those with one x chromosome and one y chromosome (that is to say, men) are also women. If she cannot make the transition from second-wave feminism to third or fourth wave, as per Germaine Greer or J.K. Rowling, then our out-of-date feminist is designated, à la the Bolsheviks, a “former person”. Conscience is no defence against being cancelled because a conscience is always in the singular and, in any case, a bourgeois indulgence. Our wokeist mob might be most accurately characterised as bohemian-Leninist.

Today the outer form of the traditional nuclear family often endures but with its moral authority hollowed out at every turn. For instance, our civilisational understanding of childhood, which along with fatherhood and motherhood constitutes the third sacred entity in the trinity of the Christian or Western family, is under an intensifying assault. In the wokeist universe there cannot be innocence because this state of being presupposes its opposite—guilt. But guilt is a Christian concept that sees the great divider in humanity as the line between good and evil running through every human heart. Wokeist theology, in contradistinction, divides humanity into those who are privileged and those who are blameless according to their (evolving) hierarchy of victimhood. The phenomenon of middle-class children witnessing a drag show in a public library, then, is not about undermining innocence—innocence does not exist—but a demonstration of our respect for sexually non-normative folk. The latter have been the customary victims of the dominant normative narrative and this, from a social justice point of view, necessitates acceptance and kindness on our part. One does not have to have an opinion about drag queens per se to recognise the perversity of wokeist ideology.

Demonstrations and lessons normalising “non-heteronormative” sexuality for children are not reserved to drag shows. Reports Mering:

In 2020, a Maryland public library hosted their second lesbian pole dancer’s “teens only” sex ed class for twelve-to-seventeen-year-olds—no parents allowed. The host, Bianca Palmisano, is openly into BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) and has also expressed support and a desire to normalize among the youth such things as “polyamorous relationships, homosexuality, prostitution, drug use, swingers, anal sex etcetera.” All the while woke parents sit outside waiting to hear what twelve-year-old Ashleigh learned about pole dancing and sadism at the library.

Doubtless the progressive parents of young Ashleigh believe they are broadening their daughter’s mind and alerting her to the adult truth that non-heteronormativity is a fact of life and should not be judged. To judge others—as conservatives and Christians do—is intolerant and discriminatory. And have not intolerance and discrimination tainted American history? What the parents of Ashleigh appear to be unaware of, nonetheless, is that they are not American-style liberals but the dupes of a pernicious ideology aspiring to destroy the authority of the very institution that makes their own micro-community viable: the traditional, monogamous nuclear family. As Mering writes, the likes of Wilhelm Reich, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse might be surprised to learn the extent to which their ambition to subvert American life has succeeded.

The Frankfurt School types loathed Hollywood films such as Frank Capra’s Christmas fantasy It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). The main character in that film, George Bailey played by James Stewart, comes to appreciate, thanks to the intervention of his guardian angel Clarence Odbody, that the unglamorous, selfless family life is the best life of all: “It conveyed a message that the life you live is good and that the way to happiness is through a shift, not in circumstances, but in personal perspective, enabling a new sense of gratitude for the world you inhabit.” Our Frankfurt School radicals helped poison universities and subsequently popular culture with their critical theory malevolence that “exaggerated depiction of the misery of the world” in order to hasten revolution. The Christian message of It’s a Wonderful Life has been superseded by a very different worldview: “The common theme in countless movies now is seemingly aimed at raising the consciousness of its audience to the zero-sum dynamic of oppression based on race, sexuality, or identity.”

The Walt Disney Company, presently a $67 billion operation, became prosperous delivering family-friendly entertainment from the 1920s onwards. Recent leaked internal communications, however, reveal that wokeism has insinuated itself into the highest levels of management, and the company is planning to create a quota of “gender non-conforming characters” and “canonical bisexual characters”. Innocence, from the perspective of the wokeists, must be interrupted or otherwise children might grow up believing the normal nuclear family is, well, normal. Better to intrude upon the uncomplicated joy of childhood, a joy the likes of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo were arguing for as long ago as the nineteenth century, than stand up to the despotism of LGBT+ activism. 

Often, we are confused about how to push back against wokeist ideology and its claim to champion a new humanism in the form of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusiveness). But critical race theory, critical gender theory and the like are less progressive than regressive because they aim to abolish a civilisational arrangement that, more than any other institution, has provided us with “a whisper of intimacy and irreplaceability”—the origins of our true humanity. If the customary Western nuclear family, patrilineal and monogamous, is fundamentally a Christian construct, then that is only more reason to consider the value of traditional Christian principles in our lives. At any rate, we give permission for things to continue if we do not speak up.

Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology
by Noelle Mering

TAN Books, 2021, 256 pages, US$27.95

Daryl McCann contributed “The Menace of the Anti-West Westerners” in the July-August issue. He has a blog at https://darylmccann.blogspot.com

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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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