Today we are no longer living in a free society. Instead, we are ruled by those who try to enforce their extreme views by shaming and ruining those who think differently.
It is not far-fetched to compare the methods of this ‘woke movement’ to those of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards, who terrorised the Chinese people half a century ago.
The so-called ‘cancel culture’ – publicly shaming and trying to undermine the professional standing of anyone who deviates from ever-more extreme standards of political correctness – is simply the latest expression of this intolerant, baying movement.
John Gray (pictured) is an emeritus professor at London School of Economics
Such behaviour was once confined to virtue-signalling celebrities. However, it has now insidiously taken hold in most of our national institutions.
From universities, the Church, big business, schools, broadcast media, the police, local authorities, publishing houses and even in some newspapers, woke ideology is now being actively promoted.
This is a terrifying development.
Anyone who departs from the new orthodoxy is deemed evil and beyond redemption.
By ganging up together on social media, activists are on a mission to get such people sacked from their jobs and silenced forever.
Historically, the far-Left tried to shut down debate. But today’s woke crusaders go much further.
Consider what’s happening in higher education. In the early Seventies, when I took up my first academic job at the University of Essex, it was seen as being pretty Left-wing.
Practically every branch of the radical Left was active on campus. From students out of comprehensives handing out Communist Party of Great Britain pamphlets through to ostentatiously scruffy ex-public school Trotskyites and anarchists, the entire spectrum was represented.
I remember carrying on teaching classes in 1973-4 in defiance of blockades which eventually faded away after a massive police operation in which more than 100 students were arrested.
As a young lecturer, I was able to take a detached attitude because neither I, nor anyone else I knew, was threatened. Back then, what we witnessed was the small world of quarrelling radical sects. No one ever spoke of getting anyone ‘cancelled’.
‘It is not far-fetched to compare the methods of this ‘woke movement’ to those of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards, who terrorised the Chinese people half a century ago,’ says John Gray. Pictured: Mao Tse-Tung wearing a ‘Red Guard’ armband
The same was true when I moved on to teach at Oxford University and then at the London School of Economics. True, most academics in both institutions were Left-wing but there were also crusty old Tories, old-fashioned liberals and many who did not bother about politics at all. There was no rigid orthodoxy in whose shadow teachers and students cowered and quaked.
Today, our universities are bastions of Left-wing, woke orthodoxy. Any dissenting voices – however mild in their beliefs – have to be silenced. And a growing number of schools are now joining universities in propagating this ideology.
‘Critical race theory’ – a sub-Marxist ideology in which ‘white privilege’ is invoked to explain all kinds of injustice – is increasingly being taught as part of ‘decolonising the curriculum’.
Indeed, no subject is immune from this re-education campaign in our schools and universities.
Academics at Birmingham City University have proposed that Mozart be eliminated from music teaching and replaced by the rapper Stormzy. Eton College has announced it will change the teaching of history, geography, religion, politics and English, along with school assemblies and societies, in order to ensure that ‘decolonisation’ is enforced across the board.
John Gray says: ‘Academics at Birmingham City University have proposed that Mozart be eliminated from music teaching and replaced by the rapper Stormzy’
It may be true that the school curriculum has been narrow in the past. As an example, I believe too little has been taught of the enormous volunteer army from India, Africa and other then-British colonial territories that fought on behalf of this country in the Second World War.
But the ideology that is being used to shape a new curriculum is even narrower. Abstract concepts of ‘whiteness’ are taught as facts, while the real complexities of history are ignored.
Of course, students and academic institutions have always been full of Left-wing idealised youths but today this woke agenda goes way beyond education and infiltrates every other institution of public life – the very pillars of our civilisation. Nowhere is exempt.
The head of the Church of England, Justin Welby, has, for example, suggested it is wrong to portray Jesus as white. Different cultures portray him in different ways, the Archbishop of Canterbury points out. This is so but the fact is that Jesus was neither black nor white. The historical truth is that Jesus was a Jew, who spoke the ancient Semitic language of Aramaic – something Welby fails to mention.
Our police force, too, has also been affected by woke attitudes.
‘The head of the Church of England, Justin Welby, has, for example, suggested it is wrong to portray Jesus as white. Different cultures portray him in different ways, the Archbishop of Canterbury points out,’ John Gray says
Officers face many difficulties. There have been violent attacks by protesters on them in Hackney, Brixton, White City and other parts of London. Also, it is true that some have been tainted by racism.
In these conditions, the police are bound to be cautious. But that does not explain officers dancing along with Extinction Rebellion protesters, as some did in April last year at a demonstration at London’s Oxford Circus. There were also scenes of police officers ‘taking the knee’ during the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Why are our police officers virtue-signalling their wokery? The task of the police is to enforce the law and maintain public peace, not show sympathy for any political movement.
One reason why British institutions have been captured by the forces of illiberalism is contagion from the US, where the movement has been most extreme.
Even the citadels of capitalism have fallen. Giant corporations instruct their employees in diversity training but fail to provide them with medical insurance, childcare facilities or decent incomes.
John Gray says: ‘In these conditions, the police are bound to be cautious. But that does not explain officers dancing along with Extinction Rebellion protesters, as some did in April last year at a demonstration at London’s Oxford Circus.’ Pictured: Oxford Circus on June 29, 2020
All the while, there is a witch- hunt which has seen leading figures driven from American institutions.
Last week, the senior curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art resigned, accused of ‘white supremacist language’ after he stated that refusing to collect white artists would be ‘reverse discrimination’.
And an opinion editor and writer at the New York Times resigned, citing ‘constant bullying by colleagues’ who attacked what they called her ‘forays into Wrongthink’. This reference to George Orwell’s novel 1984 – where people are punished for ‘thought-crime’ – is very telling.
What’s more, major American news providers and magazines are now operating a system in which staff are encouraged to snitch on their colleagues and denounce one another on Twitter.
This hounding of people is strikingly reminiscent of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which convulsed communist China from 1966-1976 and wrecked much of what remained of the country’s ancient civilisation.
The only way someone accused of thought-crime could escape punishment was through public confession, ‘re-education’ and abject apology in so-called ‘struggle sessions’, in which they were humiliated and tormented by their accusers.
Tragically, the woke movement has reinvented this vile ritual, with teachers, journalists, professors and others seeking to hang on to their jobs by desperately begging forgiveness.
In some ways, today’s Twitter Maoism is worse than the original Chinese version. Mao’s Cultural Revolution was unleashed by a communist dictator, who used the upheaval to consolidate his power.
Conversely, in Britain and America today, our leading institutions have shamefully surrendered their own authority to a destructive ideology.
It is vital that this ideological rampage does not rage on for a decade as Mao’s did in China.
Otherwise we will find our freedom lost to a movement that aims to dictate how we live and think, and British civilisation will suffer irreparable harm.