Written by Robert C. Thornett |
Thursday, January 5, 2023
In Plato’s Republic, social justice is about finding harmony among all the diverse elements of society to achieve The Good. By contrast, woke social justice brands certain segments of society “oppressors” and seeks to purge them, even as it mouths platitudes about seeking diversity. Woke social justice is also antithetical to justice in the classical sense of giving “to each his due,” as Cicero put it. It recognizes only group moralities and ignores individual morality, ensuring that no individual receives their due.
The woke version of social justice is based on the fallacy that engineering an equality of power among identity groups somehow creates justice. But as Plato and Greeks before him knew, forcing any result, let alone one based on incidental markers like race and gender, often leads to bizarre outcomes and usually works against true justice for all involved.
In Book 8 of The Republic, Plato illustrates how all flawed governments (e.g., timarchy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny) fail by misprioritizing some relative good over the absolute good. Specifically, democracies overvalue the relative goods of freedom and equality and do not know where to draw the proper limits in pursuing them. This leads to the acceptance and proliferation of all sorts of dysfunctional and unjust forms of freedom, which conflict with the true freedoms and equalities that provide the foundation for a just society. As the spirit of equality-at-all-costs takes over, democracies treat children as the equals of their parents, foreigners as equals of citizens, and students as equals of teachers; even the animals think they are equal to people and free to do whatever they want.
Wokeism is a manifestation of precisely what Plato describes: democracies’ inability to comprehend the proper limits of equality and freedom, or the fact that there need to be limits at all. Wokeism is built on the democratic error of treating equality as The Good and pursuing it ad absurdum. But like honor, wealth, and power, equality is only a relative good, which means it can be used for good, evil, and everything in between. Relative goods only become truly good when they are used for good purposes, when they are employed in the service of The Good. Unlike Plato’s world, there is no true absolute Good in wokeism, no higher principle than equality of result for its own sake.
Thus wokeism has no compass pointing to true north, no way of recognizing when equality is on course to achieve good and when it is not. It simply dons a blindfold and embarks on an endless wild goose chase in pursuit of identitarian equity. People are put in identity boxes marked “oppressor” and “oppressed” based on whatever power advantages and disadvantages their incidentals afford them, as if to be powerful were necessarily to be oppressive and to lack power were necessarily to be victimized. Every inequality of power is conflated with a form of discrimination and “oppression.” The woke quest is to manufacture an equality of power among identity boxes, calling this goal “progress.”
Take for example the case of transgender athletes competing in college women’s swimming. While the purpose of Title IX is to achieve equality by eliminating unfair discrimination based on sex, woke gender equity works against this. It advocates that someone with an unfair advantage, a male body, should have an equal chance to compete against those with female bodies. In the name of an equality of power among genders, woke identitarianism creates an inequality of power wherein female swimmers are forced into a competition that is self-evidently unfair.
Forcing Equity Brings Destruction
Long before Plato, Greeks illustrated the folly of equating equity with justice through the myth of Procrustes, a robber who invited passing travelers to spend the night. Procrustes said his iron bed would fit everyone equally perfectly. And it did, but only after Procrustes had stretched the legs of the shorter until they ripped or hammered off the legs of the taller, killing every traveler in the process. Eventually the hero Theseus came along and killed Procrustes by fitting him to his own bed.