Why are we afraid?
In this moment where the world around us has ruptured, or in which already present fractures have rapidly widened, why have we who deal in reason and data allowed ourselves to be effectively silenced?
The simple answer to that question is that we are afraid – but of what exactly? To be called a “racist” or have it said that we are “complicit” in some unworthy system? Broadly, yes.
There are secondary and tertiary fears tangled up in this as well. Some are afraid that if they speak up, they will lose their jobs; others are fearful that if they were to express an out-of-cycle opinion, friends and family members would turn their backs.
These alternate terrors, however, are all extensions of the root fear of being seen as “racist” or “complicit” in a racist system – but what does that really mean, and why does this silencing feel different than previous attacks from which we emerged bruised but alive?
The difference is that the weapons we previously used to wage verbal war against absurd ideologies have been effectively neutralized. Data and reason have been replaced by “lived experience” and “personal truth.” Exchange of information has been supplanted by the brute force of emotions.
This system, one in which emotions are prime, has been developing for years; it has been nurtured by legacy media, progressive politicians, academia, and Hollywood. Despite intermittent pushback, this system has largely been left undisturbed, allowing it to reach maturity.
As a result, measured debate about any sociopolitical idea – a procedure that was once structured and nearly axiomatic – has been atomized, allowing for endless ideological shape-shifting. To offer up a counter argument in this new framework is like hurling a brick through fog.
To suggest that, according to the data, black bodies aren’t piling up in the streets, or that police aren’t hunting down black people en masse, is a not only a fruitless endeavor – as data and reason have been killed by the revolution – but something that could be used against you, to brand you as a “racist.”
The leaders of this new world have rendered our weapons ineffective, leaving us without a means to fight back or to scrub off the negative social branding that they paint on our skin in vibrant colors.
This is why we are afraid.
We stand on unfamiliar land, lacking appropriate weaponry, and the opposition has rapidly become a vaporous monolith against which a blade would be about as useful as a rubber ducky. Given this present reality, our only option seems to be a retreat to safety, which, in this case, means complete and deafening silence – in real life and across all social media platforms.
There is an unfortunate side effect of this retreat. As counter-opinions disappear, the revolution will perceive growth – in size and acceptance of cause. This dynamic will not only be apparent to the revolutionaries themselves, but also by those on the outside bearing witness to its apparent accomplishments.
The full retreat of reasoned people, as well as the subsequent growth-perception among the revolutionaries will have severe repercussions. We’ve already witnessed the beginnings of an effort to rearrange the strands of our history, and we need only look elsewhere in time to understand what might happen should this early-stage tinkering succeed.
Now that we more fully appreciate the nature of our fear, as well as the soil from which it sprang, we must return to the simple question, only one step more complex – why are we afraid to be thought of as “racist” or “complicit” in a racist system when reason and data tell us that such assertions are entirely untrue?
It’s a wholly perception-oriented phenomenon. We perceive that a majority of Americans are participating in this revolution, and because of that, we fear that a “racist” or “complicit” label will stick. Perhaps on a deeper level, we fear that such a label will, in effect, become true due to the seeming majority belief.
However, this perception is incorrect. Those seeking to undermine our system and the values undergirding it, those who would call “racist” anyone who disagrees with their orthodoxy, even by a hair, are in the minority – a minority that has of course been amplified by social media, legacy media, progressive politicians, academia, Hollywood, and the vociferousness of the movement’s participants.
As previously noted, a mass retreat by individuals of sound thinking will allow this movement, which has reached a state of maturation, to establish a foothold, which can and will be leveraged into extraordinary social power over time, even if according to raw numbers, the movement represents just a fraction of the American population.
So what can be done? If majority rules – perceived or real – we for whom reason and data matter must step out together from inside our hiding places, and push back. This cannot be accomplished by only a few brave individuals. It must be a rising done in concert with many others.
But how do we rise together? That is a question for which there is no concrete answer – though a suggestion comes to mind.
Being that we cannot all at once know if others will follow our lead, it will perhaps take a set of prominent figures who have little to no fear of reprisal to generate the momentum that will set off a larger counter-push.
We could be witnessing the start of such a thing with the recent open letter defending free expression published by Harper’s Magazine. This letter features the signatures of people like JK Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Haidt, Steven Pinker, and more than 140 others, almost all of whom wouldn’t be considered center-right by any means.
This counterpunch from left-leaning public figures could provide some form of cover behind which average Americans could get a running start.
Ultimately, the history of war cannot be pictured in full until well after the final fight has ended. The story of the woke revolution and those who will resist the fear of stinging labels is ongoing, and the outcome can still be changed – but action must be taken as soon as possible.
It might be that in this inestimable slice of time in which we still have the means to defend the truth, there is no other option but to set aside our terrors in order to act as a barrier between what we know to be good and the mob that seeks to tear it apart.