This essay is in progress.
Spiked, an outlet postured as left-leaning and counter-woke (editor Brendan O’Neill is a “libertarian Marxist"), published “A short history of wokeness” tracing the ideology’s origins to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Romantics’
backlash against the Enlightenment—specifically against the enthronement of reason as the supreme virtue . . . rather than being a coherent philosophy, Romanticism was characterised by a ‘dissatisfaction with the contemporary world, a restless anxiety in the face of life, a preference for the strange and the curious, a penchant for reverie and dreaming, a leaning towards mysticism and celebration of the irrational’.
Apart from “dissatisfaction with the contemporary world” none of this is germane, and the patronizing tone is just as obnoxious as anything from the other side. More substantively, Matt Taibbi credits Herbert Marcuse as wokeness’s progenitor:
Often called the “Father of the New Left,” and the inspiration for a generation of furious thought-policing nitwits of the Robin DiAngelo school, Marcuse was a great intellectual. Most Americans have never heard of him—he died in 1979—but his ideas today are as ubiquitous as Edison’s lightbulbs. He gave us everything from “Silence Equals Violence” to “Too Much Democracy” to the “Crisis of Misinformation” to In Defense of Looting to the 1619 Project and Antiracist Baby, and from the grave has cheered countless recent news stories…
However, if we are looking for the origins of virtue signaling, we must go to Machiavelli.
Chapter 18 of The Prince, a scant four paragraphs, contains enough to receive no less than seven chapters of rebuttal in the Anti-Machiavel I edited (see Politics page of this website or here for a PDF). They are as follows:
1. A prince should wish to be esteemed devout, though he be not so. (The Prince, chapter 18) 126
12. A prince ought to follow the nature of the lion and of the fox, not of the one without the other. (The Prince, chapter 18, 19) 273
18. A prince ought not fear to deceive and to dissemble. (Discourses, II.13; The Prince, chapter 18) 299
19. A prince ought to know how to wind and turn men’s minds. (Discourses, I.42; The Prince, chapter 18) 303
22. Faith, clemency, and liberality are virtues damaging to a prince, but it is good that he has some similitude thereof. (The Prince, chapter 18) 330
23. A prince ought to have a turning and winding wit, that he may show himself cruel and unfaithful when there is need. (The Prince, chapter 18) 350
25. A prince ought to have his mind disposed to turn after every variation of fortune, to make use of a vice when needed. (The Prince, chapter 18, 25) 353
Several years before fleeing the U.S. – not in small part due to all the oppressive social engineering – I started seeing yard signs in affluent neighborhoods like this.
That is just exploding with smug, self-righteous contempt disguised as virtue and tolerance, and you can be sure anyone who puts something like this in their front yard is utterly devoid of convictions or any real virtues. Either that or, as another writer has suggested, they are connected with the state in some way. Women are human and they have rights, except the right to their own bathrooms and sports, that’s bigotry. Humans aren’t illegal yet – give it time – but where laws exist they can be broken, and all countries have laws about immigration. If you want to say there should be no laws about immigration, anywhere, that’s another statement. Science is knowledge, it is incomplete and imperfect and always open to debate and revision; when it becomes dogmatic it is no longer science. Love is love – there are different kinds of love, but if you mean to imply that lust or desire is love, that again is another statement. And what does “kindness is everything” even mean? Kindness is important, but is it everything? What if scientists discover a planet with intelligent life that does not subsist on kindness alone? In nature, is kindness everything? Does this mean humans are altogether different to animals? I believe we are, but does that square with current scientific orthodoxy? Have you thought about this?
The wits have had fun with these signs: