In which we marvel at the mental contortions of our self-imagined betters.
The year began with a display of the Guardian’s famed sense of proportion, with the paper’s Barbara Ellen informing us, emphatically, that, “We’re nearly all vegan now” - we being the general population - before asking with equal confidence, “Who isn’t vegan in some way these days?” The Vegan Society, meanwhile, acknowledged that the demographic in question amounts to barely 1% of the British population. Hungry for more fearless and irrefutable leftwing journalism, we turned to the pages of Salon, where the chronically breathless Mr Chauncey DeVega declared that “The American people” – and not just Salon columnists – “are in a manic state because of Trump’s regime.” 300 million citizens are, we learned, living in fear of Mr Trump’s “fascism,” his allegedly annihilationist tendencies, and of course his “secret police.”
Meanwhile, Slate readers mulled the moral quandaries of progressive life, before being rewarded with somewhat peculiar and potentially disastrous advice, on subjects including sex tapes and prodigious weight gain. And via which, we learned that the best way for an insecure straight woman to find romantic and sexual satisfaction is for her to start dating polyamorists and gay people, on grounds that this will ease both her trust issues and her frequent panic attacks.
In February, we learned, via the Guardian, of the latest must-have status accessory – namely, dinner parties at which one pays $2,500 to be scolded as a racist, an upholder of “white supremacy,” based on nothing, by someone suitably brown and opportunist. Participants – “mostly Democrats” – are told to “own their racism,” however invisible, and are warned against having “unmonitored thoughts.” Elsewhere in the Guardian, we were assured by leader writer Susanna Rustin that a “reordering of society” is in order, to correct the apparently unendurable problem of some people having a standard of living not yet available to every single human being on the planet. “Lives of luxury” – defined by “weekly shopping sprees” – could be “replaced” – “painlessly” – with “artistic expression and creativity,” specifically, dance lessons.
While in Salon, Bay Area progressive Nicole Karlis wrote of the “heartache, tears and stress” brought on by the loss of one’s plastic water bottle. A sentiment echoed by fellow progressives and non-specific activists, who shared their wrenching tales of “water-bottle separation anxiety,” a phenomenon that can apparently induce fits of weeping and feelings of “falling into chaos.”
In March, readers of the Observer were invited to ponder the profound moral question, “Is it ever acceptable for a feminist to hire a cleaner?” Much fretting ensued regarding the acceptable sex and skin colour of the person doing the cleaning, with the paper’s Sally Howard deciding that the most feminist way to empower cleaning ladies - and to avoid the “structural devaluation of women’s work” - is to make said ladies unemployed. The views of Ms Howard’s former cleaners, fired in the name of feminism, were not deemed worthy of inclusion.
Meanwhile, in Salon, Ms Alex Dew, a woman for whom the word overwrought scarcely does justice, needed us to know that “My houseplant garden is a tiny national park that Donald Trump can never destroy.” We also marvelled at the thoughts of Ms Wendy Trevino, a communist poet and Antifa enthusiast, whose solution to “racism, misogyny and ableism” is to encourage shoplifting and the breakdown of social norms. Apparently, the collapse of trust and reciprocity will be of enormous benefit to the disabled.
As the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip, we learned, via an immensely woke Brooklynite podcaster named Billy, “What it’s like to isolate with your girlfriend and her other boyfriend.” And in the pages of The Atlantic, we were told, by Natan Last, a Brooklynite and graduate of Columbia, that crossword puzzles are one of “the systemic forces that threaten women.”
The intersectional agonies of household cleaning returned to the fore in April, in Harper’s Bazaar, where Ms Gemma Hartley, a feminist and poet, bemoaned the “emotional labour” and “exhausting” chore of hiring someone else to clean her multiple bathrooms. A visit to the Guardian’s lifestyle section brought us assurances of the “really positive energy” of polyamory, despite an unfolding catalogue of unhappy complications, displays of selfishness and insecurity, and despite recurring use of the words “jealousy,” “resentment” and “anger.” We also met Ms Lynx Vilden, an enthusiast of egalitarianism, off-the-grid primitive living, and “complete self-sufficiency,” and who relieves the monotony of her Stone Age pretensions, in which twigs serve as a toothbrush, by flying between continents, to Sweden, and France’s Dordogne Valley, and back to the mountains of Washington, USA. In a totally prehistoric, self-sufficient fashion.
In May, our minds turned to matters artistic, specifically, the talc-hurling powers of Austrian performance artist Ms Doris Uhlich. While BBC-employed historian Dr Louise Raw asserted her leftist moral superiority by airing her racial disdain – namely, by laughing at the thought of white men dying in large numbers, complete with smiley face, and then disdaining those who objected to her comments as by definition “fascists,” “neo-Nazis” and “right-wing crayon-eaters.” We were also brought up to speed, thanks to Michigan State University’s Amy Bonomi, on the problematic nature of video conferencing – say, when a participant’s wedding photo - which is to say, evidence of a happy marriage - is visible in the background and therefore constitutes a “microaggression” against the touchily unwed. You see, resenting someone else’s wedding photo, and then publicly complaining about its presence in that same someone else’s home, is how one establishes one’s woke credentials.
June revealed the glorious end product of a progressive education, in the form of a Vice article by Ms Rachel Miller, for whom looting, arson and fits of sadistic thuggery - including the torture of animals and the destruction of entire neighbourhoods - are a basis for applause. And for whom, objections to such behaviour constitute “racism” and “white supremacy.” Readers who wish to behold eye-widening contortion and a triumphant contempt for reciprocity will find much to chew on. Ms Miller’s sentiments were of course echoed by several academics at statusful institutions, including NYU professor Arlene Dávila, a mistress of “Latinx Studies,” and an effortless liar, and who inadvertently demonstrated just how often wokeness, not least among leftist educators, is functionally indistinguishable from sociopathy.
We also encountered progressive journalist Ms Tahlea Aualiitia, for whom an accidental misspelling of her phonetically unobvious Samoan name amounts to a racist “attack” and a basis for both public weeping and personal career favours. Whether Ms Aualiitia is suitably punctilious in her spelling of strangers’ names, lest she do them permanent emotional harm, remains unclear.
We learned in July, via the medium of loud screeching, that when you’re bouncing a friend’s young nephew on your lap, you’re not in fact being affectionate or delighting in babyness, but are actually “exhibiting [your] power over people of colour,” and therefore require immediate “anti-racism training.” Not to be outdone, New York Times contributor David Kaufman demonstrated his own ability to detect racism at the subatomic scale by declaring himself oppressed by pedestrian-crossing traffic lights.
And Ami Horowitz mingled with the bedlamites of Portland Antifa, whose attempts to, and I quote, “create a world filled with love” entailed wrecking the livelihoods of random strangers, shooting people with pellet guns, and deliberately and permanently blinding people with lasers.
August brought us news of Laurie Penny’s latest ‘coming out’ – I believe this is the fourth such event - this time as a being of indeterminate gender. Living, as she does, in a hamster-wheel world of competitive self-definition, Ms Penny felt it necessary to issue a daunting menu of pronouns and convoluted instructions on their use, seemingly dependent on both whim and weather conditions, and thereby reminding us of just how fascinating and complicated she is.
A second visit to Portland offered further insights into the recreational sociopathy of Antifa, who expanded their activities into suburban neighbourhoods, and whose sadistic inclinations became even harder to ignore. Though much of the leftist media seemed determined to try.
We also witnessed the moral wasteland of “critical race theory” and its propagation at Sandia National Laboratories, a nuclear research lab, where, thanks to taxpayer funding, we learned that expectations of probity and competence are “devastating” to lesbians and “people of colour.” And where white male employees found themselves subjected to psychological abuse, before being told to issue hand-written apologies atoning for their maleness and the colour of their skin.
In September, Ms Kyl Myers wanted us to know that she has “a gender studies degree” and should therefore be deferred to in matters of parenting. Parenting being conceived as an elaborate look-at-me project, one designed to result in a child fashionably anomalous and somewhat confused. “Knowing the sex of a baby,” we were told, “does not tell us anything about the child’s… attitudes toward climate change.”
In the pages of Scary Mommy, a publication for leftist parents, and which is all about “empowerment,” we witnessed the self-induced panic attacks of Ms Michaela Brown, a woman for whom the existence of Donald Trump is a suffocating concept, a cause of sleep loss and apparent mental breakdowns. “It’s consuming my mind,” said she.
Leftist attitudes towards crime were another topic of interest, according to which, the law-abiding should not defend themselves against acts of predation and malevolence, lest this risk harming the person, or indeed the self-esteem, of those bent on our robbery, murder and general degradation. The wellbeing of burglars apparently being paramount.
The publication Scary Mommy caught our attention again in October, when Ms Christine Organ, another unhappy leftist woman, wished us to know that she, along with the rest of us, suffers from “internalised capitalism.” Ms Organ, for whom the shunning of capitalism entails the use of Xanax, also shared with us the “horrifying” trauma of discovering that family members may have voted differently. “It’s a complete and total mindfuck,” said she, one that will “mess with your emotional and mental wellbeing.” Differing views being so utterly inconceivable.
We also visited the schools of San Diego, where progressive “equity” policies require a practised disregard for certain academic and behavioural norms, on grounds that acknowledging tardiness, misbehaviour and a lack of diligence results in “racial imbalance.” Expectations of students “turning work in on time” are, it turns out, horribly oppressive and indeed racist. Expectations of probity are also deemed “not fair,” at least by school administrators, who now plan to “review” policies on cheating. Other “equity” measures, in San Francisco and Ohio, were also noted. In the latter, teachers, and by extension their pupils, were told that insofar as “white people” have any culture at all, it is “the culture of death.”
In November, Australia’s national science research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, prostrated itself before the wonders of aboriginal “ancient wisdom” and “astronomical knowledge,” while carefully omitting any specifics or any supposed relevance to modern astronomy. That Australia’s aboriginals were still mumbling about sky emus while Galileo Galilei was calculating the heights of lunar mountains and discovering the moons of Jupiter - subjects on which our aboriginal “astronomers” had little to contribute - is, it seems, something we aren’t supposed to think about.
And further visits were paid to the pages of Scary Mommy, a publication seemingly bent on demonstrating the neurotic tendencies of left-leaning ladies. Sa’iyda Shabazz, for instance, bemoaned her inability to monitor her friends around the clock for signs of racist activity, a measure entertained on grounds that, while said friends are not “actively racist,” they may encounter Trump supporters, who, being Trump supporters, must be making racist comments to all and sundry. Ms Shabazz, you see, is certain that her white friends, who are forever under suspicion, are not only hearing these hypothetical racist comments but are also not objecting, or objecting with sufficient vehemence, thereby betraying her, and, we’re told, endangering her life.
We also learned that the world of woke parenting is one in which nine-year-olds are not only naturally fascinated by politics but are also animated by the thought of doing violence to people who may dare to differ in their voting preferences. Such is progressive piety.
As the year drew to a close, the Socialism 101 Reddit brought us news that the list of class enemies, oppressors of the proletariat, now includes checkout assistants. While in Seattle, progressive lawmakers dismissed the widespread objection to being robbed, or seeing others being robbed, as merely “anti-poverty bias,” something to overcome; thereby reminding us that pretentious compassion for criminal predators is much more statusful – i.e., beneficial to the leftist – than compassion for the law-abiding victims of those predators.
In the Guardian, we were encouraged to fret about the awful “whiteness” of the British countryside, an oppressive and apparently lamentable phenomenon, along with the relative scarcity of brown-skinned rock-climbing instructors.
And former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger denounced the word woke as a “meaningless sneer,” one “designed to stand in the way of thought or discussion.” That the word in question is often used to denote a particular kind of contrivance, censoriousness – and above all, self-flattery - was apparently lost on Mr Rusbridger and his Twitter followers, who promptly equated wokeness, and thereby themselves, with “people who are thinking outward and forwards rather than inward and backwards.”
Heavens, a button. I wonder what it does.