-by Haydar Khan
If you don't have a lens that's been trained to look at how various forms of discrimination come together, you're unlikely to develop a set of policies that will be as inclusive as they need to be.
-Kimberle Crenshaw Bell
You can't pee on my back and tell me that it's rain!
Wokeness, “a term referring to awareness of issues that concern social justice and racial equality,” is everywhere these days. What is going on? The CIA going woke? The Pinkertons, long-time nemesis of labor unions, flying the Rainbow Pride flag? Raytheon pushing critical race theory? Has the U.S. Left finally triumphed over their foes? No, in fact, progressives are circling the drain (Medicare for All is going nowhere, the minimum wage remains $7.25/hr, unions are on the verge of extinction, impotent Twitter protestations by Bernie notwithstanding) but so are their woke-boosting corporate foes. Why and how is this so? The explanation has its roots in 1) the state-sponsored battle against civil unrest U.S that began in the 1960s. and 2) intellectual concepts discovered by polymath thinker Gregory Bateson.
The U.S. during the 1960’s suffered an eruption of domestic rebellion, ranging from the civil rights movement and the feminist revolution to organized labor and the anti-war movement. Strangely enough, most of the leaders in these movements were assassinated (RFK, MLK, Malcolm X) or died under mysterious circumstances (Walter Reuther). Was it enough for the ruling elite that the leaders of these movements were dead (neutralized)? I contend that it was not and that the elites embarked on an additional strategy: capture of the movements to 1) prevent a resurgence of rebellion against the ruling elites and 2) prevent cross alliances between the various rebel factions, a reason theorized by some to explain the death of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, who was trying to unite the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, and the organized labor movement at the time of his death. From feminism, where a movement leader (Gloria Steinem) has been revealed to have worked for the CIA, to civil rights, where Black Lives Matters is subsidized by the Ford Foundation to the tune of $100 million, to organized labor, where the AFL-CIO provided assistance to various U.S. government regime change efforts, these movements are infested with corporate and state actors. Meanwhile, concrete measures of material progress, such as increased wages for the working class, universal healthcare, and support for organized labor remain curiously out of reach.
There is a name for this highly effective signal jamming by government and corporate elites: maintaining the schismogenesis.
Schismogenesis means the beginning of the breakdown of a relationship or a system. Gregory Bateson, a scientific polymath, actively conducting research from the 1930s throughout the 1970s, in a wide array of fields including anthropology, semiotics, cybernetics, linguistics, and biology, first developed it while observing the social interactions of a New Guinean tribe called the Iatmul. Interestingly enough, Bateson later weaponized the idea of schismogenesis and deliberately sowed divisions while working for the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. This perpetuation of division, schismogenesis, is what I contend all of these woke corporations and government agencies are actively engaged in.
The explosion in wokeness launched in the years immediately following the Occupy rebellion of the Left and the Tea Party rebellion of the Right. Very curious timing indeed. Absent in all of these modern woke campaigns, of course, are the aforementioned measures that actually represent material improvements for the working class nor any mention of the menace of war and imperialism Even now, divisive and unpopular concepts like Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, launched from academia by upper class elites, are being touted by woke corporations and labor unions. Against this goliath force, it looks like progressives are doomed. Ironically, it looks like the woke propagators may have created a tool that will also insure their own demise. Why? This explanation relies on another of Gregory Bateson’s concepts: the double bind.
After Bateson’s work for the OSS during World War II, he began investigating the complexities of communication. In particular, he was intrigued by schizophrenia and coined the term “double bind” during his research. A double bind consists of a sequence of injunctions that have the following structure: a primary negative injunction containing a threat of punishment, a secondary injunction, also containing a threat communicated verbally or nonverbally, that conflicts with the
first injunction, and a tertiary negative injunction prohibiting the victims from escaping the field.
Just as progressives are trapped in a double bind (“focusing on class alone is racist/misogynist/etc., so solutions for working class problems are jettisoned but focusing on appeasing the myriad identitarian factions never coalesces into solutions for working class problems either”) by their narcissistic woke ringmasters, the ruling American elites are also snared in a double bind. The bind for the elites is this: by maintain the division among the general population to prevent threats to their rule, the elites are unable to generate societal cohesion necessary to address national challenges, namely the loss of domestic industrial capacity and the looming threat of climate change. If the elites drop the maintenance of schismogenesis for national solidarity purposes, they must surrender power and wealth to the populace. If they maintain the schismogenesis, they will not be able to address national challenges and risk losing…everything. So, in either scenario, the elites will lose something. Another complication for the ruling elite is that the Bannonite Right, much more cohesive and potent than the U.S. Left, led by figures such as Donald Trump and Tom Cotton, has an abject dislike of wokeness, and seeks to exploit its unpopularity among the general population.
The elite project of maintaining the schismogenesis has been effective for generations and was put into overdrive by the wokeness campaign. Now, with the need for national solidarity to address existential threats to the nation, set against the rise of the populist Right, are U.S. elites capable of retiring wokeness as a weapon, surrendering some material power to the non-elites, and therefore saving themselves and everyone else from the fallout of national collapse? As economist James Galbraith said in 2011: “Large countries can and do fail, they have done so in our own time. And the consequences are very grave: drastic declines in services, in living standards, in life expectancies, huge increases in social tension, in repression, and in violence.” This is the fate that awaits America if ruling elites do not retire the wokeness weapon.