The Spectator ‘s cover story this week is an excellent piece by Adrian Wooldridge on ‘The new elite: the rise of the progressive aristocracy‘. Taking as his theme the demolition of the meritocratic idea by woke activists, he sets out the worldview behind it and the huge amount of trouble it is causing. Here’s an excerpt.
Meritocracy is “racist” and “the antithesis of fair”, pronounced Alison Collins, a former Commissioner of Education in San Francisco. And the old idea of judging people as individuals? That’s the white man’s game of divide and rule. “Colour blindness” – what we used to regard as the absence of discrimination – is dismissed as a con, designed to draw a veil over millennia of exploitation. The entire machinery of meritocracy is rejected as a legacy of the eugenic movement or imperialism. Or, perhaps, the ‘white’ way of looking at the world. “The use of standardised tests to measure aptitude and intelligence is one of the most effective racist policies ever devised to degrade black minds and legally exclude black bodies,” writes Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist and Antiracist Baby.
The woke revolution does not simply aim to remedy past injustice. “The only remedy to racist discrimination,” writes Kendi, “is antiracist discrimination”. The idea is some groups by virtue of their history of marginalisation and exploitation are wiser and more moral than others. The belief that racism is not confined to intentional acts of discrimination but woven into the DNA of society implies white people are automatically guilty of harbouring racist thoughts and seeing the world through racist eyes. Racial minorities inevitably enjoy a higher moral status than whites but they also enjoy something equally important – greater access to understanding and moral wisdom. This is why the woke habitually invoke ‘lived experience’ and ‘my truth’. Conversely, white people are guilty of original sin until they do what the kulaks were supposed to do and abolish themselves as a class. “Abolish whiteness!” says Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal. “White lives don’t matter. As white lives.”
These race-based arguments bring with them the exhumation of the pre-modern habit of judging people based on group characteristics rather than individual achievement. History is repeating itself as both tragedy and farce at the same time.
Rather than progressing towards a post-discriminatory future, we have a pyramid structure once again, but this time it’s inverted. Rather than the upper classes sitting at the top and the lower classes as the bottom, the former outcasts occupy the commanding heights. Under the new hierarchy, the more oppressed groups that you belong to, the more moral virtue you possess. Similarly, the more privileged characteristics you hold, the lower you are on the moral scale and the more you have to do to make amends for the past.
Read More: The New Elite’s Woke War on Meritocracy