Here are two important ideas that currently exist in fundamental opposition to one another: “Reasonableness” and “Wokeness.”
In advanced legal systems, we depend upon the concept of “reasonableness” and specifically a standard known as the “reasonable-person standard.” This simply asks: what would be reasonable in, or what would a reasonable person make of, a given situation?
On the other hand, the “applied postmodern” ideologies that we refer to as “Wokeness” or “Critical Social Justice Theory” posit a concept of radical subjectivism and socialization into power-laden biases. In this worldview, there is no such thing as a “reasonable person,” and nothing can be considered “reasonable,” because the very application of “reason” is a mere application of whatever is accepted by the dominant power structure at hand. No one is reasonable because everyone is biased; there are only people who speak into dominant discourses or who resist them.
These ideas are wholly incompatible with one another. It is not possible to rely upon a standard of reasonableness or to defer to a hypothetical reasonable person if no such thing is believed to exist. Even worse, the reasonableness principle is wholly undermined by the further notion that any semblance of or consensus about what is reasonable is an application of the very sort of oppressive politics that our laws and courts in free countries are supposed to guard their citizens against. As these “critical constructivist” ideas, as they’re formally known, rise in prominence in our culture, they therefore present a significant threat to the very rule of law that makes liberal societies like ours possible — to say nothing of securing equal rights for all citizens.
It should be enough, then, to point out merely that the Woke ideology is both gaining significant amounts of power on nearly all levels — social, cultural, institutional, and legal — and is wholly inimical to the legal foundations of a free, liberal society filled with citizens who are equal under and before the law. In fact, just pointing this out should constitute an emergency for all classically and traditionally liberal-minded people, left, right, and center. The fact of the problem, however, raises an even darker specter that needs to be reckoned with as well: what would the Woke replace reasonableness and the reasonable-person standard with, if they gained enough means to do so?
The answer, as it always is with the Woke, is power that suits them and disenfranchises those who disagree with them. In place of reason, we would be given Critical Theories, mostly of identity, and our legal structure would have to be reorganized around these new principles. Their focus would be systems of power, as the Critical Theories of Identity, like Critical Race Theory (recently banned from the federal government by a Trump executive order, for all the right reasons), have identified them. They would begin with assumptions like that our system is white supremacist, heteronomative and homophobic, patriarchal, cisnormative and transphobic, and so on. Our entire legal landscape would be reinterpreted under the assumptions that these unjust applications of systemic power are permanent so long as the system lasts, and therefore need constant redress.
These critical principles would redefine our legal system and thus our society not only in a way that regards equality as suspect, but also in a way that deems it an explicit tool of oppression. This is the mindset we encounter when we read Ibram X. Kendi, writing as he did in his bestselling book, How To Be an Antiracist, “The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.” It is also the mindset behind California’s Proposition 16, which seeks to remove anti-discrimination language from its state constitution.
These critical principles would also include the idea that the only people who make any sense are those who have a credible claim upon having experienced systemic oppression, again, as the Critical Theories of Identity have identified. In place of a “reasonable person,” then, the legal system would corrupt itself around the notion of the aggrieved person, where the only authentic expressions of grievance are those that match the outdated claims of Woke Critical Theorists.
Under these assumptions, our legal system will corrupt itself into an identity politics-based replica of the worst failures of history, those in which some ruling capital-P Party becomes the basis for the law and its standards. That is, these assumptions aren’t just wholly incompatible with the idea of a free and liberal society, they are the guarantor of its replacement by a totalitarian ideology and Party designed to be favored by it. In this case, that party is the Critical Theorists of Identity, and under its rule, the madness and naked caprice of this passing summer will be but a warm-up act that presages a completely new Iron Rule of Woke Law.
I don’t know about you, but I’m voting for reason and taking the side of anyone who still supports it.
This article was originally published at Roca News.