The stock market has plummeted, erasing hundreds of billions of dollars in household wealth in the span of weeks. War in Ukraine is a distinct possibility and not merely a worst-case scenario. Stakes as high as this tend to concentrate the mind. As a result, the ongoing and seemingly endless debates about “wokeness”—for want of a better term for the way a powerful sliver of the left discusses race and identity—seem odd and even unimportant.
Every day, social media blows up over some new excess of language policing, the latest unintended offense against elite manners, or the most recent eruption of cancel culture on campuses. I too take part in these discussions. For several months now, though, I have made a conscious effort to limit my tweeting, writing, and speaking about these cultural battles. To treat them as the overarching crisis of the moment can distort one’s sense of reality. For most ordinary Americans—at least the ones who don’t have kids in school—these concerns are not in the forefront. Social and political elites, however, are a different matter. Because they are highly educated, disproportionately online, and liberated from day-to-day fears of financial catastrophe, they tend to be more ideological and more committed to abstract, utopian objectives. Because I am part of this group—and therefore part of the problem—I have a duty to try to resist the undeniable pleasures of perpetual outrage over ultimately ridiculous things such as using Latinx instead of Latino.
And yet the influence of the cultural left’s worldview goes beyond mere terminology. During the coronavirus pandemic, the instinct to
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