07 October, 2021

Get Woke, Go Broke?

The phrase “Get woke, go broke,” has been around for about three years. It generally refers to the idea that businesses which acquiesce to the demands of the self-identified advocates of “wokeness” will suffer financial losses because those views are not what sells. Those who use the phrase point to Gillette's disastrous “The Best A Man Can Be” campaign, or the failure of movie and other entertainment franchises when they change popular established characters to fit the woke view, or many other examples to support their claim that wokeness just doesn't sell. They will tell you that the marketing executives foisting these changes are out of touch with the pulse of the people, and that is why getting woke inevitably means going broke. Is this claim actually true?

Getting woke generally refers to the idea that you have become aware of social injustices and are now ready to stand against them. I specified “generally” because wokeness actually only recognizes certain social and political injustices; it actively ignores or even perpetrates other social and political injustices. In other words, wokeness and the phrase “get woke, go broke” refer to opposing views of social justice. Interestingly, while it may be true that the majority of those who adhere to the "get woke, go broke" view are on the political right, a significant number of the more moderate left are also known to be on that side, so there is no strict political divide between the two sides. Since those who say “get woke, go broke” include a wider range of views, you might assume the claim that getting woke will, indeed, mean going broke.

However, we need to look further at the demographics of the opposing sides. Most of the moderate liberals who oppose wokeness seem to typically be in their mid-thirties or older. Yes, you can site hard liberals like Bill Mahr and moderate liberals like Tim Pool on this side, but how many younger people on the political left are actively opposing wokeness? While it may be true that the younger marketing executives who drive changes toward wokeness in business are in a social bubble, it can also be argued that those saying "get woke, go broke" are in a bubble of their own. I believe these young marketing executives are looking at something their opponents are failing to see.

Capitalism follows the money, and it tries to predict the best way to obtain the most money in the future. Today’s young workers were yesterday’s college students, and will soon be tomorrow’s primary spenders. I believe colleges have been indoctrinating students to woke ideology for a long time. In other words, a significant majority of Generation X and Millenials are woke, and they will soon be the market companies will need to please. Therefore, it may be the case that, in a marketing sense, these companies are guilty of nothing more than being too early in their campaigns. Even that might not be true. It could be the case that they are deliberately sacrificing today's non-woke market to get in early on the emerging woke market.
The problem with having an economic system that is divorced from ethics and morality is that it must follow something. Capitalists readily admit what that something is for capitalism: money. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the claims of the woke are right or wrong, or if they uphold the common good or are a public ill, capitalism and its marketing methods will adopt whatever view is the most profitable. Some companies seem to be looking a few years ahead and deciding the most profitable side is that of the woke. 
Critics may argue that they do not represent American values, but they are failing to see the two flaws in that argument. Not only are American values clearly changing, but capitalism only adheres to values according to how much profit will be made by doing so. In other words, capitalism never actually had any national or cultural values. The only thing it ever truly serves is money and its pursuit. When commercials waved the national flag and promoted national and cultural pride, or said “proudly made in <insert country name here>,” it was only because that was determined to be the most profitable thing to do at the time. 

How did we get to this point?

As a distributist, I am neither conservative nor liberal in my political views. However, since distributists only comprise a small minority of society, we need to look to those two views to examine how our society got to this point. Conservatives will claim that it is because the news, education and entertainment industries have been “taken over” by liberals or leftists, including many socialists, who indoctrinate our children in school and the public in general through education, biased news reporting and the underlying message of our entertainment industries. There is an element of truth to this observation, but it doesn’t really explain how they were able to accomplish all of this.

In my view, the blame for that is mainly the conservatives themselves. It was the conservatives who failed to learn the lessons of recent history. Every socialist regime that has arisen in the last century has employed the same tactics of taking over education, news and entertainment and ensuring that only one point of view could be presented. Taking control of educational institutions was always a high priority because the socialists knew that they might not be able to change the minds of adults, but that they could use schools to indoctrinate children to believe things contrary to their parents beliefs and values. Conservative capitalists knew that liberals and socialists were “infiltrating” all of these arenas in our societies. We know they knew it because they have spent decades complaining about it. Yet, they did nothing significant to resist it. It is reasonable to ask why. Why didn’t they, in the early days of this infiltration, make sure that they maintained a significant representation among the teachers, professors, and educational governing boards so that these places would not become places of liberal indoctrination? Why, when it was clear that these places were becoming places of liberal indoctrination, did they continue to send their children to these institutions from kindergarten all the way through college? It seems baffling until you remember one thing.

Capitalism always follows the money. Conservatives didn’t become teachers, professors, news reporters, or entertainers because those professions, despite having a huge influence on society and its values, don’t pay very well for most who enter them. While conservatives focused on getting high paying careers, liberals focused on these other professions. While conservatives were focused on moving up corporate ladders, they sent their children through young adulthood to be educated and trained by people who had a completely different set of values and morals. They knew this was the case, and did it anyway. Then they complained about the fact that it was happening. This even extends to the political realm. Consider that a lot of what is called moderate conservatism today was considered quite liberal just two generations ago. Now they complain about the erosion of or moral, legal, and constitutional norms to politicians and judges who have been fully trained by the other side.

On a final note, some on the "get woke, go broke" side are taking solace in the fact that, according to some polling information, the so-called Generation Z appears to be less woke than Millenials. I think this is mainly because Generation Z is getting hit by the accusations Millenials are making against society without the college indoctrination that the Millenials went through. However, Generation Z is now in, or about to enter college, where their indoctrination can be completed, so that may change. Additionally, the news has also revealed that the advocates of wokeness are moving beyond institutions of higher education and are now teaching wokeness to society’s children through the lens of “Critical Race Theory.” Is conservative capitalism philosophically armed to confront this and provide a solution? I don’t think so. Even if they get onto the school boards, the backbone of the educational institutions, teachers and educational administrators, are clearly ready and willing to undermine efforts to change their plans.

While the conservative capitalists may successfully revolt and come up with a parallel economy and maybe even a parallel education system, it won’t last unless they can make their educational careers truly profitable. Capitalism generally relies on a market system that is believed to be separate from ethics; its only real god is money. Therefore, it is most likely that any capitalist educational system will try to provide education at a “low cost.” This means that, just like our current educational model, it will become more centralized and won’t provide a very good wage. Within a few generations, they will find it difficult to attract teachers who agree with their views because those who agree with their views will be seeking higher paying careers. Therefore, the cycle is likely to start all over again.

This is why we need a return to localism in economic and political life, including more localism in educational institutions and how they are funded and managed and who gets to pick the educators. How can this be accomplished? As I have often said, we are actually talking about a fundamental shift in how we all view society. It is a shift at a philosophical level that can only be accomplished if we share distributist ideas with others who are dissatisfied with the status quo. Most of all, we need to engage in lots of prayer!

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