Wokeism and ruination

Subhash Kak
7 min readMar 27, 2024
Bamiyan Buddha: likely original form, pre-2001, and post-2001

The world faces many troubles. Pervasive social media is stealing innocence from children; there is the breakdown of the family in the West; and cultural shifts embracing relativism in morality and principles have led to increasing drug addiction, nihilism, and narcissism. Increasingly, modern human feels trapped in a self-replicating simulation of reality. Nothing is real, and nothing feels authentic. This is an ever-fluctuating world where one might be erased at any moment. All these, and a confluence of other processes related to job losses, declining populations and migration of people with inimical cultural attitudes, and increasing alienation from nature portend widespread turbulence and perhaps even societal collapse for many parts of the world.

Historically, dramatic societal changes have been a consequence of the loss of cultural identity precipitated by a new religion with values antagonistic to the prevailing one, economic disintegration, prolonged war, natural catastrophes, famine, precipitous population decline, and mass migration.

History provides many examples of this. The current societies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, or Persia are not in cultural continuation with those of the ancient times and the current one detests the old. The Greece of Plato and Aristotle, or the Rome of Caesar and Marcus Aurelius exist no more, and the Zoroastrian civilization of Iran was snuffed out by the Arab conquest of the Sassanid empire. The brilliant ancient civilizations located in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region celebrated the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001, which to the rest of the world were amongst its most precious monuments. The old civilizations changed when the people adopted a new religion.

Large migrations often lead to the disintegration of the earlier society. Thus the Anglo-Saxons in England, who traced their origins to Germanic settlers coming to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century, were swamped by the 11th century invasions by Norman, French, Flemish, and Breton troops that left a profound influence on society.

Violence and evolution

Looking further back, we know that many cultures, who did not have writing, vanished without leaving any records and are known only from the ruins of their buildings and traces of their art, and this eclipse was most likely brought about by migrations, war, and natural catastrophes. The ancient civilizations of the Americas were brutally destroyed by Europeans who also brought in diseases against which the natives did not have immunity.

The Mayas of Mesoamerica had a writing system. But as part of his campaign to eradicate native religion, Catholic Bishop Diego de Landa ordered the collection and destruction of all written Maya works, and he was surprised that it caused the natives much sorrow: “We found a large number of books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree, and which caused them much affliction.”

In Europe, various societal processes prepared the ground for the transition to the new belief system. In the Antonine Plague (165–180 CE), between one third to half of Western Europe’s population of 60 to 70 million people perished, disrupting trade and agriculture, which led to a food crisis. The economic depression that followed is seen as the beginning of the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire, which weakened the Roman religion and eventually led to the triumph of the Christian Church.

Europe’s response to the plague called Black Death of 1347–1352 CE was based on religious belief and medical knowledge that were informed by Catholic Christianity. The fact that God appeared deaf to the prayers and supplications of believers contributed to the decline of the medieval Church’s power facilitating the rise of the Protestant sects.

Replacement migration

Many changes are happening right now. The old economic system is being upended by AI machines. There is a looming collapse of population in most parts of the world leaving out the Middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan, and Africa. The population decline in rich countries is being countered by what the United Nations calls replacement migration [1].

Today, more people than ever live in a country other than the one in which they were born. According to the UN, the global number of international migrants was estimated to be 281 million in 2020, with nearly 90 million of them living in Europe, with a similar number in Asia.

In 2020, nearly 22% of all residents in Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and various Pacific islands) were migrants, whereas the figures for North America and Europe were16% and 12%, respectively. This proportion will only increase in the future. In Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates more than half (53%) of resident populations are international migrants [2].

Scenarios for Europe’s population

As people from the high-fertility rate regions of the Middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan, and Africa replace the native populations of Europe and the Americas, there will be conflict due to the disparity of their cultures and this will be a factor in societal collapse. Note that Europe’s population is expected to be only half of the current size by the end of the century with a very significant non-native population.

Political leaders in Europe and America, guided by short-term interests of powerful lobbying and industry groups, are allowing unchecked migration [3]. But when the inevitable economic crash occurs, universal basic income (UBI), and mitigating addictions of various kind at the individual level, will not be enough to guarantee societal peace.

Cognitive shift and wokeism

Collapsed societies are often associated with a long-term decline of cognitive abilities, and loss of creativity. For example, when Rome fell, it turned its back on the openness of its own past and plunged into the Dark Ages (Latin saeculum obscurum). For about a millennium, until the 15th century, European culture was marked by economic, intellectual, and cultural decline. It was only in the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment that Europe rediscovered the energy of the classical antiquity, which was characterized by the idea of Nature (or Goddess) as the teacher in contrast to the book-based dogma of the Dark Ages.

The West is now under the grip of the new cult of wokeism that takes on many forms, but often hides under the veil of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Incubated in the critical theory of the far left and centered on the body, it views reality as socially constructed and defined by power, oppression and group identity. It has grown rapidly and has been adopted at an astonishing speed by late-stage capitalism. Similar to how Christianity was absorbed by a declining Roman Empire, wokeism is moving from the fringes into the very heart of power.

One of wokeism’s hallmarks is its use of cancel culture. This is accomplished through public shaming, de-platforming or demand that individuals in disfavor be fired. As an ideology of power with the professed objective of protecting marginalized voices, it is a means to capture the strings of power. Its desire to move past traditional roles of gender and family has echoes of what the Bolsheviks tried in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Since it has been co-opted by diverse powerful groups, it presents a confusing form to outsiders. It appears to challenge the establishment but is turning into a new church.

From modernism to postmodernism

In the 1960s, feminism, post-colonialism, and Marxist theory contributed to evolution of modernism in to postmodernism. These ideologies rejected the established grand narratives associated with national life. Individual identity was no longer fixed, but fluid and socially constructed.

Postmodern theorists were inspired by the early internet and the power of changing signs that appear on the screen. Postmodernism speaks of reality as being similar to online identity which is fragmented, fluid, and partial. One can be anyone one wants to be, and at the same time one is a nobody. The sense of self is relative and ultimately only defined in terms of domination, which leads to narcissism and nihilism.

If there is no absolute of morality, then the centrality of the individual is replaced with the primacy of the group identity that is defined by the collective. We are living in a hyperreality in which signs and symbols proliferating through the media no longer reference back to something in the real world, but only to other signs and symbols.

The spirit is the referent in any vital religion, which leads to a morality based on the intuitions of universality of our existence; there is no such referent in wokeism. Without the spirit or Atman, we are trapped in an endless hall of mirrors, where life can appear to be no different from a simulation.

Lacking an absolute referent, the individual can only proclaim the nature of his or her self through virtue signaling. The complexity and paradoxes of being human is replaced by rigid belief. One is either an individual participating fully in the ritual of the cult or victimized by systems of oppression.

Wokeism in spite of its hyperreality has been adopted by corporations and governments for they also suffer from a loss of meaning in a hyper centralized world.

The rapid demographic change in Europe and the Americas makes it possible that a prescriptive ideology will sweep through the disaffected people whose minds are dulled by the emptiness of wokeism.

One sign of collapse of society is destruction of its art. The dismantling of old statues has begun.


[1] Replacement Migration, UN Report

[2] Global Migration, Pew Research 2022

[3] Open Borders, DEI, and the Bumpy Ride Ahead