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When a Different Standard of Morality Applies to the “Oppressed”

(AP Photo/Yousef Masoud)

The woke ideology does not merely advocate for redistribution of resources, but it also calls for (or at least allows for) different moral obligations according to one’s identity. This means that so-called oppressors are bound by a different morality than so-called oppressed identities.”

The term “decolonization” is bandied about by university administrators as the latest symbol of their supreme moral self-righteousness. The events of October 7th have put this term into sharp relief. The public must understand the moral implications of this caustic term and fight it with all its might.

Decolonization is a term that has its origins a subset of woke ideology known as Postcolonial Theory. The main thrusts of woke ideology are finally becoming understood by its critics and, most importantly, by the public. The broad brushstrokes are as follows: People are primarily characterized according to their identities (color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, settler, colonist, etc.). Identities can be categorized as either “oppressor” or “oppressed.” The woke ideology advocates for the retributive redistribution of resources and responsibility from oppressor to oppressed identities. This ethos is the justification behind the most well-recognized woke policies such as affirmative action and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

This “distributive” aspect of woke ideology is the most visible and the one that has received the greatest amount of attention. There is, however, another aspect of the woke ideology that has been less commented on but which is more insidious and arguably more important. This is the moral dimension. The woke ideology does not merely advocate for redistribution of resources, but it also calls for (or at least allows for) different moral obligations according to one’s identity. This means that so-called oppressors are bound by a different morality than so-called oppressed identities. Whereas oppressors are expected to adhere to what amounts to traditional Biblical ethics (The Ten Commandments, “love thy neighbor,” charity, etc.), those anointed with the label of oppressed are exempt (or can be excused from) such antiquated moral obligations.

An important wrinkle to this is that the degree to which traditional moral obligations can be abandoned depends upon the identities of those behaving and those affected by the behavior. A saying from Hollywood writers rooms exemplifies this: “you can’t punch down.” This means that in scripts, the types of things that characters can do or say, or how they can be treated, is a function of their identities and the degree of oppression experienced by any given identity group. According to this mantra, for example, a white person would not be able to make fun of a black person. The corollary of the mantra, however, is also observed, and that is that “you can punch up.” This implies that black characters, for example, can (and often do) make fun of white characters.

Now, this may seem innocuous enough, but this same morality is observed outside of Hollywood screenplays. Murmurings have been bubbling up for some time, for example, about differential prosecution according to identity. Not prosecuting crime even became a rallying cry after the killing of George Floyd in May of 2020. This is because prosecution is said to affect black Americans disproportionately. Because crimes committed by perpetrators of this race are considered to have been done out of desperation and due to oppression, they are potentially justifiable. Publicity surrounding differential prosecution also brought attention to what has been a guiding principle for so-called Soros prosecutors, guided by Critical Legal Theory, for years. The de facto non-prosecution of shoplifting of less than $950 in California is another example. 

While this aspect of woke ideology is increasingly acknowledged, the terroristic acts perpetrated by Hamas on October 7th have brought wokeism’s twisted morality—more broadly—into intense focus. Supported and justified by woke-derivative Post-colonial Theory, the morality of decolonization has been foregrounded. According to this theory, Hamas and the Palestinian people that the party represents are anointed as oppressed, while Jews are labeled as oppressors. Because, according to decolonization theory “you can punch up,” the terrorism and war crimes committed by Hamas have been celebrated, justified, and excused by the Left in the media, in politics, and in academia. As if on cue, on the other hand, Israel is expected to adhere to an extreme, puritanical morality on account of its having been labeled as oppressor under the woke doctrine.

These events have lifted the veil on the implications of the woke moral double standard. “Decolonization” can be celebrated, as well as used as an excuse and a justification for the most heinous of crimes against humanity if the perpetrator is considered a victim. People need to sit up, take notice, and act on this knowledge. Failure to do so may very well lead to unspeakable crimes and disaster—not only for those who are, or who may at some point, be labeled oppressors—but for civilization itself. Asymmetrical morality is a recipe for a descent into chaos.

Charles Pincourt is the pen name of an engineering professor (with a background in the social sciences) at a large North American research university. He maintains a Substack dealing with the Critical Social Justice (CSJ) perspective in universities, how it has become so successful there, and what can be done to challenge it. In 2021, he published the book Counter Wokecraft: A Field Manual for Combatting the Woke in the University and Beyond, with James Lindsay. 

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