I think I know how to end the culture wars at a stroke. My solution can be summed up in a simple slogan: make love, not culture war. Or, to put it another way — poke the woke.
Let me explain. I have a new woman in my life and not just any woman. I have a Woke Woman. That’s right: a full-on, vegetarian, eco-activist, kill-the-rich, bisexual, transgender-defender and social justice warrior.
She’s also a shrink. And not just any kind of shrink, but a Lacanian shrink! They’re the followers of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. In the UK we have a soccer team called Millwall that all the other fans hate. Millwall fans have a song that goes, “No one likes us, we don’t care!” Lacan therapists are the Millwall of therapy — nobody in the therapeutic community likes them. They think they’re smarter than everyone else.
So dating a woke Lacanian is social suicide. I’ve dated conservatives, socialists, Marxists and liberals. I’ve had flings with libertarians and fallen for a “post-humanist feminist.” (No, I don’t know what that means either.) I even married a philosemite Stalinist — and nobody cared!
But when I tell my anti-woke friends about my new Woke Woman, they’re shocked. When I tell my Woke Woman about my anti-woke friends, she’s amused. It’s odd that she’s more tolerant than friends who complain about the “self-righteous intolerance” of the woke. She’s so tolerant she gave me permission to write about her in this column!
I know that in theory — especially in Critical Theory — we have nothing in common. I’m a privileged, white, heterosexual man who refuses to face his — alleged — sexism, racism and every other criminal-ism going. And like all my other anti-woke friends I should be appalled and intellectually repelled by this woman.
But there’s only one problem with that: she’s wonderful! And smart! And funny! And sexy! And fantastic in the sack and… I think I’d better stop right there.
One of the many things I like about her is that she mocks her own wokeness. Maybe this is because she’s an older woman, has three children and grew up in France. When I acted surprised that two of her teenage children were transitioning, she said in her best Lady Bracknell voice, “To have two children transitioning looks like carelessness!” Can you truly be woke and make jokes like that? Answer: yes.
So yes, I’m sleeping with the enemy — but I’m having the best sex of my life! Is there a connection between our ideological differences and our sexual delights? I think so. In our age of anything goes — at least in the bedroom — it’s hard to get that erotic frisson of the forbidden without going all weird and pervy.
Sleeping with a person from another class, another country, another tribe or political position has the mystery and allure of the Other. Why is that wrong? We can’t expect our erotic desires and passions to perfectly complement our political positions. We are creatures of contradiction with longings that have little to do with reason.
Some readers might wonder: “But what about your principles?” Yes, I know I should take a stand and defend free speech and Western Civilization and denounce the insanity of Critical Race Theory — but it’s funny how one’s political convictions and ethical principles seem to desert one after two cold martinis and an afternoon of hot sex.
I suspect that my solution to the culture wars will be condemned as appeasement with me as the Chamberlain of the bedchamber. But culture warriors don’t want peace in our time for a very good reason — the end of the Culture War would mark the end of a lot of journalistic careers. I mean, what in the world would they write about if it weren’t for the idiocy of wokeness? What are Coleman Hughes and John McWhorter — two men I greatly admire — going to do for a gig the day the culture wars are over? And the same is true for the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo.
Shall I tell you a secret? Some of the most prominent and articulate anti-woke writers I know privately admit that they’re bored with the whole culture war thing and long to write literary and scholarly essays about symbolist poetry or J.K. Huysman’s Against Nature. But articles like that don’t pay the rent.
You know what they say about truth being the first casualty of war — and the first obvious truth we seem to have lost is that a person we totally disagree with can still be a decent, honorable and desirable human being. Call me shallow but you’re either fun and sexy to be with or you’re not — and that’s the great division between us all.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s May 2023 World edition.