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[AstralCodexTen]Book Review: The Origins of Woke

I thought the Origins of Woke was a great book personally, although I shared a few of Scott's criticisms. Namely I thought it was a little weird how focused Hanania was on making sure workplaces be more conducive to finding sexual partners, and how much he cared about funding women's sports received. But overall I thought the book was great and captured a major causative factor of how Woke is so incredibly strong.

When people aren't allowed to acknowledge the flaws of Wokeness in the workplace or their employees will get sued, it creates an immense chilling effect. That's probably not the sole cause of wokeness, there are other factors like supporting impoverished minorities being a very convenient luxury belief to signal how much of a good person you are, but Hanania convinced me it was a major factor.

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Namely I thought it was a little weird how focused Hanania was on making sure workplaces be more conducive to finding sexual partners...

While I expect the answer for Hanania specifically is that he's reaching for whatever weapons are available, there are some very serious problems, here:

  • Full-time workers are spending about a third of their waking lives at their workplaces, a sizable portion of their Dunbar-sphere will be made of coworkers, and under current law employers can be liable even for after-hours and off-campus behavior by employees. In many career fields, it's common to spend months with little chance for a social life outside of the office at all. Maybe the 20% of couples just meet up right outside of work, but I'd expect that we're not so lucky, and at least some aren't getting BATNAs.

  • Worse, the modern rule isn't just 'don't fuck your employees/coworkers', but against wide breadths of discussion and behavior adjacent to sex or gender stuff. Enforcement is hilariously inconsistent even in places where employers care (and the number of bullshit lawsuits are Known enough that normal people are often hesitant to bring genuine ones), so people can act as though a lot of this stuff is still allowed, but once you get above a certain size of company you start getting insurers/lawyers/politicians peering in and insisting that your workplace complies so that enforcement Won't Be Necessary. As a result, a lot of spaces for vertical transmission of knowledge about matters of sex and romance no longer exist, or have been thoroughly commandeered into a state-favored presentation.

  • Avoiding the appearance -- or possibility -- of impropriety has serious and significant costs. I'm not sure how much I trust the specific numbers for 'MeToo made men afraid to mentor women', but the end result of that policy ends up meaning I've got a Fun Ethics Question when my workplace has me share a hotel room with a (afaik straight, not my type) guy. This isn't taking all the fun out of workplace socialization, but it's a big and vast set of constraints, often ones heavily dependent on local social norms.

The end result of a sexless public space for men... well, we have examples from other spheres that had to move sex to fully private spaces, and the alternatives that they've developed kinda work, but they come at tremendous cost. Online dating started out rough, and it's since vanished up its own backside in a mix of borderline fraud and unrealistic standards. Bars and mixers have come coincidentally along with a hefty incidence of alcoholism and other abuses.

For Scott:

When I think of wokeness, I think of the great cultural turn around 2010 - 2015... Hanania has no explanation for this. He talks about civil rights laws that have been in place since 1964 (he does say that maybe the new civil rights bill signed in 1991 inspired that decade’s interest in “political correctness”, but The Closing Of The American Mind, generally considered the opening shot in that debate, was published in 1987). Why would 1964 and 1991 laws turn wokeness into a huge deal in 2015? Hanania has no answer.

Again, Hanania might not have an answer because he doesn't care enough to think one necessary, but there's a pretty easy and obvious one.

The Civil Rights Act was intended as written under a hilariously narrow scope for all of its wide claims. That lead to hard cases, and even as late at the 1980s the courts were struggling with matters like whether it was discriminatory if an employer (allegedly) raped an employee, and into the late-90s if it would be discriminatory even if the victim was male. There weren't just hard cases in that they involved sympathetic victims and extremely bad behavior, or even whether they could be arguably within the intent or text of the Civil Rights Act, but because they were also near-universally around things that were separately violations of common state laws that had existed for quite some time, at a time where and when the public was unwilling to allow businesses to wash hands of bad acts by their employees. Government advocates and private lawyers had a pick of both clear violations of the text of this law, or arguable cases for this law that shocked the conscience.

((Scalia delivered Oncale, for example.))

But to do so, the CRA1964 had to establish an industry around fighting racism. The EEOC isn't not five commissioners at a table; it had around 350 employees in the 1960s, which grew into the thousands by the late 1990s. Nor was it alone; other offices downstream of or expanded by the CRA include the Commission on Civil Rights, the (various) Office for Civil Rights, the Office for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, DOE Civil Rights Division, so on. And then around that, built up an industry around selecting and prosecuting private lawsuits, and training people to do this, and training people to train. Now, when the law and interpretation was constrained, and overt discrimination (or bad-for-other-reasons-argued-as-discrimination) cases had the pick of both plaintiff and employer, most cases kept close to the core.

That changed. Some legislation made it easier (eg, the 1991 revision allowed some vaguely-defined set of suits with a theory of discrimination that could not identify specifically discriminatory policies or actions, or to get attorney's fees and thus cases on contingency without proving damages), but the grander problem is that you now had thousands of people who's job was to find discriminatory actors, who were trained to notice the most subtle hints of it, and in no small part who believed in the mission. An increasing number, by the close of the 1990s, had literally never known a world without an EEOC and the norms it wanted to apply across the country; many had been trained by those who worked up through the EEOC's wishcasting of policies it wanted.

That's how you get a lawsuit with an appeal's court opinion released in 2010, about a complaint first pushed in 2006, revolving around the sort of "general civility code" that Oncale specifically disavowed. It's how you get related cases that similarly emphasis a general theory of Bad Person. And it matches the timeline far closer than the standard motions around college campuses or SomethingAwful refuges.

That doesn't make Hanania right -- there's a lot of other stuff in the history, if you poke at it, and that's not to mention that just for this there's a pile of executive orders and regulatory notices and all the social junk around the 2008/2006 elections -- but there's a lot more to this stuff than just looking at the dates laws were implemented.

When I think of wokeness, I think of the great cultural turn around 2010 - 2015... Hanania has no explanation for this.

Liberal disappointment in Obama seems to explain most if it, I think. OWS and the Tea Party can be interpreted as repercussions from this.