This is how obvious falsehoods can become objective realities.

Just about every hot topic these days has something surreal about it — something that’s obviously not true or at least certain, that is affecting how hundreds of millions of people are having to live their lives.

An early revelation for me, when I first moved from creative writing toward essay writing, was that an accurate explanation for the operation of the material universe has to take human nature into account.  We do things — move objects around, harness energy, and so on — that affect the world, and while it really doesn’t matter to those materials why we move them, our beliefs obviously become a force in the world through us.

This relates in an interesting way to debates on the so-called separation of church and state.  Progressives and even some old-school liberals sometimes insist that religious beliefs should be inadmissible as justification for laws.  Actually, what this demand does is to establish a religion in violation of the First Amendment.  Even if the reason a majority of constituents want government to take a particular action is that some religious figure told them that’s what the policy should be, a self-governing people must have the ability to conform the law with their beliefs within the boundaries set by other people’s rights.  As long as the religious figure must convince that majority and cannot directly set policies, this is how representative democracy works.

With wokism, those on the left have flipped their position.  Their false and disturbing beliefs of course must be admissible as justification for mandates, even to the point of eliminating those boundaries of other people’s rights.

For a partial explanation of how these beliefs are taking over public and private organizations, I recommend a brief article in City Journal by Gabriel Rossman, who concludes:

This is the essence of the social construction of reality: objective facts can matter less than intersubjective consensus. Since other people’s perceptions are an objective fact, you had best conform to their expectations—no matter how radical or irrational they might be.

In summary, Rossman writes that institutional isomorphism (or convergence toward a common pattern) happens by three means:

  1. Coercive isomorphism is when the government or another authority requires conformity, whether by imposing a restriction or limiting a benefit to make it so.
  2. Normative isomorphism is when members of an organization shape it toward what they believe to be appropriate, as when new employees bring radical beliefs of how the world should work from collegiate indoctrination into their workplaces.
  3. Mimetic isomorphism is when the elites establish a standard of behavior and everybody else receives the signal and copies them.

With these mechanisms, it doesn’t matter how foolish the underlying beliefs may be.  People are increasingly pressured to behave as if they are true, even if they’re not.  How we can combat the trend, I’m not sure.  Mocking the elites can help, as can conspicuously refusing to contribute to the developing norm, but we’re pretty far along, so resisting the coercion is the battlefield of the day.

Ultimately, when people are living in a different reality, we must strive to draw them into our own.  That is the existential nature of this challenge.


Featured image by Arno Senoner on Unsplash.

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