From pronouns to proactiveness

Shawn Hagedorn on the difference between pursuing power, and proposing solutions

Using “they” when referring to one person is confusing. If woke activists genuinely wanted to accommodate those that identify as non-binary, they would invent and promote a singular, gender-neutral pronoun. Instead, they mimic the ANC by pursuing power not solutions. 

Updating pronoun usage would stoke much less polarisation if not for the underlying agendas which trace to intellectuals indulging Marx and postmodernists. Their path to power is through dominating knowledge and information channels. Their followers are urged to reject logic and the open contestation of views which inform solutions. The pronoun battles encapsulate such indoctrination.

The first decade of SA’s “born free” blacks have sought to enter the workforce. It is now clear that most will never be meaningfully employed. Without employers investing in them, their productivity will remain a small fraction of what it should have been. Prospects for the second decade of SA’s “born free” blacks are worse still. Rather than discuss workable solutions, the ANC frames our political-economic discourse, and their policies, around racial inequality - while continuing to blame colonialism.

Whereas pronoun activists are dismissive of language efficiency, the ANC is disinterested in our economy’s productivity and competitiveness. That many of their specific decisions reflect greed and incompetence should not distract us from following how geopolitical developments are triggering scrutiny of the ideological indulgences which amplify their anti-western biases.  

Centre-leftists cannot casually dismiss LGQBT advocates chanting “from the river to the sea”. Irrespective of whether their support for Palestinians includes Hamas, they are not advocating for the “right to return'' but rather for the destruction of the Middle East's sole functionally robust democracy. Meanwhile, the only Middle Eastern country which tolerates LGQBT lifestyles is Israel. 

Exclusively blaming Israel encourages Hamas to hide behind innocent Palestinians. Such narrow apportioning of blame is consistent with perceiving events through oppressor-versus-oppressed filters while dodging logic.

Many ANC supporters remain receptive to the party blaming this nation’s accelerating decline on apartheid, nearly three decades after it ended. All the while, our ruling party steadfastly undermines the life prospects for most “born free” black South Africans. Similar woke-styled "defund the police" tactics are facing a fresh backlash - this time from the left.

Factories and oppression

The industrial era was originally constrained by many workers being content to stop working once they had earned enough to get through the week. Those who had invested in the factories needed their employees to work long hours to generate favourable returns on their investments. Marx interpreted such surpluses as oppressor-versus-oppressed exploitation. 

In earlier times, nearly everyone had worked the land. If they didn’t work enough for barons and chiefs to maintain surpluses, when harvests failed, many would starve. Marxist reasoning resembles: As such productivity wasn’t reliant on building factories, those people were neither exploited nor alienated from nature. Yet billions of people have willingly migrated from fields to factories. 

A different take would be that survival pressures had always encouraged communities to favour pragmatism until scientific and commercial advances led highly productive societies to believe they could abandon pragmatism to indulge intellectually mangled ideals. 

Many of us were alive when tens of millions starved in China and we can recall horrific famines in Ethiopia inspiring fundraising rock concerts. We then witnessed China grow at nearly 10% per year for four decades and Ethiopia recently become a significant grain exporter. We know that science and pragmatic decisions can propel impressive gains. Why should we haphazardly indulge woke ideals that presage ugly outcomes?

Survival presumed

Those coming of age in the West today may be quick to dismiss traditional survival pressures as their parents’ generation was far more likely to succumb to overeating than starvation. Woke-styled narratives which demonstrate indifference toward logic and consequences can flourish when survival to old age is casually presumed.

Reactions to growing woke influences had been generally subdued prior to Canada’s pronoun-legislation kerfuffle sparking a publicly showcased scholars-versus-politicians clash. Subsequent research to identify wokeisms' roots has primarily focused on two seemingly incompatible sources, Marxism and Postmodernism. Both were developed by first-tier intellectual misfits and our national dialogue is among those hampered by their contributions.

Research shows that the Frankfurt School of neo-Marxists was formed, in part, to explain why Germany’s 1919 Marxist styled revolution failed whereas the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The school’s influential thinkers were targeting capitalism. The idea was to undermine it by eroding the popular culture which had been developed to instil the materialistic values which spurred workers to work long hours amid harsh conditions. Evidence points to their advocating for the infiltration of key institutions, such as media and entertainment companies, while prioritising universities.

Postmodern rejects

For classic liberals, Postmodernism is no less disturbing than Marxism. Postmodernists reject all metanarratives, spanning religion, logic, progress and ideologies. Thus they reject both Marxism and capitalism.

Postmodernists are amoral nihilists who encourage anarchy while maintaining that life is devoid of meaning. Their core animating belief is that language is so imprecise that all interpretations are valid.

Perhaps Michel Foucault had the greatest influence on woke thinking. He developed oppressor-versus-oppressed narratives around power being exerted not across economic classes but rather through how knowledge was distributed and interpreted. Postmodernists' influence stems from their ability to frame perceptions through shaping debates and political narratives.


Both the postmodernists and the neo-Marxists have advanced their agendas by infiltrating universities and media outlets. Employment in such organisations now often requires demonstrated allegiance to diversity, inclusion and equity objectives. This has corresponded with the ANC framing our national dialogue around racial inequality.

Among intellectuals in the 1970s and 80s, leading postmodernists were feted like Hollywood celebrities. Then, when the Berlin Wall fell, Marxist professors didn't suddenly accept capitalism. Instead, amid meagre public scrutiny, Marxists and postmodernists gained dominion over humanities departments at western universities and newsrooms.

Their indoctrinating of students departs abruptly from traditional centre-left creeds. Incidents blocking free speech had been particularly unsettling for traditional leftists. Then, as the war in Ukraine and floods of immigrants were weighing on western presumptions, October's waves of anti-semitism by students and faculty seriously rattled centrist-leftists, among others. 

Whatever their roots, the woke left have achieved tremendous influence through shaping events (news reporting) into narratives which they have framed (as scholarly elites). What is so worrisome about these increasingly prominent critics is their lack of interest in solutions. 

In 2014, Sweden introduced "hen" as a non-gendered alternative to "han" (he) and "hon" (she). It is always singular.

Shawn Hagedorn