When the woke burn with a holy fire
Some stories will never end, such as woke-related incidences. These incidences show the extent of humans' stupidity when they act in the name of the greater good. In Canada, thousands of books in school libraries have been destroyed because some self-entitled people deemed them offensive to the indigenous people. Interestingly, it turned out that the spokesperson of this group has no ties with those she claimed to defend. This madness has been going on for two years and has become ceremonial. In neighboring America, some people have removed "dangerous books" such as Tintin from the sight of children. The result of this purification-by-fire ceremony for so-called educational purposes was ashes. Radio Canada reported that the book ashes were used as fertilizer to plant a tree. Thus, in the minds of these impractical arsonists, they have turned the negative into positive.
Fortunately, many sane people still exist, and they unanimously condemned the book burning. In the West, you don't burn books with impunity and expect laurels. The book-burning brings memories of a dark period of the Nazi takeover in Germany, and, unsurprisingly, some commentators see the similarities. Although, to the best of my knowledge, no one has explicitly called the woke burners Nazi, perhaps to avoid insulting the Germans.
The blow is hard for the woke and their supporters, and they are already doing everything to bring forgetfulness to these unfortunate episodes. For example, they discredit those who compare them to the Nazis and find such comparisons absurd. They believe woke activists are for good and progress and are against all racial discrimination, unlike Nazis.
Wokism: a religion in search of purity
Some parallels are more relevant than the reductio ad hitlerum and better tell us what the woke movement is all about. The auto-da-fé (the burning of heretics during the Inquisition) is a better parallel.
The woke movement (or culture or thought) shares boundaries with religion and politics. Communism, which bewitched millions of people in the previous century, was similar to this wokism craze. Wokism and communism are obsessed with good and evil and the original sin; they share the same propensity among the "enlightened" to valorize their virtuous behavior, and they have the same taste for calling out heretics. The bottom line is that wokism is Christianity without transcendence.
I'm not alone in this thought; many analysts share this belief in America and elsewhere. Recently, I was reading a fascinating interview with Joshua Mitchell, a professor at Georgetown. The Tocqueville scholar had this to say about a phenomenon he likens to a religious revival: "Identity politics is a moral purity league table. It is, in my view, the 'new spiritual eugenics,' separating the pure from the damned. The voices of the pure must be heard, but if you are among the damned, you must be purged from the social body."
The wokes continue the tradition of the incendiaries of the spirit
In my research on religions, books that the three monotheistic faiths have burned over the years have interested me. Significantly, the first book burning happened early on, when Christianity wasn't a household name, after Paul's sermon in Ephesus. The event is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: "And some of those who had practised the magic arts brought their books and burned them in front of all the people, and the value of them was estimated at fifty thousand pieces of silver.
As their power grew, the bishops began to draw up lists of forbidden books. Their targets were explicitly religious books, a strategy to silence troublesome opponents they called heretics. Later, they burned secular books that were against established dogma. And as with our Canadian friends who defend the indigenous peoples, destruction by fire was seen as a symbolic means of making evil disappear. Magical thinking is still alive and well!
The Jews also used the same policy, albeit to a lesser extent. In the 13th century, rabbis opposed to the Maimonides writings had them destroyed, but with the help of the Inquisition, as they couldn't dare act alone. Great teamwork! Islam never had a systematic policy because no leadership structure existed, and the supposedly uncreated Koran was the only authority. The sources of the Koran had to be burnt to cover up the human fabrication. There are also cases of works burnt during the Arab conquests because they were supposedly idolatrous. The latest example is the Mosul library destroyed by Daesh, with its 10,000 books going up in smoke. To silence critics, societies subject to Islamic law generally prefer to use other means than fire: confiscation, censorship, and death threats against "subversive" authors.
Book burning, a symbol of undivided domination
With all these pages reduced to ashes, one question arises: did it work? Did the relentless pursuit of evidence of alternative thought to dogma (evidence of real thought) affect people's thinking? No, and the reasons are: first, many of the faithful were illiterate; second, the invention of the printing press made it impossible to cancel books. The only effect of these fire ceremonies was to subdue the intellectuals for a while and impress the brainwashed masses with the burning pyres. Today, books are still burned in the name of faith: in 2019, Polish priests justified their burning of Twilight and Harry Potter copies that they were obeying Paul, who invited them to burn magical books.
Despite its uncertain effectiveness, the burning of books reveals the need for unshared domination, which is monotheistic religions' hallmark. This aggression, in the name of an ideal, is violent and power-grabbing. The effects on human life can be concrete and sometimes terrible. While the newspapers were dwelling on the sad Canadian episode, we learned that a Kabul bookseller had destroyed copies of certain works deemed dangerous for him since the Taliban are once again in power. This rection is an indirect auto-da-fé case—burning books yourself to escape the vindictiveness of fanatics.
Some comparisons hurt, but this one should deter the brave fighters in our liberal democracies who burn books in the name of alleged structural domination that prevents them from living.