Corporate woke struggle sessions keep cropping up

The anti-capitalist symbols of yesteryear are gone.  The blistered hands, muscles crabbed from overwork, withered seamstresses with scarred fingers, barefoot children operating heavy machinery, soot-faced dogsbodies stealing a break in an unlit corner with half a cigarette — all were common manifestations of the working man's struggle.  They were the images Karl Marx invoked in his intellectual jeremiad against the "bourgeois class" and the laborers "daily and hourly enslaved by the machine."

Today, calls for tossing capitalism overboard are joined with a different kind of semiotics, one more modern but not nearly as heart moving.  Gone are the mangled appendages in service to a pittance; in are trim grad students wearing Lycra joggers, doing calisthenics in Greenwich Village Orangetheory.

Lululemon, the posh athletic-wear clothier, recently spotlighted yogini Rebby Kern, a self-described "social justice warrior" who hosts anti-racism lectures alongside teaching women to contort their bodies into the posture of a pigeon.  The advert for Kern's struggle….seminar describes it as "a workshop to unveil historical erasure & resist capitalism."  Lululemon promoted it on its Instagram profile, pari passu with perfectly focused pictures of $150 sweatpants.

If the combination seems incongruent — raging against the capitalist machine in obnoxiously pricey thrift-shop couture — that's because it should.  The rise of woke capital has turned traditional class warfare on its head, with the high-hatted propertied class feigning alliance to leftist culture warriors.  McDonald's denounces police brutality; Target devotes a section of its wardrobe department to Pride Month; Taco Bell encourages its burrito-folders to wear Black Lives Matter masks; PetSmart encourages the adoption of black-furred Pekingese over their fair-haired cousins.

OK, the last example stretches a point, but it's believable nonetheless.  There seems to be no limit awokened corporate heads will go to in prostrating themselves before the social-justice gods.  With small businesses devastated by coronavirus lockdown, and an untold number of single proprietors shuttering for good, large corps are benefiting financially from the windfall of outlasting their pilot-fish competitors. 

The result: Netflix can more easily beam the paraphiliac Cuties directly into your home, since going to one of the few open cinemas is a public-health risk.

But like the proverbial worm, cracks of resistance are starting to show on the monolith of incorporated SJW ideology.  Fans at the NFL opener in Kansas City booed the cloying "moment of unity" meant to draw attention to racial prejudice.  More innocuous than Colin Kaepernick's resentful kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner," the linking of arms was too panderly for an audience sick to their stomach of contrived reckonings. 

The country has spent half a year in house-bound detention, with hall passes to the grocery store and pharmacy reluctantly given.  Then, following the death of George Floyd, we were told the society we forcibly flattened the curve to save was irredeemably racist, and hardly worth saving.  The return of football should have been an escape from the annus horribilis.  Instead, it was given over to mawkish liberal theater — and the crowd threw rotten vegetables in the form of audible jeers.

Other major sports aren't faring any better.  NBA ratings have nosedived thanks to the ostentatious political displays.  Same with Major League Baseball.  Even NASCAR ratings were down, in no small part thanks to the noose hoax from black driver Bubba Wallace.

Outside of the sporting scene, the biggest of big businesses is losing out on a major market thanks to its crisscrossed priorities.  Beijing has debarred publicity of Disney's live-action Mulan after the American press, in a rare moment of journalism, scrutinized its filming in the Xinjiang territory, which is home to an ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign.  Disney can hand over millions in Mickey bucks to the NAACP in the name of social justice but can't shoot a blockbuster somewhere devoid of a Muslim pogrom.

The discrepancy gets at the heart of the woke capitalist complex: that all these liberalism-affirming gestures and de facto reparation payments have no high principle behind them.  It's all about the Benjamins, gender-neutral, non-binary baby!  Big business will put out press release after press release, statement after statement, supporting whatever progressive cause is deemed popular ex tempore to reap the rewards, pecuniary or otherwise.  And what are those exactly?  Easy: an absence of controversy.  Apple decries the shooting of Jacob Blake while running iPhone sweatshops filled with suicidal toilers, with nary a fit on the left. 

The logic of capitalism has always been that of St. Patrick's prayer: profit in me, profit beneath me, profit above me, profit on my right, profit on my left.  The danger of the conservative's uncritical devotion to money-chasing markets was always the potential of the left commandeering the profit principle for its own ends.  Woke capital is the product.  It will go back to sleep only once the money runs dry.

Somewhere in the subterranean, Karl Marx is doing hot yoga led by Beelzebub, wearing $100 skein pants.

Image: ajay_suresh via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.