There are many things in this world that are honed and formed through the centuries by social institutions. Some of those institutions were pretty brutal. This rightly calls for healthy skepticism of our cultural assumptions.
The Woke Massive have taken this idea very seriously, chucking “social construct” at anything that sticks. I would say that it means “everything is up for debate,” but that is not being quite accurate. It means if you call something a social construct, that’s that — we’re just meant to pop it in the bin.
There’s been a common backlash against this kind of thinking. People are starting to say, “Hang on, you can’t just call something a social construct and run off with the money. We’re still figuring all this out.” People have begun to realize that Wokers have replaced the social construct with their own liturgy.
The woke crowd have taken the post-modern idea of everything being a social-construct for their own ends. For them, it’s about political power, not liberated thinking.
But let’s take them on their own merit, and at least entertain the argument. We can see that we don’t necessarily need to follow them down the path on which they want us to sheepishly trudge.
Architecture. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that architectural styles that borrow from antiquity are knowingly or unknowingly perpetuating a style that was formed by historical systems of oppression.
And let’s also grant that architecture doesn’t need to be like that, and there is no apparent objective reason why architects must follow tradition.
However, we can just as well say that architecture doesn’t need to be in the style preferred by post-modernist architects. I dare say there’s good reason to say this considering that post-modernist architecture looks rubbish.
Why not make your buildings look good? There are things about classic architectural styles that are pleasing to the eye. Since you’re going to the trouble of designing a building, why not build something that someone might want to look at?
“People’s tastes aren’t the same, but they rhyme,” says Create Streets, an organization that promotes better urban planning. Their studies revealed that designs that most people seemed to enjoy shared common characteristics.
For example, people tend to prefer “gentle density,” meaning streets and buildings that are dense enough to walk comfortably among. Streets shouldn’t be too wide. There should be greenery to complement the bricks, mortar and glass.
In terms of architecture, Georgian scores high. The small windowed, elegantly constructed terraced houses of yesteryear. Few seeing this will argue it looks worse than the giant concrete slabs that constitute most 20th century British builds.
You might be able to guess what scores low in these surveys: wide streets packed with vehicles, brutalist concrete, the enormous walls of glass that make up most skyscrapers.
The post-modernists retort to this might be that people’s subjective experience of aesthetics are informed by antiquated ideas. In that sense, taste itself is a social construct.
Even so, there is nothing stopping us carrying on borrowing from this social construct if it’s what we prefer. Don’t let the man get you down — use their weapons for your own ends! If it makes you feel good, why not?
A choice like this, that we make every day of our lives, is language. You can take a hard line with your wokeness regarding the less than admirable reasons why certain languages have proliferated over others, or you can just get on with life.
The French art-film director Jean-Luc Godard has, in his last few films, refused to use full English subtitles. Those who don’t understand French who want to watch Godard are now forced to read what he describes as “Navajo English.”
This means that if you see The Image Book, which I had the misfortune of doing, you’ll be treated to a pumped-up montage film that would have been incomprehensible anyway, except only 1 word in 5 is subtitled. So effectively, you get a one-word hint as to what the voiceovers are talking about in any given “scene.”
His reasoning, apparently, is that English is the language of colonial oppression. Sure, Jean-Luc. Everyone knows French is only spoken in France because the French have never colonized anywhere else and have had a universally stellar reputation abroad.
You don’t have to be like this.
There’s an argument to be made that we need to check our privilege, so to speak, as to why English is the effective lingua franca of the internet, and is the default language of diplomacy. Sure, learn about why the British were so powerful, and don’t be shy about their atrocities.
Then, instead of renouncing English and turning to Esperanto, why not just use English against the man? After all, a hell of a lot of people speak it that had nothing to do with crimes of antiquity. That’s a lot of people you can educate about imperialism, or whatever the hoot The Image Book was about.