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Is the Culture War Lost?
The full text of my 2020 exchange with Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Some of you know that I had a series of public letter exchanges with Ayaan Hirsi Ali about wokism in late 2020. We were approached by the founders of a (now defunct) site called letter.wiki to have a kind of long-form conversation, presumably about Islam.
But when Ayaan and I finally got a chance to discuss what was on our minds, both of us found that we were far more interested in discussing the rise of another ideology: wokism. Ayaan was surprised by my sense of dismay. I believed that the battle was already lost, but she did not agree. She was sure that liberalism could face the challenge ahead of us, but I felt that it had already proven itself too vulnerable to it.
As this disagreement felt far more interesting than any conversation about Islam, we decided to hash it out in the letter format.
However, since then the website was taken down and our exchange disappeared along with it. I asked one of the founders, Clyde Rathbone, if he could send me the text and Ayaan whether I could repost it on this substack. Both were very obliging, and so now our letters are back up, listed in order below. I have added in some titles (the originals did not have any), but other than that, the text is unchanged.
If you haven’t read them before, I think the best are #1-3 (especially, the 3rd if you want a detailed breakdown of my views).
Looking at them again today, I am feeling as if my pessimism was warranted. I will give you all a chance to read before I send along more detailed thoughts on our exchange.
What do you think? Was I right?
Letter 1: My opening to Ayaan
Letter 2 - Ayaan: “As long as there are true liberals out there, I do not think the woke are anywhere near any kind of victory”
Letter 3 - Sarah: “…Wokeism is deeply satisfying to our baser instincts….by contrast, liberalism flies in the face of human nature.”
Letter 4 - Ayaan: “What is baked into modernity is self-perpetuating, not self-destructive."
Letter 5 - Sarah: “…The woke faith will bend logic before it will bend its dogma”
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