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The Kolakovic Moment

Father Tomislav Kolakovic (Poglajen), standing, in a coat, with Slovak Catholic students in his 'Family,' in 1944

Here is a chilling letter from an academic — a white man married to a black woman, by the way. He gave me permission to publish if I kept his name and college out of it:


In spite of all of the COVID restrictions and distractions that have come with our academic school year, Wokeness is taking over. We were asked to take an anonymous online survey on “faculty morale” that came from our “diversity” office, using a link they sent to us via email. Because I have been relatively satisfied with my employment in the many years I have been here, I was glad to click on the link and begin. After all, they assured us, it was anonymous and that they would respect our privacy.”
The early part of the survey was boilerplate, but as it moved along, the questions more and more began to fall into the “wokeness” category, both in race and sexuality. For example, the survey asked about our “preferred pronouns (some faculty members already list them, while most of us abstain), as well as a number of questions regarding the racial climate on campus.
Being that close to a third of our student body is Black, it obviously is imperative that we have a positive racial atmosphere for them. In one of my courses last spring, I dealt at length with aspects of our nation’s racial history during the Progressive Era, tying many progressive policies to racism, including many of the so-called economic and social reforms that earn high praise in academe and the media but had a very dark racial component as well. From what I could tell, the students appreciated what I did (at least judging from the very high evaluation marks I received from them after the course was over).
The survey then asked our sexual preferences, age and also our religious affiliations, as well as asking how long we had worked at our university. Both my wife (who is African American) and I became concerned about where these questions were leading, as there were enough categories listed that would help specifically identify the faculty member. At that point — my wife concurring — I ended my participation. Once again, I had almost fallen for the classic bait-and-switch tactics that are now common in higher education.
What do I mean? As you know, Wokeness often is disguised as an “improvement” of liberalism. Under the standard liberal views, racial divides were to be broken down through color blindness as well as programs aimed at improving the well-being of Black Americans, and while we can argue about the effects (especially the unintended effects) of many of these policies, nonetheless the intention always has been to elevate people in our society who had been held down wrongfully by racist policies of earlier years.
Under liberalism, there was a general understanding that our existing institutions were capable of reform and that the values that undergird those institutions were such that we could employ them to make the necessary and moral social changes to end racial discrimination. There also was general respect for free speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of religion.
So much for liberalism. Critical Theory is the antithesis of liberalism, as it glorifies the use of raw power, groupthink, shaming, threats, and outright murder. We saw its fruit from the various communist revolutions around the world, beginning with the Russian Revolution of 1917. But 30 years removed from the end of the USSR and communism in Eastern Europe, the once-fringe voices in academe that supported these regimes now are becoming mainstream. In its 100-year commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution, the New York Times published a series of editorial-page articles that portrayed communism as Paradise Lost. Furthermore, woke capitalism now seeks to impose the kind of domestic spying on employees and Americans in general reminiscent of the tactics of the East German Stasi in order to impose a social credit system that truly is totalitarian.
For now, our campus hardly is the picture of woke totalitarianism. Over the years, a libertarian-conservative like me has been able to chair three important university-wide committees and receive university awards. Political and social disagreements did not matter the way they are about to matter now. The new Gospel of Wokeness overshadows everything else and I realize that before long, all the goodwill I built up over the years is likely to disappear because I am not Woke, nor ever will be Woke.
Thank goodness for me I am near retirement, but in the future, people who think like I do are not going to have a place in higher education or many of the other professions and will be relegated to the margins. This is how it was in the communist world, where fealty to the Party outranked everything else, and today, fealty to Wokedom is paramount to professional survival.
People who do survive the Woke onslaught are people who have their own strong belief systems, such as Christianity and who also have friends and family that will not be directly subject to personal attacks the way that fellow faculty and staff at the college or university where they work might be. This is important. That is why it is imperative in this Benedict era that we seek friendships and support in places outside our workplaces, including family and churches. In these times, such institutions become lifelines, the true “safe spaces” where people can go when the mobs turn on them.
Unfortunately, so many people on campus already have rejected religion or are likely to attend a Woke church whose members either are also from the faculty/staff of the college, so the shunning would continue even at the church. Their personal and social circles are likely to be tied to the college where they are under attack, so anyone who is a target and does not have outside support is going to be bombarded with invective 24/7.
One does not reason with these mobs, as they seek victory using means as brutal as is necessary to achieve their ends. They are destructive, but one does not have to give in to them or take part in the destruction. It is a matter of will, and it is a matter of choice.
The danger here is not that universities will become “liberal.” They’ve always been that. The danger is that they are becoming something that is the antithesis of liberal values, and the antithesis of what a university is supposed to be. I mean, look at these fools at Brown University:

A Brown University student group, Decolonization at Brown, wants the school to remove two Roman statues displayed on campus, claiming the statues represent white supremacy and colonialism.

The student group at the Ivy League university in Rhode Island has lobbied the school’s Undergraduate Council of Students to support its initiative to remove of statues of Roman Emperors Caesar Augustus and Marcus Aurelius.

Removing the statues “is one step in a broader project of decolonization by confronting Brown’s institutional and ideological legacies of colonialism and white supremacy,” members of the group wrote in The Blognonian, a student publication at the university.

The Undergraduate Council is scheduled to vote on endorsing the initiative on Thursday after it bumped the vote, originally scheduled for October 22.


Please understand that these fanatics are essentially the same as the Taliban zealots who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas, on the ground that their very existence was an aggression against the One True Religion (in that case, Islam). There is no way that a real university can co-exist with Wokeness. Universities are signing their death warrants. What will remain are institutions that control the entrance into professional and socially elite spheres, but that’s about it.

This is a tremendous opportunity for those who still believe in the old model of education. You will have to be as Benedictine monks in the early medieval period. It can be done!

Can we get wealthy conservative donors to start giving to efforts to build and defend these civilization-saving institutions? The Republican Party is not going to save what remains of the West, especially its Christian heritage. Real colleges might.

Going back to the professor’s e-mail, it is absolutely vital now that dissidents and resisters find each other, and set up networks of mutual support. You all know by now the story of Father Tomislav Kolakovic, who in 1943 saw Communism coming to Czechoslovakia, and who immediately began organizing resistance cells among Catholic students. Some of the Slovak bishops chastised him for being alarmist, but that did not deter him. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1948, the “Family,” as Father Kolakovic called his network, became the backbone of the underground church, and the only meaningful resistance force for the next forty years. I dedicated Live Not By Lies to him because we desperately need men and women like him today, right here, right now. The brave priest organized primarily among idealistic Christian university students.

Fr Tomislav Kolakovic

As the professor who wrote me says, for some, not even their church will be a safe place. You will find that people you thought were allies are not who you thought they were. But you will also find people you never imagined would be on side are your comrades. After the election next week, things will be clearer. It is perfectly clear now, though, that we have no time to waste.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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