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Why I have muted the woke brigade

By Harriet Piercy

Internet culture

Oct 22, 2020

Society is riddled with poisonous and contagious views, that is undeniable. We have a long history of racism, sexism, discrimination, homophobia, bigotry, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, we have not left history in the past either, nor should we (fundamentally). Inequality and unfairness are still present today, which is why our lessons should be taught and learned from past mistakes so as to not make them again. However, it is hard to learn anything with all of this noise.

By definition, the word ‘woke’, although it has evolved drastically from its original use as the evolution of wording persists, today it technically means to be “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social injustice).” However, it evokes more than this now, one extreme side of the word is seen as a rock to be thrown by the self-proclaimed cultural elite, while the other claims a constant victim status. Both are shoddy examples of ‘doing what is right’ by any means, but can I say what I think is right? If you answered no, you’re welcome to mute me—I support you as a human being with choices either way.

In an interview for the Obama Foundation on youth activism, President Obama stated that “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly.” He went on to say that “the world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”

The idea of ‘cancel culture’ refers to a behaviour mostly played out on the internet, when someone says something that others object to. In this interview, Obama refers to how people today act as though creating change comes about by judging other people. He says “Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, cause, ‘Man, you see how woke I was, I called you out.’”

“That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change,” Obama continues. “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.” And it is too easy to do. Social media is flooded with opinions, but they are filtered. Exactly how politically correct (PC) do we need to be before we are all fully censored? Is there any topic that technically cannot be torn into pieces by the woke brigade? Now, I am actively leaving particularities of opinion out of it, because I am exhausted by particulars, and even if this is an opinion piece, you are not owed mine in particular, and neither will I force it on to you.

What I want to talk about is righteousness, as a tone of voice—in using the term ‘woke’ as it is used today, as more of an action through speech than action itself. Being woke today is actually not what being woke was intended to be at all, and it is doing more harm than good. How can being woke become more important than the issues that wokeness enlightens? The issues that are under the umbrella of what it means to be woke are inherently important issues, and ones that need to be spoken about.

When someone who hasn’t had the chance to understand such issues says or does something wrong (through the eyes of our generation) the last thing that we should do is address them with a righteous tone of voice, as if one that understands is automatically better than those who do not. Being shamed for illeducation will only cut off whatever willingness there was to understand and be educated in the first place.

Enlightenment and understanding is a good thing, but a bombardment of righteous voices that say more than do is not. Our generation loves to hate, social media has given everyone a place to enforce hate freely too.

PC culture is stripping culture itself of its freedom to adapt and evolve, and this is arguably one of humanity’s greatest strengths. If we continue to travel the brash and thorny road we are going down currently, we will inevitably hit a dead end, and possibly more war than we can surely survive. Will it take for us all to be wrong for us to finally reach an understanding?

If I slip into a cow pat, you can bet I’ll choose to laugh about it, because the slipping into shit is done. What else is there to do but clean up and go on? But in light of the world now, all I can say is that I hope I don’t laugh in the wrong accent. What is important to read here is that discovery is found in what we do not already know, and understanding is found by recognising the source of the misunderstanding. With that in mind, I will not live in fear of modern wokeness, of doing or saying the wrong thing, because that will result in me doing nothing—and a world without movement is the most wronged of all.