To me, that is the definition of Woke. I’ve been bemused by the backlash of people who, without too much interpretation, are obviously complaining about something else loudly hurling “Woke!” as if it is a pejorative. It’s not that they have a legitimate argument, it is that they are discomfited by the implications and wish to go back to pretending there is nothing to be woke to. It’s not even subtle.
Consider one of the consequences of the backlash—the attempt to ban books. Now, this is nothing new. Banning books that unsettle the comfortable is a long American tradition, quite often less political than the kindred forms of censorship practiced elsewhere. We don’t usually protest books here because of political ideology so much as out of a reflexive defensiveness of cherished myths. Some of these are family stories left unquestioned for generations, some of them are the kind of origin stories surrounding the establishment of this or that institution. In most cases, people have embraced these stories and incorporated them into their sense of self, their identity, and when the story is challenged, their apprehension of Who They Are is called into question.
Somewhere along the way the practice of review has either been abandoned or was never inculcated. It comes as a shock that perhaps they should never have accepted uncritically all the things they were fed as children.
But I suspect the most violent reactions are coming from those who perhaps sense the truth beneath the myth and simply do not want to accept it. They do not want to feel responsible. Maybe their concept of a Good Life depends on those myths. Whatever.
Once, in conversation with acquaintances who were very proudly Catholic, the question was raised (by them) “just what was the Reformation all about?” I took it at face value and said, “Many things, but the trigger was over Indulgences.” “What are those?” When I explained what a Plenary Indulgence was, they regarded me with the blank expressions of the never-before-informed. They didn’t believe me. I had to be misinformed. Why would the Church do that? Why would people believe these things would work?
The facts opened a shelf-full of cans of worms that required a profound revision in their understanding of the institution in which they had invested a great deal. Delving into all that threatened their sense of well-being in their self-identification as Catholics. The fact that, as members of that institution, they not only did not know about significant parts of Church history but strenuously did not want to know, dismayed and saddened me, but it served as a good example as the kind of mindset we encounter in those most stridently condemning Woke-ism.
But I have rarely seen a clearer example of “getting it wrong” than this. It is sharper, more clearly delineated, than its predecessor, the rejection of so-called Political Correctness, which was also misunderstood, mostly by those who simply did not want their assumptions about history and culture and politics and personal identity called into question. They did not want to be reminded, held to account, called on the carpet, or simply be required to do the work of realignment necessitated by an acceptance of realities not in evidence in their own lives. Political Correctness devolved at times into a game of constantly revising what things were called. That, of course, should have been merely a consequence of revising our understanding of relationships, taking into account the realities of others, but that’s complicated and tedious and hard and for people who never internalized actual learning but skidded by on doing well on tests and knowing how to interview successfully and going along with those in power just to get along, it was a slog and often resulted in long periods of just feeling like eggshells were everywhere in their path.
Woke—and, more to the point, being Anti-Woke—is less ambiguous. Woke is a requirement to not privilege ignorance over reality and Anti-Woke is a demand to enshrine specific kinds of ignorance in order to maintain privileged conditions. Every time someone stands up and opposes being Woke, I hear someone insisting on being callous and stupid.
Except for those in leadership positions. They are not stupid. Callous, certainly, but not stupid. (Clever, but not very intelligent.) They know their audience. They’re just venal. In order to attain power, they’re playing their supporters for saps.
The more you know, the more you can know. The more you can know, the less power demagogues can wield over you. The less power they have, the freer you are. The freer you are, the less you have to fear.
So wake up.