Deciphering the Woke Generation

by | Apr 27, 2021 |

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Everyone has heard the term ‘woke,’ but few people understand what it really means. There is a lot of woke literature, but only a few authors have defined it clearly. We will discuss two of them, Kenya Hunt, writing in the US edition of The Guardian on November 21, 2020, and James Lindsay, writing at https://newdiscourses.com/ on July 30, 2020. 

Most dictionaries define woke as a perceived awareness of inequality or injustice, normally of a racial nature, which has evolved with the advent of web-based social media. It extends to conversations on economics, social class, gender equality, and of course, politics. It generally involves activism but attempts to always claim that a ‘woke’ person is ‘aware.’ 

One could claim that a woke person has ‘awakened’ to his or her surroundings and so is now ‘awoke,’ shortened to ‘woke.’ Some first link it to American activist-writer James Baldwin’s writings on Blacks in America. Others connect it to Master Teacher, a song by American singer-songwriter-actress Erykah Badu in which she repeats over and over, “I stay woke.” Or, it could be American film director/writer/actor Spike Lee’s cry “Wake uuuuup” in his movie School Daze. That debate could go on endlessly, but we will just focus on what it has become today.

Kenya Hunt quotes BuzzFeed in her essay, saying:

“Woke is also the much-needed awakening of the privileged to all manner of societal ills and the willingness to call them out, usually in the form of a white, cisgender, heteronormative man recognizing that others who are not white cisgender, heteronormative, and male are often denied equal rights treatment and pay.” 

For those of you, like us, who did not know the word “cisgender,” it refers to people who accept their gender as being their biological sex at birth.

Woke has been commodified, such as when Nike featured Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who refused to stand for the National Anthem, as a symbol for the company. It has been used in conservative media as meaning rigid and uptight socially. Dropping the word woke into a conversation is a quick way to uncover where someone sits politically.

In his essay, James Lindsay accurately links woke to the concept of Critical Social Justice Theory. In its simplest form, this theory ‘recognizes inequality as deeply embedded in the fabric of society.’

You will not likely find folks defined as woke willing to debate what it is. If not an unwillingness to converse on the subject, their reticence is due to their belief that the topic is unequivocal and not debatable, very much like climate change adherents. Woke converts see a willingness to debate as acceptance of the system they detest. Conversation and debate are part of our game, of course, but woke folk do not want to have anything to do with our game. They think the system is rigged against them.

The first thing to understand, Lindsay tells us:

“About the way, adherents to Critical Social Justice view the world is just how deeply they have accepted the belief that we operate within a wholly systemically oppressive system.”

He says that the system extends into every aspect of our culture and is rotted through with “white, Western male biases.” Woke activists believe that they can’t reorder society in the radical way they deem necessary by playing by the existing rules. They believe that by participating in scholarly conversation and debate, they are endorsing our system in which they are convinced they cannot win. It would seem tearing things down, their ‘cancel culture,’ and pulling down statues constitutes a system more to their liking.

They are apparently convinced that reason, rationality, science, and evidence are the very things that produced injustice in the world in the first place. The world is rigged against them, they believe, and so they nearly always seem to take a negative view toward life. We have been unable to find happy-go-lucky, upbeat personalities among those committed to a woke perspective.

Lindsay sensibly says that ‘Critical Justice Theorists’ see society divided into oppressors versus the oppressed and everyone who isn’t woke to the realities of systematic oppression lives in the form of false consciousness. Consequently, ‘wokeness’ may be recognized as a sort of religious philosophy where acceptance of the woke facts must be accepted on faith. All religions consist of collectively-held obligatory beliefs, as does wokeness.

Wokeness sees people who occupy positions of systemic power and privilege to be reprehensible. You hear them called racists, misogynists, bigots, fascists spreading their hateful ideology in the world. If woke activists believe this, then why would they give their opponents a platform to debate. They do not and hence the cancel culture arises.

College students and faculty are particularly attuned to these hierarchies of oppression, organizing themselves around marginalized figures. Alexander Riley, author of Angel Patriots: The Crash of United Flight 93 and the Myth of America, writing in the August/September 2019 issue of First Things, describes (see “Woke Tokenism”) a diversity training session at a college where a white member of the facility was nominated for a faculty committee position. He detailed his privilege and journey to wokeness and asked his colleagues to vote for his nonwhite female opponent, presumably because she was more woke.

Author Michael Walsh, writing in the April 12 issue of Epoch Times, asserts:

“That “progressivism” is the destructive philosophy of resentful losers matters nothing to them when their blood is up. That “social justice” is just another word for punitive fascism thrills them to the bone. That if the word “justice” needs a modifier then it’s not justice at all, but revenge, is the whole point. In the end-stage lives of peoples and cultures, even nations, the suicidal impulse to destroy becomes even more powerful than the urge to create.

Walsh continues:

America has been seized—there’s really a no better word for it—by a small but powerful “woke” minority of politicians (almost all Democrats), senior military officers (promoted largely under Barack Obama), and media flunkies (who parrot their talking points and foment animosity through their selective, Marxist-prismed news coverage focused almost exclusively on race, sex, and class).”

It has gotten worse now, as a group of nominally capitalist CEOs, often foreign-born from countries like Russia, reach the top in Silicon Valley. They foist their vulture capitalism upon the ambulatory corpses of traditional U.S. businesses that long ago lost the vision of their founders. They invited outsiders with no emotional stakes into the enterprises to run them into the ground while profiting immensely.

British writer Conrad Black, writing in the April 7 issue of Epoch Times, summed up the situation well when he said:

“It is now clear that as the avalanche of wokeness and national self-hate has crashed over the restraining walls of the American mythos, one pillar of traditional American democracy after another has fallen.” 

The collapse of the traditional American business executive has been especially disappointing as the once conservative chambers of commerce have fallen in line with the dictates of our socialist politicians.

Perhaps even more egregious has been our professional sports leagues, once followed by a majority of conservative fans, now bowing to sales in China, stringent pandemic dictates, and misunderstood voting rights.

Our biggest problem now will be the undoing of the woke virus that has infected our K thru 12 public education system. This may take at least a generation before getting out from under the dictatorship of the radical, authoritarian teachers’ unions. Similarly, university endowments will start to suffer and slowly correct their radical leadership in all things woke.

America is indeed in crisis, but it has been in crisis before and, as before, it will resolve them. In Churchill: Walking With Destiny, Andrew Roberts poignantly describes the myriad complexity of surviving two world wars and a depression. He places in perspective today’s problems with our misguided governments and political groups.

We see today’s situation as having great similarity with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, only this time it is a form of a woke revolution. It is said that those who do not have a sense of history are destined to repeat it. This certainly fits today as so much now going on in America ignores how Venezuela and Cuba self-destructed as a result of their revolutions. Current proposed Legislation HR1, if passed, takes all voting rights away from our states and gives them to the Federal Government. That will be an impediment to throwing the woke Democrats out in the next election, but our nation of mostly free people will take the government back regardless. 

We will be discussing all this in-depth in The Other Side of the Story, our new America Out Loud talk radio show that will be broadcast at 11 am and 8 pm Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2, and on our podcast the following week. Please tune in for some lively discussion about how wokeness has become one of the greatest threats to our nation today!

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Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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PROUD AMERICAN ?
PROUD AMERICAN ?
1 year ago

so true

Tom Harris
Reply to  PROUD AMERICAN ?
1 year ago

True in Canada too, I am sorry to say.

Tom Harris

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