Woke Has Always Been Here: When Bad is Good and Wrong is Right, it Matters More than Ever 

by Dawn M. Sanders

There has definitely not been a shortage of articles or discussions on the concept of ‘woke’ in the last few years. In fact, as playground politics has taken on a life of its own, with chalk-line identities taking on the role of divide-and-rule, it’s just the way it has been repackaged from its origins – from the American civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter, Tiffany Markman rightfully points out how an entire concept has been hijacked and sanitised by those who are probably threatened by it. Historically, it’s nothing new, as what has emerged within modern awareness of social injustice or racism in the specific case of the American civil rights movement, could be easily derived as a prototype of earlier forms of humanitarianism in all its formalisation. 

I find it all bemusing – as someone passionate about providing a platform for the most disempowered and marginalised in society, I feel affronted by how basic social consciousness has been perverted or politicised. Even the most progressive of critics will still consider ‘woke’ a left-wing thing – a mindset reserved for radical thinking, versus the prevailing prejudices or ingrained hostilities, now more accepted in the polarised atmosphere we live under, to the point it’s downright shallow.

A perfect example of just how shallow the whole concept has become, Suella Braverman, a notoriously venomous player within the arena of players, said Penny Mordaunt was “Too woke to lead the Conservative party” during the leadership challenge in July, 2022. In other words, if you support trans rights, you’re a naive snowflake or too politically correct. Better to play hard ball alongside the big bad powerful men…

As human rights hang in the balance, inequalities are on the rise and people are fighting for their very survival, woke-ness is a newly weaponised tool of mockery by power-crazed oligarchs or the establishment. As has been pointed out multiple times, yes, the right has seized on this most basic of concepts to further vilify the so-called do-gooders – climate defenders, those who welcome refugees, supporters of Palestine and other oppressed peoples. Not to mention prominent whistleblowers, such as Julian Assange or other journalists across the globe who, have either been incarcerated or killed for simply telling the truth.

As the world switches into reverse gear, if you’re inspiring in your convictions, such as progressive policies, as Jeremy Corbyn’s ten pledgesonce popular even among right-leaning voters; you risk being taken down by your very own party, which is exactly what happened.

What is wrong and detrimental, paints itself as a right, justified, or short-sighted entitlement – ‘Get Brexit Done’ and where are we now? Where are the poorest or most disenfranchised in society? The answer is simple –gentrification takes precedence over established communities; individualism takes precedence over solidarity – leaving the most marginalised isolated and without support networks.

When a big lie emerges into the daylight from the secretive confines of power, as countless lies have hatched under the government we’ve been saddled with for the last 13 years – especially the left tends to jump up and down on social media, point the finger and say, ‘how terrible or despicable’ but now more often-than-not it rides, the liar gets away with it, it’s the new norm and rarely with true reprimand. It takes an accumulation of lies or deceptions before those in power face consequences – both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are prime examples. Yet, it takes merely someone talking too loudly, vocalising a few choice words if sitting stationary on a train for over an hour because it’s broken down, again. Or someone being too outspoken at a protest, and the police pounce like vultures on squirrels. 

I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said, but to get off your butt and fight for the truth, our rights and a decent quality of life is now harder than ever. It takes an extremely hardy soul and cast iron will to stand in front of the machine that manufactures poverty, cultural unrest, or socio/economic polarisation. It means for the most marginalised communities, there is less and less representation and advocacy, as Chris Hedges points out. A conscientious objection to the neo-negligence risks woke ridicule at best or hasty heavy-handed arrest at worst, thus waging war on the fighters at the frontline. For example, an increasingly rare, good mental health advocate is so robbed of resources at their disposal as public services are bled dry, they simply will be rendered powerless in the face of empowering a client. Likewise, speaking from personal experience, as a parent of an adult with complex additional needs facing difficulties articulating vital life choices, there is less and less probability of someone coming forward – enabling them to declare their wishes.

It’s a bewildering, frightening place to be as society becomes sicker – sick with alcoholism, lungs full of air pollution or externalised anxieties through aggressive over-stimuli. Yet, ordinary people are increasingly penalised for complaining or stepping out of line – it’s easy to fall into a line of compliance or convenience culture as it is encouraged. 

I and others have not and will not, back down in the face of adversity when defending the rights of family or community. Nope, this snowflake won’t melt in the cold rains of encroaching tyranny – not that I’m immune, but I’ll stay woke, celebrate it as soul singer Erykah Badu did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy path to walk and lately, I’ve come uncomfortably close to getting mauled by vultures. I’ll always do my bit, whether it’s volunteering for a worthy campaign or chipping in that small amount for a vital Crowdfunder. I disagree with David Brooks assessment of cool versus woke in Tiffany Markman’s article – it’s perfectly cool to care or keep awake and aware. So c’mon, stay woke, humanity and the planet depend on it. 

© 2023

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Kestrel

    I totally agree that woke has been hijacked, misrepresented and repackaged by some as if being or becoming aware of social inequalities and injustices is a bad thing. However this is not the only apparently worthy thing this has happened to. Here is a list.

    People pleaser. Is it wrong to want to please other people now?
    Not wanting to support or put any time or energy into cause you do not want to support, sounds fair enough but it can be relabelled as passive-aggressive
    Going and getting a quality education – living in an ivory tower
    Do-gooder….this has changed in the nuance of it’s meaning so much in the last century or so, that it is now tantamount to an insult to use this term to describe someone as this.

  2. Kestrel

    Being sensitive – snowflake
    Being empowered – acting entitled

  3. Kestrel

    Politically correct is a term that I think overlaps a fair bit in meaning with woke, but it too has recently taken a nuanced change in how it is seen by many. Correct now almost takes on a new meaning as misguided or over-sensitive maybe.

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