The problem with ‘woke’ and ‘unwoke’

There’s a tendency I’ve noticed among thinking millennials to divide people into the ‘woke’ and ‘not woke’. They need to think some more. I’ve been told more than once I’m woke, complimented because usually, apparently, you don’t get many over 40 who are. Yes. Really. 

First, I think those thinking millennials need to do more thinking. And read their history books. It smacks of a certain badge system denoting status. Pink triangle, black triangle, and so on. Worth should not be determined by personal opinions about someone’s level of perceived enlightenment and ability to agree with you – any more than age, sexuality, religion and a host of other things. We all have worth. We are alive. We all have potential to learn and grow.  

Secondly, I’ve observed enough self-serving, narcissistic behaviour and unfair sweeping judgements among some (no, by all means I’m not saying all) in the millennial age group, with concern for the planet at the fore but no care for people in everyday situations, to know that, if we are using ‘woke’, it’s an entirely subjective term. The earth is dying, yes, people are causing it, yes – now shut the fuck up and help the old lady cross the road. Be there for others. That’s how change starts – with compassion and not brutal, cold snobbery. 

Woke is not wise. Woke is not kind. Woke serves to make those using the term feel morally superior and emotionally distant from the rest of their species. Emotional distance from others is a prerequisite for fascism to take hold and infest the body politic. As in, ‘they’ are the ‘other’ – “They do not matter; I have contempt for them all”. 

Of course I detest ignorance and bigotry but these can be expressed on both sides of the political fence and from the middle to the extremes. Being truly woke – if we must use the term – requires compassion and love, patience and kindness. 

I for one don’t need to be told I am woke to know I’ve always tried – and yes, I have often failed because I’m human – to be a good man. I care about the planet but I’m there to help and love me, my mum and my friends first and foremost. Without judgement and with an ability to listen to what others are telling me. Sometimes they want advice; sometimes they just need to be heard. I can’t stop the pollution of the world single-handedly but I can wipe away tears and give hugs. Everything and everyone matters. 

Before you categorise people based on their awareness of the state of the planet and willingness to do anything about it, look to your immediate physical and social environment. How you can make it better, and how you can spread some joy.  

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