How do we find ourselves in a time where empathy, sympathy and accepting of difference are qualities that are derided as being WOKE!….and those advocating on behalf of the disadvantaged are seen as politically correct or as they used to say “loony left”! In a recent visit to this country, Florida’s right wing governor Ron DeSantis has backed UK business secretary & Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch in taking on what he calls “The Woke” and has offered his support for the war on “Woke” to ensure that this is not corrupting British society. The irony of a Black woman fronting this for the UK is not lost on many…as the spirit of Joseph McCarthy haunts the corridors of Whitehall.
McCarthyism in the mid 1950s sparked an era of paranoia where claims were made that communists had infiltrated the government, universities, and the film industry. This resulted in a massive campaign that included the political repression and persecution of left-wing individuals. In the1940s and 1950s, a “blacklist” was a list of persons whose opinions or associations were deemed politically inconvenient or commercially troublesome, thereby subjecting them to either difficulty finding work or termination from employment. The late Harry Belafonte was one of those who was placed on the interestingly named McCarthy “Blacklist” and like many, of a left persuasion, were appropriately punished. Who knows when the “activist civil servants” will be the next on the list!. Some argue that the Public Order Bill is another attempt to curb freedoms that we have previously enjoyed, and time will tell where the line should be drawn between the right to object and protest and the right of others to go about their daily lives with the continuance of what many find unacceptable. So while we sleep walk into allowing the Public Order Bill to become law who would have expected the House of Lords to become one of the last bastions of public freedom.
As with many authoritarian regimes it begins with the vilification of movements and individuals, greater control of the means of communicating information and that would include the press and tv stations.….and all of this fueled by misinformation, disinformation and lies…..and this year’s version is “the culture wars”. As former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The recent quote/tribute from TV celebrity Amanda Holden after the death of Paul O Grady, said that he was not “woke” in any way……as if that was some measure of the quality of his life, tells us in no small way that this term “woke” is now used by mainstream media as something to be ashamed of which radically distorts the original meaning .
Woke is an African/American term about being awake to injustices and prejudices in society….and in simple terms suggests that you are sensitive to issues of racism, misogyny, and homophobia and it has come to encompass a broader awareness of social inequalities. Unfortunately, many have used this “accusation” as a means of justifying their denial that we need to recognise much more what we need to do as a society to respond to the needs of ethnic minorities, women, and LGBT communities. The reality is that many are fearful of diminishing the power of those in control who very often are “White” men….despite the optics in certain political platforms.
One of the big problems we have as a society is our refusal to accept that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies…..in other words institutional racism which implies that those occupying positions of responsibility may have been advantaged, and their securing of those positions was as much about what they are as who they are…..and that is a rationalisation that many will have difficulty in accepting. Sadly, very often where we find other than ”White” men occupying those powerful positions the proxies become more White and male than their predecessors. This Woke Thing is another crude attempt to retain the existing stratification of present society….and please do not get confused when we see Black people, women and gay people fronting these positions…..the oldest colonial trick in the book!
We are now living in strange times where qualities like sensitivity and compassion are seen as suspicious and undesirable traits….a society where assertions of initiatives to recognize disadvantage are seen as undeserved and “political correctness”, and a society where the status quo, very often White men, or their proxies, are perceived as disadvantaged…..all powerfully protected by the mediums of mass communication….and some may argue mass indoctrination!