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The word “woke” has been bandied around in progressive circles since the early 2010s. Ironically, “woke” has become a pejorative term used to denigrate those who signal their virtue without doing much to advance any progressive cause. Woke individuals are, as the rule (that I just invented) goes, more concerned with making themselves look good and using their platform (or building a platform) to abuse others under the guise of combating social injustice.
None of this has, of course, gone unnoticed by the woke progressives who use the term without any sense of irony whatsoever. In an op-ed for the Guardian, writer Steve Rose opines that the word “woke” has been “weaponized by the right.” But whose fault is that, exactly? It’s certainly not the fault of those tired of being moralized and lectured to that they might repurpose the term to mock those who engage in cancel campaigns against any celebrity or public figure guilty of perceived unwokeness.
Citing the Merriam-Webster, Rose says that the term “woke” refers to anyone “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” And much like the term “political correctness,” the term has come to mean the opposite of what it means—or so he claims.
But is that truly the case? Those who elevate themselves through wokeness have little interest in combating social injustices and simply use it as a shield for their own bigotry, and to shut down dissenting opinions. Their wokeness, if it exists at all, is performative.
This isn’t to say that one can simply go about spouting racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted remarks without pushback from any decent and reasonable person. Decent and reasonable people don’t care about being “woke.” “Woke” individuals, as it were, cultivate their entire personalities around the fight for social justice without much to show for it besides preening at everyone else on Twitter.
Wokeness has become a social status symbol more than anything else, and the “Right,” or the “unwoke,” or whatever you want to call us continue to be reasonable people while rubbing our lack of wokeness in the face of those who rally around the hollow symbol.
Case in point: Guardian writer, Steve Rose, attacks actor Laurence Fox for—you guessed it, unwokeness. He writes:
“Laurence Fox nailed his colours to the latter mast this weekend, doubling down on his defence of the privileged white male on last week’s Question Time to a Sunday Times article under the banner ‘Why I won’t date ‘woke’ women’. Toby Young piled in, applauding how Fox was ‘terrorising the Wokerati’, while the Sun last weekend branded Harry and Meghan ‘the oppressive King and Queen of Woke’.”
Rose argues that rather than simply rejecting the concept of wokeness, detractors of the term, like Fox, only criticize wokeness as “way of claiming victim status for yourself rather than acknowledging that more deserving others hold that status. It has gone from a virtue signal to dog whistle.”
On the contrary, any individual who makes claims to wokeness isn’t so much of a victim as they are a participant in the race for social status. Being unwoke doesn’t give you an entry pass into a separate league of oppression.
Laurence Fox has been outspoken in his lack of wokeness, simply speaking his mind and saying it like it is with no regard for how supposedly offensive it is to not be mindful to those who hold wokeness up as a virtue in and of itself. He isn’t claiming to be a victim—like any decent and reasonable person, he’s rejecting victimhood entirely. And it’s working.