WHAT is "Wokenesss" and why has it been turned into yet another slur by the Right? My take will be unsettling to those who use the word to bash the Dems and the left, because I will argue being fully human entails being fully conscious - acting as a sentient being- and that is the essence of being "woke" (e.g. aware). I will also maintain the problem with so many on the Right is they have lost the capacity for self-awareness itself or what I call subjective wokeness. Rather than being derogatory, then, being "woke" is a sign of sentience and being human. Acting on being woke then, also means challenging the unwoke or anti-woke, i.e. those who are zombies or use only the lizard brain.
The pursuit of the fight to awaken fellow citizens is necessary given the aftermath of Trump's 4+ years of lies, psychological chaos and trashing of norms and consciousness for millions. We simply cannot advance as a nation if up to half the population are unconscious zombies, cling to Trump's lies (e.g. Biden stole the election) or believe democracy is passe . As noted by one recent author (Jan-Werner Muller, 'Democracy Rules') one of the worst aspects of the Trump years was "flooding the zone with info-feces." The torrent of incessant lies and attacks basically made it impossible to distinguish facts from fantasy. Simply put, look at the explosion of conspiracy ideations, and warped portrayals of everything from Covid itself, to lockdowns, masks and vaccines. The end result? Over 600,000 Americans dead, and more likely to follow.
Neither is fighting under the banner of more awareness un-American. Elizabeth Rose is a law student who has argued, for example, in “In Defense of Cancel Culture” last year that “for all the condemnations on cancel culture as an un-American speech suppressing monster, I would argue that cancel culture is incredibly American.”
Cancel culture, she continued,
is essentially a boycott. It’s refusing to participate or support those that promote racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic, or otherwise ignorant behavior. Protest is at the heart of this country and it shouldn’t be limited in the name of making already powerful people feel safer to spew ideas that are not tolerable in today’s society. Because exposure by millions is so easy now with social media, celebrities, rich, powerful, connected, and beautiful, can no longer get away with disrespecting human dignity. They are not being held to a higher standard for being a public figure, they are being held to the bare minimum.
The foot-stamping insistence on individual rights obliterates what should be a tension between those rights and the well-being of the community as a whole. This is all the more relevant at a time when the political implications of unbridled individualism, represented by capitalism’s self-made man, have never been clearer.
These are all points made decades ago, in a similar context, by Yale professor Charles A. Reich in his book, 'The Greening of America'. Reich envisioned the path past false consciousness to entail evolution through three stages he called "Consciousness I, Consciousness II, and Consciousness III".
Consciousness I identified with the nation’s early self-reliance; Consciousness II associated with the conformism of the New Deal era; and Consciousness III marked an unshackling from the stifling moral constraints of the 1950s, focusing on spiritual fulfillment. In today's context that fulfillment - independent of religious affiliation- would have recognized Trump's total lack of any moral compass and hence his unfitness as a leader. Especially one who actually said - according to the recent book,“I Alone Can Fix It,” : "Hitler did a lot of good things!" Earning a swift rebuke from Gen. John Kelly, i.e. 'You can't just say things like that!' A woke or aware person would not have to be told that.
(Trump denied the Hitler comment but a guy who's racked up 31,000 -odd lies doesn't get to correct a published record. Sorry.)
Enter now Charles Reich and his description (op. cit, p. 392) of the unaware or 'unwoke' in the 1960s, which matches the millions in the same boat today under the spell of Trumpism and GOP- FOXite sedition, propaganda, lies:
"He is unable to understand his society, unable to vote in a responsible way, unable to communicate with his own children or to understand their culture. He is allowed to become human wreckage because his mind stopped growing while all the elements around him moved ahead."
Should this forlorn unwoke citizen be allowed to just flounder and fiddle through his life, misfiring on all cylinders- never enhancing or improving his lot, or his nation's? Worse, deforming and defiling the remaining democratic edifice for those citizens who are woke, via Thomas Jefferson's immortal words in his 'Notes on Virginia'?:
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. AND TO RENDER THEM SAFE, THEIR MINDS MUST BE IMPROVED."
Today's conscious citizen says 'No!'. The unwoke, unaware, and mentally impaired (by ingesting info-feces) need to be helped out of their unconscious state like an anesthetized surgery patient from his own oblivion. But the Right and its useful idiots don't want this because it's to their political advantage to keep vast numbers unwoke, unaware of how they are being used.
One such useful idiot is the dyspeptic nincompoop Kevin Drum who wrote this pap recently: ( If you hate the culture wars, blame liberals)
"I've made this point many times before, and I want to make it again more loudly and more plainly today. It is not conservatives who have turned American politics into a culture war battle. It is liberals. And this shouldn't come as a surprise: Almost by definition, liberals are the ones pushing for change while conservatives are merely responding to whatever liberals do. More specifically, progressives have been bragging publicly about pushing the Democratic Party leftward since at least 2004—and they've succeeded."
What planet is this loopy, congenitally unwoke imbecile living on? Are progressives pushing to curtail voting and reproductive rights? To limit or outlaw abortions, even trash Roe v Wade? To militate against removing Confederate (traitor) statuary? Are progressives loading school boards with intellectual misfits and pedagogical dinosaurs to subvert teaching on everything from American history to evolution? No - it is anti-woke conservos! THEY are the ones who go off half -cocked based on converting a unit of thought or phrase- like "wokeness" or "critical race theory"- into an epithet to incite or prolong the culture wars which began with Jerry Falwell in the Reagan era.
Little wonder then that WSJ op -ed writers like Peggy Noonan ('The Culture War Is A Leftist Offensive', WSJ, p. A13, July 10-11) have now had their brains infected by such "info- feces", this BS spewed by the likes of Drum and his ilk. As when she writes, citing a data geek named David Shor- also cited by Drum:
"white liberals have become a larger and larger share of the Democratic Party. But whites are 'sorting on ideology' more than nonwhite voters. “We’ve ended up in a situation where white liberals are more left wing than Black and Hispanic Democrats on pretty much every issue: taxes, health care, policing, and even on racial issues or various measures of ‘racial resentment.’ ”
Mr. Drum speculates that “the whole woke movement in general” has turned off many moderate voters. “Ditto for liberal dismissal of crime and safety issues.”
He ends: “And for God’s sake, please don’t insult my intelligence by pretending that wokeness and cancel culture are all just figments of the conservative imagination. Sure, they overreact to this stuff, but it really exists, it really is a liberal invention, and it really does make even moderate conservatives feel like their entire lives are being held up to a spotlight and found wanting.”
Oblivious to the fact there is no "woke movement" any more than there is a critical race theory movement or atheist "movement." Nor are liberal whites "sorting on ideology" but rather articulating dynamics for a raised political consciousness, i.e. which liberates all races from the yoke of lies, false conspiracies and propaganda.
As Charles Reich put it there is simply an ongoing aspiration to increased consciousness, and not allowing one's mind to rot and become "wreckage" - or prey to any vicious memes that might infect it. That must also mean challenging those forces, memes that would inflict such infection and spread it. Hence the necessity for what the Right derisively calls "cancel culture" - but which is actually control of toxic mind viruses via multiple, serial linguistic "brain enemas".
That Noonan could write such twaddle in her column, especially that the drive to higher political consciousness has "turned off" moderates, could only mean - if true- the latter are already brain- infected. They need help, but not Peggy's carrying toxic mind sludge for the likes of Drum, Trump, Mitch McConnell, Lauren Boebert or any other unwoke numskull. As Prof. Henry Giroux has spelled it out:
" The erosion of public discourse and the onslaught of a culture of manufactured ignorance allows the intrusion of criminality into politics, as Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has put it. .. Under Trumpism, education has become an animating principle of violence, revenge, resentment and victimhood as a privileged form of identity. Political illiteracy has moved from the margins to the center of power and is now a crucial project that the Republican Party wants to impose on the wider public. "
Thus, if Noonan is correct about the "turn off" of moderates, it indicates they need education about the deformed politics of Trump that has warped their intellectual sensibilities and blunted their political perceptions. Ditto for Hispanics, black male voters and any others who have been enticed to migrate into the GOP- Trump camp of mental slavery, volitional paralysis and lies.
Let us take a step back here and also point out - in the context of Noonan's recent WSJ contributions - she's likely been given marching orders to shape up by her WSJ editors. They now demand she cease the Trump critiques and trying the insurrectionists. Instead, doing a reversion to the Noonan mean and attacking the left, Democrats, and "wokeism". Thus we see next Peggy chime in - praising the imp Kevin Drum:
"Good on him for speaking truth to rising power. The cultural provocations that are currently tearing us apart do, certainly and obviously, come from progressives. And the left seems to have no prudent fear of backlash. They don’t seem to believe public opinion counts for much anymore."
Puh-leeze! Get a grip there, Peggy. You don't have to bend that far back in the service of info-feces to appease your WSJ masters! But she doesn't, ending with this fulsome babble to try to prove to her editors she is still part of the "team":
"I end with what I think is the left’s misreading of its position. They act as if they’ve got everyone on the run, including those who show their movement the greatest respect in corporate suites and private offices. "
Peggy here proves she is the furthest thing from woke or aware if she believes this codswallop. Far from believing they have everyone "on the run" the left is terrified that the nation is two or three steps from into falling into terminal authoritarianism. Especially if the GOP's mission to implement mass voter suppression across multiple states succeeds. As usual Noonan is clueless, writing at the end
"Deep down, many of them - educators, business people, artists- would like to see the left knocked back on their feet. I think the left is overplaying its hand."
And I believe that you, Peggy, are overdoing your WSJ masters' marching orders, reverting to the troll you were at the end of last year just before the election. If anyone ever needed a heavy dose of wokeness, it's you.
Chancey Devega already dismembered Drum in one salon.com piece, writing::
In total, “Let's Be Careful With the 'White Supremacy' Label” is an example of piss poor analysis and argumentation. Drum’s errors are many and major.
White supremacy is a topic that demands serious care and attention. It is very difficult if not impossible in 500 or so words to distill down the hundreds if not thousands of books and articles that have been written on the topic. To attempt to do so, and thus write about white supremacy in a superficial manner, is at worst disingenuous and at best intellectually lazy.
Drum posed a question about the use of the term “white supremacy” — the answer to which is easily found with a minimum of effort. Of course, the application of the term "white supremacy" did not begin with Ta-Nehisi Coates. All Drum needed to do was to consider the readily available and much discussed work of freedom fighters such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass. White supremacy and the color line are not riddles. But to properly begin to grapple with them requires actual work and scholarship — not flippant, quasi-informed opinion.
There are, in fact, millions of white Americans who believe that African-Americans are less intelligent, genetically more similar to beasts and animals than fully developed human beings and are more prone to violence and other anti-social behaviors than are other groups of people. This has been complemented by Michael Tesler’s work that convincingly shows how “old-fashioned” racism is resurgent in America and now has a direct impact on white voters’ political party affiliation.
Other research has also demonstrated that on a subconscious level that many whites associate images of black people with those of apes and other primates. This is a function of how white supremacy dehumanizes black people — a lesson deeply ingrained in the American psyche.
:White supremacy is in no way a “fad”. To the contrary, as historians and philosophers such as David Goldberg, Charles Mills, Nell Irvin Painter, Barbara Ramsby and many others have shown, white supremacy is one of the most powerful social, political, economic forces in modern history. I detailed this several years ago in a piece for Alternet:
Austerity, neoliberalism, globalization, and the culture of cruelty are some of the most powerful social forces in post-Civil Rights America. White supremacy does not exist separate or apart from those ideologies and practices.