My mate Cooldeep returned to Australia last year after living in rural Cambodia for five or six years. At some point – I think it was in November – he called me up and said to me, “what is wokeness, exactly?”
What an opportunity!
This mate of mine has been living outside a small village for hald a decade; lots of jungle, monkeys, fields with water buffalo, and – mercifully – spotty internet reception. I was talking to someone who’d never even been to Twitter.
“It’s a polemic … a false polemic in which …”
Here I hesitated, abruptly aware that – to my mind, at least – all polemics nowadays are inherently false. The word /polemic/ actually describes an impassioned, full-throated argument that is controversial. Many of us – thinking people, at least – tend to assume that any polemic carries with it connotations of falsehood.
“Wokeness,” I told my friend Cooldeep – a brown-skinned bloke with a Sikh dad, “is what they called Political Correctness in the 90s. In principle, it’s like ‘don’t be mean to minorities’. A generally good idea, ruined equally by both humorless supporters and idiotic bigots.”
There are – generally speaking – two groups of bellicose idiots on either side of this, and neither, has ever shown much evidence of humor. But both sides, the /woke/ and the /anti-work/ have one thing in common, which is that they don’t like people very much.
“I mean, you can tell, because they’re bullies.”
And I’m not doing that thing, in which I claim ‘both sides are bad’. /Most/ people are anti-racist. And I am all-about calling out racists and fascists. However, it hasn’t escaped me that ‘wokeness’ seems like it was conceived by people without any multicultural friends whatsoever. After all, real friendships are based on mutual mockery, because – I mean, /are we even friends/ if we can’t insult each other?
But wokeness is no limitation to me. Because – hear me out – I have a tremendously good sense of humor, which allows me to be funny within the (alleged) confines of (so-called) wokeness. No part of me, for example, feels compelled to make a wrongcard that might potentially ruin anybody’s day, or hurt the feelings of someone about the color of their skin.
That would be stupid. And hateful and boring and, in many ways, sad. Because, like it or not, there /are/ actual racists out there, victimizing human beings, and otherwise making folk miserable. I feel no affiliation with them. Because I’m not an asshole. I like people.
I mean, you can go to Wrongcards.com right now, and find ecards about necrophilia, ecards advocating arson, and … that site’s been there since 2008, meaning it predates so-called wokeness. There’s no hate there, whatsoever. I’ve never had to censor myself, because I’m not an asshole.
Wokeness isn’t making me walk a tight rope.
The other day, Cooldeep – who works in IT – was talking about programming jobs in Australia. I asked him what the most popular language used these days, and he said, “hindi”. Which, I think, I’m not supposed to laugh at. I said, “I am listening, and I am learning, Cooldeep.”
There are certain jokes I don’t feel qualified to make. It’s the same for Cooldeep. As a man with brown skin, he can’t say, “I feel safe around Queensland Police.”
I mean, /I/ can say that, but he can’t. But it appears I have digreseded.
“One of the downsides about so-called wokeness,” I said to him, “is that, because of what the British Empire did in India until roughly 1948, me – an Australian with primarily Irish ancestors – I feel irrationally uncomfortable about criticizing the television show, /Bridgerton/ –”
“Dude, I /hate/ that show,” Cooldeep says. “It falsely portrays my ancestors as being socially and economically equal to Europeans! It washes over everything!”
“Does it, Cooldeep? I am listening and I am learning.”
“I don’t like this wokeness thing,” he grumbled.
I shrugged. “It’s a bit of a moral panic. But I like it, in a way. I like people talking about it.” Privately, I admit to myself that the people who talk about wokeness the most do it really, really badly. Then again, “It’s the anti-woke crowd who I find annoying. Wait until you see /them/, Cooldeep.”
I shake my head. “You’d think so, but they’re a multiethnic crowd of filthy rich people. Afterall, to most rich people, being an asshole is what being rich is all about. It’s not just how they got there – it’s /why/ they got there.”
Good people, generally speaking, aspire to become nurses and teachers. They don’t aaspire to manage hedge funds. They go volunteer, and help at soup kitchens. They don’t think, “I want go work on Wall Street, and destroy American businesses with predatory short-selling.”
Good people don’t think, “I want to sew dissent and hatred among the poor. I
They own newspapers.”
Furthermore, I submit this as axiom –anybody who thinks being nice to trans people is
What a wonderful cartoon world it would be if the greatest threat any of us faced was wokeness.
We’re somewhat living through a golden age of quality television writing. But we’re not living through a golden age of comedy.
There are far fewer comedians talking to truth to power than we think. Ricky Gervais seems to be one.
But professional performers like Dave Chapelle, whose net worth is in the upper tens of millions, toe the party line. They function as intermediaries for the wealthiest class. When Chapelle appeared on stage with the socially-stunted robbert baron, Elon Musk, and defended him from a chorus of boos, he wasn’t being brave; he was being /paid/. His anti-semetic jokes on SNL weren’