I’ve recently read a few things by Freddie deBoer, described by Wikipedia as “an American academic and author”, as well as an “author and a socialist,” and so far he looks like a prominent person to follow. Reader cesar clued me into this piece on his eponymous Substack column, which you can read for free. (But remember to subscribe if you keep reading the site.) This is a very short piece so I won’t quote much, but it makes two assertions with a great deal of wit:
1.) Members of the Woke Brigade object to every term, phrase, or definition used to describe them—especially “woke”. (And yes, I know where the word came from.)
2.) They do this on purpose to avoid criticism.
Click to read:
deBoer was prompted to write because of the tweet below from Adam Serwer, a writer for The Atlantic.
I have no idea whether Serwer is woke, but I for one would be glad to explain what I mean: “woke” refers to those people who want to effect social justice (an admirable goal) but do so by either performative, non-effective acts or going to ludicrous extremes of writing or speaking. In general, wokeness either harms or has no effect on true liberalism. Two cases in point: preventing Dorian Abbot from giving a lecture on climate change at MIT, and protesting “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. And let’s not forget all those “Grievance Studies” that Pluckrose et al. were mocking: real papers on stuff like the unbearable whiteness of pumpkins, or yogurt, or Pilates, or glaciology. Enough said.
Two excerpts from deBoer, and you’re invited put your own definition of “wokeness” in the comments. I will keep using the word in the sense described above.
. . . no [using] woke, it’s a “dogwhistle” for racism. (The term “dogwhistle” is a way for people to simply impute attitudes you don’t hold onto you, to make it easier to dismiss criticism, for the record.) But the same people say there’s no such thing as political correctness, and they also say identity politics is a bigoted term. So I’m kind of at a loss. Also, they propose sweeping changes to K-12 curricula, but you can’t call it CRT, even though the curricular documents specifically reference CRT, and if you do you’re an idiot and also you’re a racist cryptofascist. Also nobody (nobody!) ever advocated for defunding the police, and if they did it didn’t actually mean defunding the police. Seems to be a real resistance to simple, comprehensible terms around here. Serwer is a guy who constantly demands that he and his allies be allowed to do politics on easy mode, but he’s just part of a broader communal rejection of basic self-definition and comprehensible terms for this political tendency. Also if you say things they don’t like they might try to beat you up. Emphasis on try.
and one more:
The basic stance of the social justice set, for a long time now, has been that they are 100% exempt from ordinary politics. BlackLivesMatter proponents have spent a year and a half acting as though their demand for justice is so transcendently, obviously correct that they don’t have to care about politics. When someone like David Shor gently says that they in fact do have to care about politics, and points out that they’ve accomplished nothing, they attack him rather than do the work of making their positions popular. Well, sooner or later, guys, you have to actually give a shit about what people who aren’t a part of your movement think. Sorry. That’s life. The universe is indifferent to your demand for justice, and will remain so until you bother to try to change minds. Nobody gives you what you want. That’s not how it works. Do politics. Think and speak strategically. Be disciplined. Work harder. And for fuck’s sake, give me a simple term to use to address you. Please? Because right now it sure looks like you don’t want to be named because you don’t want to be criticized.
DeBoer desperately asks readers to give an acceptable term for Wokeness, but I think it’s a losing cause. “Wokeness” has already stuck, and most people have a pretty good idea of what it means. Any attempt to change it will meet the fate of the word “Brights” suggested by Dan Dennett to refer to “philosophical naturalists.” Have you heard anybody use it in the last couple of years except to mock it?