Cracks in the Woke Armor
One of the things I could never “get on board with,” even as nearly all of the adults in my life (including the very liberal church I grew up in) repeatedly told me that we “make our own meaning” in life. That filled me with such despair and confusion, though I didn’t know why yet, that it was all I could do to cling to the hope that it wasn’t true. I engaged in “soul searching” as a kid because that’s what teen girls in the late ’90s/early 2000s were instructed to do, and I could never be sure of my results. I was supposed to affirm myself based on…myself? My decisions alone? What of all the talk of “we need each other?” I have never been able to see how life could have any meaning if I were alone — and by alone, I didn’t just mean single or without friends. I meant the only one constructing reality for myself. I mentioned this to a therapist I was seeing in high school, and her only advice was, “fake it till you make it.” I had not come to Jesus yet, but I knew that her advice, as well as the culture’s proclamation that we each make our own meaning, was emotionally, relationally, and logically bankrupt!
The first crack in the full-blown Woke armor I had donned by my mid-20s came from the trends I started seeing in the writing/literary world.
I’ve been a writer since childhood and regularly engage with other writers in various forms. The first thing I saw was a “list of identities” journals were choosing to label “marginalized” — and then, the quiet removal of women from that list. That was weird, given that, globally and historically, women are the most marginalized “minority” group, and the Woke religion claims to advocate for the marginalized.
Second, I saw the following switch happen simultaneously across all the classes/groups/ platforms/podcasts/journals related to writing I was involved in or followed. Until about four or five years ago, discussions and feedback were centered on craft. But then, writers started to talk about who was “allowed” to write what kind of character. Were men “allowed” to write female characters? Were white writers “allowed” to write nonwhite characters? Not only was I sure that this would drastically reduce the quality of the writing produced from these discussions (most writing that starts from a place of agenda/ulterior motive rather than an interesting character will), but I saw this as a self-defeating move. The Woke movement started out advocating for empathy, understanding, and inclusion of those who chose to carry the label “marginalized.” But gatekeeping identity works at cross-purposes with that mission: to write good, well-rounded, believable, realistic characters with whom you do not share particular identities requires…wait for it…efforts to understand, empathize, and include people who have the identities of your character. Fiction is one of the most powerful tools for creating empathy we humans have; it makes no sense to create echo chambers of identities if your goal is diversity, acceptance, and empathy.
Plus, I knew, thanks to a truly gifted Advanced Placement European History teacher I had as a senior in high school (back in the early “aughts”), that one of the first things totalitarian regimes do is attempt to control the use of language. First, the government dictates what you can’t say. Then they tell you what you have to say. (Is “1984″ or “Brave New World” no longer required reading in high school? Or are they just teaching these as instruction manuals rather than warnings now?).
Speaking of language use, another crack in the Radical Leftist/Woke armor I had been put into in childhood was the realization of how environmentalists talk about humans as genocidal. Environmentalists regularly say that humans are a “cancer” or “virus” on the planet and talk about how we need to drastically reduce the population to save the planet. I had to leave the environmentalist movement even before I learned of its many inaccuracies, vies for control, and ulterior motives; they had no good answers to my question: “So, who decides who stays and who goes?”
That will be the subject of my next article, and in the many questions, it has become clear to me that the Woke movement cannot satisfactorily answer.