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The internet, these days, is a weird place for feelings and emotions. Photo: iStock
The internet, these days, is a weird place for feelings and emotions. Photo: iStock

Letter from… a state of wokeness

Mostly, 'woke' is used with the full force of the derision that the internet seems to have for any human feeling or emotion not charged with political expediency

There are few terms that rile me up quite like “woke". Really. I hate it very much. Not because the term itself is repugnant. It is not. Woke, as I understand it, is used to describe someone who suddenly seems cognizant of some kind of moral, ethical, social (etc.) problem. So if you suddenly talk about air pollution and crackers in New Delhi? Odds are somebody is going to call you a “woke" environmentalist or some such.

Now, this isn’t so much of a problem if “woke" is used as some sort of term of endearment. As a term of admiration. You have started caring about something enough to talk about it. Good for you. You are trying to make the world a better place.

Oh no. I wish. But no. More often than not, “woke" is used with the full force of the derision that the internet seems to have for any kind of human feeling or emotion that is not charged with political expediency. (Nobody uses terms like “woke" in real life except the exceptionally naive or the exceptionally douchebag.)

As if suddenly caring for something is a bad thing. (It can be, if you suddenly care for something like white supremacy or genocide. But I’ve rarely seen “woke" used for someone who suddenly turns to bigotry.)

The internet, these days, is a weird place for feelings and emotions.

Feel for nothing and you are an insensitive shell of a person, with no values.

Feel for something and you are a hypocrite because why don’t you care for something else?

Feel for everything and you are a snowflake social justice warrior.

Talk about your feelings and you are virtue-signalling.

And, god forbid you decide to feel for something new. Because then you are “woke".

So how does somebody like me, who essentially spent the first 30 years of his life in a whirlwind of schools, coaching classes, engineering college, business school, rookie jobs and so on, with the most ignorant possible view of the world, his country, politics and economics, cope?

Iron carbon diagram? Bessemer process? Wolff-Kishner reaction? NPV calculations? Those I can explain—or pretend to explain—with reasonable adeptness.

But Marxist theory? Indirect taxes? Quantitative easing? Feminism? Universal basic income? Now those… I know infinitely less about. Thankfully, there are a handful of ways by which you can brazen it out on the internet despite your ignorance. Either you can find someone else who seems to know what they are talking about, and vaguely seems to share your politics, and join their army. Screaming at the same people, RT-ing the same stuff.

Or you can just mouth off; boosting and bolstering the emptiness of your ideas with the twin elixirs of loudness and rudeness and knowing full well that, in 48 hours, no one will remember a single thing. Also, rude people are super viral these days.

There is a third way. You can just ask people to help you. Ask for links, books, ideas. I do it all the time. And it doesn’t always end in disaster. If you can get past the stupid, the rude and the blowhards, you may end up getting all kinds of help from all kinds of nice people.

Just remember a few rules that I’ve set up for myself. That I try to adhere to. (Mostly. I fail often. Especially when I make jokes.)

1. Don’t be an asshole

2. Don’t entertain assholes. Especially the knowledgeable ones. They are the worst. Idiots don’t know better. Smart assholes on the other hand…

3. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to someone in real life.

4. If you must punch, punch up. Never punch down.

5. Say sorry if you screw up. (But not to assholes. Because this will make them worse.)

6. And be woke by all means. Even if people call you woke. Cynicism and caring are both emotional things, but only one of those gets things done.

Comments are welcome at feedback@livemint.com

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