Opinion | The intolerant new religion that is perceived victimhood4 min read . Updated: 09 Sep 2019, 12:36 AM IST
Wokeness makes moral judgements on individuals based only on race, caste, gender and sexuality
In July, the city of Berkeley in California decided to purge gender from its law books. “Manhole" would now be “maintenance hole". No “sisters" or “brothers"; only “siblings". “He" and “she" will be “they", even if referring to one person. “Women and non-binary folks are just as entitled to accurate representation," said a City Council spokesperson. What’s going on, I asked a US-based friend. “Wokeness," he replied.
Last month, a national daily carried a piece on whether parents should ask their children before hugging and kissing them. Apparently, yes. Some psychologists feel that a child needs to be taught the idea of consent early. Now, little children have every right to refuse to be coochie-cooed by random uncles, but parents asking their four-year-old, “Do you think it’s okay if I give you a hug, dear?" That’s unnatural! But woke parenting is in. I am now waiting for a column by a therapist on when a child should be told by “their" parents that “they" can be cisgender, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexual, asexual, or two-spirit.
I watched Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and then read some reviews in the Western press. I was shocked. Wokeness has trumped film sense. The New Yorker called the film “ridiculously white", and said it “celebrates white-male stardom". So, Tarantino should have made Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate and the Manson gang non-White. And, casting White male stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt is a crime. Time counted all lines of dialogue spoken in Tarantino’s films, and found that women voiced only 27.7% of them. I suppose Tarantino has to now remake Reservoir Dogs with four of the six bank robbers as Asian lesbians.
“Woke" is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice". Nothing wrong with that per se. Except that “wokeness" is now a religion for many millennials, an illogical, intolerant religion of perceived victimhood.
To the woke, there are only two types of people—the bigot and the victim. In the West, the White heterosexual male is by definition a bigot (unless he exhaustively proves his wokeness). In India, it is the upper-caste Hindu heterosexual male (that’s me). The victims are all non-White and non-upper-castes, all women, gays and transsexuals. They are born to be subjected to an oppressive patriarchy, while the White or upper-caste man carries privilege in his DNA and rules the system (even if he is starving to death). Wokes do not value an individual for the content of his or her character, but instead make prejudicial assessments based on race, caste, gender and sexuality.
Science is a patriarchal tool to oppress the victims, and its claimed objectivity is just a ploy to keep you chained. In 2017, two US scientists decided to test woke stupidity, and got a paper published in a peer-reviewed social sciences journal claiming that penises are causing climate change.
It gets sillier. Last December, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) suggested animal-friendly alternatives to common idioms: “feed two birds with one scone" instead of “kill two birds with one stone"; “be the test tube" instead of “be the guinea pig"; “feed a fed horse" in place of “beat a dead horse". But even this was not woke enough for some. “This is so tone deaf I’m almost positive that the team behind this was mostly white," went a rant.
The most vocal wokes, however, have one thing in common: A privileged background. In the West, the most expensive colleges have the largest number of woke students (who are mostly White). In India, the wokest are likely to be scions from wealthy families educated in Western colleges. And few wokes seem to progress from tirades on social media to actual action to help real victims. Urbandictionary.com, the crowd-sourced online lexicon for slang, defines “woke" thus: “Being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue."
On Twitter, Titania McGrath—“Activist. Healer. Radical intersectionalist poet. Selfless and brave"—has 334,000 followers. Sample tweets: “I had been breastfed for the first six months of my life. Did my mother not realise that I was vegan? Did she even care? Either way, this was abuse." “Speaking or writing in English is an act of colonial violence." “The UK government’s negative attitude towards ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] reeks of racism and Islamophobia. Why can’t we just get along?"
She rapidly achieved woke icon status after she began tweeting in April 2018. Then, in March, it was revealed that Titania was the invention of writer Andrew Doyle. It was a parody account.
Doyle told Spiked magazine: “The obsession with victimhood from predominantly bourgeois political commentators is something I have always found inherently funny… They have an unshakeable certainty that their world-view is correct… Titania was an attempt to highlight the inescapable hypocrisies of such a mindset." Titania has a book out now, Woke: A Guide To Social Justice. “Those who fail to buy a copy will be guilty of hate crime", “she" tweeted. I’m trying hard to get rid of the “bigot" label. I’ve bought the book.
Sandipan Deb is a former editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines