On Being Woke
Being “woke” doesn’t mean going off at the injustice of the moment, sharing all the links and telling the world how you stand on the right side of everything.
Because if you are woke, you know, from the start, that you don’t stand on the right side. That you are one of the many parts of the problem. That no matter what the nasty thing of the moment is, you, personally, are a part of ow that came into being, no matter ow hard you struggled to resist it.
You are a part of the system, of the structure, and your Agency is not enough, alone, to change it — even when that system is built to benefit you or built to hurt you.
This is why “woke” is a thing. It is a hard thing, an unpleasant thing in this world. A thing that does not offer comfort or make you feel,like you are a good person. There is no reward for being woke — indeed, being woke makes it harder, sharpens anger, encourages cynicism, and distances you from everyone you know.
There is, then, no reward for yourself in being woke, and people don’t like it when they get nothing for doing something good — they have been taught that you do good for a reason, for a reward, for a purpose that gives you something In the here and now.
From Magnificent Obsession to Pay it Forward, they have been sold on the idea that they get something from being a decent human being; that they can benefit from it.
When you post your celebrity hates, your “this person isn’t good enough”, the thing you are doing is trying to gain your reward.
You are trying to fit in, to use the collective anger about some injustice to show the world you are a good guy, on the side of the angels. While often you forget the other side of things is posting their take for the same reasons.
The truth is not in the middle. The truth is not warm and fuzzy, the truth is not cold and hard and unhappy.
It is just the truth. It is as cold or as warm as you need it to be, because the truth is always an idea made into an ideal, and is neither cold nor warm, comforting nor harmful.
It is just the truth.
Like life, the fairness of the truth is solely dependent on your decisions and feelings and ways of dealing,accepting, and using it.
There is no defending of yourself when you are woke. You don’t get to be defensive, to say “Well, I think…”, to claim that you don’t do something for this reason, or that you are doing it for a cause larger than yourself, because when you are woke, you know, before you even get defensive, or before you have even thought, or before you start to say that this s really what that flag means or this is why that word isn’t supposed to be used to describe an oppressive class or before you have even started to unpack privilege according to the rules of some silly checklist on Buzzfeed, that you are part of the problem, and the sole purpose of all that stuff is let you know that, and to help you see the problem of which you are a part and parcel, more clearly, instead of making yourself feel more special, feel less hurtful, be more wonderful.
Being woke means you hurt. You hurt when a good thing is attacked for not being good enough or because someone associated with it wasn’t good enough.
You hurt when a person you admire — perhaps for being so woke — is shown or said or even does before you a shitty thing.
You hurt when you see people fall prey to the cult of personality that infects our world, defending their chosen hero or heroine beyond reason itself, beyond hope.
It means that you try to teach, knowing that no one will listen to you, that fame will escape you, that your life, as an individual, is generally invisible and meaningless — especially if you are a person of color, or a sexual minority, or a woman, because you are woke and you realize that your world is built that way.
But you do it anyway. Not because you are woke.
But because so many people are still sleeping, and it is lonely being awake.