Hello. My name is Max. I am woke


Hello. My name is Max. I am woke

MAX DU PREEZ is no longer a libtard, a commie fellow traveller or a left-wing whiner. He's just woke now. Well, sort of. Vuka!


AH, the nostalgia for the good old days when “political correctness" was still a thing. Now, anything sensitive to injustice and a violation of human dignity, anything empathetic, is just woke — unless it concerns your own thinking/group.

Woke has become the most overused political slur. You no longer say someone is “left-wing" or a “libtard", you just say they are woke. That good old smear from the old days, communist, doesn't work any more either, but is dragged in again: wokeness is supposedly cultural Marxism. Uncle Karl is turning in his grave.

Woke was initially black American slang for “be awake". It was used more than half a century ago during the campaign for black civil rights, but it was only popularised in the last decade and has acquired a broader meaning.

(There is no suitable Afrikaans translation for woke. In German, it is sometimes translated as gesellschaftliche Wachsamkeit [social vigilance], Dutch speakers talk about bewust, the French about conscientisé and Spaniards about despierto, but woke is now an international word. By the way, the Nguni and Swahili word vuka means to stand up, to wake up.)

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Today, wokeness is at the heart of the American culture wars. The crusade against wokeness, rather than a discussion of policies, is at the core of Donald Trump (“everything woke turns to shit") and the Republicans' election campaign.

Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson and Marjorie Taylor-Greene are the high priests of the fight against wokeness, with fundamentalist evangelicals as their altar boys.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's rallying cry during his campaign to become the Republican presidential candidate was, “We will never surrender to the woke mob." He even enacted a law against wokeness in his state.

This hysteria has now spread to other countries, including South Africa, but here the DA's “classical liberals" are also part of the fight against woke, with Helen Zille at the forefront — she even recently wrote a book, #Stay Woke Go Broke.

If you are sensitive to racism, structural or everyday, you are woke.

If you promote LGBTQ+ rights, you are woke.

If you warn against transphobia, you are woke squared.

If you believe in women's reproductive rights, you are woke.

Activists against climate change and critics of the coal and oil industries are also simply woke.

If you sympathise with the plight of migrants, you are woke.

If your eyebrows rise at ultra-nationalism or ethnic chauvinism, you are woke.

If you encourage people to choose their words carefully when speaking against the “other" — different from your own race, class, nationality, ethnicity, culture, gender, belief — that is pure woke.

If you believe in the separation of church and state and in religious freedom, you are woke.

And only the ultra-wokes (sis!) will ever bring up concepts like white privilege or fragility or patriarchy.

In recent months, even people who are upset about the number of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza, like protesters on American and European university campuses, are dismissed as woke. (If only there had been more wokes during the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide.)

Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, Georgia Miloni of Italy, Marine le Pen of France and Javier Milei of Argentina are at the forefront of the international war against wokeness.

The wokes are not just mere political and social virtue-signallers, oh no, they threaten Western civilisation. The Woke Danger.

Here is the former professor of law at the University of Pretoria and fellow of Solidarity's Centre for Constitutional Dynamics, Koos Malan, in a recent article on Netwerk24: “This zeal to destroy the West has since come mainly from within the Western core — from western Europe and North America — namely a scene of extremist leftist ideological forces, of which wokeism is the latest mutation." Elsewhere in the piece, he equates wokeism with “anti-civilisation".

I could make a strong case for exactly the opposite: the growing Trump-like populism with its strong authoritarian, ethno-nationalist, hyper-capitalist and intolerant streak is the greatest threat to Western “civilisation". The people who stand against this, who advocate for a softer, more empathetic and compassionate society, are the salvation.

The hippies of the Sixties, the protesters against America's war in Vietnam, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement, organisations like the Black Sash and the End Conscription Campaign were also woke, as were the original Vrye Weekblad and the old Weekly Mail.

Few people today can credibly argue that these movements were not for the better.

The previous version of woke, political correctness, was equally reviled. (I'm not referring to political brown-nosing here.) Today, almost all of us are more careful with, for example, the labelling of gays and lesbians and racial groups, we count our words when referring to women and feminists and to mentally ill and disabled individuals.

And along with that, attitudes have softened. That's a good thing, isn't it?

Woke is not a party, church or organisation you can belong to. It doesn't have a constitution or a policy manifesto. This means there is a whole spectrum of woke: from progressive people for whom everyone's dignity is important, as I would describe myself, to zealots who want to make rules about who can say what and see themselves as the final arbiters of good and evil — who themselves become intolerant.

The “dangers" of wokeness that people like Zille point out — cancel culture, lived experience, critical race theory, queer theory, decolonisation, identity politics — all have inherent value but are sometimes driven to extremes and abused by some. (Most of these concepts actually exist only in academic writings.)

The uncomfortable truth is that conservatives and the right themselves practice things like cancel culture and identity politics, sometimes more extremely than the wokes — hello, Solidarity!

Afrikaner nationalism also believed in a form of decolonisation and took it further than the woolly talk on our campuses these days. And just after Zille railed against the concept of lived experience in her book, she uses her own lived experience to justify her views.

Wokes are also frequently chastised when they talk about triggers and microaggressions, and much of this irritates me too.

But no one in South Africa is as talented at sniffing out triggers and microaggressions against Afrikaners and the right as Ernst Roets and Co. of AfriForum and Solidarity. Conservatives and ethnic nationalists are just as oversensitive about things done and said against them as the worst wokes are. #BoereWoke

Yes, I am woke.

I instinctively stand behind the oppressed, the humiliated and the poor.

I mostly find myself in solidarity with the much-maligned social justice warriors.

I am sensitive to neurodiversity, to fellow humans whose brains and understanding of their sexuality and gender identity are different from mine.

I hate machismo, bombast, power, militarism, imperialism, violence and war.

I will always fight against racism, ethnic chauvinism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

I believe in non-racialism but not in colour blindness.

I believe in facts and science, in open conversation and freedom of speech.

I am always wary of all forms of power.

I believe in absolute freedom of religion.

I am a democrat in the deepest sense of the word. I support a rules-based international dispensation, recognised international law and multilateral diplomacy. 

In short: I believe human dignity and the progressive development of my species and my planet are the highest values.

And I am woke enough to send charlatans who abuse wokeness for a new intolerance and restriction of personal freedom to hell.


♦ VWB ♦

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