Far-right-wing fomenters of a hokey culture war preach being “not woke” as if being asleep to change is virtuous.
The craziest political word of the year is “woke,” as in “Don’t be woke!” It’s a command barked by far-right-wing fomenters of a hokey culture war and their political toadies. But if you’re not woke, doesn’t that mean you’re asleep?
Their intent is to demonize and shut up schoolteachers, preachers, librarians, historians, musicians, students, websites, business executives and any sensible human who dares speak (and act on) the truth that racism, sexism, poverty, environmental degradation and such are systemic blights in America. These pious censors of reality proclaim that anyone presenting less than a morally pure portrait of our history and society is a traitor whose voice must be suppressed. Indeed, these extremists demand that government act to ban public discussion and awareness of the injustices and prejudices that still shape and disgrace us.
The venality of the “Don’t be woke” crowd is fully embodied in the bloated ego of Florida’s autocratic governor, Ron DeSantis, who growls (like a Bull Connor segregationist of old) that his state is “where woke goes to die.”
That bit of nastiness reminded me of my own “woke” experience many years ago. As a child of the midcentury South, I was raised to accept the racial order and educated in totally segregated White classrooms, mindlessly going along with the blatantly racist system. In high school, though, I was blessed with some honest teachers, I began to read about reality, I watched reports of public authorities on TV brutalizing civil rights protesters, I lucked into attending an integrated state college, I made black friends… and I awoke!
Social, economic and cultural awakenings are what have made America historically significant. A political party screaming “Don’t be woke” is a party afraid of the people, wanting you, me and civil society to be asleep, out of it, in dreamland, torpid, inactive… dead. Are they stupid, or do they just hope we are?
There’s a new “ism” creeping into America’s vocabulary… and into our social order: bossism.
Being a boss can merely mean that you’re in charge — but in this age of glaring inequality and autocratic corporate rule, bossing has earned the derogatory connotation of being overbearing, tyrannical… a jerk. Amazingly, then, it’s precisely those detestable qualities that are drawing a group of uberrich Silicon Valley executives and financiers into an emerging cult of bossism. These high-tech elites are united in a belief that America’s workers have become too powerful, too uppity and too “woke,” so the geniuses at the top of the corporate totem pole are unifying to impose a new era of harsh labor policies on workers to “show ’em who’s boss.”
It’s the Revolt of Pampered Plutocrats against the democratic activism of the very people who do the creative and physical work that makes the bosses ridiculously rich. Bossism’s top-down arrogance is incredibly narcissistic, managerially disastrous and stupid. A measure of the tech execs’ stupidity is that they’ve embraced the most thuggish boss in the land as their idol and movement symbol: Elon Musk. Yes, the petty and petulant crybaby billionaire who botched his takeover of Twitter, then ham-handedly devastated its workforce by impetuously firing half of them and driving away hundreds more with his spoiled brat, anti-worker antics. He’s made himself such a symbol of brutish bossism that he now gets booed in public!
Yet, Silicon Valley’s little Elon wannabes have chosen him as their poster boy, hoping he will lead America back to a robber baron ethic of iron-fisted honchos who fire at will, dictate rules and conditions, strip away benefits and tolerate no dissent from those down below.
Their problem, though, is you — the workaday majority who refuse to bow down to the bossism of old. As the defiant blues song puts it, “Big boss man… You ain’t so big / You’re just tall, that’s all.”