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I find the debate around the term “woke” progressively ridiculous. The irony that I am now writing an article about it all has not been lost on me.
The imaginary woke vegan who marches for BLM and Extinction Rebellion has taken over from the black, one-legged, single mother who summed up “political correctness gone mad”. However, the woke vegan is polarising society to a far greater extent than political correctness ever did.
I agree with the woke direction of travel. Not many people think it is a good idea to connect people’s life chances with their skin colour, place of birth, religion, or sexual orientation. If I am being truthful, I sit in a highly privileged position, as a white male living in the shires of England. Effectively I have hit the jackpot, thanks to the happy incidence of who, what, where and when I was born. This proves, to me, we live in a society which is far away from the meritocracy towards which, in my view, we should be aspiring.
So far, so woke.
My issue is not with the prognosis but the cure. What the woke fail to consider is a viable alternative. On the Hollywood end of the scale, there is hand wringing “do as I say, not do as I do”; on the radical end there is the wholesale destruction of the institutions and liberties we have constructed and fought for since the end of the dark ages. The movement seems to want to subject, depress, and sermonise “The West” as being responsible for institutionalised suppression of minorities…and the alternative is to either moan or destroy.
If I get despondent about woke, then I am maddened by anti-woke. The anti-woke buckets anyone or anything into a woke conspiracy against “them”. Marxists, Feminists, Gary Lineker, Social Democrats, Transgender, BLM, Meghan, Climate Change, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Remoaners, and the BBC are all sneered at. Especially the BBC.
Key to the anti-woke is telling you what it stands against (be that woke or not), but it struggles to say what it stands for. Take their latest pin-up boy, Laurence Fox. He is standing for London Mayor in his capacity as leader of the Reclaim Party, bankrolled with up to £5 million over several years.
Fox has got some good one-liners, such as “Police streets not Tweets” and “Sadiq Can’t”. Fox wants freedom, rather as Mel Gibson did in Braveheart. We were meant to be getting a tsunami of freedom back from Brussels, but it never turned up, so he is looking elsewhere. He wants the freedom to not wear a face mask. He wants the freedom to reclaim things, like the right to insult. For example, someone called him a racist on Twitter, so he called them a paedophile. He definitely wants to defund the BBC, presumably to elevate the institution to the level of his Twitter interactions. There is also something about traffic in London – I think he is for it.
What I cannot find is a written manifesto for the Reclaim Party. I can find loads of videos on the party’s website, such as Fox talking about Western Civilisation being pulled down from within because of critical race theory. (It just isn’t.) I can also find a video of Fox supposedly unveiling a manifesto, but there seems to be no copy of it, digital or physical, for me to read. His multi-million pound fighting fund, it seems, does not give Fox the ability to actually publish a declaration of his party’s intentions. That would need him to have something to stand for, not against.
Someone who has nothing to do with the woke culture war, as far as I know, is the joker known as Count Binface. Like Laurence Fox he is also standing for London Mayor; in fact, the two are neck and neck in the polls. (Both are on one per cent.) The Count has written a manifesto that includes finishing Crossrail, free parking for electric vehicles between Vine Street and the Strand (look at the Monopoly board), London to re-join the EU and renaming London Bridge “Phoebe Waller-Bridge”. It says a lot that a man with a bin on his head stands for more concrete, achievable policies than either side of the woke culture wars.
Mainstream politicians are falling into the culture war trap. You see it with all the nationalists: whether they are blaming it on Brussels or Westminster the cry of Freedom is always the same. It’s a cry which means very little other than “it’s their fault”. When fighting to remain in the EU, Cameron et al just tried to scare us into the status quo, not give us a vision of the future. Today, Keir Starmer should be raining blow after blow on his political opponents, but he is not getting cut through because nobody knows what he believes. If the age of the anti-politician is to come to an end, leaders must tell us what they stand for, not just what they stand against.
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