Dear Woke Friend–
Before I take you to pieces, I’ll take a moment to define “wokeness.” I’m not referring to the original wokeness, which is alertness to and consciousness around systemic racism in America. That’s fine and vital, and shouldn’t bother anyone. No, I’m referring to co-opted wokeness, toxic wokeness, Karen Wokeness…
I’m referring to virtue signaling, public sanctimony, call-out culture, public shaming, cancel culture, mob behavior, liberal groupthink, and moral purity. I’m referring to activism by keyboard, unsolicited lecturing, and behaving like a human bumper sticker, all within the perceived yet illusory safety of your progressive bubble.
Friend! What is wrong with you? I thought you’d be done by now. Naive as I am, I figured the inevitable cultural shift of welcoming in a new president — one who doesn’t make a moment-to-moment practice of sticking his thumb in our country’s rawest political divides — would inspire you to sit the f’k down. But no, you’re still going, and I suppose it should come as no surprise…
After all, you’re not acting that way because you care about social justice. You’re acting that way because you’re addicted to the accolades and attention you can accumulate on social media by declaring your fervent allegiance to worthy causes and moral mindsets. So I know that I’m addressing an addict here, and that it’s my momentary dose of clarity versus your ongoing overdose of moral superiority, but hey, like I said: naive.
I’ll take my chances.
The causes are worthy, yet you are unworthy of them. No cause, no position, no line of thinking in human history has ever achieved lasting mass appeal by way of its adherents shoving it down other people’s throats. Note my use of the word “lasting.” Yes, you can declare war on your ideological enemies, and even crush them into pieces, but unless you smother every conceivable ember in that conflict, you can bet that a roaring fire will come back to haunt you.
In other words, wars are never truly won. Aggression is not the same as persuasion. And verbal volume should not be mistaken for noble wisdom.
You fool! I call you “friend,” yet rest assured, you’re not one. For I do not befriend those who march among mobs, regardless of the mob’s stated cause. The pitchfork in your hand disqualifies you from my friendship, for I know that once its prongs dry after your current woke adventure, they’ll very likely find their way into my back.
But this isn’t a letter about my lack of trust. It’s a letter about your waning relevance. See, your days are numbered. Time’s up, as the hashtag says. And if you read the last sentence and found me mocking sexual violence, rest assured that I was doing no such thing.
I was mocking your fake solutions and see-through posturing.
The human animal is ancient. We crawled out of a swamp. We’re compelled by whims, drives, urges, inchoate madnesses. We scarcely understand our own minds. And we wrestle daily with ingrained problems which are many thousands of years old.
And you think with your hourly posts and your handy block button, you can solve them?
You think canceling someone, putting them out of sight/out of mind, is the same as erasing the mortal urges that made them do whatever it is you (claim to) object to?
Meanwhile: who’s watching the watchmen? I.e., who’s watching you? Why am I to take your declarations of your own purity at face value? In fact, aren’t you overdue for an audit, friend?
Better yet, aren’t you overdue for a cancellation?
Our interactions are like going through a nasty breakup. Everything I say gets met with a handy, ideologically-rooted counterpoint, straight from your pamphlet-worthy “belief” system, so clear and flawless is your grip on the nature of what is happening in reality.
To wit, this whole letter stems from my straight white male privilege. I wish to cancel the cancellers so as to maintain my comfortable status as the oppressor. I’m bothered by your nonsense because I can’t stand to be held accountable. I declare that your behavior sets back your causes by decades because I secretly am against those causes, as I’m in thrall to neo-Nazi dog whistles that somehow you — you all-knowing leftist! — can manage to hear. (Amazing, how these dog whistles are audible to EVERYONE!)
Since you have no sense of humor, I should make clear that the paragraph above is sarcasm. Further, I should add that sarcasm is when one says one thing yet intends to convey its opposite. One does so because others often find the friction, the dissonance, the juxtaposition illuminating. See, friend, humans are creatures of paradox. We can mean one thing and say another. And we can actually joke not to express repressed violence, but because we disagree with the joke’s premise and thus apply jest to openly declare the premise’s absurdity. Humor, therefore, constitutes a form of safety.
Or did, until you made it an unsafe space.
Fortunately, as I said, you are going under. Nobody likes you anymore, and it’s been getting more exhausting to pretend we do. Reason being, you’re uncool. Now far be it from me (#straightwhitemale) to define what’s cool, but it’s something in the neighborhood of being non-judgmental, living and letting live, and having yourself a goddamn sense of humor.
More, and this part mustn’t be restrained: you have no hustle. Every time I encounter the likes of you, I marvel over your chronic woke inability to actually get anything done. But then again, why would you? You’re addicted to expedience. Why bother with the long-game fight for progress when you can short-game the whole m’fer from the easy chair of your Facebook account? And oh, I know, my mere mention of “hustle” was a Nazi salute to our nation’s proud, longstanding tradition of patriarchal capitalism. I shouldn’t have gone there, I know. What I should have said was that you’re lame and unresourceful (and by “lame,” I mean impotent; I don’t mean “physically disabled”…and by “impotent”, I mean ineffectual; I don’t mean “suffering from erectile dysfunction”).
Friend: what you’re doing cannot last. Weaponized compassion. Mandated conformity. Band-aids tossed breezily toward erupting social wounds. So the next time you’re getting ready to fire up a social media post to show the world how great you are and thus hide the remnants of the worst things you’re doing or have ever done, please take a moment to consider some pointed questions:
Is it more helpful to post that you’re against sexual violence, or to call your local police station and pressure them into alleviating their rape kit backlogs?
Is it more helpful to post that you’re against racism, sexism, or trans or homophobia, or to use your vote, money, and/or hiring power to elevate and amplify marginalized people?
Is it more helpful to lecture a conservative, or to take a moment (and a breath) and ponder why it is that they think that way (and despise you so much)?
Is it more helpful to scold a climate change denier, or to unload one of your family cars and make a daily practice of biking to work?
A therapist friend of mine once commented to me that productivity is sexy. That makes sense; it works; we are procreative creatures. And humans create more than just other humans: we make things, conjure works, extract somethings out of nothings. It’s beautiful. And sexy, yes.
But you create nothing. You’re uncool and unsexy. And amid all your breathless declarations, the only thing you’ve actually convinced me of is your urgent need to drop the shtick, swim out from the shallow waters, and join the rest of us over here where things get real.