All eyes have been on who the next prime minister of the UK will be. According to a report by the Guardian, conservative candidate Rishi Sunak, who veered right compared to his other contenders, will try to resurrect his premiership bid on Saturday by addressing a slew of so-called culture war issues, vowing to stop “leftwing agitators” from “bulldozing” British values.
Sunak will deliver a speech criticizing “woke nonsense” ahead of a critical few days in the leadership race, the report says. But this is not the first time ‘woke’ culture has been found to mention in modern politics. Let’s take a look at what the term means and what it means for political leaders today:
What is Woke Culture?
According to a report by BingeDaily, woke up is a slang term that did not begin as one. It was born in a dialect known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). AAVE frequently renders awake as woke.
Staying woke became a catchphrase in parts of the black community in the US for those who were self-aware and challenged the dominant paradigm in search of something better. “Woke” can also be used to mock a white person whose views on race equity shift abruptly after learning about historical injustice.
It became popular as a call to action in conjunction with the black lives matter movement. However, since its inception, the concept of becoming (and remaining) “woke” has taken on a different, more complex meaning, especially on social media.
By 2010, woke up had become synonymous with left-wing politics, socially liberal causes, feminism, LGBT activism and cultural issues, race equity culture issues, and more, the report said.
Meanwhile, in 2020, the Oxford Dictionary defined it as ‘Alert to injustice in society, especially racism.’ The Urban Dictionary defines it as ‘The act of being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue.’ This sheds light on the different meanings of the word taken today.
Why the Criticism to Woke?
According to the report, the term “woke” is becoming obsolete. A cult of social justice is using the term as a slogan. Being awake is inextricably linked to the identitarian left.
Rather than confronting bad ideas or issues of race equity in culture through discussion, debate, or protest, woke people are now attempting to intimidate their opponents into silence. This, combined with hateful speeches and imposing their illiberal ideologies on others, encapsulates today’s woke culture, the report says.
Politicians on Woke Culture
Former US President Barack Obama has attacked ‘woke culture’ a few times. “I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people. If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because ‘Man did you see how I woke up? I called you out!’ That’s enough, if all you’re doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far,” he had earlier told a gathering.
And conservative politicians in the US have often spoken out against it too. Most recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has targeted “woke capital” and the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement, proposing actions to counter what he calls “ideological corporate power.” DeSantis proposed broad legislative and executive changes recently to prevent state fund managers from considering ESG factors when investing government funds, as well as to prohibit banks from discriminating against customers based on their political and social beliefs.
The governor, who announced the proposal alongside Florida House of Representatives Speaker-Designate Paul Renner, said he was targeting the “corporate elite’s” economic power. “We are protecting Floridians from woke capital and asserting the authority of our constitutional system over ideological corporate power,” Gov. DeSantis said, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The issue is cutting as a main one in western politics. The woke culture conversation has pervaded issues around the LGBTQ community, environmental issues and more. “Whether it’s pulling down statues of historic figures, replacing the school curriculum with anti-British propaganda or rewriting the English language so we can’t even use words like ‘man’, ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ without being told we’re offending someone?,” is what Rishi Sunak will say in his campaign up ahead, according to the Guardian report.
But the attack is also seen as a way to compound left interests into a small box by more conservative politicians and figures. Many say, even if superficial, the culture has helped raise awareness on important social issues that were otherwise ignored.
The Future of the Term
According to Jonathan McWhorter, Opinion Writer for New York Times, what has happened to “woke” is “a demonstration of negative associations gunking up well-intentioned labels. In his opinion of him, a mature societal view of language will recognize that words are more than just what they mean in a book called the dictionary, and that words referring to societal or controversial issues – ie, the interesting ones – will frequently require replacement. about eleven a generation. He is confident that a replacement term for “woke” will emerge sooner rather than later – he predicts around 2028. The question is not whether but when, and “woke” will not be alone.
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