February 20, 2024


The Conservative Leaning Journal The Daily Mail alerted its readers on June 19 that “British workers are becoming woke” because, according to one study, they talked to each other about their feelings (three-quarters of the workforce, at least) and no longer ate fried breakfasts (two-quarters). This is the same newspaper that in 2020 regretted that Prince Harry had gone from being “a funny guy to the prince of the wokes”: that is, culturally speaking, pretentious and elitist.

It is a sample of the astonishing elasticity that this Anglicism has acquired, which, in other times, only meant becoming aware of inequality and other forms of social injustice, especially those associated with racism. This is how he arrived in Spain between 2016 and 2017, after being revived, starting in 2011, in the United States by the then fledgling Black Lives Matter movement. It was a word for the social sensitivity that would end up defining our times. But it also had the defect of expressing a sensitivity and not an ideology: it did not offer an exact definition and therefore it could be parodied.

If anyone ever used that term among the Spanish left, it must have been a brief era. woke up It is today a word that betrays people more on the right, who use it to group their enemies into a single faction, “the tyranny of the woke” (OkDiario, December 2021) or the wokerati (Fox News, 2020), according to. In other words, a mix of rampaging Twitter mob and Instagram activists. offended, the crystal generation. A worker with feelings or a sensitive prince. Like progress or politically correct, woke It has become an insult. “It has become a label with which the most stale right points to a straw enemy against whom to smuggle his ideas,” says Gonzalo Torné, author of The cancellation and his friends (Anagram). “The argument comes to be: ‘As the left has been concerned with identities and minorities, it has not been concerned with the workers and that is why they vote for the right.’ First, it is based on a false antagonism. Furthermore, identity movements have always gone hand in hand with social struggles. It is enough to remember suffragism and abolitionism.

Also the journey through the years of culture woke up stricto sensu may have contributed to hollowing out the term. “Someone wokeNow, he is the one who uses the idea of ​​progressive politics for his own benefit”, explains Lucía Lijtmaer, author of the book Offended: On the criminalization of protest (Anagram). “The brands woke They are those that use the slogans of movements and demands, for example LGTBI, let’s think about Pride, for their own benefit”.

Does it really mean anything to be woke today? According to the usual use of the word today, nothing. Maybe it doesn’t matter. In 1961, the African-American author James Baldwin said: “To be black in this country and have a modicum of conscience is to feel anger practically all the time.” could be woke before the term existed and, except for surprise, surely it can continue to be so after it.

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