By Matija Šerić
The recent collapse of US banks such as Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and others has fueled fears of a potential global crisis as was the case in 2008 when the banking crisis in the US caused the World Financial Crisis and recession. Although it seems that this will not be the case this time, that event is included in the increasingly strong conflict between the left (liberals) and the right (conservatives) in the United States of America.
In the last 10-15 years, the conflict between the two poles in the USA has become increasingly strong, both between the Democratic and Republican parties, but also among the common people who are politically divided into liberal and conservative. The culture war is gaining momentum year by year, and Woke culture is an integral part of that war. The left supports this phenomenon as something progressive and good, while the right is appalled. It was the practice of Woke culture that the right blamed for the collapse of American banks. It is becoming increasingly clear that Woke will become a primary topic of the American presidential elections next year, but also of many others, because the Woke phenomenon has spread from the USA to the entire Western world.
Definition of woke culture
Before analyzing the Woke culture, it is necessary to look at what it is actually about and what is its true definition. In English, the word woke is the past participle of the verb wake. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, in American slang, the term refers to awareness and close attention to important social facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).
Prominent African-American politician and US Congresswoman Barbara Lee stated, “We have a moral obligation to ‘stay awake’, take a stand and be active; to stand up against injustice and racism in our communities and to fight against hatred and discrimination wherever they appear.” Writer Giselle Defares claims: “Brad Pitt is not only woke, but he is the most woke man in Hollywood… . because he is using his status and his production company Plan B to create a space for dark-skinned artists, such as the films ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Selma’ and the upcoming film ‘Moonlight.'”
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term woke is also used in a negative context to denounce liberals, especially when the term is used in an extremely unreasonable manner in social processes. Writer Shadi Hamid claims that “conservatives view today’s liberals as woke cultural warriors who pose an existential threat to the nation and its traditions.”
Business consultant Suzzane Bates believes the U.S. military is “struggling to find new recruits to fill its ranks… Although the official reasons cited by the military—including fewer face-to-face recruits during the pandemic and fewer young people meeting the required physical standards—probably play a role, some say it’s because the military is too ‘woke’, deviating from its normal composition of young conservative recruits.” Political expert Michael Shellenberger said: “If there’s any hope, it’s that voters reject woke green goals. This has already happened in Sweden and Italy, where voters rejected leftist governments…” The term woke capitalism is used for companies that promote political correctness based on taking power away from “rich white men”.
The beginnings and transformation of the idea
Originally, the woke idea was first popularized by American dark-skinned folk singer Lead Belly in his song “Scottsboro Boys” from 1938. He alluded to nine black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931. Regarding the song, Lead Belly warned : “I advise everyone to be a little more careful when passing by, it’s best to stay awake, keep your eyes open.”
Linguist Tony Thorne suggests that African-Americans began using the term in the 1940s in the sense of “awakening (woke) and sensitivity to issues of justice.” Based on this, the woke idea initially focused on raising awareness among African Americans about important issues affecting their community. But over time, the use of the term expanded to encompass other social justice issues, often in an inconsistent manner.
When the Black Lives Matter movement emerged in 2013, the meaning of woke quickly expanded. This is partly the result of the influence of social networks. The term woke, which was once focused on the challenges faced by African Americans in a discriminatory political environment, quickly “enriched” and acquired new contours and significance.
Woke movement – a set of Western leftist ideas
Lately, the term woke has been used as a shorthand for promoting many liberal and left-wing ideas (gender ideology and LGBT+ agenda, fight against climate change, feminism, immigration, protection of minorities) that are called progressive, but the question is whether they bring social progress in practice.
Woke ideas gained a strong momentum in America after the killing of Afro-American George Floyd by the US police in May 2020, which was followed by mass protests across the USA in the spring, summer and fall of 2020. The protesters did not aim only at the fight against police violence and the protection of the black minority, but also at certain social changes that are consistent with the ideas of the woke and in the context of the American presidential elections. Woke supporters, of course, did everything to make Donald Trump lose the 2020 election, and they were successful in that.
Street riots and demolition of monuments – an integral part of the woke agenda
Examples of the implementation of woke ideas on the ground are the demolition and removal of statues of historical figures because of their real or imagined support for slavery or racial discrimination. This is how the statues of the discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus, the military leader of the US Confederation, Robert E. Lee, but also the founders of the USA, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, as well as the general and later US president, Ulysses S. Grant, were demolished. Statues of Abraham Lincoln were even torn down, for example in Portland and Seattle. Lincoln, who fought in the American Civil War against slavery and eventually freed the slaves in the USA, was destroyed! But the statues of the British war leader Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt, which have nothing to do with slaves, were also torn down.
However, that was not the end. Protesters’ anger was even directed at Christian symbols. Thus, for example, the statue of St. Junipero Serra, who was a Catholic missionary, a Franciscan, and converted indigenous peoples in the USA to Christianity in the 18th century. Not even the most sacred symbols of Christianity were spared, so even the statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary in New York were vandalized. In Arizona, Indiana, Tennessee and elsewhere in the USA there were also attacks on churches and church buildings. Let’s remember that this is democratic America at the beginning of the 2020s, not Bolshevik Russia in the 1920s.
Woke – a revolutionary movement to create a new Western civilization
When you scratch below the surface, you can see that it is nothing unexpected. Supporters of woke ideas want to reshape the cultural and civilizational foundations of Western civilization in a revolutionary way. It is a kind of cultural Marxism, which some members of the Black Lives Matter movement have openly spoken about. They want to devalue the philosophical ideas on which the Western world was built from Homer to Shakespeare. Homer is criticized for being a misogynist and for promoting slavery, and Shakespeare is criticized for encouraging a certain form of anti-Semitism and also having a discriminatory attitude towards women.
Woke culture is based on the hypothesis of the upliftment and rehabilitation of historical victims and the affirmation of minority peoples and racial groups, sexual minorities and women who have often been discriminated against in history.
The French philosopher René Girard recognized the essence well: the status of historical victims is being exploited in order to create a sacrificial ideology that will build an entirely new Western civilization. It is a paradox. Although Christianity has historically affirmed victims, now a new post-Christian neo-pagan ideology is being created that has taken over “caring for victims” in order to expel the influence of Christianity and create a new progressive society in which Christian norms will no longer be acceptable.
The destruction of the classic family, gender ideology and the “Bosnianization” of the West
Gender ideology and the LGBT agenda are an important part of the woke movement. In the UK LGBTQ+ organization Stonewall, which runs the ‘Equality in the Workplace Index’ advises companies to stop using the word ‘mother’. Everywhere in the Western world, efforts are being made to eliminate the classic definition of parents as “father” and “mother” and to introduce the terms “parent 1” and “parent 2”. It is a blow to the classic family that has existed since the very beginning of civilization. If a child cannot call his father and mother by their real names, a new paradigm is created in which classic family roles are lost as well as the meaning of family. Parent 1 and Parent 2 are more suited to jobs in industry than raising children.
The famous writer and author of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling, suffered a media hounding after she “liked” a tweet by Maya Forstater, who lost her job in 2019 after tweeting that “men are not women”. Because of her opposition to transgender ideology, that is, the possibility for men to present themselves as women, J.K. Rowling came under fire, although some public figures, including some feminists, gave her support. According to the transgender ideology, it has become common for a man who was average in men’s sports, such as boxing or swimming, to transfer to women’s sports as a “transgender woman” and win first places and break records there.
Woke principles have entered the film industry of the West, especially Hollywood and Netflix, where political correctness is closely monitored. It is a kind of “Bosnianization” because one looks at how many whites, blacks, Asians, women, transgenders, gays, lesbians, etc. are in the films and series. There are also stereotypes and it is expected that, for example, blacks and women are positive characters and whites villains, etc. Today, great movies like some of the „James Bond“ series as well as „Gone with the Wind“, „Casablanca“, „Bridget Jones“, „How to Lose a Boyfriend in 10 Days“, „American Pie“, „Lord of the Rings“ could not be produced because of the woke agenda.
Strengthening of the anti-woke movement
Leftists (many but not all) invoke woke principles in order to achieve “social justice”, and at the same time, the anti-woke movement is gaining strength, which has become as popular as its antipode it fights against. Woke vs. anti-woke is part of the cultural conflict between the left and the right in the US but in many western countries. Right-wing politicians routinely rail against woke ideas.
For example, Canadian opposition leader Pierre Poilievre characterized himself as an “anti-woke” politician. Last year, former US President Donald Trump criticized the banks, saying they had become “woke” and should be punished. The collapse of the American banks SVB and Signature Bank in March of this year, supporters of the anti-woke movement cite as an example that the woke movement is not good and that it results in the collapse of society, in this case the bankruptcy of banks.
Republican US Congressman Matt Gaetz said the US military is too focused on wakeism. Florida Governor and new Republican star with presidential ambitions, Ron DeSantis, has repeatedly made headlines for his administration’s ban on the teaching of woke subjects in Florida schools and its refusal to promote gender ideology and the LGBT agenda. Influential businessmen such as Vivek Ramaswamy have criticized woke capitalism and Elon Musk recently criticized ChatGPT, which he believes is a left-wing ilitism. Comedian Bill Maher often complains about the influence of woke. Popular public figures like Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson believe that the woke movement silences free speech and leads to self-censorship of speakers.
The polarization of American society
For some, woke ideas are a good thing that allows the individual and society to be “awake to the phenomena of social oppression”. But for others, woke ideas limit freedom of expression, art, public activity and threaten the social order.
A March 2023 USA Today poll found that 56% of Americans said that woke means “to be informed, educated, and aware of social injustices”. However, approximately 39% of those surveyed agree with the Republican definition of woke, “being excessively politically correct and controlling the words of others”. The result is fierce arguments on the Internet and in public, and the worst is when the arguments spill over into street protests and riots (the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and the invasion of Capitol Hill in 2021).
Whether woke ideas are a good or bad thing in an issue or globally depends on the beliefs of the individual and the community. Obviously, these ideas are attractive to some (at least in some specific segment) because they passionately advocate them.
The ultimate goal of woke – a creeping revolution
In the end, it is evident that under the mantle of protection of minority communities, there is a revolutionary enthusiasm that wants to reshape the society that we know or knew until recently. They want to create a new western world (western because such ideas cannot pass almost anywhere in Asia, Africa, Latin America) that would not be formed on traditional Christian values but on the values of hedonism, entertainment and a thorough division of society into all possible segments of the nation and race to gender preference. There is no doubt that these are aspirations that can be categorized negatively. The Western world realistically rejected Christian foundations in politics a long time ago, and now they are going a few steps further and want to completely throw out Christian views through woke ideas.
It’s not just about eliminating Christianity as an undesirable religion (as it used to be in the Eastern Bloc), but it’s about promoting self-destructive phenomena that are against human nature, such as the destruction of the classic family, transgenderism, the promotion of life without children, and transhumanism. It is certain that such trends are unsustainable in the long term and cannot succeed in the long term, but they can have a very harmful effect on Western civilization. Declining birth rates in most Western countries is an indicator that speaks for itself. The US had a birth rate of 1.7 in 2022. An amount of 2.1 children per woman is needed for the country not to lose its population. Admittedly, the USA records population growth, but through immigration.
The left (liberals) and the right (conservatives) in the USA and in the Western world are waging cultural civil wars that have lasted for decades, with the red lines of Western society being crossed in the last ten years. If the left wins on the principles of woke and cancel culture, it will be a creeping victory, but comprehensive and revolutionary.
A good example is the victory of the (sexual) revolution in 1968 in the West. First, it was about the fact that students should have the opportunity to vote at universities, and women should have equal rights as men. It continued with the legal availability of birth control pills, the promotion of divorce, through the acceptability and ubiquity of pornography, the legalization of abortion and marijuana, the possibility of legal homosexual marriages, and it reached transgenderism, which is current today. All these things that belong to the domain of marriage, family and sexuality were unthinkable before 1968, and today they are socially acceptable in the West.
Essentially, the continued sexual revolution is leading towards transhumanism and the taking away of humanity as we know it today. The issue of opposition to the woke ideas that promote it is not really a conflict of left or right (this can be seen by the fact that not all leftists support woke) but a conflict of humanity against ideas that dehumanize man and turn him into a robot to serve corporations.