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By Arwa Lodhi
‘He’s so woke!’. ‘Come on, girl, get woke!’ ‘Woke AF!’
These phrases have been bandied around with great frequency lately – but, really – what does woke mean?
I decided to examine this expression after someone referred to Andrew Morgan, creator of the film The True Cost, as ‘woke’. I understood this meant Morgan was fully aware of the fact that fast fashion has a much larger social and environmental impact than most people think, but lots of people know that. Does that mean they’re ‘woke’?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ‘woke’ means ‘to be aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice). But in fact, the term goes back decades further, deriving from the command wake up, sheeple! which implores people to ‘wake up’ to major conspiracies. More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has started to use the term often to reference those who are attuned to racism in the USA.
But for me, the term is more related to a much broader awakening; a kind of enlightenment that dawns on us after certain harsh truths about our daily reality are revealed. To be ‘woke’ isn’t just to understand part of this; it is to understand that mainstream ‘reality’ is, in its entirety, false.
That’s a pretty heavy statement, I know, and one that could be discussed, deconstructed and debated for years. But this falseness is easier to see than you’d imagine. It manifests itself in different arenas that affect us all.; for example, in our daily acts of consuming. Blind, Western style consumerism dictates that it’s ok to shop for clothes every week, for example, and this belief is perpetuated by various factors: economic paradigms, ignorance about the real, devastating ecological effects of our activities, and heavy social pressure, for example.
We are bombarded by propaganda in the mainstream media – that is, large newspapers, radio, billboards magazines, newspapers, social media, news channels and TV programs, for several hours every day. These play an enormous role in shaping our actions, opinions, and forming and presenting what are considered to be accepted modes of being and behaving. When it dawns on you that all of these platforms are petty much pushing the same erroneous ideas (such as, ‘you are what you own,’ and we need to work pretty much 24/7, principally to buy more stuff), that is part of being woke.
But then we can extend that – if the media is peddling these myths, what other lies are they shoving down our throats? Realizing that there are a mere SIX mega-corporations that own virtually all mainstream media outlets in the USA is another awakening – media ownership is so concentrated, it’s basically operating on restricted levels last seen in the Soviet Union. What can we really know about the world when most of the information we get is so strictly controlled by a handful of powerful elites? Seriously wondering? Questioning why those media outlets are calling anything not under their own umbrella ‘fake news’? Puzzled at how governments even allowed such virtual monopolies to be formed? Willing to accept other ideas not presented as part of the norm? All of that is part of being woke.
Once you start questioning the most basic of beliefs, then other established beliefs start to fall like an avalanche: maybe companies aren’t acting on pure supply and demand, and can get away with literal murder by knowingly putting deadly chemicals in anything from pajamas and cosmetics to food and water. Maybe most politicians aren’t actually representing the people, but are instead in the pockets of big corporations and lobbies. Maybe everything we learned about history – from the Pharaohs building pyramid ‘tombs’ to the ‘noble pioneers’ fighting the ‘savage Indians’ – was a lie, or told from a twisted perspective. Maybe all the small scale scandals in the news and constant pressures to enter the endless cycle of work/consume/work/consume are actually intended to distract us from these facts., and our power to uncover the truth.
An Internet Awakening – Halted
The internet has brought us an unprecedented amount of information, much of which was occulted or oppressed before. It’s also brought us the means to disseminate information on an unprecedented scale – for now. Giving the public access to such a broad range of information has seriously threatened the establishment, and so they’ve recently introduced net neutrality laws to change this. The new laws are designed to restrict freedom of information and reduce what we have access to on a grand scale. In short, internet traffic will be limited in differentiation and priority will be given to larger, corporate sites, thus virtually shutting down lesser-funded (but often less biased) sources of news and information. In short, you will be told what corporations and governments want you to be told.
But it’s not only net neutrality that puts our freedom of information at risk: post 911 laws have been passed in the name of ‘national security’ that reduce civil liberties in many ways, including monitoring what we can say about so-called terrorism or government activities related to it, including questioning or independently researching the 911 acts themselves. Additionally, a new form of political correctness more akin to fascism wants to restrict our freedom of speech in the guise of not hurting others’ ‘feelings’ – this is a dangerous move, as it has prevented scholars from asking hard questions about or even teaching material on subjects that may ‘offend’ some people, such as the role Africans played in enslaving other Africans in the age of colonialism, or brain differences between men and women, for example. Who knows what else it may restrict?
But hopefully, such madness is a passing trend. Finally, after centuries, if not millennia, of being ‘asleep’, human beings are now starting to be ‘woke’ – that is, to learn about the nature of reality on all fronts, from re-perceiving what’s right in front of our noses to a deeper, more spiritual level. It’s a valuable opportunity that we must seize while we can. If we want to ensure future generations are stay ‘woke’, it’s essential to protect our freedom of speech and the freedom to disseminate knowledge through the internet and beyond.
How to be woke – in 7 steps
1. Ask questions
Question why you believe something – in fact, everything. Where did you learn your believe? What motivations may your core information sources have to want you to believe what you do? Do you really believe those things, deep down?
2. Stop brain pollution
Throw out your TV. Stop reading mainstream magazines and newspapers. Quit brainwashing yourself with what the mainstream media wants you to think.
3. Travel more
Get out of your safe zone. Talk to people from other cultures and countries. Get their points of view. How do you they differ from yours? Why?
4. Learn who bought that message
Always find out who is truly funding your news sources – and trust crowd-funded sites more than corporate funded ones. Be aware that even media that presents itself as publicly funded (like the Guardian or Democracy Now!) gets huge amounts of money from nefarious organizations with dark agendas, like the Gates Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society (respectively).
5. Keep a seriously open mind
If something offends you, ask yourself why? How can you best manage that feeling? How can you best deal with the offending person? Do you have any common ground? Offence is an emotion you feel – you can choose to feel it or not. It’s not due to someone else’s actions. Shutting people down because they disagree with you is the exact opposite of being woke.
6. Turn inward
Meditate more. Listen to your heart and inner voice – they often ‘know’ more than your brain.
7. Beware the internet
Sure, it’s full of great stuff, but there’s also a lot of misleading information, too. For example, popular ‘alt media’ personality Alex Jones of Infowars is hardly the ‘alternative media’ personality he claims to be; on the contrary, he’s clearly being funded Republican interests as much as FOX news is. On the other side of the political spectrum, Black Lives Matter seems to be a grassroots organisation, but it’s actually funded by (white) billionaire, net neutrality enemy and international revolution starter George Soros. Be open to all new ideas, but with a healthy skepticism, too.