What is Woke? Recently someone asked on social media, “what is woke”? The question was followed up with, “I mean, is it a bad thing? Why are people not understanding the importance of being woke?” Interestingly, many individuals see woke as a higher understanding of progressive ideas, an ability to be more “aware” and intellectually superior. In an effort to better understand this perspective I set out to explore the origins of “woke” ideology. One perspective in particular, compared the Age of Enlightenment (1685), and, the Renaissance (15th and 16th Centuries) with Galileo’s famous “gravity” experiments as an example of woke. I would like to point out that Galileo (1564-1642) indeed, validated Copernicus’s heliocentric orientation hypothesis (1543) where the planets revolve round the sun. And, this observation posed a serious threat to the current religious paradigm. It marked the beginning of modernity—atomism, elemental reductionism—this was science, and it shook the foundations of organized religion. The chain of events that followed (the Inquisition, as example) failed miserably (Kuhn, 2010). The church at that time called for censorship, index, and inquisition instead of seeking the Truth. The difference between Galileo’s scientific paradigm shift and socially constructed woke ideology is that woke is not science. Woke is actually similar to a kind of pseudo religion where ideological beliefs and feelings are valued more than apodictic (absolute, irrefutable) Truth. What is truth, you might ask? Woke culture focuses on identity from the perspectives of politics, psychology and sex, through the lens of social constructivism and expressive individualism, that is, “you can be anything you want to be.” Accordingly, “the contemporary political scene is dominated by the issues of identity politics where the belief in human authenticity are found in the freeing of oneself from religion and the traditional nuclear family and it’s moral/ethical values which inhibit “free agency” and a return to the natural self” (Truman, 2020). Thus, the idea of the “modern self” clearly finds their roots in the intellectual developments that took place in the eighteenth and nineteen centuries where oppression of feeling became a psychological category. This political, emotional and sexual psychological idea of selfhood is not new. It was first introduced by secular atheists including, Rousseau, Descartes, Nietzsche, Marx and Freud. This represented a reversal of perspectives from an outside-in (man created in the image of God) to a inside-out (man is god) human psychology. Coupled with the rise of the modern self is the idea of sexual freedom with its focus on expressing authentic natural human feelings. And, this pits woke ideology against traditional family values, marriage and institutional Christianity (Truman, p. 201).
What is woke? Woke therefore, is an ideological social construct and not science. Social science, on the other hand, stands up to repeated evidence-based rigor. This is called construct validity. Social constructs do not meet the criteria of the scientific method. True social science such as Solomon Ash’s “conformity theory”; Albert Bandura’s “Social Learning Theory” on aggression through observation; Muzafer Sherif’s “robber’s cave experiments on compliance and competition”, and the brilliant Gestalt psychologists social experiments on “perception, functional fixedness and group think” and finally, cognitive learning theory (Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, and Lev Vygotsky) are all evidence-based. All these studies are valid and replicable social science. Again, woke is not a social science.
How absolutely arrogant and absurd it is to proclaim that woke people are more aware. Awareness, after all has to do with “consciousness”; the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings. It is important to understand oneself in relation with others. This is especially valuable in a multicultural environs where people share common values but embrace different worldwiews. And this kind of awareness (consciousness) is social science (Ornstein,1991). Wokeness hijacks science and truth and replaces it with ideological, socially constructed unreality. This is hardly awareness, it is unawareness. In other words, woke people don’t know what they don’t know. In addition, consciousness is closely associated with “conscience”; an inner feeling or voice acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior. This implies that there is an innate awareness of goodness and evil, rightness and wrongness. Of course, these common-core, innate human values interfere with the woke narrative, “there are no absolute truths”. There can’t be truth if one is socially constructing their own reality. And this is why so many informed and educated parents are concerned about the indoctrination of woke ideology on youth within the education system, where traditional value systems are deconstructed and replaced with socially constructed unreality such as, relational anarchy, Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies and Critical Race Theory (CRT). As example, there is the “woke” argument that there are more genders than just biological binary male and female as is evidenced by DNA and genetics(1). For instance, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson could not respond to the question, “what is a woman?” This is woke politics and now represented in the Supreme Court.
The greatest lie that woke advocates tell children is that, “you can be anything you want to be”. This is a recipe for self-condemnation and depression. We all have strengths and limitations. But believing this one lie creates a culture of entitled narcissists which eventually leads toward learned helplessness, despair and nihilism (Miller & Seligman, 1975). In a prior post I shared my personal experience and understanding of critical race theory (CRT) and gender identity. What I have observed is either/or group think, division, separation and what amounts to racism and liberal privilege. The woke cancel culture suppress and censer valid alternative research perspectives and the researchers who challenge woke assumptions. This merely exacerbates, either/or binary thinking. Shouting down reason and debate is in every way, fear-based censorship which confirms my point about woke being more like the 15th century religious institutions mentioned in the first paragraph. But, there is some good news.
There is hope! Woke culture is not new. And while it finds its roots in the enlightenment period, woke is just another fad(2) and not a paradigm shift. There are still a few very good universities that teach critical thinking such as the Acton Institute and Colorado Christian University (CCU) and education/leadership institutions that bring together people from all cultures and worldview and debate and discuss the values of a free and virtuous society. A virtuous society is an emotionally and spiritually healthy society, one that is blessed with economic prosperity. Are you interested in becoming a lifelong learner and with a humble heart, willing to seek the truth? Please view the video presentation (below) and respond to this blog post sharing a heartfelt, thoughtful and edifying post.
Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ornstein, R. (1991). Evolution of consciousness: The origins of the way we think. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Miller, W. R., & Seligman, M. E. (1975). Depression and learned helplessness in man. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 84(3), 228–238.
Truman, C. R. (2020). The rise and triumph of the modern self: Cultural amnesia, expressive individualism, and the road to sexual revolution. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway
(1). According to the World Health Organization (WHO) gender refers to characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed and include actual or perceived sex, gender identity, and gender expression including a person’s actual or perceived gender-related self-image, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristic regardless of the sex assigned to that person.
(2). Fads have short lifespans while trends have true staying power. Whereas fads are discovered by influencers, receive mainstream adoption (usually after intense media coverage) and then die off, trends take much longer to be cultivated. Once embraced, trends put down cultural roots and grow stronger.