I write this article to send a warning about the dangers of woke culture. This movement is starting to gain a foothold in our society and its influence is growing day by day. It claims to be motivated by a desire for social justice and equality but in reality it spirals out of control, quickly becoming a dangerous ideology that threatens to undermine the very foundations of our democracy and our way of life.
To be clear, I am not calling all people who call themselves ‘woke’ dangerous. Some of them are great people. However, I also do not think woke culture is the answer to our problems.
But what is woke culture?
It is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “Aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)”. In effect, people who are ‘woke’ are awake to injustices around them and seek to create a kinder and fairer world. On the face of it, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable and desirable proposition. I mean, who wouldn’t want such a world?
Having a positive message does not, however, guarantee a positive outcome. Meaning well and doing well are not the same thing.
So, what are the darker sides of woke culture?
One of the key problems with woke culture is that it is based on a flawed understanding of human nature. Its adherents believe that all social and economic disparities are the result of systemic oppression and discrimination. They argue that the only way to address these disparities is through radical social engineering and the redistribution of wealth and power.
However, this approach ignores the fact that human beings are not blank slates that can be moulded by society. We are complex individuals with our own unique talents, interest and values. Some of us are more successful than others because we work harder, make better choices, or simply have a more innate ability, or just got lucky.
They claim that the gender pay gap is proof of discrimination in the workplace and evidence of patriarchy while ignoring other pay gaps that also exist, like the one highlighted by a Harvard Business Review report that showed that gay men and women earn 10 per cent more than their heterosexual counterparts. Why would patriarchy favour gay people? Or that women between the ages of 22-29 outearn men. Why would patriarchy do that?
This is not to say that discrimination and prejudice do not exist. Neither do I think that there are no disadvantages experienced by individuals for unfair reasons. It would be unethical to make such claims. However, equally unethical and dangerous is to see discrimination in places where it doesn’t exist at all.
Furthermore, woke culture is fundamentally illiberal. It seeks to impose a rigid set of ideological beliefs on society and to silence dissenting voices. It promotes a culture of victimhood and grievance in which people are encouraged to see themselves as oppressed by others and to demand special treatment and accommodations.
So we are told we need quotas for women, gay people and anyone else who feels aggrieved by history while straight, white men are deliberately disadvantaged because, apparently, they have ‘privilege’. In 2022, Université Laval, in Quebec, Canada, for instance, advertised a position explicitly saying that white male applicants will not be considered.
In 2022 Université Laval, in Quebec advertised a position explicitly saying that white male applicants will not be considered- Edward Caruana Galizia
Something similar happened in the RAF in the UK, where job offers for white men were paused in order to meet “unrealistic diversity demands”. This is not a recipe for social harmony and unity but, rather, for division and conflict.
Finally, if left unchecked and unchallenged, woke culture can become a threat to freedom of thought and expression. Its adherents often seek to censor and attack anyone who disagrees with their worldview or challenges their orthodoxy.
In a practice known as ‘cancel culture’, they use accusations of racism, sexism, transphobia and other forms of bigotry as a weapon to silence their opponents and to delegitimise any alternative perspectives, science facts, or objective truths that defeat their arguments. Disagree with them and they will claim you are just ‘spreading hate’.
This is a dangerous development because free speech is the cornerstone of democracy and without it, democratic institutions cannot function properly.
Luckily, we haven’t reached this point in Malta yet but we are incrementally moving towards it. Self-censorship online is commonplace already and most people bite their tongue when in the presence of someone they think they cannot trust.
Woke culture certainly hasn’t got as much of a hold on us as it has on people in other countries but it is starting to grow. To see where this could lead, google to find out what happened to university lecturers at Evergreen University in 2017.
Personally, I wish to resist the influence of wokeness and defend the principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility and merit-based achievement. We must reject the false promises of equality of outcome and, instead, strive for equality of opportunity, recognising that we are all different and that our differences should be celebrated.
We must protect the right to speak our minds and to engage in open and honest debate, even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular. This is the only way to ensure that our society remains free, prosperous and just for generations to come.
Edward Caruana Galizia is an actor and has a master’s degree in culture, diaspora and ethnicity from Birkbeck University of London.