It’s taken me a little while to get around to writing this post, mainly because I wanted to avoid firing something off in the heat of the moment, rather than first allowing myself to go off the boil and writing from a more balanced perspective. So, having (hopefully) avoided falling foul of ‘Incensed from Shepperton’ Syndrome, here’s my thoughts.
Perhaps missed by many, since it followed hard on the heels of the ‘Americans are going to pay tax on SL’ news, there was another announcement from the Lab, and its one that actually does cause me concern: The Lab’s announcement of the new ‘In-depth community pages’.
Why does it worry me? Simply because SL has always been an incredibly inclusive and diverse environment, almost without even trying, but rather than be quietly pleased about that and leave well alone, the Lab have taken the idiotic decision to go down the ‘woke’ road, which is – in my opinion – the bane of modern society, and the first steps on the rocky road of banality and destructive political correctness. Quite possibly, the end of SL as we know it!
A bit harsh? Not at all, this really is something that I feel strongly about. I should say, from the outset, that I have absolutely no issues about inclusivity, diversity and basic human rights, but the whole ‘woke’ agenda is disturbing in the extreme, because its focus – despite what others may insist to the contrary – is not at all on its stated intent, but rather on something far more concerning and damaging to society as a whole.
Here’s a typical dictionary definition… Woke: Alert to injustice in society, especially racism. My definition is sublty different – Woke: A trendy assertion of intolerant moral supremacy arising largely from misguided entitlement and aggression.
Let me explain myself. To be woke one has to assume a moral high ground that refuses to acknowledge any alternative viewpoint on the assertion that it is wrong (either currently, or historically). Having done so, one is then entitled to promote one’s own opinion, using whatever language, means of protest, degree of repetition, argument or downright rudeness one chooses – no matter how, crass, innapropriate, condescending or offensive to those with whom you do not agree. To be woke effectively legitimises disrespect and acrimony as debating tools. The irony here is that the woke argument is inevitably proposed on the grounds of speaking-up for the oppressed, disenfranchised and unrepresented – and how is this achieved? By shouting down any alternative argument by use of oppression, disenfranchisement and negating any counter-representation. It’s bullying, plain and simple, which as anyone with half a brain knows, is always an effective means of negotiation
I came across a particularly stunning example of this recently on the interwebs: A picture posted of a sign which, thanks to the context of its surroundings, was intrinsically humorous. To ensure those viewing understood the joke, the poster had even gone to the trouble of explaining it. Everybody laughed out loud, bar one commenter, whom for convenience I’ll refer to as ‘Twat’, who decided to take offence at an entirely different and contrived interpretation that they themselves had identified – a gay slur – for which they proceeded to castigate the original poster. Cue a full blown argument between Twat, OP and everbody else, lasting well over 100 comments, of which the majority were rational, sensible and – at worst – dismissive, except for those made by Twat, whose own contributions became ever more confrontational, offensive and bizarre, eventually culminating with them reapeating, ad-nauseum, ‘You boomers should just get off the internet, you don’t belong here!’
No, my idiot friend, it is you who should leave the internet, since it’ll be a better place without you.
This little debacle illustrates for me all of the fundamental ill-conceived tenets of woke-ism. Let’s examine them in more detail:
- Choosing to take offence – No-one would deny that there are many truly offensive things that happen around us. Some will offend us personally, some may not affect us but we can nevertheless see they are offensive, and where this is true, I agree that we should be prepared to speak up and make our thoughts known. This is very different to the act of choosing to be offended, then taking up arms in support of your new-found cause. The whole point of choice is that it is a conscious act and, equally importantly, it never sits in isolation – you can also choose not to be offended, or to walk away, ignore, turn off or change the subject, but for some reason these never appear to be options for the woke brigade, and in their non-Darwinian understanding of evolution, having consciously elected to put themselves in the firing line, the only option ever is to fight. I do find myself wondering just how many keyboard warriors, once they’ve stepped down from their soapbox forget all about the argument for which they’ve acted as protagonist and, when safely out of of public view are quite happy to be as bigoted, politically-incorrect and unwoke as the rest of humanity!
- Misinterpretation – In my sign example above, the whole argument stemmed from Twat re-interpreting the original post to make it fit their own agenda. The fact that they were wrong and the original intention was nothing to do with their own interpretation was immaterial – the mere fact that it could be interpreted to suit their own argument was enough to start the fight, even though they were the only one seeing it that way. The woke seem unable to comprehend context, and this is particularly noticeable when it comes to historical injustices and inequity. They seem utterly unable to conceive that society changes over time and what is now horrific, was once acceptable. There was a time in Britain when old men could legally marry 12-year old girls, kids worked in mills, mines and up chimneys, slavery was commonplace, homosexuality was punishable by death, and women couldn’t vote. Distasteful though that may be, it is fact, and just because we are more ‘enlightened’ today doesn’t mean that if we’d been around at the time, we wouldn’t have accepted all these things without a qualm, because that was the status quo. Context is everything, ignore it and your perception of reality is both distorted and likely to be way off the mark.
- Championing – We should, of course, champion those causes about which we feel passionate. That’s laudable and to be encouraged, but please pick your moments! A funny post about a sign located in way that made it humorous, is not an appropriate opportunity to champion gay rights. It’s the irony that strikes me: Creating an issue where none exists makes the person who decides to raise it the divisive factor, and not the original post. This correlates with my initial fears about the new SL Community Pages… Why are they needed, when SL doesn’t really have any problems with community, inclusivity or diversity anyway?
- Dismissiveness – ‘Get off the internet’ is not how you deal with those who disagree with you. A debate isn’t won by denying the opposition a right to speak (and surely, if you’re purportedly being a ‘voice’ for those who don’t have a voice, isn’t this the most crass example of double-standards and hypocrisy imaginable?) Suppressing dissenting voices simply tips the scales of injustice back in the opposing direction, and when you tell people that their opinion is wrong and doesn’t count, how does that make your argument any different to that which you are protesting? Once again, it’s particularly dangerous when applied to historical injustice – toppling statues, renaming roads and so on doesn’t change history; it negates it and the lessons we can learn from it, and it could conceivably create a whole generation who, once again, lack any contextual understanding of how the world they live in has come about, or any benchmark from the past to measure the present against.
- Rejection & denial – One of the most insidious elements of the woke agenda is that while it ostensibly argues for a specific cause, the focus is actually on rejecting dissenting opinions and denying them any right to be expressed. This is why comedians today find themselves in an impossible position: Much of humour is about making light of human folly, suffering and failure, however there is no such thing as woke humour because whenever there’s a perceived victim, we can’t mock that situation. So, one of the greatest coping mechanisms of humanity – the ability to laugh in the face of trauma – is denied us. What woke says is ‘I’m right, therefore you are wrong, my way is the only way’. So, where I might say ‘black’ is a word with multiplicity of meanings, both literal and inferred, woke says it only has one specific meaning, and to use it in any other manner is despicable, therefore I must not. This results in ridicualous scenarios shc as a friend of mine who referred to themselves as a ‘fat pig’, thus earning themselves a 2-week ban for ‘hate speech’! You couldn’t make it up and that, of course, to any rational person is complete nonsense! The woke agenda is solely concerned with stopping us from doing things that certain elements of the populace consider wrong, (even if it isn’t), and it is rarely about the injustice itself that is used to justify those demands.
- Misplaced – Championing gay rights on a funny signs message board is the equivalent of going to the supermarket to do aerobics, yet the woke see no incongruity in expressing their views whenever, and wherever they see fit, whether or not the audience is appropriate. Gluing oneself to the road is not going to influence climate change, it’ll just irritate motorists who will then be alienated against those protestors who made them late for work – how willing will they be to listen to protestors’ arguments after that? Not very! So often the woke voice is untargeted and just a loud and intrusive irritation, and consequently – ultimately – self-defeating.
- Entitlement – One of the most irritating characteristics of being woke is the smug self-assurance that you are a superior being who has an inalienable and exclusive right to make your point, unchallenged by lesser mortals. The trouble is that today absolutely anybody can, and does, have their say and can potentially reach a wide audience (yep, even me!), with little or no moderation, constraint or control. It never used to be the case, in the past only those with something valid, cogent and coherent to say tended to have enough clout to reach the masses, which meant there was little white noise, lots of facts and plenty of content. Compare that today where the world and his *wife [*husband/non-gender-stereotyped significant other… Or not attached is OK too], not only has the opportunity but also feels they are entitled, nay compelled, to share their vacuous, nonsensical views with a worldwide community, all of whom are hovering, with sweaty hands over the ‘like’ button, just for bragging rights about how many ‘friends’ they can acquire through cronyism and sycophantism. All the world’s a stage, full of second-rate actors who have completely lost the plot.
I’m sorry! You came here for a fun post about SL, and ended up on the receiving end of a rant about a modern societal evil! My apologies.
The truth is that I don’t want to live in a humorless world where I have to vet every single thing I say and write to make sure that I don’t offend some precious snowflake who disagrees with me; and I also don’t want to live in a world where everyone is scared to engage in healthy and open debate in case it should result in them being marginalised, castigated and sidelined, simply for holding a valid viewpoint. So, when I see that Linden Lab is establishing new Community Pages because ‘Second Life should be an inclusive haven of self-expression, and we feel it’s important to highlight every community’, my initial reaction is that it already is, and that the problems only really start when you do start to ‘highlight’ individual communities, because this creates an artificial hierarchy along with a platform to preach from an entitled and unchallenged position. Not to mention the butthurt and backstabbing that will go on amongst those communities not selected to be highlighted!
For the first time ever, I’m really hoping that this will go the way of so many of Linden Lab’s other initiatives, and will go largely unnoticed, unsupported and struggle to reach the masses. Fingers crossed!
I normally pick a piece of music at the end of my posts that reflects in some way, even if just a few snatched lyrics, the theme of the post. The one I’ve chosen today is a product of its time and the culture of that era – today it would be considered polically incorrect in every sense of the term, which is a shame, because the sentiments are honest, insightful and – dare I say it – as woke as they could be for the period. If you don’t like it, feel free to turn it off, or even drop me an entitled, ranty comment… You’ve had to struggle through mine, after all!
What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough enough enough to take
The world and all its got
Blue Mink – Melting Pot