We are being overwhelmed by the cult of “wokeness”.
It has many faces but I am increasingly beguiled by the “wokeness” disciples and their strident objections to “cultural appropriation”.
I am not sure I completely understand the concept, but it seems now that it is deemed wrong for anyone to depict or seek to interpret others who are not of your race or gender.
This would seem to be a severe impediment for professional actors who are often hired to portray others significantly different from themselves. It was once a revered trait of actors that they had the capacity to present themselves credibly as others dissimilar to themselves. Indeed is this not what “acting” is about? It doesn’t do so to denigrate those who they seek to portray but often to elevate them.
In the early years of opera, women were preferred to men as singers and quite often women sang the roles of men. These were referred to as “trousers” roles. I can’t find any record of males protesting that their gender had been appropriated.
William Shakespeare (acknowledged as the world’s greatest playwright, but little taught in schools anymore being deemed “too difficult” for today’s barely literate children) was able to portray different races (eg the Moor, Othello) and those of the female gender (eg Cleopatra) quite successfully because of his knowledge of basic humanity rather than his knowledge of gender or race.
Our racially selective propensity extends further than literature and also includes art. I was amused by a recent article by journalist Henry Ergas who discussed the current controversy about indigenous art and what could be called “authentic”. As he pointed out most indigenous art is now done using modern Western materials such as acrylic paints rather than traditional materials such as ochre and bark. Some of those who I communicate with and are more well-versed in indigenous matters than I am protest that authentic indigenous art portrays deeply spiritual aspects of indigenous life. That might be true but it certainly leaves it open to very selective interpretation. Much of Western Renaissance art was inspired by Christianity. But one does not need to be Christian to appreciate its beauty. Some indigenous art I have seen is beautiful as well. Should we not leave the question of authenticity aside along with its connotations of special consideration of race and merely appreciate art from whatever source on the basis of its inherent appeal to our senses?
[I am reminded of the legendary violinist, Fritz Kreisler. Kreisler claimed that he had discovered some lost manuscripts from some of the famous composers from the past. He introduced this music into his concert repertoire. Eventually he was unearthed as an imposter and was forced to confess that he had indeed written the pieces himself. Those pieces have become some of the staples of the concert repertoire of violinists and are often played as encores by violinists. So these pieces have survived not because of their authenticity but because of their own inherent artistic value.]
And of course that’s the problem with “wokeness”. It strives to magnify our differences to ensure our minorities feel special about such inconsequential differences rather than share our common humanity so that we can readily embrace each other as members of the human race. It always seems to me to be somewhat pathetic that people need to resort to superficial differences like our race or gender to feel some sort of affirmation. These differences are due to accidents of birth and not something we could legitimately take credit for.
As entrepreneur and author, Vivek Ramaswamy writes:
Woke culture posits a new theory of who you are as a person, one that reduces you to the characteristics you inherit at birth and denies your status as a free agent in the world..
Now the problem with all this is we have the high priests of “wokeness” determining what we should do to promote human welfare rather than democratic processes. If these doubtful propositions were to be put to the population at large how might you think they would respond?
There are several elements to this problem.
To begin with there is a vast disconnect between many politicians, commentators and the population at large.
Most people I interact with on a day to day basis don’t seem to have undue concerns about global warming or whether those folk who are confused about their gender should be addressed by their preferred pronouns. Politicians unfortunately, with few exceptions, seem to be obsessed with the traffic on social media which is often misinformed but at the very least is hardly representative of the views of most Australians.
Similarly the media (particularly the ABC) seems overwhelmed with the outpourings of those who are politically correct, conflate their outrage and promote their victimhood. Cultural appropriation, gender issues and racial injustice are grist to the mill of these cultural warriors.
And now we are being assaulted by the stupid doctrine of critical race theory. Of course this is not a theory at all. In scientific circles a theory is proposed to explain various phenomena and is tested by the evidence. Critical race theory is a political statement assigning the responsibility for all the current and historic sufferings of coloured people to the white population. There is little evidence to support this thesis.
This insidious theory is starting to be embedded in our school curricula.
As well our schools no longer teach Western history, literature and culture. And where Western history is mentioned it is largely to denigrate Western society as racist and paternalistic. Consequently our children are taught to feel guilty because they happen to have inherited such a history. And if they happen to be white they have to bear the burden of “white privilege”. The dominant themes of the “woke” propaganda as it applies to Australia are:
- White Australians must bear the responsibility for the disadvantage of indigenous Australians
- Males are all misogynist and are responsible for all real and perceived female disadvantage
- Australia is inherently a racist country
In the United States where such “wokeness” is even more ingrained than in Australia, there seems now to be growing resistance to such nonsense. This week in Virginia a republican candidate won the governorship largely based on his promise to remove critical race theory from schools. This was a momentous result considering that at the latest presidential election Democrat Joe Biden won the state with a 10% majority. The democrat candidate campaigned on the basis that parents should have no say in school curricula but should leave such matters to the so-called “experts”. But just as in Australia the “experts” are left wing ideologues that want to indoctrinate children to become “woke” adults and to perpetuate this nonsense.
In a recent article in The Australian, Bella d’Abrera from the Institute of Current Affairs quoted the results of a survey conducted by Dynata showing that Australians didn’t support radical ideologies being taught in the classroom. The survey reported that:
- 82% of Australians disagree that school students should be forced to apologise for their skin colour,
- 86% disagreed that schools should make boys ashamed of being male,
- 69% do not believe that children should be taught that Australia is a racist country.
Some are of the opinion that recent reactions by parents to school curricula both here and in the USA have been heightened because COVID has seen many parents having to do home schooling and as a result become much more aware of what children are being taught in schools. It can only be a good thing that parents provide more scrutiny over what their children are being taught rather than rely on left wing academics and teachers’ unions to make such important decisions.
In a recent essay, author and blogger, Paula Collins wrote:
All credit to those teachers who earnestly endeavour to foster in students competence in basic literacy and numeracy, while having to use a curriculum ideologically infected with age inappropriate propaganda on sex, race, gender, environment and colonialism. Who can believe the fictional tale of Aboriginal urbanisation, Dark Emu, by English ‘Aboriginal’ Bruce Pascoe, discredited by respected academics, is still being taught as fact throughout Australian schools and is heavily promoted on the ABC. Acceptance of 30% functional illiteracy and sliding international rankings by Unions and education bureaucracy is the result. Yet ever there are demands for more – whether ideological control over curriculum, funding, resources and smaller class sizes. Never enough! Ministers, parents and teachers must speak up and be heard if generations of children are not to be further disadvantaged.
Vivek Ramaswamy (quoted above) says sensibly:
A good barometer for the health of any democracy is the percentage of people who are willing to say what they actually believe in public..
It would seem to me that under the pressure of the censorious left that percentage is significantly declining.
In the USA where “wokeness” has infiltrated many large organisations surprising things have happened. After the murder of George Floyd and the ascendency of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, Coca Cola, for example, implemented corporate training programs that advised employees “to be less white” and that as a consequence “to be less white is to be less oppressive, be less arrogant, be less certain, be less defensive, be more humble.” It maintained that white people are socialised to feel that they are inherently superior because they are white.
But I suppose that it is hard to go past COP 26 as shining example of “wokeness”. How galling was it to be lectured by royalty, billionaires, celebrities and a know-it-all teenager on our moral failings in not taking draconian action to reduce our emissions? How cringeworthy was it to see our elected prime minister trying to convince the unelected heir to the throne that Australia was doing its share to rein in CO2 emissions?
Where do these woke ideologues who mostly are wealthy and profligate in their own generation of emissions, living in mansions and travelling in private jets, get the authority to lecture ordinary people on morality?
So it is more than time for us to wake up to “wokeness”. It is time for us to speak up and not to be cancelled by the politically correct and the advocates of identity politics. Let us reassert our rights as free agents in a democratic society to freely express our opinions and respectfully listen to dissenting points of view. We don’t need to be told what to think! And we have a democratic right to express our opinions in public forums without pandering to the righteous demands of “wokeness”.