I added a new word to my social justice lexicon today: “woke.” It joins countless other words and acronyms, but it is not merely an addition. It is the epitome, it is the acme, it is Buddhism’s Arhat. It is (for now), the pinnacle of achievement and enlightenment in the social justice world. What is “woke?” As Maureen Callahan in the New York Post defines it:

To be woke is to be beyond awake to every civil and humanitarian injustice, large or small.

Unlike Buddhist enlightenment, however, it’s stressful and exhausting. Ms. Callahan’s article discusses how even liberal heroes get attacked by their own when they fail to achieve and maintain a perfect state of “woke.” It reflects the combination of minefield and kill zone that social justice has become. Take one wrong step, boom. Say one wrong thing, bang. The social justice warriors, apparently invested with way too much free time, way too much self-importance, way too much narcissism, and way too little in the way of actual humanity, lurk behind every corner, hide behind every tree, and look down from every rooftop in perpetual cat-like pounce-readiness. They tolerate no error, no fallibility, nothing shy of perfection. No past history can accumulate enough good credits to earn a bye for a future misstep.

This is what happens when you grant others the power to judge you. They have no reason to be reasonable. The reasonable people don’t get attention, they don’t accrue power, they don’t achieve recognition. The extremists, the zero-tolerance types, the loudest voices – they’re the ones who are rewarded by your acceptance of their judgment. And, when you apologize for your error, you feed the beast. You give the extremists, the haters, the intolerant, the social media wolfpack, another victory. You can’t buy them off or sate them. They’ll continue to watch your every word and measure your every action by their own ever-more-demanding standards. Your apology, rooted either in a genuine desire not to offend or in abject fear, shows you to be a safe target. They like safe targets. Safe targets don’t fight back, or call them names, or expose their own hypocrisies.

A century ago, Sigmund Freud coined the phrase “the narcissism of small differences.” This phenomenon is obvious in the social justice movement, and exemplified by this concept of “woke.” It’s by no means unique to the social justice world (libertarianism is chock full of people whose favorite pastime is denouncing each other), but given how deeply the social justice movement has penetrated the zeitgeist, it is the current poster child.

The Social Justice minefield consumes friend and foe alike. Social Justice is the worst sort of narcissism. Normal narcissists merely think “I’m great, look at me!” These narcissists are “I’m better than you, you suck, I’ll keep telling you how and why.” Its great irony is that its relentless pursuit of perfection destroys its goals. When you can’t ever be “just” enough, when you can never relax for a moment, when you dare not pause in filtering every word that comes out of your mouth, eventually you’re going to stop trying. And, when they attack you, they’ll start pushing you away. Already, millions of good people have gotten so fed up with the social justice movement that they adopt contrarian positions. Black Lives Matter has done as much to harm race relations as it has to shine light on real problems.

Ironclad righteousness, however, brooks no consideration for unintended consequences. If you refuse to play the social justice game because the warriors have overstepped, they’ll write you off. They’ll no longer deem you someone with equal rights in their society, and instead treat you as a lesser person to be managed by force. They’ll call you terrible names, judge you based on your skin color or gender, and dismiss your legitimate protests.

These are people I have no interest in knowing, or associating with, or being in their good graces, or caring about their opinions. I’ll never be good enough, and I refuse to live a life cowering in fear and self-rebuke in an endless effort to satisfy those who’ll never be satisfied. They are full of hatred and don’t actually care one whit about their fellow humans. Their game is one none of us can win. Their game is one we should not play. I will never be “woke,” nor do I care to be. I will live my life the best I can, do my best to treat my fellow humans the best I can, and sleep comfortably at night, knowing that the “judgment” that social justice warriors might pass on me means absolutely nothing to me.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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