Many of us who are labelled “woke” already live in a world suffused with anti minority sentiment- a cursory scroll of someone like Katy Montgomerie’s twitter shows the relentless onward rumble of abuse that she faces from those who are mildly uncomfortable with transgender women, to those who outwardly call for the arrest and forced de-transitioning of anyone transgender; conversely, many of the most outspoken critics of “cancel culture” live in a world where they can and do say whatever they want to and face absolutely no consequence for it. But what if those who rage against cancel culture win? What would that world look like? And could we really stomach a “so what” society?
Society at it’s core is huge, vast and varied and unfortunately it’s a simple fact that society must function by making allowances for divergence from what could be termed as the norm. If every person who did not fit the norm was ostracised from society, human civilisation would be laughably small and far away from where we are now. Human acceptance has been perilous ever since the first human emerged from their cave, saw another human and wondered why their hair was a different colour.
The benefit of intellect is that we can discuss how we can co-exist and make each other’s lives easier- but humans are still in some strange phase of our existence where we’d rather exhaust debate on why we shouldn’t, than why we should.
Let’s say the anti woke brigade won: how would life be for anyone outside of the lucky few who aren’t affected now by, and would continue not to be affected by the implementation of a “so what” culture?
People of colour
“Woke” sentiment is closely linked to anti racist sentiment- so scrap any and all discourse around racial inequality. It doesn’t mean racial inequality doesn’t exist- merely that it is not discussed. Any person of colour who faced inequality- be that micro aggressions or outright hatred- would be met with indifference in the “so what” society. Racist hiring practices could continue unabated with employers merely shrugging when called out on their inability to hire people of colour. Tests on blind CV’s have highlighted a worrying disparity on conversions of people with ethnic names to employees at organisations- and the backlash to organisations offering roles to people of colour has been thunderous- even when those roles are either best filled by people of colour due to the nature of the job or are specifically designed to wall over a shortfall in representation when it comes to broader society.
In the “so what” society, systemic racism would be glossed over with reports from the government that would reference experts who were not consulted to contribute. The inequalities faced by people of colour in the UK would be explained away with “agency” rather than a deep look into how the continuation of ostracising behaviour propagated by the government and a systematically racist society has contributed to worse living conditions, worse mental health outcomes and worse treatment by institutions like hospitals and police.
When nation wide protests are sparked about racial inequality and how to deal with it, including the glorification of slave traders, a “so what” society would likely spend more time focusing on the damage to a public statue and the four white people who did it than the feelings of people of colour who had to walk past a statue of a man who may have enslaved their ancestors.
Often when we speak out about the abuses we face, whether again micro aggressions like being asked invasive questions about who puts what genitals where, who has what genitals, or disgusting comments about STIs – we’re told that it “could be worse” and to be “thankful” for how we’re treated or spoken to or about.
We’re treated to regular sermonising about how we’re perverted or seen as unseemly because we have different sexualities.
Gay men are often accused of paedophilia as a pejorative, never so much as recently with the stoking of anti trans sentiment- if you publicly defend transgender people on the internet you will, it is a solemn promise, be labelled a paedophile.
In a “so what” culture, one could expect that hate crimes would rise precipitously because anti minority sentiment would be allowed to go unchecked to the point that organisations would step away from legislation designed to protect minorities from discrimination- and in fact, aid it.
In the microcosm of anti LGBT sentiment in the “so what” society, the BBC would knowingly allow a lesbian rapist like Lily Cade to contribute to an article about fear of rape, and use widely questioned figures- like a survey run by a transphobic group to indicate societal findings about fear of trans women.
In this “so what” society, discrimination like my own, where I was called “faggot” in front of everyone at work would be allowed to happen with no punishment: I was slurred in front of half the office, some of whom were my literal employees and in response my boss- the company owner- did nothing to protect me, to punish my aggressor- I would suggest that this fits in quite well with what would happen in a “so what” society.
Of course as an already polarised person I’m looking at this through my lens- but it’s the lens of those who don’t follow the flow of society on dint of who we are that need some social consciousness in public or we’re the ones who suffer.
Need I say it?
When women can be murdered in the street by policemen and the police response is to wear the right shoes or that you should flag down a bus and not to look at serious police reforms, one starts to wonder whether this is exactly what a “so what” culture would do.
When women’s reproductive rights are restricted or debated, and women are overruled on their own healthcare regularly, and when medical problems are under-diagnosed even though they are common, you could surely say that this is indicative of a so what society- or when women speak out about their genuine fears in a society that is pervaded by men who don’t respect bodily autonomy or boundaries, and “not all men” is the immediate response rather than any attempt to work with women to allay their fears or deal with the causal root of the issue one could say that’s very typical of a “so what” society.
When violence against women is met with questions like “but what was she wearing“, or when society sexualises young women like schoolgirls and thinks this is normal- the infantilisation of women for sexual pleasure- one must truly question whether society works for women, or whether it’s already the common case that when women speak about women’s issues they’re met with “so what”.
What would likely typify the behaviour of a “so what” society when referring to disabled people? Say, in the midst of a pandemic, throwing off all restrictions to mitigate spread and ensure people were kept safe? Or perhaps not giving full living wage allowance to those forced to care for relatives who either cant afford or just don’t want to house their loved one in a care facility?
In a “so what” society, giving space and air time to disabled people would be a rarity because it would underscore the lack of support for disabled people in a country that barely tolerates the audacity of someone to be disabled, and those who do speak against the government struggle to be heard.
And when, at the height of death in the pandemic, the government legislates enforced Do Not Resuscitate orders for disabled people you have the true measure of whether a society does, or does not feel “woke” about disabled people’s issues.
You have what you want
Society has long been about asking people to at the very least control their voicing of their inner thoughts- think what you want, but don’t say it. Even this has become too much for the polemic group of anti woke nonsense pushing. Simply being asked to think whatever you want, no matter how heinous but keep it in your head is a travail they cannot endure. And yet when it is our comfort, our autonomy, our names, our pronouns, our liberties we ask to be respected -they cannot do so. How strange that we must return the favour which is never employed for us?
When you look closely at our society, you begin to understand that the issue that the anti woke crowd have is simply that they aren’t able to thoughtlessly speak with impunity – but none of us are barred from doing just that, we just elect to be decent people. What we have is a crowd of people desperate to have society foster their desire to say bad things without being made to feel guilty for them.
I’m afraid, dear anti wokers- you have the society you desperately crave and you’re wasting time asking for it to be more closed. Imagine what society would be like without allowances for difference, without consideration for other people; a deep, dark and horribly unhappy place where even the discussion of inequality cannot be stomached because it may make people feel bad.
If you really want to know what the society of your dreams looks like, perhaps it’s time to realise that it’s actually your worst nightmare.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.