Yesterday I wrote a post on my Salem Political Snark blog, "I get cited by Salem's Woke Police." Here I'll explore the connection between wokeness and religiosity.
Since many people who visit this blog don't live in the United States, woke is a word that means "alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice." That sounds like a good thing, which usually it is.
But as the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing.
About three weeks ago I helped start a new Facebook group here in Salem, Oregon. The instigator was a young woman who I've never met in person. She's young, very liberal, and seemed sincere about having a Facebook group that lived up to its name, Let's Discuss Salem.
The woman told me that anybody in Salem could join the group: liberals, independents, conservatives, anybody. That appealed to me, since I mostly associate with fellow progressives, and I thought it'd be interesting to share ideas with people of a different political persuasion.
However, as you can read in the post I wrote about the Woke Police, it didn't take long for the administrators of the Facebook group to become so amazingly woke, sometimes I wasn't sure if they were being serious.
For example, this is a new rule for the group that got added to other equally woke rules: "7) Telling members of marginalized communities how to think, feel, and act about their own oppression is prohibited."
So only Black people in the group (if there are any) can talk to other Black people about their issues. Ditto for Latino people. As a white person, I can't express an opinion about a Black issue. Only Blacks can do that.
As I said in my Salem Political Snark blog post:
I still believe that it is better to be overly concerned about racism, sexism, nationalism, and other nasty "ism's" than under concerned.
However, a balance needs to be struck between awareness of social problems affecting minorities and other historically oppressed groups, and an overzealous righteousness where perceived affronts to social justice are criticized in an absurd fashion.
I emailed a link to my post to some Salem friends. One wrote back to me this morning with some wise observations.
I have just read all of what appeared in the link below. To me, your most powerful statement included "shades of gray, political nuance...." Yes, precisely. Those beating the drums on both the right and the left, including the local "Woke Police," are sending overly simplified messages.
These are designed to capture minds and memories with catchy and easily remembered soundbites. and, in many cases, to quote Shakespeare in the speech by Marc Antony "to cry havoc, and let loose the dogs of war..." to serve their particular goals.
The higher level thinking skills of critical thinking and analysis do not work well in these arenas. You have worked to challenge a general audience to think critically. Of course, that is at best a steeply uphill struggle.
The full statement she referred to said:
This is the problem with having a black and white view of the world. Nuance, shades of gray, moral ambiguity, political compromise -- that doesn't appeal to people on either the left or right who believe that how they see things is how everybody should see things.
Same applies to religious people who have a black and white view of the cosmos. In other words, fundamentalists. They view any deviation from their rigid perspective on reality as a dangerous heresy. I just read that the Taliban in Afghanistan are decreeing that music is forbidden, apparently because some weird interpretation of Islam says so.
A tiny bit of critical thinking reveals the absurdity of fundamentalism. But for those in the grip of it, that rigidity makes sense. And even is appealing.
I sort of shudder when I remember that back in my true believing days, when the guru of the religion I followed decreed that animal rennet couldn't be eaten, I was one of the fundamentalists who obsessively read cheese labels for evidence that the rennet was animal or vegetarian.
The woke fundamentalists of the Let's Discuss Salem Facebook page are similarly caught in the grip of a mindset that abhors reason, common sense, flexibility. Since I try to manifest each of those qualities, the Woke Police have become increasingly irritated with me.
Which not only doesn't bother me, I'm learning to enjoy it. I find a special pleasure in speaking reasonably when they talk about the necessity to not let a single politically impure post or comment appear on Let's Discuss Salem.
I have the impression that this rigidity gives that woke crowd a reason for being, since they can feel superior to fellow progressives like me who are a lot looser in our speech and attitudes. At the end of my Salem Political Snark post, I include excerpts from a The Atlantic story about research concerning the different political tribes in the United States.
It turns out that about a third of Americans are on the fringes of the left and right, so far out there they aren't interested in ratcheting down the rancor and finding common ground.
But about two-thirds of Americans do want to find common ground with those who see things differently. That's good news. Problem is, the extremists tend to dominate the news, because they're the ones screaming about this or that outrage. Same seems to be true of religion.
Most religious believers aren't dogmatic. They wear their religion lightly. They don't take themselves too seriously. They accept that people with different views are entitled to those views, and may even have something to teach them.