I love everything about the term “woke.” It feels more accessible than the concept of awakening that’s found in Buddhism. The term also has a connotation of social awareness, as evidenced by woke baby and tod, spotted at Women’s Marches last month.
The problem with a term being super accessible is it’s easily watered down by overuse and then you end up with skim milk.
Staying woke in the social awareness sense of the term is hard work. I’m 30+ so I feel confident in sharing my observation that over the past 25 years, the amount of distractions to becoming woke have dramatically increased. Whereas the need to stay woke is still there, the amount and type of work to get there is at least double what it used to be before the internet existed. Now listen, I love the internet. BUT…there is way more information on there (out there, out where?!) than I need. I try to look at it as an opportunity for me to practice mindful consumption, because a lot of the info. is totally toxic and not useful to staying woke.
In addition to the internet, the messaging shoved in our faces by companies that want us to feel terrible about ourselves so we buy their product has really stepped up its game, not to mention, Agent Orange wants us to stay asleep so we buy, buy, buy and are perpetually distracted from connecting to our fellow Americans and strategizing to finally make this country a place that is inclusive and equitable for all its residents.
I saw the documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro” last weekend and am still processing it. It was wonderful and poignant and made me want to learn more about the author and activist, James Baldwin. Two of the things he said in the film were particularly sticky for me, and I see them as excellent examples of what America needs to do to become woke.
“It is entirely up to the American people whether or not they’re going to try and find out in their own hearts, why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place. Because I am not a nigger. I’m a man. But if you think I’m a nigger, means you need it, and you gotta find out why. And the future of the country depends on that.” -James Baldwin
In order for America to stay woke, we as individuals have to be woke. I’m not usually a fan of being prescriptive about action steps, but even when we are told exactly what we need to do, we don’t do it.
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
I think a good starting point for anyone is therapy. Another good starting point is checking the privileges in your life (are you white? are you cisgender? are you a man?), which can be aided by therapy. The stigma attached to therapy was constructed by THE SYSTEM!!! Jk, jk (kinda sorta), I’ll spare you my conspiracy theory, only because I haven’t yet drafted it. Our egos are also opposed to staying woke, because our egos are just like that and are terrified of transformation. If you don’t believe me, that’s your ego telling you not to (see? so tricky!), just read a book about how our human brains work. You’ll see. Or read about Buddhist psychology.
If we want the future of this country to be bright, it’s going to take work. A lot of work. Each of us has a responsibility, which can be sort of a bummer to recognize, but necessary if we want to stop feeling stuck in the holding pattern of helplessness. Let’s get to work!