Previously not a ‘thing’ outside the confines of southern England, the term ‘woke’ has spread like wildfire.

It’s origins can be traced back to the 1800s when it was explained as ‘the state of not being asleep’. Currently defined as ‘being aware, knowing what's going on in the community in relation to racism and social justice’, it is shortly after we deep dive into that definition however, that the nuts and bolts reveal a sinister underbelly.

Most of us, especially those who read newspapers such as this, would undoubtedly be ‘aware’ and know what is going on in their local community regarding injustices and racism, and call it out when we see it.

Woke, to me, means having a pre-ordained ideal and anyone who dares challenge any element of that is the devil reincarnate. Their standpoint seems very black or white, with no room for the various shades of grey that paint the true picture. Fail to adhere fully, and you are demonised, nay, ‘outed’, as a Gammon, a Little Englander or other such unpleasantry.

Irving Janis, a psychology professor, unleashed the term ‘groupthink’ on the world in the 1970s. She claimed that groupthinkers are ‘transfixed by a singular view of the world’. Nothing will ever change their view, even in the complete absence of any evidence to support their tunnel-minded takes.

That groupthink mentality has now become an epidemic, undoubtedly with Brexit as the catalyst. Groupthinkers deem themselves ‘emphatic’ and despite being opinion, not fact-based, are 100 per cent in their assertion that they are right.

There is no room in our current woke society for dissent. The author Christopher Booker talks about a market stall owner who was warned to stop selling mugs depicting the Knights Templar. Muslims were killed in the crusades and a single non-Muslim complainant claimed Muslims would be offended. Ignoring the order in 2017, the stall owner was banned from trading.

Prior to Black Lives Matter, Bristol police officers painted their nails blue to ‘highlight’ slavery in nail bars. Twitter users then asked, ‘why not nail some criminals?’ before the police responded by encouraging those who were ‘offended’ to report these comments as a hate crime. One must ask that if the police know slavery is taking place in Bristol nail bars, why aren’t they investigating it fully instead of painting their nails in order to come across as achingly woke?

Janis also refers to a ‘deterioration of mental efficiency and moral judgement’. Take ‘hate crime’: I would like to believe we all agree racism and prejudice are not acceptable, but that does not mean we cannot disagree with friends and acquaintances who happen to be a different ethnicity, sexuality or religion. The spike in hate crime figures is a complete charade and has been watered down to such an extent that true victims of hate crime are now not dealt with as effectively as they should be.

For something to be a hate crime it must be perceived by ‘any person’, not just the alleged victim, to have been a comment based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. In effect, any crime involving any person merely must have an individual, who was not part of the incident, to claim they believe it was a hate-fuelled and it is recorded as thus.

It is a nonsense and takes away from truly genuine, often sickening cases. I know many Muslims, all of whom are decent, law abiding individuals who happen to have a religious belief. Not one I know has ever taken offence at Christmas cards or mugs selling Knights Templar goods, yet when some renegade, maybe with dishonourable intentions to ‘stick it to the man’, takes mock shock and it becomes newsworthy, all the woke individual is doing is stirring up resentment against minority groups, who, in turn, are wrongly perceived to be ‘intolerant’, whereas 99.9 per cent genuinely couldn’t give a damn about such folly.

Police forces nationally, work overtime to prove just how virtuous they are by weekly initiatives such as rainbow-coloured panda cars and meaningless soundbites such as ‘cake, not hate’. We see other emanations in universities where they ‘no platform’ luminaries whose views are contrary to their own. Many well-to-do white students take the reins by challenging ‘cultural appropriation’ at the drop of a hat. The University of East Anglia banned the wearing of sombreros at fancy dress in case it offended Mexicans. Preaching tolerance, the woke brigade have achieved completely the opposite and are now arguably the biggest culprits of intolerance that we have ever witnessed.

Views of celebrities such as Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson are rightly challenged, yet dissenting voices, of which there are many, seem more concerned with ‘shutting down’ or ‘cancelling’ them, thus sending them underground where, hidden from view, it is easier to radicalise others into entering their mindsets. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer should be the mantra, yet the stonewalling of those we disagree with does nothing but feed further division as we lurch toward an intolerant society where any thought outside the status quo is demonised by the woke pack.

No, I am not woke, and not afraid to say so. I want to live my life and challenge injustice where I see it, debate with those I disagree with, and agree to disagree if common ground cannot be found. We are treading a dangerous path by shutting down those we take issue with and we will, one day, ‘woke’ up and wonder what society we have truly created where division is rife, and injustice is ever more abundant.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher