In the 21st century, social media has revolutionised public discourse. It has had a tremendous impact on the manner in which people interact with each other, how they conduct themselves and it has even transformed the manner in which government functions. However, not all the impacts have been positive. And if some of the issues are not addressed, it has the potential of causing irreparable damage to social institutions.
Tribalism is a reality of human existence. Man is a social animal, it’s an inherent desire for us to form groups and advance the interests of the in-group, often at the expense of the out-group. Religious communities, nations, sampradayas, all of them are examples of such groups that humans have created during the course of history. Indeed, the story of human civilization is one of different groups of humans coming together to form a cohesive society. Of course, groups are not exclusive to humans. It’s feature of the animal world too.
One distinct feature of groups is that whenever two diverse groups interact with each other, it often leads to conflict. There are essentially five types of social interaction between groups: Cooperation, competition, conflict, assimilation and accommodation. Over time, groups have figured a way to coexist with each other but it isn’t one that hasn’t been solved conclusively and it is extremely unlikely that it will ever be resolved. Thus, we still see wars and communal clashes and other such violence.
Needless to say, social interaction is dependent on proximity between the groups. Groups will fight only when they are in a situation where they can, or have to, interact with each other. And this is where social media has contributed greatly towards eliminating the distances that naturally occur between groups. In the real world, one can afford to not interact with a certain kind of individuals. Social media does not provide such luxury. The boundaries that naturally exist between individuals simply do not exist on social media platforms.
Another important aspect of group dynamics is the imposition of ‘purity’. Every group demands that certain rules and regulations be followed and there’s a certain ‘code of conduct’ that’s mandatory for every member. A member is also expected to endorse the positions advocated by the group, whether the positions were arrived at with his or her consent or otherwise. And it is in this aspect of groups that manifests itself as ‘Woke Culture’ in social media.
‘Woke Culture’, basically, is ‘liberalism’ taken to its logical conclusion. Liberalism, itself, is a western memeplex that’s deeply embedded in Abrahamic doctrines. It is for this reason that we see this phenomenon mostly in urban areas where the youth of this generation have been most exposed to western memes. Before the advent of social media, there was a significant time-lag that existed between liberal culture in India and that in the West. However, with the advent of social media, this time-lag has been eradicated as ideas can be now transported across the world in seconds.
Thus, it didn’t take too long for ‘Woke Culture’ to arrive in India after it was invented in the West. However, social structures in India are still strong. Therefore, we see relatively less of its impact in the real world. But on social media, we can very well see what ‘Woke Culture’ has led to. For instance, the Indian #MeToo movement which brought out very real instances of sexual harassment and abuse also led to a point where the central figures of the movement are suffering a great lack of credibility a year later.
The developments of the past few days have come as a revelation to most people but for those who have observed ‘Woke Culture’ with a keen eye, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise. Woke Culture does make a virtue of degeneracy. But the thing is, when a culture celebrates degeneracy and makes a virtue out of it, people who are involved with it are certain to not be paragons of virtue.
The foundation of ‘Woke Culture’ is victimhood, whether real or feigned. It has promoted a culture where everyone wants to be a victim and when everyone wants to be a victim, a significant section of them will naturally invent crimes to suit their agenda. It’s a great injustice to actual victims who have very good reasons to feel victimized. They deserve every bit of our empathy and compassion. However, in Woke Culture, people who do not deserve it see the empathy and compassion that is accorded to victims as an incentive to pretend to be victims themselves. It’s narcissistic and immensely selfish.
Conversely, it’s natural for every human being to want to be a hero. Heroes are showered with great adulation and they stand tall at the pinnacle of glory. The entire world lies at their feet. However, in order to become a hero, people have to perform heroic feats. People who are deeply involved with ‘Woke Culture’ are no different. They want to be heroes, they seek glory, they crave for attention and adulation. And as it so happens, when people are not capable of achieving heroic feats, they will invent demons themselves which they will then slay in order to portray themselves as heroes.
In Woke Culture, what we see is an unhealthy marriage between victimhood and the urge to become heroes in the Church of Liberalism officiated by the priest of Social Media. It does take great courage for a real victim to speak out against his or her tormentor. The misery they have to endure is truly traumatic and when they manage to conquer their fear and speak out, it epitomizes courage. In Woke Culture, it is the reverse. People who want to be heroes invent causes of victimhood in order to tell the world that they have slain a great many demons. It’s a perversion of the natural order.
Of course, there are very real victims in Woke Culture as there are a great many perverts. In Woke Culture, as a phenomenon that operates largely through social media, people do not have to act in any particular way to be ‘Woke’. They just have to say the right things, advocate for very particular positions in public in order to be considered part of the ‘in-group’ and demonstrate in-group solidarity during interactions with out-groups. This makes identifying the real victims in Woke Culture extremely difficult.
Due to the conduct of the ‘Woke Culture’, the greatest people who have been hurt are the actual victims. They say, ‘Believe All Women!’. ‘Woke Culture’ took it several steps forward. And it’s a religious belief that everyone adheres to resolutely. If someone even asks the mildest of questions, they are silenced and abused and shamed. Thus, other members of the group automatically fall in line with the narrative. In the process, lives are destroyed and ultimately, it’s the credibility of actual victims that suffers the most as the threshold of evidence rises many times over.
Another great travesty of ‘Woke Culture’ is the fact that mental illness has been romanticized. It’s unequivocally true that ‘Woke Culture’ has attached a sense of romance to mental illness which can have devastating repercussions. Sadly, we also see people who pretend they can get with atrocious conduct just because they are ‘depressed’. Depression isn’t an excuse for disgraceful conduct, nor is it a stick that should be used for beating strangers online. And yet, this is exactly what we observe in Woke Culture.
In short, Woke Culture is ‘Weaponized Resentment’. People who are part of this are deeply bitter individuals who suffer from great resentment when they see others happier than they are. They blame others for their own shortcoming and then attempt to make others feel guilty in order to acquire what they wish. They truly feel that others are responsible for the mess they are in and from their perspective, everything is justified in their battle against them. Whatever it takes.
The object of resentment is usually an out-group, such as Men, Brahmins, right-wing or whatever the mood dictates on that particular day. And when someone from the in-group disagrees with them, they are accused of sympathizing with the out-group or worse, of being an out-group mole who is working towards undermining the in-group. Thus, anyone else who might disagree with them is either silenced or convinced of the accusations and comes to the conclusion that only the out-group could ever disagree with the stated proposition.
It’s important to understand here that ‘Woke Culture’ can manifest itself only in a society where ‘liberalism’ already rules the roost. That is, it can only manifest itself in a hyper-individualistic society. When there’s no ostensible group identity for people to attach themselves to, they will naturally invent others group markers. People want to belong, it’s an innate human desire. And when social institutions have been destroyed, it’s natural for such groups to develop.
Thus, with the advent of social media, we see a vast network of people working towards the perpetuation of this toxic culture for no other reason than the fact that these bitter individuals are part of the in-group. The liberal beliefs of the group allowed bitter individuals to hijack it in order to normalize an extremely toxic culture. And they were in no position to resist as the individuals concerned advocated only a more puritan version of their own beliefs. It is all a downward spiral from there which eventually ends with lives being destroyed for no good reason.
In all of this, it’s important to understand that social media has played a huge role in the development of Woke Culture. The internet has broken barriers but in doing so, it has also unleashed chaos that is kept in check by numerous boundaries in the real world. It is quite obvious that humans haven’t yet developed the ability to counter the adverse effects of the internet. And it’s unclear as yet whether such a thing is even possible.