What do you mean when you say woke


Nobody has called me woke. Not to my face, anyway.  But, if they do, I’ll assume they intend it as an insult and put a few questions to them.

Like whether they are referring to my views on climate change. Whether they believe it is real and caused by humans. Whether they see it as a catastrophe for people and planet, or “just a big beat up”.

I’ll ask whether they’re referring to my views on gender equality, diversity and inclusion. Whether they think everyone deserves respect and equality of opportunity. That every organisation is strengthened by the different perspectives diversity brings. Or that we should go back to the “way things were”.

I’ll ask whether they agree that the pursuit of strong environmental, social and governance performance by companies creates long-term value for shareholders. Or whether they think corporates should just “stick to their knitting”.

I’m the first to admit that some progressives can appear intolerant of different views, doing their causes few favours with the singular way they promote their ideals.

But, on the other side, labelling people as woke has become a dog whistle for some, providing a mechanism to signal a collection of views to like-minded people, while avoiding accountability for those views specifically.

So, if someone calls you woke, ask them what they’re really saying. If they’re not prepared to answer, perhaps they shouldn’t be throwing the term around in the first place.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.


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