Last week, while reading a copy of The Daily Telegraph — the old fashioned conservative daily published from London — I was thrilled to add a new word to my vocabulary: Woke. According to Andrew Doyle, a regular contributor to an online publication Spiked that I seriously recommend and now an author of a book on the subject, “Woke is the concept that everything must be inclusive and inoffensive, that you always use the correct language and be hyper-aware of other people’s sensitivities.” This social justice movement, he added, “is full of people who are arrogant, narcissistic and very certain in themselves. The idea that they could be wrong doesn’t even cross their minds.”
Needless to say, I have been passionately anti-Woke for nearly all my adult life, although the idea of showering those on the other side with gratuitous insults and unparliamentary abuse strikes me as being unwarranted. That apart, Woke is a very useful shorthand and probably more expressive than ‘politically correct’ (PC), a term that is too general. Woke better expresses the madness that has gripped many of the campuses in the West and has now started influencing a section of the chattering classes in India.
I refer to Woke in the context of the recent India-Pakistan tensions and the sharp polarisation between those who wave the Indian tricolour enthusiastically and those who draw a moral equivalence between both sides of the Radcliffe Line.
The controversy over the Indian Air Force’s bombing of the Jaish-e-Mohammed facilities in Balakot has seen the flowering of the Woke culture in India. Earlier, a section of the Woke brigade were active in the Not In My Name campaign against beef lynchings. But that stir also included well-meaning people who were shocked by mob violence or believed in a libertarian version of food freedom.
The Balakot polarisation is qualitatively different. First, the “soft” liberals have quietly dropped out of any campaign that either seeks to undermine the Indian armed forces or conveys an impression that a jehadi life is equal to the sacrifice of professional soldiers. Today’s Woke gladiators began with the assertion that the Balakot that was bombed by the IAF was located somewhere on the Line of Control and not deep inside Pakistani territory, as the Indian Government claimed. When this claim turned out to be ridiculous, it was claimed-again on the strength of Pakistani propaganda that the IAF bombed desolate areas, destroyed some trees and, at best, killed a crow. The raid, it was gleefully suggested on social media by the Woke brigade, was yet another attempt by Narendra Modi to hoodwink Indians. Some dodgy satellite images and a tendentious report by Reuters was used to bolster the argument that Modi was all bluff. Finally, when corroborative evidence filtered through of the damage in Balakot, mysterious burials in Pakistan and angry fulminations by the JeM leadership, the rhetoric further changed. Now it was told that the Balakot bombing was a piece of strategic adventurism, typical of Modi, and that the priority was ensure No War. There were expressions of aesthetic displeasure over flag-waving Indians shouting Pakistan Muradabad, angry denunciations of the idiots who beat up a Kashmiri trader in Lucknow and even some gushy admiration of Imran Khan’s call for peace.
At the heart of this Woke campaign are two powerful sentiments.
First, that Pulwama and Balakot ultimately stands to benefit Modi electorally. That, to them, is simply unacceptable because they have deemed that a Modi re-election would be the end of civilisation as we know it. If Modi does indeed return to Lok Kalyan Marg as Prime Minister in May, we are certain to be treated to announcements by some Woke luminaries that they are buying a one-way ticket out of this disgusting country that can’t distinguish between good and evil.
Also driving the Woke campaign is a pathological hatred of nationalism, especially Indian nationalism. It is seen to be an expression of Hindu machismo and inherently Islamophobic. The repeated chants of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai are seen to be located in a Hindu supremacist ideology. This disagreeable mindset, they believe, can only be countered by viewing Pakistanis are inherently decent human beings in a country that produces good writers, wonderful cricketers and delectable cuisine. India and Pakistan, they believe, have to forge a common bond of cosmopolitanism based on Woke values. For that to happen, the Indian Establishment and Modi in particular must be demolished, even if it involves being part of Pakistan’s outreach campaign to ensure that India is thrown into political uncertainty.
Lenin coined a term — Useful Idiots — meaning members of the bourgeoisie who work against their own class interests and end up, sometimes unwittingly, helping the Red revolution. Maybe this term is unparliamentary and in case casts needless doubts on the mental abilities of a potential fifth column. I, for one, don’t ever believe that the Woke culture epitomises innocent but misplaced idealism. As we have seen in recent weeks, these are well connected individuals, blessed with good education, who use their formidable international connections to undermine national solidarity at a time of crisis. These are the very people who want to lessen the intensity of the war on terrorism by seeking a debate on the roots of terror. Their perspective isn’t national but resolutely post-national. Ironically, this is a position that those who wage global jehad would readily agree.
The only question that remains is: should we allow the Woke campaign to wallow in its own self-indulgence and maybe influence a part of the political mainstream? Alternatively, should we avail the facilities of direct benefit transfer to pay for their one-way ticket to the temperate zone? Frankly, even at the risk of being dubbed a wet liberal, I think the first option is preferable. Our demonology must always be more enlightened and self-confident than theirs. Next time you meet a Woke, just say Balakot.