Imagine residing in the comforting cradle of your REM cycle, a deep yet dreamless sleep. Your breathing is even and your heart beat is pacing at a constant thud. Lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub. Then suddenly you sense an intrusion that disrupts your peace. A pair of hands seizes your shoulders, hoists you up by your cotton pajama sleeves and thrashes you about. You are jolted awake without warning and without your consent. Before leaving you to recollect yourself, a floating mouth appears between the phantom hands and utters:
You better stay woke, brother/sister/comrade/cadre/leader!
As you rub away the sand from your eyes, the ghostly legacy of oppression haunts your waking world. We’re all trapped in intersectional systems of violence: capitalism, sexism, racism, ableism and classism. Your eyes narrow with rage as you witness the struggle of marginalised groups. People of colour are still shackled in the legacy of socio-economic oppression, women are still objectified and treated as second-class citizens and violence permeates from the state right down to the grassroots levels. Then the question dawns on your inner-idealist:
What can I do to fix this?
‘Wokeness’ then implies action, usually militant. Once awakened, you may feel obligated to recruit your countrymen to help ‘the cause’. Now the urge to mobilise surges through your veins. As a Woke Warrior you must arm yourself with literary artillery. You stimulate your mind with the wise teachings of Frantz Fanon, W. E. B. Du Bois and Stuart Hall because you’re determined to never slip into a state of sleep and ignorance ever again. When your mind is saturated with intellectually sophisticated theories, it’s time to mobilise and change the world, one Twitter war and Facebook think-piece at a time.
Yes, not every battle that you march into will be valiant but every Woke Warrior needs to do what they can, wherever they can. Inspired by the camaraderie of woke warriors on social media, you yearn to make the theory of dismantling institutional oppression a reality. You yearn to really ‘stick it to the man’. Activists, aka Woke Warriors, start small by challenging the authority figures in their communities. So, you engage in as many forms of protest as you possibly can: petitions, passive or disruptive picketing, occupations, lock-downs, demonstrations, boycotts and strikes. But in trying to right the infinite wrongs of the world, doubt starts to nest in your mind.
Am I just screaming into the abyss?
So, you’ll most probably look to influential protests of the past that resulted in significant change to give you the hope to soldier on. The Occupy movements and more recently the Black Lives Matter movement have encouraged and mobilised activists around the world to put their bodies on the line to disrupt unjust and oppressive institutions, despite the potential for police brutality and arrest. Your Twitter feed is flooded with the news of unarmed and peaceful protesters that were assaulted with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and brute force.
You’re human and there is only so much that you can take. Social consciousness, like sleep, should not be a permanent state of being because life is cyclical. Remaining in a state of hyper-consciousness will reconfigure your mind and you’re bound to experience activism burn-out. Your eyelids are getting heavy but as a Woke Warrior you have committed yourself to saving the world. You should consider self-care instead of self-sacrifice.
True: no one would be justified if they regressed into a state of ignorant bliss because it was easier to enjoy problematic media and be complicit in sinister systems that corrupt humanity. The executive, legislative and judicial villains that you’re fighting have overwhelming power to shape and maintain reality in their favour because it is the kind of power that has been accumulated over time. They, dubious and unspecified, are reaping the investments of schemes that are centuries old.
It may be a grim thought to entertain, Woke Warrior, but it is important to listen to real talk because you must understand that the war you’ve recently entered into has been raging on long before you awoke and will continue long after you’re gone.
So, am I just a speck of sand on the beach of despair?
You shouldn’t stop fighting the good fight because it seems futile. Choose your battles wisely and avoid guilt trips when you need to sit certain battles out. Practicing self-care by temporarily retreating from the ideological struggle is nothing to feel ashamed of. Shall we call these moments of respite Woke Warrior naps’? Well then nap on, comrade. You’ve earned it!