Abre Los Ojos

Activists regard themselves as The Vanguard Party, the enlightened few whose job it is to open the eyes of the rest of us[1]. Traditional Marxist-Leninists believe they are trying to trigger wholesale class consciousness; they are recruiting the oppressed to the cause of their own emancipation. 

Modern online activists, however, respect other people’s ability to make their own decisions, so when they point out a micro-aggression, they are being accusatory. The activists are Woke; others have wilfully decided not to be.

The word “Woke” is a revealing example of the celebration of the self. It is an adjective. It describes people who have taken the Red Pill – who have alerted themselves to the true power structures of society. I guess it derives from words like “woke up” and “awakened”. However, like much American English, it has been shorn of its grammatical agreement[2], that telling “am/was” and “-ed” that reminds us of the adjective’s lineage, it’s similarity to the passive form (“I was woken up; I was awakened”) because, once something has been impressed on you, it becomes one of your attributes. The passive denies agency to those it describes, the action has been done to them, so it has been ditched in favour of a hip new slang term that makes activists seem dynamic and independent. (And even, when adopted by British people, can I say…a little…pretentious?)

Micro-aggressions are a real thing. I’m sure they are gateway expressions of racism or sexism or transphobia that, by accretion, support a racist or sexist or transphobic society. However, by relentlessly hunting them out among our contemporaries and by using the accusation to attack individuals, we are causing problems for a campaign which must, eventually persuade, rather than destroy. We can’t shoot them all, so we’re going to have to live with them. In which case, we don’t want to appear rigid and inflexible, unforgiving. We’re supposed to be the reasonable ones.


[1] “Abre Los Ojos.”

[2] We’ve pondered, before, you and I, whether this might be the result of American English being a pidgin, a simplified grammatical form that allows a diverse language community – Modern Americans have arrived from all over the world – to develop a lingua franca that all can understand. 

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