Woke, virtue signalling, gender fluid, trigger warning, Non binary, Fluid, Mansplain, Safe space, Twerf and Swerf. Just some terms of reference for the new generation of progressive activists.
I first got involved politically at the age of 15 and by the age of 18 years, I had been on trade union pickets, anti war marches, animal rights demonstrations, gay pride parades and public meetings on these issues and many more. Activism was about street stalls, meetings, marches and more ideally strikes and the dream of revolution.
While there has been much hilarity when the Democratic Socialists of America recent convention erupted in chaos over sensory overload and whispering and the crime of gendered pronouns, I have been struck by some in Ireland blind to this nonsense. I am not going to name these people in Ireland who have been sympathetic and understanding to the DSA as I do not wish to embarrass them.
There is an argument that the left in the US has given up the crucial issues to become obsessed with linguistic precision that without material motivation can never be anything other than a form of left-wing etiquette. We’re basically winning at Scrabble and ceding housing, healthcare, etc to the right.
I am not sure because, in some cities the left has been crucial to the drive for increases in the minimum wage, which is a real difference for people and there has been an increase in union activity in different cities across a range of employments. The contention though brings me back to the original point above that today there appears to be a whole new compendium of language that was not around twenty eight years ago, when I first got political. Much of it wasn’t even around five years ago. I only discovered what a Swerf and Twerf means last year. What does it look like when wokeists interact with everday people? I suspect Trump in his hideousness has brought in a tide for radical activism but exclusivist groups engaging in virtue signalling so as to be woke, risk that tide going out ‘when we return to normal times’.
Terms like virtue signalling are understood by some on the left to be right wing terms of abuse, but in fact it is a useful term for describing someone, who is not going to do anything but show sympathy or empathy to show their virtue. It is a pointless practice because it involves no activity except gesture or practice of emotion.
These practices probably always existed but use of social media has heightened our senses to be alert to their use. Some of these terms are used by large numbers of people and others used by people within their own circles exclusively.
To be woke is to be hip and with the times and be conversant in these terms and have the self awareness to show your virues by issuing a warning that what you might say might be traumatic for some people, leading them to seek a safe space, so get your ground rules in order, so said people know where that is located. To be a swerf or a twerf means you are probably on the same side as those on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate but you exclude sex workers and or transgendered people from your considerations.