Awaken to Woke by Al Sikes

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“Pride makes us artificial; humility makes us real.” Thomas Merton

Or, to put it another way: camera on: artificial; camera off: possibility. At least possibility can yield to humility and the real self.

We are now in the “Woke” era. Woke, in part, is defined as “alert to injustice in society.” We are pushed to be awake to insulting behavior. Most perilously the way forward is guarded by a new priesthood. And the rule book seems to be situational and is often informed by feelings, which is to say emotion.

It is not my tendency to be pessimistic. But, I can imagine that pessimists, in particular, are more sensitive to potential insult as they are more likely to interpret on the dark side of humanity. I can recall a moment when often the reaction to potential offense was: “no offense meant, none taken.”

At an early cognitive moment, I was told about the Golden Rule. As time unfolded I learned of its origin. And then through biblical exposition, a clearer definition took shape. In the vernacular of today, I awakened to what I understood to be divine guidance.

“Woke”, absent scriptural guidance, is often defined by cameras and talking heads. Beyond being in a “woke” era we are also in an artificial one. The camera does not come on until after the people on the screen have been to the makeup room.

Then the screen guests go to the “green room” where they silently rehearse scripted lines while fleetingly recalling the Q&A their staff pressed on them to make sure all contingencies are covered.

What a strange alchemy. We stir our impending moment of fame with what is trending on Twitter and then we are confronted by a TV personality whose goal is embellishing his/her fame. Pride squared.

Today Joe Biden’s insulting behavior is trending—this is an awkward moment for him. The scribes have him announcing his candidacy for the Democrat nomination to be President in the next week or so and the TV personalities won’t be interested in his domestic or international policy views, but in his various too affectionate personal moments. Hugging and kissing will trump security and debt.

Could even our most iconic leaders remain upright in the “woke” era? I have read a fair number of biographies and don’t recall any in which the subject didn’t have his or her moments of humanness. Yes, humanness.

My wife, Marty, worked on the US Senate side of Capitol Hill for then-Senator John C. Danforth. She told me from time to time about the pleasantness of Senator Joe Biden, who was Danforth’s next door neighbor in the Russell building. She also related that most Senators rushed through the halls with self-importance in the air and aides trailing behind. Plenty of them in any given election cycle want to be President.

It is with some hesitation that I write this column, as I know that “woke” is trending and its priests will not excuse 1980s manners as mitigating. I will, however, end with one suggestion. The “woke” priests should use parables to explain the triggers. Give those who have the audacity to offer themselves for office some guidance.

Perhaps I should add that a septuagenarian should probably be working on his golf game and an exculpatory autobiography.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

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