Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Desmond Tutu and the benefits of Wokeness

 Desmond Tutu did some of his theological training at King's College, London. He liked to tell how, if he was lost and needed directions he would ask a policeman, who not only didn't arrest him, nor even demand his papers, but actually called him "Sir!"  He admitted that on occasions he and his African colleagues would sometimes ask a policeman for directions, even when they knew perfectly well  where they were and where they were going going, just to enjoy the frisson of this, to them unusual, experience.

We don't hear much of this aspect of the Metropolitan Police these days.  I wonder if it still exists?  Our unarmed "bobbies" and the culture that policeman were there to be asked if you wanted to know the time, were one of the features that made our country admired, and could do so again.

Another Tutu story relates to his childhood.  After a church service the congregation were milling about outside the church, and the visiting preacher Fr Trevor Huddleston, before engaging Tutu's mother in conversation, raised his hat to her (which I presume was  the conventional thing for polite gentlemen to do when approaching  ladies  in that era, though I was too young to notice much of it here in Birstall).  Tutu was impressed.  If this man cold raise his hat to his mother, a humble house servant, then the visiting  priest  clearly "had something" which was worth exploring.  Hence Tutu became an enthusiastic ember of the church, eventually was ordained as a priest and became one of your most celebrated Archbishops.

I think "woke" was originally used to indicate awareness of racial injustice, but has now expanded to a more broad awareness of and sensitivity to the predicaments and feelings of others.

The Conservatives and their supportive press have chosen to ridicule those who attempt to practise wokeness in this sense.  They shouldn't: it is designed to make the world a better place, something both Huddleston (a member of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, next door to Birstall) and Tutu both tried and succeeded in doing along with countless polite policemen and others who  treat all human beings with the respect we all deserve.

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5 comments:

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  2. Doesn't being "woke" simply mean showing respect for the views of others? Perhaps it's not so surprising then that it seems to be a hate word in the Mail, Express and Telegraph

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    1. Doesn't being "woke" simply mean showing respect for the views of others?

      If that were all it meant… and if it didn't demand acquiescence to obvious nonsense like 'implicit bias', 'systemic racism', and the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth but only competing discourses of oppression and anti-oppression… then nobody would object to it.

      But sadly it does mean those things. It's a bait-and-switch argument: you want to convince people of some highly controversial nonsense. So you come up with a watered-down version of it, so watered-down that it's unobjectionable. Then you proclaim your nonsense far and wide and, inevitably, someone will point out that it's nonsense. Whereupon you say, 'but all I'm saying is [the watered-down version]! Surely you can't object to that!' And indeed they can't, because they watered-down version is, as above, so watered-down as to be unobjectionable. Then as soon as they admit they agree with the watered-down version, you turn around and say, 'Ah ha! So you do agree with [my highly controversial nonsense?]!'

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  3. I can agree with Severn Boar where we have awoke to others.A campaign to make the police more approachable and friendly would not be a bad thing.Yes,those papers are interested in spreading hate, division to allow their tax dodging masters to live in luxury

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    1. Thanks to both of you for your comments. Whatever the exact definition of "woke" it seems to include respect for the persons and sensitivity to the opinions of others. The Tories and their supportive press are doing their best to ridicule the concept, and we must to what we can to stop them. All three of the papers Severn Boar mentions are guilty but I think the Mail is the worst in generating the idea that only "people like us" (plu in Mrs Thatcher's days,) our writers and readers, are decent, honest, deserving and hard working and the rest are, at best, a bit "iffy.

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