“I am awake.” —Gautama Buddha
It is a relatively new term. It was not added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2017. The word is “woke.” I’ve heard it used by religious and political activists, celebrities and talking heads. It means up-to-date or well-informed, highly sensitive to pressing moral issues of the day. It can be used, either facetiously or as praise, about those who claim the moral high ground, as in “They’re an extremely woke couple.”
The Buddha founded a world religion on woke-ness. After his enlightenment, wandering around India, he encountered people who recognized him as an extraordinary being and asked him if he was a God, a reincarnation, a wizard, just a man or what? He replied, “I am awake.” The name Buddha means “awakened one.” How to live your life awake, instead of clueless or oblivious or insensitive or apathetic or purposeless is essentially what the Buddha taught.
There’s another term getting a workout these days. Clicktivism is a popular form of woke-ness because it requires no travel, no money, no protests, no face-to-face meetings or conversations, no exercise greater than clicking your computer’s mouse to register agreement or disagreement with a particular cause. Here one puts in minimal effort and earns a merit badge for supporting a cause.
The United Nations has officially termed that smallest and least helpful level of involvement “slacktivism.” We used to call people who were lazy or underachievers “slackers.” Slacktivism now means taking to social media to choose the lowest cost, lowest risk, least amount of awakening, least investment of skin in the game. Just click “like” on a Facebook page or website and consider yourself one of the woke. It’s almost effortless.
Still, to declare publicly which side you’re on and the woke-ness you’ve discovered there is not nothing.