The famous phrase, Big brother is watching you is taken from George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984: A dystopian novel that depicts a society under constant surveillance of an authoritarian regime. The citizens of Oceana are constantly being watched through telescreens. This novel was first published in 1949. Fast-forward to 2021, we are slowly seeing the world evolving into an Orwellian society.
The rise of cancel culture
According to Wikipedia, cancel culture is a modern from of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media or in person. One of the characteristics of an Orwellian society is the ostracization or the total elimination of people who refuse to conform to the to the narrative or the culture being postulated by the state. In the book 1984, the protagonist, Winston is constantly on his toes as any slip on his part from the established order may lead to devastating results. In Oceana, non-conformists were vaporized.
“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.” (George Orwell, 1984)
In today’s world, non-conformists are removed from social media, sacked from work, banned from politics…the list goes on and on. Cancel culture is truly a major force today. In the past few months, we have seen President Donald Trump banned from social media; social media app, Parler deleted from the internet; Gina Carano dropped from UTA; Israel Folau fired from Australian professional rugby league; J.K. Rowlings was also attacked online for posting “transphobic tweets.” Just like Orwell’s fictional world, all who do not conform to the religion of the woke are cancelled/evaporated. Those who preach acceptance and tolerance have been the most intolerant.
The new religion
There is a new religionin town, and I call it, the religion of the woke because it has the elements of a religious movement. The difference is that the place of deity has been replaced with ideologies and with self. Centuries ago, people were cancelled by the Roman Catholic church for believing in a heliocentric solar system. In fact, it was heresy to believe the earth revolved around the sun. People were burnt at the stake or thrown in prison for having or spreading ideologies or beliefs different from what the religious order or the state was postulating. Joseph Stalin sent non-conformists to the Gulags to work and die. These days, there are no Gulags, and no one is burnt at the stake because civilization has evolved but the act of cancelling those, we do not agree with is very much alive. The actions of the religion of the woke over the past few years speaks, “act as we want you to or you will be cancelled.” The religion seeks new followers either by force or by indoctrination. Anyone with a little knowledge of history knows that this is a dangerous path to tread. Freedom of thought and freedom of speech are basic human rights and should be protected. Civilization has progressed because people were free to think, explore and discuss their ideologies. Anytime this liberty has been strangled, the result was authoritarianism which often leads to death and depression.
Social media and the battle for significance
Having given this issue of cancel culture a lot of thought, I believe at the root of it is a quest for significance/self-worth. We all want to be the hero/protagonist in world of antagonists. This quest is noble but how we go about it is what truly matters. I believe, in a quest for heroism, many have made antagonists of people who really aren’t. There is a deep longing in the heart of young people today to be true heroes. This longing is at the root of the social justice movement. Today, social justice warriors run all over social media looking for the latest antagonist, the latest villain that needs to be taken down at all cost: the man who posted a Bible verse that smelled of bigotry and homophobia, the lady who said masks aren’t useful, the lady who said feminism is destructive, the white man who said white privilege is a myth…any statement that seems to be against the order of the religion of the woke is instantly attacked and the victims insulted and cancelled. I believe the reason why this culture is so widespread on social media is because social media is like an alternate reality. Anyone can be anything they choose to be. People who have little or no knowledge of politics, history or economics can pretend to be experts on such matters, people who have never studied a single book on economics or politics can criticize policies they can neither create nor explain. Everyone is an expert on something as long as they have a phone and can send a tweet.
The effects of cancel culture are numerous. People are afraid to speak out for fear of being cancelled. Such culture stifles creativity because well-meaning individuals who may want to explore uncharted territories will have to check if whatever theories they have is in line with the order of the religion of the woke because if there is any hint of non-conformity in them, they are instantly cancelled. If the human civilization is to advance, everyone should be welcome to the table of ideas. We must humble ourselves and understand that we do not know it all because even the prophet can sometimes find wisdom in the mouth of a donkey.
Rume Kpadamrophe is an evangelist, writer, teacher and researcher based in Lagos, Nigeria. Rume speaks French and English and loves to travel. His desire is to see revival ignited and sustained in the nations of the world. Rume’s email address is email@example.com
Rume’s previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rume-padsmrophe.html