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Is this goodbye to freedom?

The young have contentedly yielded their freedoms in favour of an all-enveloping ‘wokeness’ that has silently stolen our free thought, says Jo Knowsley.

Never mistake this Wokeness and our raft of new Rules as a new, liberal, fuzzily-warm, left-leaning democracy. It is not. This is a twisted form of Fascism…

When Cole Porter wrote ‘Anything Goes’ in the early Thirties the world was in a mood of unbridled hope.

The plot and songs celebrated new freedoms and were written in a mood of gaiety: we had survived WW 1 and the Great Depression had ended. Few anticipated the horrors of WWII to come and in this brief, halcyon period, anything seemed possible.

Until recently, looking back, we would have considered that we lived in an even luckier time now. Healthcare has improved, most of us in the developed world live longer, and our homes are full of appliances and aids that would have amazed and delighted our grandparents. We had easy access to holidays and leisure – even if the arrival of computers didn’t herald the new era of fewer working hours that it promised.

But as the plague of Covid-19 has swept the globe, curbing freedoms and bringing new restrictions, it has been accompanied – even foreshadowed – by insidious limits as to what we can say, and even think.

Even the young, historically so vehement about claiming their rights to rebel, have contentedly yielded their freedoms in favour of an all-enveloping ‘wokeness’ that has silently stolen our free thought. 

Never have we lived in a time when so many are ruled by so many guidelines and labels so rigid that it can sometimes seem impossible to express a view without offending somebody.

Statues of former society heroes have been torn down because of their links to slavery; the equality brand LGBT has had a Q added to the end (this now represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and or Questioning). Ethnic people are no longer called Black or Coloured, they must be labelled People of Colour. Whites are still Whites (though surely it’s only a matter of time until they are branded People of No-Colour, or perhaps Pale). Women giving birth are now referred to in some sections of the medical profession, as Birthing People as if anyone who would like to give birth may, ultimately, be able to do so.

And when the hell did vegetarian ingredients in cooking, get relabelled as ‘plant based’?

At the same time Governments have used the cover of Covid-19 to bring in authoritarian laws that are unlikely to be relinquished when or if the pandemic is over: additional surveillance, new forms revealing more than ever about our most private lives, and rules about who can do what, where and when.

So how could, and should, things be different? Surely it is good to reflect on history, to realise many of our heroes were deeply flawed and remove our monumental tributes to them; surely it’s important to be tolerant of other social groups; and surely it’s good to think about ways we can improve everybody’s lot.

Yes. Of course. But therein, as Shakespeare would say, ‘lies the rub.’ The new truthfulness, as it is accepted, tolerates no debate. Try even suggesting there were some positives for native peoples under Colonialism – while accepting it is clearly wrong to impose a culture on any nation – and see what reaction you get. Or try explaining to determined anti-vaxxers that having a Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab is not ‘helping the Government’ whom they deeply distrust, but helping them and their families stay alive.

In autocratic countries, where they have tyrannical leaders, school books now boast histories that have been re-written to suit the mood and whim of these leaders of the day. Nothing unpleasant in the past will now be recalled or remembered.

Ultimately, I suppose, the thing that gets me above all is the hypocrisy in all of this. Many ‘woke’ persons would never dream of having a Person of Colour to dinner, or want them to marry their Pale daughters, yet they applaud the changing of street names to reflect our multi-cultural society and pay homage to the damage done to them centuries ago under Slavery.

Where is this taking us? Are we still too cowardly to focus on the real problems that face us right now: just who is locked up in prison and why? Who has the worst health? Who is not getting the best education? Our real social ills lie deep under Politically Correct language we now employ which is quite literally lip service.

Changing attitudes is important. And nobody would surely condone Hate Speak. (We did though, and it took the Americans to deport Abu Hamza and stop him preaching hate outside his north London mosque.) But you can’t change attitudes by forbidding any potential opponents the right to speak out. 

So never mistake this Wokeness and our raft of new Rules as a new, liberal, fuzzily-warm, left-leaning democracy. It is not. This is a twisted form of Fascism.

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Jo Knowsley

Jo has held senior staff writing roles on some of Britain’s leading newspapers including the Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday, and is now a freelance writer. She has reported on major breaking stories around the world and has written for magazines and newspapers in Britain, Australia and New Zealand in publications as diverse as Marie Claire, the Daily Mail, Metro, Saga and Grazia. In the past she focused primarily on news-lead reports and interviews. Today she writes across a number of platforms on subjects ranging from property and travel to theatre and features. She grew up in New Zealand and has made her home and career in London since 1990.

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