A la (Des)cartes
Why it's time to wake up and smell the woke

A la (Des)cartes
David Feela - 12/07/2023

When I read that a Melbourne cafe is selling a $200 cup of coffee, without refills, the news woke me up faster than my usual morning cuppa. I thought, wow, that’s has to be a QAnon story, but apparently it’s real, according to the Australian news site news.com.au that published it. Or maybe just surreal. 

I closed my eyes and imagined a first class ticket to the Gesha Cafe in Melbourne. It would take me over $15,000 to buy the ticket, the better part of a day to arrive, plus assorted luxury hotel bookings and food costs. With these prices, a $200 cup of coffee would seem almost reasonable. 

When I opened my eyes I admit, I was really Woke.

Woke, Wokeness or Wokeism. The idea is difficult to explain, mostly because it’s not a philosophy but a rant. Those on the fringe right would have you believe American institutions like Senator Tuberville’s army, Disney’s un-Enchanted World and the entire U.S. public school system are merely vessels where liberals have infused the beans of their patriotic traditional roast with nonsense.   

Woke, brewed simply, only means to be politically conscious and aware. That’s it, unless you want to travel with me to Australia

According to Ohio State professor Elaine Richardson, the term originally surfaced in Black protest songs. First recorded in 1938, Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Lead Belly) sang “Scottsboro boys,” which advised his audience if traveling to Alabama to “be careful and stay woke.”  

Some news outlets use the term to ridicule people who believe there’s something terribly wrong with trying to sanitize our history of slavery, deny the horrors of holocaust, make abortion illegal,or take away a human’s freedom to love whomever they choose. If these are the crimes of the Woke, then there is good reason to become the best Woke criminals a democratic society can produce.  

As early as the 17th century, Descartes turned Woke. It could have been the coffee, because coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries were social places where, for the price of a cup, men would meet for conversation and commerce. No doubt women had to smuggle beans into their homes and sip surreptitiously.  

Descartes rediscovered a school of thought about intellectual freedom: that every thought can be questioned and subject to doubt. Of course, it’s all more complicated than that, but certainly food for thought.

Consciousness matters, it keeps the mind awake, aware and unmanipulated by those who would do us harm by pretending to do us good. You can, and should, express yourself if that’s what matters. But it’s a personal choice, not a political one. And don’t be afraid of opinions, but don’t be fooled either. If you aren’t Woke then you are in somebody else’s dream.

Sneak the banned books into your backpack, believe that LGTBQ+ people can be your friends. Don’t let the bullies turn you into a zombie. Stay strong and be cheerful. History documents the good and the ugly. If it actually happened, it’s relevant.  

When people try to sell me a new euphemism, I always wonder what sort of militia is behind it. And sometimes I just invent what needs to be said.

A la mode

“Oh, my belly aches.” 

“Are you sick?”

“I ate, therefore I am.”

“Did you chew?”

“How can anyone eat without chewing?”

“Intravenous feeding comes to mind.”

“You’re just being a smart-ass.”

“But you’re the one who brought up philosophy.”

“I said what normal people think.”

“That’s not what Descartes thought.”

“Who knows what he thought.”

“I think I have an idea.” 

“So now you’re a psychic for dead philosophers?”

“No, I’m a reader of historical philosophies.”

“OK, in one sentence, what the hell did he know?”

“Cogito, ergo sum.”

“Skip the Pig Latin, just spit it out.” 

“I think, therefore I am.”

“That’s what I first said.”

“But a Descartes menu included doubt to sustain life.”

“You can’t survive on that.”

“And he agrees, but it’s the brain that masticates thought.” 

“Well, like I said, that’s what I said.

“Not exactly.” 

“So maybe I took a shortcut.” 

“Just try thinking before swallowing everything.”

– David Feela

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