Social issues

Forum: Calls for awareness should seek to build bridges

People at Raffles Place MRT station on Sept 28, 2020.
People at Raffles Place MRT station on Sept 28, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

I share Mr Lester Wong's concern in his commentary, "Too much of 'wokeism' can become too much of a good thing" (Jan 10).

Sometimes a zeal for social justice may lead to a misplaced sense of moral superiority, but the examples of too much wokeism in his commentary need elaboration.

It is not clear how the concept of cancel culture differs in scope from demanding accountability from public figures.

How different are the methods of cancelling - described as denying money, attention, or support for companies or people perceived to have offended others - from acts of boycotting or ostracism?

It is troubling if people are punished for innocuous remarks taken out of context, but the link to an amorphous concept of cancel culture is not quite clear, and appears to be more of an example of misplaced moral superiority.

To be clear, online bullying behind the veil of Internet anonymity is a problem, but this is not done solely by woke individuals.

The risk is that genuine calls for accountability are conflated with bullying, and this may result in a setback for progressive causes.

Using the Capitol Hill riots to draw attention to the danger of strong emotions in movements ignores the different context in which young people are attracted to woke ideas.

The Capitol Hill riots were the result of longstanding political animosity driven by conspiracy theories.

I cannot think of any movement by young people driven by woke ideas that has resulted in similar outcomes due to similar contexts, and it is hard to see how this might happen.

Social consciousness should be exercised with consideration and grace, and calls for social awareness should ideally seek to build bridges.

However, as it stands, the concerns raised in the commentary point to the dangers of extremism in any movement, not just of a woke movement.

Isaac Neo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'Calls for awareness should seek to build bridges'. Print Edition | Subscribe