From Woke to Awake: An Intersectionality of Perspective

Mark Fischler Cognitive, Editor's Picks, Ethical, How should we relate to the social justice movement?, Integral Justice Warrior, Moral, Perspectives, Politics, Values, Video, World Affairs, Worldviews 4 Comments

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atch as Mark and I have a rich and far-reaching discussion about our present political realities and challenges. As we often do, we dedicate the first half of the discussion to current events, going through some of the major headlines from the last few weeks: the Texas freeze, President Biden’s recent cabinet nominations, military action in Syria, the murder of Jamal Khasshogi, and the ongoing response to COVID.

Then we turn our attention to the main theme of the episode — finding ways to elevate “woke culture” into a genuine “post-woke” sensibility that attempts to build a stronger bridge from postmodern identity politics to a more integral intersectionality of perspective, rescuing the babies of the woke movement from the bathwater of regressive ideology.

Topics include:

0:00 — Introduction
3:46 — The Texas Freeze
15:57 — Biden’s Nominations
31:24 — Bombs Over Syria
47:42 — Is the Left Responsible for Tribalism?
56:36 — The Khashoggi Murder
1:06:02 — The COVID Response
1:14:01 — From Woke to Awake
1:30:40 — An Intersectionality of Perspective

This discussion is an opportunity to invite more “post-woke” (as opposed to “anti-woke”) conversations. It surfaces some of the really-real realities and multicultural challenges that wokism is legitimately trying to respond to — while also showing how limited their interpretations and prescriptions tend to be.

Yes, LL cultural biases get encoded into LR systems (for example, this article explores how different cultural idioms and preferences become systemized into music theory itself, which then gets encoded into music-making software, which can then limit the expressions of people using the software who may come from a different cultural with different preferences and selection methods). And yes, oftentimes these biases go unnoticed until that LR system is dropped into a new LL cultural context. Some things that are commonly described as “universal” or “worldcentric” still retain some residue of regional/cultural bias.

But no, these are usually not intentional efforts to colonize or oppress. In the case of the article above, it is just the inevitable result of local cultural expressions (and technologies) finding their way to the world stage and rubbing against each other. The growing pains of multiculturalism.

I think this post-woke context (again, in contrast to “anti-woke”) is very important. If anything, it invites more people to play, while reminding us that here are some very real babies the need to be saved from the bathwater of illiberal overreach.

As I like to say these days, I think we need to elevate the idea of “intersectionality of identity” to a genuine “intersectionality of perspective”, where “identity” is just one of many layers in the stack.

Integral IS intersectionality. It just does it better.

Where woke intersectionality tends to focus on one single axis, associating “privilege and oppression” solely with these various identity-types, it generally doesn’t apply this axis to our overall development, to state-training, to multiple intelligences, to interior/exterior and individual/collective polarities, etc. Which is why it tends to reduce people to types — because the story of development is not one that has saturated our culture. 

And this tends to yield anti-progressive views, because the notion of “developmental progress” goes out the window. “Oh, you’re the type to have said something like that 20 years ago? That means you are still the type who would likely say the same thing today.” This thinking has become common in many (not all) progressive circles, despite being anti-progressive in every way.

An intersectionality of perspective, on the other hand, would view “privilege and oppression” as just one of many important lenses, and would apply these lenses across any number of quadrants, levels, lines, states, types, and polarities, while simultaneously locating and reintegrating “identity” in the self-stack and lowering its opacity.

In other words, postmodern intersectionality is purely an intersectionality of “types” (race, gender, orientation, etc.), while integral intersectionality brings all the other major factors to bear, so that we end up with a rich interconnected latticework of Kosmic Addresses.

Healthy “wokism” invites us to take a closer look at the Zone-4 waters we are swimming in — waters that are typically very difficult to notice before we get to the green altitude — and to clean up that water when we need to. Unhealthy wokism, on the other hand, imagines that the other 50% of the country are deliberately dumping poison into the water, when more often than not they are just swimming in waters they themselves cannot yet see.

Let’s go post-woke my friends.

What do you think about the idea of a post-woke project? What needs to be included, and what needs to be left behind? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

If you enjoy this episode, be sure to check out more episodes of Integral Justice Warrior. Watch them all for only $1!

Written and produced by Corey deVos

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Mark Fischler

About Mark Fischler

Mark Fischler is a Professor of Criminal justice and current program coordinator for the criminal justice and criminology programs at Plymouth State University. Prior to joining the Plymouth State faculty, he practiced law, representing poor criminal defendants for the New Hampshire Public Defender’s Office. Mark has worked extensively with alternative theoretical models in law, constitutional law, and higher education, and has published on integral applications to teaching, being a lawyer, and legal theory. His focus in the classroom is ethics and criminal procedure, and is well respected for a teaching philosophy that emphasizes recognizing the humanity and dignity of each student. Professor Fischler was awarded the outstanding teaching award at his university in 2014. He currently offers a weekly Spiritual Inquiry class through Satya Yoga Studio.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.

Notable Replies

  1. I would venture a guess that many of the people at this site are both woke and anti-woke, which is to say, the word itself now has a double meaning in culture, a positive meaning and a negative connotation.

    The word ‘woke’ (and maybe this was covered in Mark and Corey’s discussion; I haven’t listened to it) derives from the term “stay woke” used by African-American communities as early as the 1940s to encourage a continuing awareness of racial discrimination and injustice in society/culture and politics. This preceded the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling desegregating schools. The term ‘stay woke’ was also used during the 60s, preceding the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 respectively. Apparently the term was re-introduced by Erykah Badu in her 2008 song “Master Teacher;” it was taken up again in 2014 following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and from there, the Black Lives Matter movement started using it and the adjective “woke” was born. (Trivia: the word woke entered the Oxford Dictionary in 2017).

    To stay aware and actively attentive to important facts and issues around social injustice (as Merriam-Webster defines woke), especially racism, is not a bad thing; people staying woke is how social/economic/political change comes about. This is a term and word that has historical and deep meaning for the Black community, so I don’t object to it on those grounds, and in this context, I don’t see healthy or unhealthy wokism (although I understand how Corey is using those terms), just ‘staying woke-ism.’ Granted, it is now used around any number of perceived social inequalities/injustices, gender for instance; I personally still don’t have a problem with the word used in that way, although I’m sure some might declare “co-opting!”

    But what of the negative connotations of the word woke? The word I hear most frequently is “pretentiousness,” or the attempt to impress or influence others by affecting or assuming more importance than one actually possesses. The word “pretentious” comes from the French, meaning “false” or “hypocritical.” I think anti-wokeness is a near-visceral reaction in response to this pretentiousness, because conscious of it or not, something in us desires truth and authenticity. And I would add, there are certain shadow elements embedded in those anti-woke reactions, so that would be a part of post-wokism–cleaning up those particular shadows.

    Some punditry I’ve read, and I see it for myself as well, points also to how the word woke has been co-opted by the political right, and used as political weaponry and to claim “victim status” for oneself, similar to how the term “politically correct” has been treated, a term which at the root of its meaning, is also not a bad thing. To be sensitive to others in our language and communications is valuable. While probably the least of their problems, the political right has its own forms of wokism, healthy and unhealthy, as well; reactions to Biden’s use of the word “Neanderthals” in referring to states who have gotten rid of mask mandates and opened up all businesses being a very recent example. I mention this in the context of any post-woke project needing to consider both left and right “wokeness” and perhaps “woke capitalism” as well.

    Just two other comments I would make, again not having watched this episode, but from reading Corey’s write-up here. I think there is at least a little if not more “deliberately dumping poison into the water” going on, if not by 50% of the country, by quite a few state legislatures in their efforts to suppress Black and other minority voting, numerous examples in my state alone, and another example being one Southern state trying to do away with Sunday voting, knowing that voting in church has been a staple of the Black community. This seems deliberate.

    I appreciate the invitation here for more post-woke conversations, as the old conversations seem stale, worn-out, tiresome, and actually to me, boring. And I think the “intersectionality of perspectives” is a good description of aspects of integralism; can always count on Corey to come up with some bright terms that seem so obvious but you never thought of them yourself… I personally don’t think identity politics is going away anytime soon, or “identity” itself as a major element of the self-stack, at least not in the world-at-large, and what was said about “the story of development is not one that has saturated our culture” is the main obstacle here. Solve that problem, solve a lot.

    Final note: nice to see that this conversation addressed some issues affecting other parts of the world than just the U.S. More of that please.

  2. I believe the term “being woke” has lost its authentic meaning because the real experience of being woke is not easy to achieve and there are many people claiming they experienced it when they haven’t. Its true experience is not confined to the black community or any other race -it is a human experience. For any person to say he is woke and in the same breath say others are not is not being woke. Being woke- authentically- does not think in such polarities. Dr. Adrian Piper said that

    “self-examination entails self-awareness, i.e., awareness of the components of the self. But self-awareness is largely a matter of degree. If you’ve only had a few discordant experiences, or relatively superficial discordant experiences, you don’t need to examine yourself very deeply in order to revise your false beliefs”

    As I understand it, it is our deeply entrenched false beliefs that govern our perception of reality that keeps us in bondage. Examining those beliefs -no matter how we may feel of the outcome- is the only way to dispel them. Dispelling them is the beginning realization of understanding how our misunderstandings of reality did not allow us the experience of being woke. (mind you, calling it woke is just a word and words get in the way of this experience). When it is experienced, it has a psychological redeeming effect. At the same time it also has an existentially depressing quality because you discover a deeper truth of your existence. I posed this experience to Dr. Susanne Cook Greuter that Corey gave her and she confirmed my own experience of existential depression at the 53:20 minute mark. This depression can also be described as post traumatic growth

    I believe that when you gain the insight wokeness provides it awakens in us our innate capacity for psychological mindedness. Wikipedia defines it as

    A person’s capacity for self-examination, self-reflection, introspection. It includes an ability to recognize meanings that underlie overt words and actions, to appreciate emotional nuance and complexity, to recognize the links between past and present, and insight into one’s own and others’ motives and intentions. Psychologically minded people have above average insight into mental life.

    I wish Corey would interview those who have first hand knowledge on how to help others reach what I believe is suppose to be our immediate objective: psychological mindedness. In other words, growing up.

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