By William J. Furney
It’s a crisp Saturday morning in claustrophobic Central Athens and as I run past street stalls setting up for the day alongside buildings festooned in loud graffiti, a young, bearded Arabic man smiles sheepishly at me as he hangs up frumpy bras on his underwear stall, as if to say, “I know it’s absurd, but it’s my job”.
Around corners in this warren of old streets with crumbling and decaying buildings that some are attempting to revive, shopkeepers settle into their worn-out seats behind bizarre cash registers that resemble toys, knowing the day ahead will be long and dull, spent totting up sales and wishing their inchoate lives were infinitely more exciting than the wearisome slaves to money they’ve become.
No one wants to fly into a storm, but that’s what I did to here, two days ago, on a 20-minute, half-full flight from the strange island of Mykonos. Angry wisps of murky moisture spiralled into giant, raging, flashing vortexes of terror as the bouncing craft sliced through the opaque billows, landing in a cloud of exasperated relief.
Irascible Zeus, driven by pride, was in his element as the heavens tore apart, unleashing tsunamis of monsoon-style rain, thunderclaps and lightning that deluged and tormented the ancient city of over half a million mortals and turned day into night and streets into flash-flood rivers that were almost impossible to cross.
It wrought havoc on the ground: the National Gallery issued an “URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT” that it would be “closed due to weather conditions” and Ioannis Kaloudis, a physiotherapist I contacted about a muscle injury, told me many of his patients had cancelled appointments due to the violent inundation from on high.
The rapturous drama roared through the night and well into the next morning, before finally sputtering out, as if the gods were satiated, spent, slumbering in their divine Elysian fields. The skies cleared; the sun appeared; and, for now, all was well again in the gritty city of Athena, statuesque goddess of wisdom and war.
Every now and then, even the best of us can lose our cool and erupt in thunderous temper, sending blistering flashes of displeasure and searing bolts of anger to those around us, as well as in the obfuscous ether of the digital realm. And then there are folk with agendas, and issues — people who want the world altered to their point of view and are instantly upset when you don’t comply.
And at a time when a growing number of people abide by a pseudo-creed of wokeism — thinking they know it all, what’s actually right and entirely wrong, that they alone are awake to the injustices of the world — the freedom to speak your mind is in peril.
Columnist Ben Weingarten wrote in Newsweek last year that wokeism is quickly becoming a new “religion” in the United States and that its “core views have been bubbling up from elite classrooms to the commanding heights of society for decades”.
“If you dare to challenge them, you are liable to end up excommunicated from American life — canceled,” he wrote.
That’s because woke warriors, just like dictators, don’t tolerate dissent. If they don’t care for what you’re saying, for what your beliefs and fundamentals are, they will attempt to eliminate — cancel — you right out of life.
The sad irony is that wokeists live, for the most part, in the Western, democratic world, but they’re anything but democratic in their beliefs and iron-fisted acts of silencing.
One of the most egregious, recent examples of the joke of wokeism that’s anything but funny is the case of Will Knowland, an English teacher at the prestigious Eton College in England, who was fired for a lecture he gave defending masculinity, and chivalry, against those who slander most, if not all, men as barbaric and toxic.
Titled The Patriarchy Paradox, the half-hour lecture was not given in-class at the top, boys-only school but solely uploaded to YouTube, last September. Someone — allegedly one of his teaching colleagues — didn’t like it, and got the father of five fired, because he refused to take down the video.
Freedom of thought and expression, and critical thinking, is not allowed in a woke world — you either adhere to radical and other, outlandish beliefs or you’re out.
I had experience of this recently, when a former colleague complained about an article I wrote several years ago railing against feminazis and their extreme misandry that, I and others felt, was putting women off calling themselves feminists. The complainant was too cowardly to make their views known to me, instead going to the owner of an agency I worked for and having me banned and silenced.
I felt like I was living in China, or North Korea or Russia, instead of freedom-loving Europe.
But it won’t do to upset anyone, and that’s why the woke brigade get their feeble, bulldozing way — with lily-livered superiors and enablers at least.
Instead of universities and other educational institutions embracing open-mindedness and differing opinions, they’re, oddly, becoming places where only one view matters and speakers who hold opposing opinions are barred and no-platformed — a policy that stifles free speech and hardly contributes to healthy debate. It’s inherently dictatorial and undemocratic, robbing people of their voices, good or bad.
Here in the cradle of western civilization, a place that gave power to most people of the planet, it’s hard to imagine anything other than living in a democracy, where you have the fundamental right of expression. But the deluded woke battalion wants to take all that away.
Goddess Athena, with all her innate wisdom and steely perspicacity, would not be amused.
- Title photograph, of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, is by William J. Furney.