I come from a time when ‘woke’ meant the past tense of wake and when ‘cancel culture’ meant that the symphony concert had been postponed. This may seem slightly flippant, but today’s world does give me concern for the future of entrepreneurship.
I also come from a time when logic determined solutions and where healthy debate was encouraged. I now see these two elements of “woke” and ‘cancel culture’ being integrated into a dictatorial conformist approach.
Where once a debate on signs on toilet doors was the way to find a solution that catered for the 99% whilst accommodating the 1%, now you get cancelled and given a phobic label if you dare not to accede entirely to the 1%.
What started out as term for racial discrimination (woke), and was later expanded to include other social injustice, has been highjacked for any minority group. Even worse, every time a minority group, however small and regardless of merit, ceases to be seen as oppressed, the ‘woke’ police go looking for another cause.
While cancelling someone is a valid response to specific actions as in MeToo, or in blatantly offensive speech or writing, cancelling now occurs if you have a valid alternative viewpoint. A perfect example of ‘cancel culture’ came about when J K Rowling had an opinion in the transexual argument. Even the people she made millionaires quickly sought to cement their ‘woke’ status by cancelling her.
What doesn’t happen in today’s world is informed debate. The issue isn’t about what signs to put on toilets, it is the total refusal of those wanting change to engage in debate and to find a compromise solution. The protesting minority are right, and the majority are unfeeling bigots!
But I do worry about the way that the western world is setting down how we should think and what we should think. Either you are one of their believers or you are an outcast. Indeed, I wondered about posting this until I realised that if they cancelled me, I was insignificant enough that no one would notice!
But this has enormous implications for entrepreneurship. I have always encouraged entrepreneurs to think outside of the box, to look for alternatives, to listen and discuss, to take risks and to be adaptable.
But where do those things fit in a world where you are expected to conform without question, where alternatives are not listened too, where taking risks will likely lead to you being cancelled and where adaptability is a crime rather than a value.
One of the things that sets us apart from other species in our rich language and the way we can use it to debate, to persuade and to see both sides of the argument. At present I see us losing this to the screaming mob intent on drowning out alternative views.
I have to hope that this is an aberration rather than an ideas dictatorship and that we will reverse the trend of medieval battling where those that shout loudest win the battle and that we start going forward again using the skills we were given as humans and that entrepreneurship will survive.