Nick Cave is completely right about woke culture

The singer-songwriter has criticised the ‘suppression of contrary systems of thought’.


Australian musician Nick Cave is increasingly the most sane, liberal and open-minded voice in popular culture today.

The legendary singer-songwriter, who recently released a new album, Ghosteen, has in recent months stood up to intolerant anti-Israel boycotters, has said Morrissey’s music shouldn’t be dispensed with just because of his controversial views, and now he has taken aim at woke culture more broadly.

Cave regularly responds to questions from fans on his blog, ‘The Red Hand Files’. In a recent entry, responding to questions about his political leanings and how ‘woke’ he considers himself to be, he penned a thoughtful, elegant riposte to the self-righteousness and illiberalism that he sees as underpinning the woke movement.

‘I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as “the truth” or “the way”. This not only includes most religions, but also atheism, radical bi-partisan politics or any system of thought, including “woke” culture, that finds its energy in self-righteous belief and the suppression of contrary systems of thought. Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.’

He goes on to describe how equally dogmatic ideological enemies, be they antifa and the far right, or New Atheists and devout religious people, feed off one another’s inflexibility and self-righteousness:

‘Antifa and the far right, for example, with their routine street fights, role-playing and dress-ups, are participants in a weirdly erotic, violent and mutually self-sustaining marriage, propped up entirely by the blind, inflexible convictions of each other’s belief systems. It is good for nothing, except inflaming their own self-righteousness. The New Atheists and their devout opponents are engaged in the same dynamic. Wokeness, for all its virtues, is an ideology immune to the slightest suggestion that in a generation’s time their implacable beliefs will appear as outmoded and fallacious as those of their own former generation.’

This man is a treasure. Read the whole thing here.

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Andrew Clark

18th October 2019 at 4:10 pm

Nietzsche would be a little displeased. Atheism isn’t an ideology; it’s just the rational philosophical consequence that occurs when the spiritualist assumptions that underpin every mythical narrative and every metaphysical system are questioned. That’s not to say that the New Atheists are right about everything – especially their tone, and especially everything moral and political. But like Richard Rorty, any pragmatist is an atheist when comes to a practical assessment of seeking after a post-religious society. That’s not to say that religion should be destroyed; but rather, confined to museums as a token to remember humanity’s past lives.

Reginald Monnet

21st October 2019 at 2:51 pm

Comedy gold. The number of assumptions in your diatribe took my breath away especially comical was you achieved it by kindly dispensing the assumptions of others while seemingly unawares of your own, implied and explicit. I always snigger when the oh so” rational” betray a profound irrationality, but then again, what would this mere pleb know? Let us know when the comedy dvd comes out.

Andrew Clark

23rd October 2019 at 4:46 pm

Feel free to list the assumptions and irrationalities. Or is that too much like hard work for you?


18th October 2019 at 9:21 am

I’m sorry, but not not holding fixed/strong views on anything is moral and intellectual cowardice, the product of a feeble mind. Does Nick Cave actually believe in anything or does he just spend his time sneering at people who do?

Francis DiDonato

18th October 2019 at 2:02 am

Very spot on in every way except one…. Israel should definitely be boycotted- its a cutting edge of racism and needs to be resisted. Roger Waters has a much better grasp of that issue.

Sybil Mosely

17th October 2019 at 5:43 am

“I think therefore I am” is the statement of an intellectual who underrates toothaches. “I feel, therefore I am” is a truth much more universally valid, and it applies to everything that’s alive. My self does not differ substantially from yours in terms of its thought. Many people, few ideas: we all think more or less the same, and we exchange, borrow, steal thoughts from one another. However, when someone steps on my foot, only I feel the pain. The basis of the self is not thought but suffering, which is the most fundamental of all feelings. While it suffers, not even a cat can doubt its unique and uninterchangeable self…Suffering is the university of egocentrism.
Milan Kundera, “Immortality”

I’m like Nick. I avoid rigidity of thought. Talk of suffering is no anathema to openness and inquiry though, and just because I don’t like their style, does not prove there is no openness and inquiry in ‘woke’ culture. This piece by Kundera is to me, what ‘woke’ means. It suggests suppression would more significantly consist in denying someone their own humanity and suffering.

Ardy Fardy

17th October 2019 at 7:59 am

‘I think therefore I am not’ is my rebalance of this poor aphorism.
We Aussie’s have known for a long time that Nick Cave is his own man and is therefore regarded highly.

Andrew Leonard

17th October 2019 at 8:31 am

One can argue that suffering is the basis of the self, but it does not follow that consideration of suffering selves should be the basis of society.
Do you think any civilisation has been built, with personal suffering as its foundational concept? What was it?

Jim Lawrie

17th October 2019 at 7:40 pm

Since it is the basis of the woke outlook, it is hardly surprising that they propose only to redistribute it among others, and top it up when necessary

PP Garb

22nd October 2019 at 8:37 pm

I struggle with this. Isn’t it just timing? If everyone had their foot stood on at the same time, we’d all feel the same pain. It’s not unique. All physical pain is a universal experience. Psychological (emotional?) pain I suspect may well be unique… and we’re back in the realm of thought.

Did the unique outputs of the great artists come from some unique physical pain? Art is the result of thought, whether conscious or not. While many artists will position it as feeling (emotion), their works require a great deal of pondering (thought) in order to be realised in the physical realm.

Much physical pain can be cured – get off my foot. Emotional pain is another matter and requires counselling. Decisions made while in any pain tend not to have good outcomes because they’re simply about removing pain – let’s remove everyone’s feet so they don’t stand on anyone.

I do wonder why we have become obsessed by pain, such a negative force.

Martin Bishop

16th October 2019 at 5:39 pm

I like Nick’s ideas. They remind me of a quote.

“The individual has always has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you’ll be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Rudyard Kipling

nick hunt

16th October 2019 at 9:20 pm

That went stright to my quotes collection, many thanks!

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