“Trash”—as well as its sister term “garbage”—has become the word du jour to describe everything from men to Tinder to, perhaps most frequently, Lena Dunham. It’s a term hurled, not tossed, and the feeling it seems to convey is “You are a terrible person/place/thing, no better than a pile of wet newspapers moldering in a roadside ditch.” While plenty of terms convey exactly the same thing (“scum,” “vermin,” “dregs”), “trash” has an extra bite to it, because it doesn’t just mean you suck, it also means you aren’t woke.
“Woke”—for those of you who don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter—indicates, roughly, that one is enlightened to the social causes of the day. You believe black lives matter (or you believe it enough to put a sign in the window of the palatial $1.5 million townhouse you just built in the Central District); you unequivocally support the #MeToo movement; and you would never, ever, ever, ever vote for Donald Trump (although you might vote for Jill Stein, which is basically the same thing). “Woke” may have entered internet consciousness in the last few years, but according to the invaluable internet resource Know Your Meme, “The earliest known instance of the ‘woke’ as slang for political or social awareness comes from an article in the New York Times Magazine. On May 20, 1962, the Times published a piece on white beatniks appropriating black culture by African-American novelist William Melvin Kelley entitled ‘If You’re Woke, You Dig It.’” Woke, today, is still being appropriated by white people, plenty of whom will happily tell you, if you’re not woke, you’re trash. . . . Progressives used to be able to handle dissent. The Democrats were the party of free speech and free thought. No more. Among far too many leftists, if you disagree, you are wrong. And if you are wrong, you are bad, and if you are bad, you are trash.
The ungrammatical phrase “get woke” indicates the intellectual level of the entire concept. But when sanctimony is your only coin, people will try to accumulate it.