9/15/2021
Silence is not always complicity

Yesterday I found myself in a meeting - virtual, of course - with at least two high-ranking government officials.

It's not an extraordinary circumstance, by all means. Sure, perhaps it's somewhat extraordinary because, in some convoluted manner, the meeting was happening because of something I did. But that said, I've done these somewhat regularly, both in the old times and the current ones.

I never would have imagined that I would be in a position where I'm talking to high-level bureaucrats about industry concerns. It certainly felt like a lofty ambition - not that I ever dreamed it - when I began watching local news in earnest in high school. It felt like something only elected student government officials did when I was in college. But, well, there I was, spending the night before finishing a slide show, sending it off to people the following morning for them to present in the afternoon. They know my name and I didn't make a fool of myself answering some questions.

I was thinking about a social media post I saw a minor broadcast personality make. I shouldn't be. Shalla always reminds me that I get annoyed at the smallest things. It's not because I feel personally offended, at least not always. The fault with my tendency to analyze the big picture is that I end up going off on tangents when I feel pretty passionate about things. You know, people will implicitly claim to hold a universal truth, never mind that I think they're wrong. (Yes, I may also be claiming to hold a universal truth. But I write these things down, therefore they're not at all implied.) And then my blood pressure will go up and I'll have a somewhat uncomfortable trip to the mall, which pretzels would solve.

Two things usually get me off. One is about how only taxpayers should be allowed to vote, the thinking being that people who pay their taxes would make more intelligent choices. It's ironic how people said this when supporters of the current president - a man who's flirted, at the very least, with dismantling democratic values - were elected to power. We support democracy, so let's deny those to select people! But I've written about that at length a couple of years ago, so I won't repeat all that.

The other thing is something I haven't written about, and is the subject of that social media post. "Silence is complicity," they said, as they exhorted us to speak out against this administration, or else be the pest that has to be gotten rid of.

But, really, does silence automatically make you part of the problem? I'm pretty sure there are many valid reasons why people would choose not to speak up, and it's not always because they're in on the scheme, not because they're covering something up.

Silence can mean one does not know enough about something to speak up about it.

Silence can mean one does not have the energy or the time to speak up, because there are bigger, more urgent problems to deal with.

Silence can mean one is afraid of what might happen if they speak up. Yes, you can always say "there's no reason to be afraid as long as you're fighting for what's right" or something, but then, that means denying their experiences, their points of view - and aren't you supposed to be the sort that goes "I see you" and "I acknowledge you"?

In reality, being able to speak up is a privilege. Not everybody is in a position to be able to speak up without fearing some sort of blowback. Come to think of it, not everybody is in a position to be able to speak up at all. Maybe they were raised in a culture of submission and deference. That's a lot to tangle, and I won't attempt to do just that. Maybe they feel powerless because, really, what can speaking up do? Not everybody has a platform - and social media doesn't count as one because our thoughts are clearly still not equal in this supposedly most democratic of spaces. Not everybody is a minor broadcast personality with hundreds of thousands of followers (I didn't bother to check, sorry).

Besides, in this case, what will speaking up do? What will speaking up at your exhortation do? Make you look good? Give you moral supremacy? Make you look like you've always been fighting for what's right?

Often these days I feel like a lot of the noise about how you're on the right side and they're not is performative. (I know I use that term a lot lately.) There's too much focus on spouting the same talking points, about how you should be awake by now and about how #LetLeniLead and all that. As long as nobody really bothers reaching out to the anonymous-but-not-really people they vilify to understand why exactly they aren't "waking up" to their standards, all this will be is for show, for their benefit and not for the greater cause they claim to espouse.

Granted, I'm quite cynical.

Also, I thought all of that in a lull during that meeting with high-ranking government officials. Here I am, talking to some of the people who get vilified by association. Am I also complicit? Am I complicit just because I don't write about things as much as I used to up to five years ago? Eh. I may go on tirades still, but I ultimately don't want my blood pressure to really shoot up. The medicine is expensive and hospitals, as we know all too well by now, are hard to get into.

And your responses...

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