The problem with silence

By Joshua Corcuera

Silence may sound like a good thing, it is the absence of noise, the lack of distraction, the presence of calm and serenity. Yes, it is good to live in a silent environment most of the time. Most of the time, I said, not all the time. Certain times call for people to speak up, to speak up not only for themselves, but for the common good.

The problem with silence is that we become numb from the sufferings of our fellow human beings, from the struggles of our kababayans. For instance, you cannot just be silent if you see someone being bullied or intimidated by someone else. Perhaps except if the bully is a dangerous person who can also do harm to you, and you are incapable of defending yourself. Additionally, you cannot just watch other people see their homes wrecked by a strong storm, and sit comfortably and silently merely because you live in a decent dwelling. These times create an inherent response to the human person and that is to speak up and to do something to alleviate their suffering, especially if you are in a position to do something, say you are affluent or physically fit. The problem with silence is we become too selfish, when in reality we must cherish the value of selflessness for the sake of the greater good. Only in an environment where decisiveness on when to be silent and when to speak up can a society uplift one another. It is not good to be always silent.

Likewise, we live in a time where pertinent social issues are ubiquitous and pervasive. Unsurprisingly, several groups are speaking in favor of a certain cause or against something or someone they perceive would cause suffering to society. Some of these groups have been criticized for taking a stand and were told to just remain neutral. However, as I have written so many times before in my column, neutrality only helps the oppressor, not the oppressed. With no one checking and countering the oppressor due to a silent, neutral bystander, such oppressor is empowered to continue his sinister acts against the oppressed for his personal gain. This is why, dear speaker, we should not be surprised if certain people or groups are taking a stand—because they want to express that evil would be dealt with severely, that fighting for a noble cause is a worthy fight no matter the cost.

In the past, I cannot remember exactly when, I gave an illustration with the problem of silence and neutrality. If person X punches person Y for whatever reason, say just to prove he is stronger than Y, and it happens that a by-stander person Z is merely watching not wanting to involve himself despite being physically stronger than X, can we say that Z is truly neutral? Isn’t it that Z implicitly grants X the right to oppress Y? This hypothetical scenario could explain the dilemma with neutrality and present a good reason why staying neutral may not be the best decision to make in a certain scenario.

Dear reader, I hope you would understand what is happening around you and be decisive enough when to be silent and when to speak up, not only for yourself, but also for those who are voiceless.