I’ve been contemplating the psychological effects of silence in the community in the realm of activism and activists. There are a lot of people in the community who appear to be silent. First off, I want to acknowledge that there are people who, often times, are doing an activist’s work without the framework or community support of an activist. Often times, they keep their work silent, not out of fear, but because they aren’t compelled to work within those frameworks or with the support of that community. And that’s ok. Their work is powerful and needed.
But there are people who stick on the sidelines, who choose not to participate in person, who do not lend their voice to the work. I’m not going to make any assumptions about what motivates that silence and inaction. Instead, I want to focus on the impact that silent voices have on the people who are active – and the impact that silent voices have on the whole community conversation.
It cannot be over-emphasized how those who govern and those who want to interfere with governance interpret silence. It is interpreted as consent. When only a few stand up and speak up, those few are easily minimized and ostracized by decision makers, government representatives and corporatists. They write them off as “anomalies” and it eases their conscience as they to continue making decisions and enacting rules that are harmful to the community.
Frustrations build, emotions explode, and the conversations don’t evolve in a healthy way. Conversations stagnate and divisions deepen. The community dynamic is sacrificed. The psychological impacts are long lasting and sometimes devastating. Hope can be lost by those who are constantly speaking up and making their voices known.
I’m calling out for those who would be willing to step into some form of community work. I am calling out for the hands and hearts and voices of competent human beings. What do you love? What are you willing to fight for?
First, let’s talk about the costs. The work is messy. In fact, it can be filthy. It can break your heart, stress you out, push all your buttons and disgust you. Conflicts abound. Even if you aren’t protesting, marching or speaking at public events, you will find the work exhausting. You will find yourself in the midst of people whose methods and approaches you might not agree with. You will also find yourself among a group of people who don’t get paid, standing up and speaking to a group of people who are being paid to ignore you. A lot of the work is done in a one-way communication model. And that can be maddening. In fact, you will find yourself dealing with a lot of anger, if you are really paying attention. And that, I think, is probably one of the major reasons why people aren’t speaking up – because the anger is emotionally exhausting. But I don’t know for sure. The reasons for silence can be many.
Let’s talk about the benefits. Actually, I’m not. I’m not going to be able to tell anyone what the benefits are because that is very personal – as it should be.
What I CAN talk about is how much the community needs more voices. One of my favorite sayings is “Many hands make light work.” When many hands lift the canoe, it is easier to move around. The forest sounds are richer when there are many songs, not just birds, not just one species of birds. It is much more difficult to ignore the concerns when many different viewpoints are brought forward. There is no way to treat the many voices as an anomaly. There is no way to treat the diverse opinions as ‘single issue’ activists.
I’m putting out the call – for the hearts, hands and voices of those who are silent. Come out and stand up. Please bring yourself to the work. We might not agree on everything, but let’s find common ground and make a powerful impact on the world, protecting the air, land, water and more-than-human relatives.
What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want your legacy to be? If you need encouragement, please feel free to send a message to abetterportfuture at gmail.