The awesome power of silence

February 8th, 2008

Perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, victims: we can be clear about three of these categories. The bystander, however, is the fulcrum. If there are enough notable exceptions, then protest reaches a critical mass. We don’t usually think of history as being shaped by silence, but, as English philosopher Edmund Burke said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.’

This is as true today as it ever was.

There are many great quotes from Edmund Burke:

  • The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
  • It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact.

The last one there is particularly convenient to all those who are great (or who think that they are great) and who like to paint wild strokes with a broad brush.

Back to the first quote. If you have a voice and do not use it, if you have a constituency, no matter how small, and do not speak to it, you are a part of the problem. You are a bystander, a collaborator and a facilitator of evil.

It’s like watching people carted off in trains and saying, “…it’s not my job to protest that, there are professional protesters that have that job. Don’t bother me.” Even Naomi Wolf understands that:

…’the Founders did not intend for us to delegate defense of liberty to a professional class…’, and ‘it is for ordinary individuals to take on the responsibility’, to which I strongly agree.

But then she is talking about a country that had founders and a revolution. Its people still have a revolutionary spirit, and we are seeing the rebirth of it right now. Other countries are not so fortunate, and their ‘men’ act in a way that facilitates tyranny – they seem to feed off of it, and enjoy it.

Very odd indeed.

No one will be able to say of me, that I did not do my best, use my wits and my words to preserve the good. I never sat down and said, “its not my business” in any place that I ever lived.

That is the difference between real people and born servants, inured to slavery, locked into their lot in life…


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