Silence Speaks Volumes
It is not until somebody else is fed to the hungry mouth of judgement, chewed and digested into the system so perfectly mechanized to institute conservation, that we- especially my generation- find the infant, second rate, hand me down strength to speak out- to ride easy going 70 mph on the unpaved road of freedom within the deep ruts ran through for us by the ones who spoke out before it was popular.
Within our social condition today, there are predetermined fads to entertain the masses, issues that have already been exposed, torn apart, activists who have been ridiculed, who in time lost the limelight to more controversial issues. These exposed issues are what we write essays on in our college english classes, kept safe within the shadow of those already judged stamped and silenced to feel the illusion of advocation- to play the role of activists within the carefully drawn confines of the curriculum.
For example, the issue on women’s rights- something that sparked in the late 1800’s, was met with difficulty, ridicule and persecution- the fears that keep so many of us in silence, is something students may write about today. Sure, new-aged opinions and fresh angles on a stale issue give the illusion of action, but the issue was seen for us. When you walk outside, look around and see something in your world that you have the power to change, THAT is your world, the one you exist within, and therefor it is your job to speak out and make a difference.
No well-trained (trained, not taught) educator would assign an essay prompt about advocation for gay rights, or premarital sex, or personal narratives about struggling with an addiction.
If any fiber of your conscious mind is muted, snuffed out, hushed, you will live and die with the possibility that within that tiny fragment of yourself breathed the essence of your existence, your spark of humanity, your passion, your superpower. We will suffer whether or not we choose to make ourselves seen, and the suffering will not differ in measure for those who are enslaved and crippled by silence and submission.
Audre Lorde brings to light in her essay that the purpose of speaking out is personal, not people pleasing. You voice your thoughts to remind yourself who you are, and to stir controversy. The goal is to be met with adversity and opposition, to let you know that what you’re doing is radical and revolutionary and not fitting to the compartmentalized morality of your community. Historically, in many cases, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the idea of Civil Disobedience defended by Dr. King, or the fight for freedom and independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War, these topics in our history books are celebrated and well known instances of the Transformation of Silence into Language and Action- occurrences of self- sacrifice for the greater achievement of social change that rang out when society was more focused on self-preservation.
Despite the monumental differences made in our world, molding our country, government, schools and homes, speaking out is still something set aside for those radicals who cannot be content with the way things are. Adversity is defined by society as unnacceptable, not encouraged, immoral in some instances, but so many of us are silent in fear of visibility that those few that may have changed everything, the revolutionaries, they are stifled and strangled by a similar fear.
Being conscious of your mortality, as well as your purpose for existing in the dimension that you were born into, is an awareness that puts into perspective the ominous and guaranteed silence of death- and how- if up until that point you choose to be muted- will still come. This is turning point expressed by Lorde in the midst of a cancer scare that prompted her in part to write her essay on the Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.
In our generation we are cultivated to respect fear, and to integrate it into how we perceive our world and ourselves. Those who advocate for controversial ideas, those who fight for issues that challenge religion or policy, they are especially scrutinized by the same mouths that whisper in agreement and then remain closed. Our culture- relationships, appearance, music, entertainment, is all crearted under the indentured survitude of the norms set by society on what’s acceptable.
Take the psychology of the film industry. The top-grossing romance movies in the box office this week feature heterosexual couples, with the male figure having the acceptable manly characteristics and the female figure being traditionally girly. We see these movies,and idolize the relationship and the characters, because somewhere in the back of our minds exists the knowledge that this movie is how society prefers things to be, and that being a certain way means acceptance, popularity, and success.
For instance, recently there have been certain outliers in society that have become household names- been ridiculed, labeled, and watched- but eventually found acceptance by the masses at the point when the issue at hand became interesting and understood. Lesbian couples have come from the shadows, holding hands in public, being openly gay in schools and even in communities, once celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres became popular and cool. Society writes amendments to its moral constitution to give the illusion of revolution, like writing college papers on issues that have already been resolved.
Openly lesbian celebrities and actresses gave an alternative for how a female should and can acceptably be in order to conform to the stereotype that raises our teenage girls and develops each generation of women. But, for gay men, Neil Patrick Harris or Clay Aiken still seem to be the blunt of gay jokes, perhaps because of the decades old stereotype of manhood that seems to be universal in every culture, so for the male gay community, they are seen as something seperate but equal, metaphorically still going to school with the straight kids, but using a different water fountain.
In the words of the Beatles, “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” The truth in this is that the most powerful force of nature that exists in my world is action. Nothing’s gonna change my world, unless I do it myself.
Silence, self imposed by fear of visibility, parallels the age old fear of the unknown that comes with reaching our potential as human beings and fulfilling a purpose. There exists few promises in this life, but there exists one certainty, and that is death, which comes regardless of whether or not we chose to make a difference.
Audre Lorde explains death as “The Final Luxury” that meets us regardless of our choice to be silent, which gives perspective to the immense and crippling handicap of so many people with voices waiting to be heard. The revolutionary of tomorrow may be stifled because you chose to keep that part of your existence quiet.
Marianne Williamson said of fear, “ Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
If you yourself have no desire to be heard, speak up for the many who need fighting for. Liberate yourself from the shackles of a conservative society, and the others- the artists, the writers, the intellectuals who will make the next big difference- use your voice to liberate them. You have the freedom to sit in a corner and observe your world, as well as the choice to be a part of it, and either contract you sign, when your number is up, you die. Guaranteed.