Let me begin by alienating the vast majority of potential readers with a Doctor Who reference. The antagonists of the latest season are an alien species known as the Silence, who have the ability to be forgotten every time you look away from them. The show posits that modern Earth has long been conquered and cohabitated, only no one’s aware of it as the Silence could be in your very room watching you…right…now… and you’d forget about it as soon as you look at your monitor to read this article.
Also in more respectable news (whatever that means) the South African playwright Athol Fugard won a lifetime achievement award during the 2011 Tonys for his works which exposed the evils of apartheid. In his BBC interview, he talked about how he began writing his plays because he could see that despite all of the misery and injustice apartheid brought about, within his own educated white South African society there seemed to be instituted a ‘conspiracy of silence’.
Silence in and of itself certainly has some merit. There is the silence one offers to another that she might express her opinions, arguments or art without interruption. There is the silence while thoughtfully considering one’s own position before speaking out. There is the silence while witnessing a glorious sunset on a beach with amiable company.
I believe that when it comes to living in a democracy however, or indeed any society that prides itself on free expression, silence is at best a holding pattern and at worst an enabler of the many forces determined to constantly undermine those freedoms. Sinclair once said that our liberties were not won without suffering, and may be lost again through our cowardice. It is so very tempting to simply wallow in our own lives, each of which are filled with enough of their own difficulties and concerns without adding issues on a national level to them.
It is that very inclination to remain silent, remain seated, remain as Victorian era children who are to be barely seen and not ever heard, that too many of those in power today are counting on. Already congressmen like Nograles are pushing for legislation to enable them to sue online outlets for libel. Our country’s history is filled with examples of what happens to institutions, from our government’s Martial Law period to the Catholic Church’s clerical child abuse cases, that believe they can get away from accountability to their constituents. Each time they’ve relied on declaiming those few with the temerity to speak out as dissident, disruptive or disrespectful.
Mainstream media, while doing much to ensure that injustice is not ignored, is still fueled by revenues generated from the viewing public. We the people is more than some abstract concept, it is you and me and anyone else reading this with who shares and participates in Philippine society. The recent activities over the anti-contraceptives ordinance in Alabang showed that no matter how sheltered from the wider world you might think you are, if you do not stand up and speak out other people will happily come and speak for you. If too many people become set against noisy public debate and discussion, seeing it as unnecessary distraction from their already stressed lives, then the silence ultimately granted all of us might well be that of the political prison, or the graveyard.