On Silence; or, What the Bleep is Wrong With Us?


"Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, and Hercules don’t scare me. The FBI, the anti-American Committee, J. Edgar Hoover, President Nixon, President Johnson, Martha Mitchell and her husband, or her man, or her woman, Ethel Kennedy, all the Kennedy’s, The Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, Rockefeller, none of these people scare me. What scares me is that one day my son will ask me "What did you do, daddy, when all the shit was going down?" – Richard Pryor
"Silence / Something about silence makes me sick" – RATM
I first heard this on a CD of Pryor’s a few years back. It was one of those things that just stick to you like glue. It’s up there with the comment Noam Chomsky made when he said something to this effect: "if you’re not offending those who ought to be offended then
Silence. Inaction. Apathy. Subservience. Genuflection. Passive-aggressiveness. In their own way they’re all synonymous with each other and an indictment to too many of us.
All of these things define us. And we are all guilty of it – some more so than others. I am sure some of us sometimes see something wrong and ignore it, hoping somebody else does something about it.
Howard Zinn was right. The world is topsy turvy.
Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.
And we face a shitload of problems. Locally. Nationally. Globally.
Unemployed. Uninsured. Under-funded. Under attack. Un-democratic. Unfair. Unjust. Unacceptable.
Shit, there is so much wrong it’s hard to focus or to even determine our priorities.
The world is topsy turvy.
I have got a second child on the way, and like Richard Pryor, what scares me is when they call me out.
How will we answer our children? Will we deny the problems? Will we plea ignorance? How about helpless? Will we point the fingers of blame elsewhere? What are our responsibilities? Why is it so rare for people to see what’s wrong, stand up, resist and make things right?
Last month we saw people rise up in Peru, Honduras and Iran. Yet, and only for the moment, it is mostly silent in the belly of the beast.

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