Freedom of Silence

This is going to sound like a strange position for a blogger to take, but from a Taoist perspective I think it makes perfect sense.

Much is made of our right to freedom of speech. Of course, we have the right to speak up and speak out; I once saw blasphemy defined as what you have when the voiceless speak. There’s no doubting the power of words in skilled hands, and the power of a skilled orator.

But, what of silence? Do we not have a freedom of silence as well? We seem expected to have an opinion on everything, and to be willing to offer it. We all know or have met people who won’t let you get a word in while offering theirs, it’s all sound and no listening; in our highly extroverted world this seems to be seen as a good thing for some reason. I disagree in my own quiet introverted way, as you might guess. Why be expected to have an opinion on everything? I was mulling this subject for a little while, but a piece appeared on the BBC today which made me put finger to touchscreen and write.

The article talks of the ever present background music which pervades our lives, it also worries that we no longer appreciate the power of music. I wanted to say something similar about speech and silence.

Words have enormous power, but not when over used. Consider swearing, it used to be quite frowned upon but now those words have lost much of their power. Film and television has often been peppered with them, they no longer shock. We also should not be rushed to speech, what use is a half considered opinion? It’s of little use, or worse it might even prove harmful. That brings me to a point made before on this site, though prior to the reboot. What of our responsibilities? We are responsible for the consequences of our speech. If a harmful diatribe caused a vulnerable person to self harm, for example, should the speaker be held blameless? No, they should not.

Silence can be the best option in a number of situations; speech could be politically unwise, people may not be ready to listen, you may not have your thoughts marshalled or all the evidence ready. The argument may simply not worth having. Sometimes your freedom of silence really is golden.

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