Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
AmbivalentEye

Break The Silence

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

You know I just like sharing all my speeches with you guys:

Break The Silence

“I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago. A boy is turning to me. “Tell me,” he asks, “what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever, wherever human beings endure suffering. We must take sides. Sometimes, we must interfere. Wherever men and women are persecuted, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” –Elie Wiesel –Nobel Acceptance Speech –December 10, 1986

It baffles me, of course, still retaining many fragments of my perspective as a child, to see the cruelties that exist in this world. And perhaps maybe that’s what makes all the difference between you, and me. The fact that I can hear the stories of these things that have happened in human history for the first time and feel that child in me ask “Daddy, why did they burn people for their religion? Why are there children that are sold like produce in the streets? Why did the government hang a teenage homosexual?” I think of these questions and wonder how I am supposed to react. How is anyone supposed to react? In sorrow? In shock? In anger? What I’ve realized is that so many of us spend such a long time trying to cope with or understand what has happened, that after years of confused contemplation, we wrap ourselves in circles of more and more questions, little answers, and minimal to no action. So then I turn to the accusations of those that call humanity ignorant and indifferent, to question, “What is ignorance? Indifference?” It seems rather clear that in order for us to fix or address the problem, we must first become aware of what we are being accused of.

According to the Cambridge International Dictionary:

1. Ignorance is a state of being “unaware” (not knowing).

2. Ignorance is a willful lack of desire to improve the efficiency, merit, effectiveness or usefulness of one's actions.

It also defines indifference as:

1. Unbiased, impartial lack of concern.

2. An inactive state that does nothing to create initiative.

Thus, by this we can conclude that ignorance represents a person who willfully ignores or rejects knowledge as well as the capacity to take action against a wrong. And indifference represents the person who does nothing and refuses to take sides. But as Elie Wiesel stated in my opening quote, “We must take sides”. My personal hero, Objectivist leader Ayn Rand, always said that as humans we are rational creatures, and to act contrary or in ignorance of that rationality is to betray who we are. We were endowed with a mind to think. We are endowed with free will to be able to make a choice. I believe that the greatest flaw that has gradually developed over decades of psychology is the modern belief that inaction is also taking a choice, when the bare truth is that through inaction we only render ourselves useless to existence itself, and the world around us.

Wiesel said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” And why is that? Because why is the oppressor going to stop if there is no one who dares to tell him that he is wrong? Why would he care to question his act, if there is no one who is willing to speak against it?

So what is it that you know that you never said when you knew you should have spoken, or acted? I will tell you what I know:

-In my lifetime there was a genocide in Africa where people of a group labeled Tutsi were macheted on the streets.

-In something called the Beslan School Massacre no more than 2 or 3 years ago, an entire elementary school was taken over by terrorists who starved all of their underage hostages, placed explosives upon them, and murdered some of their parents in their sight.

-In China, pro-Democratic activists are being arrested and tortured on a daily basis.

-And on July 19, 2005 a homosexual couple, ages 16 and 17 by the names of Mahmoud and Ayaz were arrested and publicly executed through hanging for their sexual orientation.

I know, that by far, these are not the only things that have happened in my lifetime. Diversity seems to be humanity’s greatest illogical threat. Women are persecuted, as well as blacks, Muslims, Indians, children, gays, Jews, pagans, and the medically disabled just to name a few. But if you honestly think about it, in terms of our species as a whole, every single one of us are part of a minority. There are less whites in the world than the sum of everything else, there are less children; less Catholics, less Christians than the sum of every single other religious group out there. But in order to understand our duty; our calling; our fundamental necessity; we must first view ourselves as Objectivism proclaims: as Individuals –Minorities of One.

I am different from every single other person in this room. You are different from every other person in this country. One of the greatest terrors America ever faced was during the Red Scare from the 1920’s to the mid-1950’s, when it turned against its own people. Japanese and Chinese Americans were placed in internment camps. Dissidents and any outspoken controversial person was arrested, often without even trial or proof of their crimes. The US government also began equating homosexuals with communists and arrested hundreds of them as well. That wasn’t even a century ago. It wasn’t more than 5 presidents ago. It involves a generation of people of which many are still walking around today. Over the years, the government has tried to justify it and cover it up, but to this day most of the persecution then still doesn’t make any sense, making it clear to us that it could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any moment.

Now, in life I have come upon those people who say: “Oh, when I see it happening, I will definitely go out and fight, scream, rebel.” Those of us who keep dreaming of practicing some of our own Civil Disobedience like MLK, Rosa Parks, or Thoreau. So let me ask you: “Where were you when your country needed your vote for a proper president?” “Where were you this past year when the Hispanic community needed your support in fighting for their own justice and freedom?” “Where were you in October of 1998 when Matthew Shepard was murdered also for his sexual orientation?”

Of course, we all have our own views -our own ideals and priorities. You may not be against every injustice in the world and you may choose to remain indifferent towards most of them. But the vital factor is to not hold stubbornly to our ignorance. Read some national news: find out what is happening in the world around you, find out who out there is dying so that you may have all of your luxuries and peace of mind. Objectivism has taught me that a world that accepts the sacrifice of its own people is a world that has doomed itself to self-destruction. I ask that you do your best to not let us self-destruct; to not remain indifferent in so many vital situations that are calling us to action. Remember that to remain silent is to allow evil to have its way; to allow any random person out there to assume that you have consented. Don’t be a bystander. Don’t wait until you become the victim.

As Elie Wiesel said at his speech in Oslo in 1986: “One person –one person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
According to the Cambridge International Dictionary:

1. Ignorance is a state of being “unaware” (not knowing).

2. Ignorance is a willful lack of desire to improve the efficiency, merit, effectiveness or usefulness of one's actions.

It also defines indifference as:

1. Unbiased, impartial lack of concern.

2. An inactive state that does nothing to create initiative.

Thus, by this we can conclude that ignorance represents a person who willfully ignores or rejects knowledge as well as the capacity to take action against a wrong. And indifference represents the person who does nothing and refuses to take sides.

Your conclusion doesn't really follow. There are various reasons for indifference, one being that taking action will in no way benefit the individual's efficiency, merit, effectiveness, or usefulness as per that person's beliefs and goals.

A desk clerk in canada could be well aware of suffering peoples in some third world country and take no action to remedy this. This in no way make the clerk ignorant, only indifferent. He still has the capacity to take action, yet he chooses the path of most benefit to his person.

By the logic of the bolded text, it would seem that it is in fact be less desireable to "take action against a wrong." The individual ignorant in terms of the second definition given, a willful disregard of actions that benefit the person's primary goals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...