“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Black.
Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Muslim.
Then they came for me— And there was no one left to speak for me.” – Unknown
These lines tells the story of an individual who met an undesirable end; had a chance to make a difference but didn’t,not because she couldn’t, but because she chose indifference – maintained a criminal silence in the face of tyranny rather than speaking up when it mattered.
I imagine she shrugged, said to herself “I will not interfere in issues that doesn’t concern me.I look out for myself only. It is not my duty to defend others” as she watched people around her fall victim of oppression. I imagine her cloaked with nonchalance sat on the wall of indifference; not realising evil is evil in itself and that the fact that you ignore,cast a blind eye towards it does not mean it will return the favour.
She didn’t realise her folly until it was too late: she became a victim. She lost every voice that could have counted,made a difference. Her indifference stripped her naked,leaving her cold and miserable. Then, lonely desolation sets in. She had no one to lament to but herself; had no one to mourn her fate-how pathetic!
Silence is golden but I say there are exceptions to every rule,case/scenario: there are moments silence isn’t golden but a pale shade of yellow. Silence when injustice is being perpetrated connotes cowardice.
It is a known fact that speaking up,making ones voice heard almost always come with great opposition,persecution. In any case, silence in the face of oppression,injustice,tyranny is not an alternative. According to the words of Aristotle , “the wise man does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is willing, in great crises, to give even his life – knowing that under certain conditions it is not worthwhile to live” . There are times when it is necessary to break the ice.
Have you ever kept quiet when you should have spoken up?… kept mute when your voice could have ensured someone’s exoneration? … maintained a criminal silence when you could have freed truth as it was shrouded in darkness,obscured by lies?…chosen silence because of your fear of the unjust?… Have you ever used silence as a backdoor to escape having to stand for the truth? …This story applies to you more than you initially realized,doesn’t it?
It is time our consciousness is roused from its deep slumber. We need to speak up,make our voices heard wherever we are,make impact starting from our individual niche. We need to remember and respect the sanctity of human life,…of human freedom, fight relentlessly for it, protect it and not be afraid to make our voice heard. There is need to tear down the wall of indifference, cast aside our cloak of indifference, turn our backs on segregation, breech the barriers, appreciate life and freedom of our fellow humans.
We should not shy away from being a voice to someone. This could be through our words,works,acts. They speak volume even long after we are long gone; as observable in some of our philosophers, artists, poets, musicians, cartoonists,…, though
dead but are remembered by their legacies which like voices echoes across time.
We heard Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou,…,our very own Gani Fawehinmi, Ken Saro Wiwa, Dele Giwa, Fela Anikulapo Kuti,…the list goes on. These people were voice personified. They are etched in memories, history even when the face behind the voice fade. They were heard, their voices are still being heard from the echoes. You can be heard. Do speak up. Make yourself heard.
Rita Olowolayemo for SycamoreSpot