The Eloquence of Silence

To speak or not speak…That is the question!


Shakespeare may have thought that the most important question was:

To be or not to be

But I am almost sure that this one  is more important:

To speak or not speak…That is the question!

Not simply that! When to speak? Whom to speak to?

Speaking is also as much of an art as writing. However, unlike writing, speaking eloquently is practiced by speaking as little as possible.

So here I introduce Guha’s Guide in Gregariousness. (It took me some pain to come up with this particular alliteration and it would be much appreciated if you observed a moment of silence for the same.)

Pause (1 minute).

Ah yes. Thank you. Now the best speakers are able manipulate their audience into being convinced about the topic of interest in the way it suits the speaker. Manipulate is actually negative: so let’s say influence (positively). {Like I’m doing here, or at least trying to anyway!}.  One starts with a topic sentence which is relatively interesting and engages the audience with either a hitherto unknown fact or a controversial position. Avuncular chaps will try spinning an anecdote in the most Ruskin Bond-ish way possible. All are fantastic methods. But then as soon as you open up to discussion, there will usually remain some pestering nincompoop who will disagree. Originally these people were called critics. Today of course you know them as trolls.

So, the way to avoid this is to choose a relatively drab topic. Like our ex-PM, you can narrate a list of facts in the best possible monotone and pray that your audience has dozed off. This reduces the chances of any counter punches. But of course it has the flip side that because nobody cares for what you say, they don’t care to oppose you. And as the common perception goes: mute people are less likely to develop foes than their not so mute friends.

These days I come across so many topics with headlines thrown in the most polarising way possible. And it takes a great deal of effort for me to not type in my opinion or enter into a debasing slanging match with some random soul on the other side.

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

-Ellie Wiesel

Wiesel has a valid point here though. That silence helps the oppressor. However, I’ll only enter the muck to fight for what I believe if I can actually bring about some change. Not because I wish to contribute more to the noise. At the end of the day your two lines of comments will never be enough to change someone’s opinion (however opposite, unethical, logically flawed or otherwise you may feel it to be). All it will achieve is angering the other person and few like minded folks (read people who “liked” his status).

Unless of course you are looking at a broader change (or in certain cases highlighted by Weisel). Opinions should only be provided if asked and when you are in a position of authority to announce them. Not because you strongly feel a certain way. Perhaps that’s not something you would like to hear. But at the end of the day when you troll somebody or insult the other person into submission all you have earned is the other person’s disgust and enmity, even if you feel that you won the debate. The whole episode is not worth the bitterness, frankly.


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