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Philip Mallegol-Hansen

Speaking Isn’t Mandatory

The internet era is marked by many things, but the sheer speed and volume of communication stands out to me as perhaps the most significant.

There’s always a new story breaking somewhere. When everything from wars to simple disagreements in our communities are played out on a public stage for all the world to see, there’s no moment devoid of topics we are each expected to take a stance on. Who rightfully deserves to win the war? Are you in favor of oppression or free speech? Surely you don’t support those people? Not speaking out may not seem like an option, after all if you don’t condemn bad things, you must implicitly support them.

This fear of being seen as someone who doesn’t care, or worse even outright supports bad things, can drive us to quickly adopt a posture. The problem is that we miss so much of the nuance of the world, in our rush to an opinion. The unfortunate truth is that we people have a tendency to have complicated motivations, which drive us to take actions with second and third order effects we never considered. It doesn’t help that our globally intertwined economy is too complex for any one person to really grasp the full picture.

A boon in our economy good, but if that money is spent on products that ultimately support nations that oppress their citizens, suddenly it’s bad again. Lowering emissions is great, but hardworking folks no longer being able to support their families is of course not.

Am I advocating that we can never have any opinions? Absolutely not, public discourse is a cornerstone of any functional society. If we don’t discuss our thoughts, we will never grow beyond ourselves.

What I am saying is this: It’s okay not to speak when you’re not ready to. Sometimes you need to listen to others. Sometimes an issue is so far outside of your domain that you simply don’t have anything to say. And sometimes you need to reflect on a matter before you make up your mind.

All of those things are alright, speaking up every single time is not mandatory.