Yes, yes, more Latin.
It translates, roughly, to: “Silence gives consent.”
Ok, for those of you who can’t recognize the White Lotus in the room, allow me to explain…
Silence gives consent was a maxim of Western European law, for a long time. Feel free to look it up – I’m not here in the capacity of a historian today.
The idea is this: anything that one is witness to, and one does not speak up against, one gives consent for.
By example, if I were to see, oh say an obstinate republican senator – whose favorite hobby is standing in the way of progress to line his own pockets – about to be viciously stabbed, and I said nothing/ did nothing to stop it, then I would, by the maxim, be giving my consent to the stabbing.
In modern parlance we sometimes call it condoning.
To see a thing, and not be openly against it is to tell the world that you are okay with it.
Now, there’s a reason that it’s not part of the law anymore. The law is just a bit to sticky for something so bluntly binary. As it should be.
But from the standpoint of personal ethics, it makes a lot of sense to continue its use.
(as an aside: some people run into burning buildings, some people run away from them, and some stand paralyzed by them. I am not making a judgement as to which, if any, of those things is better. Mostly they are hardwired responses, and without significant and exhaustive training, one can not override them, regardless of what one wishes or brags about when drunk.)
What I do want you to be aware of is in a real sense, if you stand by and watch something happen – this can be metaphorically, or repeatedly – that you are displaying your consent to its rightness.
You are showing the world that you’re cool with it.
It’s not a big deal.
Nothing to see here, folks.
So, maybe that last hint clued you in to one of the things I’m talking about not remaining silent for anymore.
Yeah, it definitely involves the police.
Killing unarmed people of color is not something I condone, and I sure as hell don’t want my tax dollars going to pay for it.
More broadly speaking, Racism, of every sort, is wrong.
I’ve known this for as long as I can remember.
It’s nigh on impossible for me to fathom how anyone couldn’t realize this basic fact.
The same goes for homophobia and trans-phobia. I just don’t understand it.
I know it exists. But I don’t get it.
As a cis hetero white dude, living in the South, I can tell you there is a social pressure to not speak out about these things.
(I’m privileged in that I don’t suffer from these prejudices, but in fact have benefited from them.)
There is this culture of insincere politeness in the South. It’s as old as the South itself, and it’s inculcated from an early age. Somethings are just not spoken about in polite society.
And that creates a social pressure to not speak up.
Now, I could tell you a bit about how I’m wired and how I handle these situations, but this post isn’t really about me…
It’s about you.
Because I want you to think about the morality of doing nothing.
Is it moral to see a wrong committed and not stand against it?
Our titular Latin friend suggests it is.
So do I.
When you see racism, individual or systemic.
When you see police brutality.
When you see the destruction the Earth for profit.
When you see radical inequality.
Will you be more than a witness?
Will you silently consent?
Or will you do something?
I, and so many others, will be with you when you do.
You’re voice has power.
Until next time…