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  • Added February 28th, 2011
  • Filed under 'Articles'
  • Viewed 1433 times

Speaking out!

By Laura Black in Articles

Let us start conversations earlier, before the anger and frustration set in.

Know-it-alls, opinionated, uppity, bee-in-the-bonnet, monomaniacal, obsessive, naysaying, doom and gloom, froth-at-the-mouth, fame hunting, pain in the rear, let it go already ... writers of letters to the ODT!

Good grief! Do they really think that we want to read their self-involved, miss-the-trees-for-the-wood, dribbling day after day? Don't they have anything better to do with their time?

You know, Mark Twain had it right, better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt!


And yet ... to stay quiet is to be seen to agree; it is said that silence is a fence around wisdom and that in the end, what is remembered is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends (Martin Luther King). Certainly, staying quiet is a pretty good way of ensuring that things stay as they are. To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men said Abraham Lincoln, and he probably knew what he was talking about.

Methodists are in many ways and at many times called to make a difference. In doing so, we learn that some of the lives of others, of the life of our community and therefore of our shared lives, are deeply troubling. Our compassion for others inevitably leads us to indignation at their circumstances.

And rightly so. Yet indignation has its costs ...

The fatigue caused by anger is one of the major causes of social worker burnout. Usually, the anger is held inside for far too long - all the hurt and frustration and disbelief piled up until there simply is no room to hold it all in any more, and it turns either outward or inward. Those who speak when all around them are silent nodders, can find the courage it takes to put their heads above the parapet equally draining.

Perhaps that is why those who do speak out often do so with such vehemence?

Unfortunately, the anger of the frustrated (in the pages of the ODT, on talkback radio, in passing conversations) is often so confrontational, so, well, so angry, that it feels impossible to engage with. Would we find it easier if the "lock em up and throw away the key" brigade could talk more openly about the anxiety of being vulnerable, and the hurt of their losses? Probably.

Could we stay in conversation longer with those who are suspicious and rejecting of migrants, if they spoke instead of their worries about neighbourhood changing around them, and wanting to still see their selves reflected in their community? Likely so.

And if those who demand nothing changes while nothing is good enough could instead admit that they don't want to be left behind, would it be easier to sit and chat? Almost certainly.

The good news is that there is a way through all this, and it lies in starting conversations in our community earlier; having the insight to raise issues before anger cements; and in broaching issues when compassion and empathy are still possible.

It lies in asking those who are the moderates to have the courage to speak first.

That would be us, then.

-- Laura Black, Director, Methodist Mission, Dunedin.

This article was first printed in the Parish Weekly Bulletin, February 27, 2011.