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ANNIHILATION BY SILENCE: The death of democracy

In the end, we

will remember not the words of

our enemies but the silence of our friends.

Martin Luther King, 1968.

The Silent Epidemic

History cyclically reveals the devastating impact of silence where dialogue and communication breaks down and action without negotiation or discussion, escalates into war, destruction ensues and the ultimate silence, death, reigns supreme. Democracy itself, is dependent on the voice of the people being heard; not a select group of individuals, all individuals, focused on the progression of society based on inclusion not exclusion. Silence embodies something ending, a withdrawal from others, a finality, a conclusion. What does it mean to be silent? Its literal translation is that of the absence of words or sounds. A concept traditionally synonymous with being voiceless, the oppression and subjugation of a select group by gender, race, age - an all encompassing discriminatory pattern that empowered the patriarchal societal structure and reinforced the dominance of the white male and still encapsulates the East/West divide. Half the population (women) have been silenced for centuries. Whether we are focused on personal relationships, politics, universality or humanity at large, Silence is synonymous with power; someone who has it and someone who doesn't. I personally, have always perceived silence as a a threat and a weakness, both in myself and in others, a misuse of power and a lack of faith in the integrity and universality of the human experience, and an underlying desire to control a situation or others, a way to fuel dictatorships, suppress and an inability to communicate one's needs and connect to fellow man. The notion to "Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes" has been a primary driving force for me for as long as I can remember. However, there is a key distinction between self contained silence as a response and the action of silence in respectful observation, between enforced silence and voluntary silence. Perhaps the most critical understanding of silence and its usage pivots on the intention behind its demonstration and its root cause. When democracy is a privilege granted to a select few, politics fail civilization. It stunts humanity's growth. When we silence vast sectors of our civilization and repress people's basic need to be included, to be heard, the end result has always been and will always be violence and death. When one group's political voice is silenced, the power of one demands the suppression of another. Suffering is unavoidable and the human body bears the full brute force impact of such silence as if it had been shot, stabbed, struck or lynched. Mark me when I say, Silence is deadly.

Silence has always held an irrevocable power over me, a nemesis I have always greatly revered and been terrorized by, both internally and as an observer. It represented, everything I didn't know, everything I was separate from, something that made me less, and something else 'more.' A secret, confusing power that diminished my worth and inflamed another's. Silence has always bred and fed a deep rooted insecurity in me, the notion that I didn't fit, that I was excluded, unwanted in some form and of no use, to the immediacy of any person or situation in front of me in the present moment but also, at large, the Human Race as a whole. Silence will always be a shrill siren to my ears, shrouded with anxiety, a racing heartbeat, and a frantic mind as my body struggles to prepare for worse case scenario xyz. In Silence, for me the only question that has ever existed is: can I survive this moment? On my 5th birthday, I distinctly remember the unstoppable necessity to unclench my tiny fingers from my blue satin party dress and start hammering fists and feet against a cupboard door, squeezing my eyes tightly shut and screaming at the top of my lungs- "I'm here! I'm here!" as I launched myself head first onto the dining room floor, my adrenaline filled lungs gasping for air and cognizance that this "fun" game of Hide 'n' Seek could finally be over, and utter amazement that my cheeks were tear stained free. I made it! I lost the game, but I survived at life: I beat the silence with my own voice. And so began a life long struggle to speak up and communicate something, worth a little more than 'I'm here! I'm here!". Marching into battle, confronting fate as quickly as possible was always preferable than the agony of the unknown, the unbearable, cut off from everyone and everything - silence. Silence was never my friend, always my tormentor. To me, Silence is Death and even at 5yrs by gosh I was ready to fight that; there was no way i was going to hide, sit, suffer in silence, I was going to find my voice, by any means possible, i wasn't going to let the silence kill me, and destroy my worth. I was going to release my anxiety, find out what I stood for and participate in life. Standing in my little crumpled blue dress and messed up ponytail, defiant, strong and brave, I left the game, ended the silence and clambered onto the big dining room chair at the head of the table, the one reserved for the birthday girl and quietly waited for cake. I had cheated Death, and a slice of a green frosted caterpillar with multicolored smarties and orange flavored matchsticks, would be my well earned trophy. But silence in adulthood isn't a problem so easily solved and its repercussions potentially far more devastating than a little girl's tear stained cheek.

Silence & Politics

Perceived Silence can absolutely give us space to locate the bonds of commonality; failure to recognize and amplify disagreement and discord whilst simultaneously focusing on positive, universal unification. I don't deny that silence, as a pause for thought, a moment taken to contemplate, form an articulate, kind, response can be of value, but this is not true silence. True silence as a finite, direct action and defiant response, is extremely detrimental to Humanity and a complete denial of Humanity's innate need to connect with each other and our environment.

Athenian democracy used silence as a severe form of punishment and crucial endeavor to protect the state. Ostracism (Greek: ὀστρακισμός, ostrakismos) was a procedure whereby a citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years on a preemptive basis [5]. A mandatory Exile where people with the most votes were banished form the city. Anyone who was perceived as being too tyrannical or radical in their ideals could be ostracized as an effective means to maintain the stability of the state following the toppling of the former oppressive government. However, it is estimated that only 10-20 % of the population were actually considered citizens so the democratic process for electing policy, decisions and consequently the fate of the exiled, was still presided over by the select few instead of a modern consideration of a true democratic majority. What is clear however is the notion that integration, inclusion and having a voice was an honor, and the denial of that voice, forced (although still honorable) banishment and isolated silence was punitive.

Our Greek ancestors founded and practiced direct democracy whereby citizens came together to discuss all policy and make decisions by majority rule. Democracy is designed to be inclusive with a central focus that everyone's voice counts. The US utilizes a representative democratic system of government whereby the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, are governed typically through elected representatives who make decisions on the greater public's behalf. How successful this type of democracy is remains reliant on the percentage of the population electing those officials. In the 2016 US Presidential election only 58% of eligible voters exercised their right. 42% remained silent. 6% less than the 130 million, highest turn out that saw President Barrack Obama elected in 2008. "Voter turnout dipped from 62.3 percent of eligible citizens voting in 2008 to an estimated 57.5 in 2012. That figure was also below the 60.4 level of the 2004 election but higher than the 54.2 percent turnout in the 2000 election" [1]. On the 23, June, 2016 the UK, a constitutional monarchy, held a referendum vote to decide whether the UK should leave the European Union, 72.2% of eligible voters executed their right. 27.8% remained silent. [2] Major decisions that impact every single citizen and resident of a country, and yet, through pure choice, a substantial sector of society does nothing, says nothing, and lets other people make key decisions that will effect their future, taxes, rights and conditions of life. Why? Its problematic when only the wealthy can afford to run for office because those in power do not represent a true cross sector of society. A general problem which resonates world wide is that the average voter lacks understanding or knowledge of the things they can/are voting for and serves as a deterrent to do so because of lack of awareness on how it effects them as individuals or the power that the individual can have within any democracy.

The United Arab Emirates political endeavors operate within a framework of federal, presidential, and an absolute monarchy. "Neither men nor women are allowed to vote for the overall leader of the UAE, but a small percentage of men and women were allowed to vote for members of a national advisory council in 2011. During this election, about 12% of Emiratis were given the right to vote, regardless of gender, which was about 20 times more voters than were eligible in a 2006 election. The criteria for eligibility were not published. Voter turnout in the 2011 election was low, with only about 28% of eligible voters actually voting. Many voting stations reported a higher ratio of women turning out to vote than men, and one woman was elected to the council." [3] Yet many of the traditional views within the UEA restricting women to stereotypical roles as mothers and wives in society have been specifically engineered to limit and isolate women, subordinating their power and keeping them subservient to the rights of man. It was only this year, in 2018 that women have been allowed to legally operate a motor vehicle in Saudi Arabia following decades of women protesting the ban.

Whilst women may have the vote, it is not always easy and in some cases down right difficult to execute that right. In 2009 Afghanistan implemented the Shi’a Family Law which requires women to ask permission from their guardian to leave their home, in any other circumstance that is not an emergency. Voting is not considered an emergency. Violence is often witnessed at Pakistan voting polls due to the existence of gender regulated rules and a simultaneous lack of gender segregated voting polls. "In the 2016 elections, violence against women at the voting polls was so concerning that a control center was set up to monitor it. It received 600 complaints from women’s rights groups who claimed it only further discouraged women from voting, causing delays in queues that forced women to go home to return to domestic duties." [4] Atmospheric, geographical and poor health conditions combined with poor accessibility to voting stations in Kenya means it is so difficult to vote, that women again are marginalized in society and forced into political silence. Zanzibar, Papa New Guinea, Nigeria, Egypt, Qatar, and Oman, all patriarchal societies fail to provide easily accessible opportunities for women to have a voice, despite the fact they have the legal right to vote. I have tried to come up with a positive use of silence in the political system but have been unable to do so. Democracy, an agreed lesser of many evils, needs voice, words and communication to achieve success. Action and speech are the exclusive modes of Political endeavor.[6] Silence in politics, be it imposed or enforced is unhelpful at best and catastrophic at worst.

Silence & Historical Oppression

Silence used as a weapon of suppression to degrade sectors of society or social groups in order to serve and promote one social grouping as superior and to deny others agency. Silence, whether that of a subaltern group or perpetuated by institutional mechanisms, represents a threat to a global nexus of community and race, and by extension a direct threat to politics. Slavery, throughout the past two millennia and beyond was institutionally recognized by most societies. A system whereby someone is forced to work or exist against their will. Their human rights are violated and they are controlled by force within a ownership/property framework that reduces human beings to things and prohibits the now globally recognized and legally protected birth right that we are all born free and equal.

1903, London, England

On the 10th of October, 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a women only movement which engaged in direct action and civil disobedience to advocate for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. Pankhurst's Suffragettes reached global recognition with over a thousand women being imprisoned on their plight for equality. Their movement was anything but 'quiet'. These women fought bravely, tirelessly, violently, and gave their lives to this cause. But it isn't the way they fought or the level of conviction or even the "Reign of terror" the papers used to describe the suffragettes' "direct action" that is most shocking to me in 2018, the most shocking element to me is the fact it took 15 years to get them the 'partial' vote, something I have had since birth, a sense of equality and an uncompromising stance that all beings are equal. Forever indebted to the women who waged a war so that I could have a voice. Its never entered my head that I couldn't do, be or say anything a man could do, and that's purely and simply because of women like Emily Davis who ran in front of the King's horse and was trampled to death at the 1913 Epsom Derby so that women could have basic human rights. Or the three hundred women who were barred from entering the House of Commons on Black Friday, November 18, 1910 purely to advocate for women's voting rights, were left with no other choice but to riot and be subjected to common and sexual assault by the police force that was meant to protect them. Seriously, don't waste that ballot. There is nothing more valuable than your human voice.

1955, Montgomery, Alabama

On December 1, 1955, on her journey home, seamstress Rosa Parks was asked to give up her seat in the color section of a segregated bus because the white section was full, therefore the parameters of the white section would need to be adjusted for the white man now needing a seat. Her refusal to give up her seat on a that bus in 1955, and her subsequent arrest for doing so, sparked a boycott of the public transportation system and a new voice resonated loudly, clearly, politely and bravely throughout America. She found a voice, refused to submit in silence, and led the way for others, ne the world to join her. The United States Congress has called her "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement". "The boycott was powerful—Montgomery county bus passengers were 75% African American—and it lasted for more than a year: 381 days. In November of 1956 the District Court ruled that segregation on buses was unconstitutional and the boycott officially ended in triumph."[6a]

1987, New York, NY

Six gay activists, Avram Finklestein, Brian Howard, Oliver Johnston, Charles Kreloff, Chris Lione, and Jorge Soccaras set out on a mission to engage the city in a conversation on Aids. They used the pink triangle symbol, used predominantly in the US in the 1970's as a pro gay symbol of pride and liberation. Originally used in Nazi concentration camps where homosexuals were forced to wear the pink triangle on their clothing. In 1987, these six men started a campaign, posting images of the pink triangle around the city with the slogan "Silence=Death" desperate to get the message out their themselves because President Reagan was silent on the epidemic, a silence the President would later apologize for. [7a] ACT UP went on to use the famed slogan to intrinsically call for political speech and action. To tackle the taboos surrounding any form of discussion or open dialogue surrounding safe sex, to break unwillingness of some to resist societal injustice and governmental indifference, and ultimately save lives.

2018 #MeToo

The silence around sexual violence has historically been deafening. Often considered a private family matter because it was indicative of a families honor, moral integrity, and a sense of shame which should be silenced and ignored. Rape or abuse within marriage, what we would now classify as domestic violence or intimate partner violence, did not become a crime in the United States until the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. Using cultural stereotypes to dictate what is acceptable for male and female behavior and who holds power in such situations has unquestionably denied the female voice for centuries and subjected women to quite literally suffer in silence. In the work place, it is near impossible to speak to a female colleague or friend, that in today's climate, particularly highlighted in Hollywood and the entertainment business, who hasn't encountered, been prey to sexual harassment and the use of sex, as a means to feel powerful, obtain status and control by physical and mental suppression. Stay quiet, do what you are told, submit to the sycophantic whims of the all powerful male and you might be allowed a cookie from the cookie jar. Or in terms of the #MeToo movement, a job. Horrific. Disgusting. Inhumane. And catastrophically Sadistic. The list goes on.

"Trauma can atomize language, disrupt memory, and leave a person without words. Social scientists, among others, have long considered the indescribable registers of pain. As writer Junot Díaz recently revealed about his own experience with child sexual abuse, “That violación [violation]. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough.” To some survivors and victims, language seems insufficient to describe such wounds. Psychological and neurobiological studies of trauma from sexual violence indicate that the brain can perforate experiences of violence with lapses in memory or disrupt chronological recollection. This can make it difficult to recall the kinds of details necessary to file a report with the police, let alone provide “credible” testimony in court. (Such symptoms are similar to those of many veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.) Yet, in the absence of visible cues of violence—the evidence from a rape kit, or bruises and scars—the “truth” of violation often depends on the voice of the survivor and the supposed veracity of their claims." [7b]

The Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations instigated an avalanche. One of the most fascinating things, is his denial of anything being non-consensual. The intention behind actions is key to understanding human behavior, but the disconnect between how the traditional white male in power interprets and defines sexual consent and what victims experience is terrifying. Make no mistake, Time is Up because that avalanche is still uniting, bonding and encouraging the victims of such abuse to join together. Speak up together and my god, this will be the most powerful voice of our lifetime.

Silence / Scientific physical effect on Body / Psychological abuse

“ Tis very true, my grief lies all within;

And these external manner of laments

Are merely shadows of the unseen grief

That swells with silence in the tortur'd soul.”

Richard III Act iv, sc i

Scientifically, the physical repercussions of enforced silence negatively affects the body, for both perpetrator and victim, can be traumatic. The Silent Treatment, a term used to describe a conscious action engineered to inflict a specific result namely control, either of oneself and one's emotions or those of another, instigate both a psychological and physical response which substantially impacts the human body; a hidden injury the human body is less efficient at healing than a flesh wound and therefore, by comparison, infinitely more dangerous. Ignoring someone substantially impacts a human being's physical and psychological health, something society is prone to gravely underestimate because it isn't seen or easily explored, namely because silence in itself prevents dialogue by creating a void. Forced withdrawal is the result of silence for both perpetrator and victim. The act itself violates a human core need to connect, relate and emotionally bond with other humans. This passive aggressive behavior uses "silence to punish someone who relies on verbal interaction within a relationship, and wields silence to castigate and discipline". [7] It negates an individual's role as a valued member of society by directly opposing and undermining universally accepted social forms of recognition, reinforcing the thought and feeling that someone has no worth and by direct implication that people are not equal, that life is not equal, that all life is not all valuable. A notion that history teaches us, categorically has catastrophic consequences and always will for humanity. Genocide is not possible in a world where all beings are equal. Human beings need social bonds to survive, always have done, always will. Even psychopaths need to communicate in order to both emulate a persona, construct their behavior and live within the society they violently threaten through action without conscience.

When a human being is ignored two areas of the human brain are activated; the dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex ( ACC) and the Right Ventral Prefrontal Cortex ( RVPFC ). Together they trigger an alarm system, putting the body into high alert. The human brain registers a basic threat to its essential needs and the brain has an identical response to a physical injury. The brain registers pain. It does not differentiate between physical or psychological. It drives us into flight or fight mode; the adrenal medulla secretes the hormone adrenaline. This hormone prepares the body for a fight or flight response. Our heart rate increases. Adrenaline arouses the sympathetic nervous system and reduces activity in the parasympathetic nervous system. This is not sustainable for any length of time within a healthy human being. When someone is ignored, the brain interprets that the body has been physically hurt. [8] Effectively the body is alerting itself that it needs to fix and correct the situation, thus promoting a society where power is used to manipulate and control those that are the victims of silence, because their body's quite literally demand a response to the situation, in order to return to healthy physiological well-functioning state. The 'ignored' must choose either to meet silence with silence in return creating more segregation and void or to submit to the perpetrator's manipulation and dominance.

My sensitive soul has a natural inclination to register Silence as an extremely aggressive (not passive) form of communication when connection is brutally severed and a void created that is so widely open to interpretation it can only be subjectively understood. "Silence, both as withdrawal and as pointed avoidance, can be used to manipulate, control and harm others just as easily to protect the self." [9] We are all sensitive to being accepted and the entire alert system our bodies undertake when to sensor being ignored as a direct threat to human survival dictates a reaction with lasting consequences. Stress, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, exhaustion and low self esteem are things that greatly impact an individual's quality of life and in its severest form instigate complete self destruction. In such cases, the individual has limited choices, submitting to the will of the perpetrator in order to terminate the silence, fight the perpetrator and risk greater retaliation or isolate themselves. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder engage in the silent treatment as a tactic to manage power and control within their relationships. NPD's want their narcissistic supply to provide them with whatever emotional reaction allows them to maintain that sense of superiority and power within themselves and absolutely is emotional abuse. Any suggestion of healthy communication or compromise is abated, often cruelly, because it is a direct threat to the NPD's fragile ego. "The target often suffers emotional evisceration through a sense of complete bewilderment and emotional pain, given that no opportunity for closure or clarification is made available by the narcissist. Often times, the target is an individual with high emotional IQ, possessing healthy conflict resolution skills, the very qualities an extreme narcissist does not contain within their fragile ego. Extreme narcissists are incapable of accountability, compromise, empathy, reciprocity, and integrity. Since the target typically has been love-bombed or future-faked into believing that the narcissist was her knight-in-shining-armor or perfect boss, the target is often deeply confused and experiences the cognitive dissonance so common for survivors of narcissistic abuse. The extreme narcissist has suddenly vanished into thin air, and such an abrupt Houdini act leaves the survivor reeling with shock, disbelief, and fairly horrific emotional pain. There is no opportunity for closure." [10] Borderline Personality Disorder also engages the silent treatment as a means to erode the identity of another and mold another's existence into the sole role of validating the BPD. Interestingly one of the key check points of a sociopath (Antisocial Personality Disorder) "is the Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them." [11] Its no coincidence that three of the major personality disorders use silence as a means to promote self interest, the cost of which is the destruction of those individuals close to them. A silent wrecking ball bulldozing its way through society and, annihilating all who stand in its way and obliterating all sense, need and desire for human equality.

Perceived Silence

Of course there are areas where silence isn't a response, merely symbolic of a personal need for introspection, to understand ourselves better. Not silence as a defiant response to displace another but as a space for us to know ourselves, and God, whatever your perception of that may be. A quiet space to observe and reflect. To communicate with ourselves and our true nature, desires, thoughts and intentions. [12] A space to find clarity rather than to build a wall of silence and domination. A space to unify not segregate. Monastic silence is celebrated across religions as a way to connect with deity ad strengthen spirituality. But in this silence, monks are still communicating with themselves, their God, the monks around them and their environment. Its intention is to aid listening and perception not to dominate or control. Meditation, a process to quiet the mind, a withdrawal from noise; an opportunity to venture within the self that has proven paramount to self discovery and growth. A skill used to sooth our bodies and minds and relieve stress and tension created by interaction and daily life. Nor would I ever wish to undermine the psychotherapeutic processes that utilize evocative silence to provoke and promote disclosure from the patient. Again, silence as a space to encourage communication not separate, empower or control. There are many such uses: "a professor’s use of silence used to draw out a class, a journalist’s to encourage elucidation, a priest’s hearing a confession, or indeed any interlocutor to induce conversation. In each of these cases, silence functions as a demand, not for silence in return, but for narrative participation. Silence thus evokes non-silence: it incites interaction without demanding it. Even Sontag (1969, 20), renowned for her opposition to the authoritarian nature of Freudian psychoanalysis, recognized that this use of silence contains an ‘element of wisdom’ within it, where it ‘keeps things ‘‘open.’’ [13] The driving force behind these 'perceived silences' is still a motivational intention to communicate, listen, observe, unify and respect the many voices of our world. In these cases, equality is still a possibility. Democracy breaths and our birthright, freedom is granted.

Silence as an action, as a response is an attack. On the body, on our human rights, on our existence. It serves no political purpose but to empower something or someone at the expense and suppression of another. Political silence is not merely inhumane, it is complicit abuse. Silence is a dangerous choice. As an action, in response to a situation, person or statement its interpretation is left entirely at the mercy of the receiver/observer. The emotional abuse it can inflict is detrimental to society and when used to demand attention, at best unhelpful and selfish and at worst sociopathic, a clear determinate of a severe mental disorder. Despite the influx of modern articles, citing silence as the best come back, the superior rise-above it with silence, particularly in response to romantic relationships and dating, it will always represent damnation to me, and a very human, very poignant, extremely personal failure. I think and I believe we can do better. Our evolution depends on it. Every voice counts. Communication is one of the greatest tools Human Beings have. You have a voice. It matters. Use it.

Is Democracy dying? Perhaps the more fitting question should be, have we ever, truly, let it live?






[5] "Ostracism, political practice in ancient Athens whereby a prominent citizen who threatened the stability of the state could be banished without bringing any charge against him. (A similar device existed at various times in Argos, Miletus, Syracuse, and Megara.) At a fixed meeting in midwinter, the people decided, without debate, whether they would hold a vote on ostracism (ostrakophoria) some weeks later. Any citizen entitled to vote in the assembly could write another citizen’s name down, and, when a sufficiently large number wrote the same name, the ostracized man had to leave Attica within 10 days and stay away for 10 years. He remained owner of his property. Ostracism must be carefully distinguished from exile in the Roman sense, which involved loss of property and status and was for an indefinite period (generally for life).Ostracism is said by Aristotle, in his Constitution of Athens, to have been introduced by Cleisthenes in his reform of the Athenian constitution after the expulsion of Hippias (c. 508 bc), but the first use of it seems to have been made in 488–487 bc, when Hipparchus, son of Charmus of Collytus, was ostracized. After Hipparchus, fou

r more men, the last of them being Aristides, were ostracized before the amnesty in 481, preceding the invasion of Xerxes I. The institution was invoked less frequently after the Persian Wars, falling into disuse after it was used ineffectively, probably in 417, to resolve the political impasse caused by the rivalry of Nicias and Alcibiades. Compare exile and banishment."



{7a] Act Up’s famed anti-AIDS slogan ‘Silence = Death’ intrinsically


[7] Sattel, 1983



[10] Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW, 2016 / The Silent Treatment: A Narcissist’s Trick of the Trade of Emotional Abuse


[12] Thoreau on silence - space for own thoughts /



*. Kipling D. Williams, a professor of psychological sciences, Current Directions in Psychological Sciences. The article was co-authored by Steve A. Nida, associate provost and dean of The Citadel Graduate College and a professor of psychology.


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