It depends, do you think it will be more useful to you later on?
There’s so many different situations in which one can choose to remain quiet, and stay out of things. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong. And it’s hard to know which is which, and to act that which, even when you do know.
It’s important to speak up against injustice, but it’s also important to shut the hell up when you’re talking through privilege.
If there’s a rule of thumb, possibly think about who is benefiting from the speech you’re plotting. If its you and only you, it may not be necessary at all. If its the world on the whole, maybe its worth it. If its someone else in need of your wisdom, you should probably be careful of how smug you’re being, but it could be a kindness.
In fact, I would say probably, the answer is not to be found in rules of thumb (or collaborative writing games such as this). It’s absolutely the opposite of what you should be doing. Just about all the potential pitfalls can be taken with taking time to think.
Not enough of us (I am a particular nightmare for this, and its opposite, so may be projecting) take the time to think through what we are saying. Most of the issues of domineering speech, or quiet acquiescence, can be beaten through some reflection and thought.
There is not time for this in all situations, so it has to be turned into a reflex, it has to be internalised and natural (and then it becomes another force to be watched over). Reflexive reflection. Self awareness, basically. Know thyself, beware your self.
It’s not simple. It’s too easy to get buried in overthought. Too easy to drown yourself in meaninglessness, missing the point entirely in a morass of self doubt. But you need to learn to strike a balance.
Or, like I say, I do.
At the same time, I am too silent. I hear things around me, in those awkward social contexts, that I know I should criticise. The world around me isn’t the world I want it to be, and I’ve been known to bystand, and not try and make it so.
Its a great crime, shielding your own social standing, preventing embarrassment by silently ignoring. You can call it picking battles, and there’s common sense to it. But it’s a danger.
I have no route out of it though. It’s an opposite to the fear of overthought. Again, perhaps I should teach my instincts to override. Build up my bulldogishness until I champ at the merest mention of injustice. Build myself a warrior, to go alongside my reflection.
To be whole, we must be contradictions.
There is peace out there, and peace within us. The goal of our communications and interactions should be to make both bigger. There isn’t an easy route to this. There is just working on your self.
Hold peace high.
Illustration by Helen