Is staying quiet worth it?

December 14, 2011

Political Theory


I was just wondering now a days if staying quiet is worth it, or would standing up for your beliefs or stance better?
During lecture on December 6, 2011 we learned about Socrates, and the duality of quietism vs. martyrdom.

I am a Christian and being of my faith, I learned about the history. The history of how my religion spread from a few disciples to a global religion where in even America it is professed that majority of us are “Christians”. Being built upon Judeo-Christian values this is to no surprise, but the fact of being so quiet about it by Socrates definition are we not convicted, or because we “don’t know the answer” of whether we truly believe in this religion? Just thinking about this Christian religion and how it spread brought me to think about if being quiet was not worth it for the first Christians, and if I find being quiet worth it.

Recent events in the news, such as the Sandusky incident has brought me to think about quietism. If Joe Paterno, and the President of Penn State knew about this incident why did they not speak up about it? Were they unsure about it, or what were they scared of that in Socrates’ ideas would lead them to be a martyr? And was being quiet worth it to them, especially now looking back at how they lost their jobs and how they were released by the university from their duties. Is quietism ever worth it?

On the other hand, is standing up your values and beliefs worth it. I found myself stumbling upon this question when reading the article of a woman who was pepper-sprayed in the “Occupy Wall Street movement”. What is the point of bringing this to the forefront now? Was that pain felt by the woman really worth the stance she had against these big corporate giants?

I believe that quietism has no real place in politics. In politics if you don’t know what to do then I feel like you must generate and form an opinion about something and push for it. If Joe Paterno and the President were quiet because they were afraid of something they must truly understand that it wasn’t worth staying shut many years ago. Quietism ends up usually worse later on than when someone could have spoken up for their beliefs before. Although the Sandusky trial is still proceeding, if proven guilty Joe Paterno and the president of the university could have prevented many more sexual abuses, and could have saved their own jobs. There needed to be convictions from both men to at least make the right stance on this problem. Whether or not Sandusky was a good friend or not, leaves Joe Paterno and the president any room to disregard and keep this situation quiet. Keeping quiet sometimes makes you the bad guy, and does not pay off in the end.

Quietism has also been not worth it in my life. All those times when I knew bullying was wrong and should report it to the teacher I did not for the sake of being cool. Who knows how the “bullied” ended up now in life, but if any scars or hurts were left that would mean it was all my fault for my lack of courage. Quietism truly is a curse.

Socrates’ said not knowing is a main reason why people say quiet, and is true, but other times the consequences for speaking up prove to be the reason why people stay quiet. I feel as though many people stay quiet to long now. There are problems within our society and staying quiet is the simplest most comfortable option we have. We all are living within our homes, with a place to sleep and food to eat and that’s all that matters to us. But if we were asked do you have a problem with injustice and human rights in socialist/dictatorship countries we would say yes. What do we do about it? We continue to stay within our own confines and because it does not affect us we let it slide by. So given the chance to do something or speak up we stay quiet because we know the consequences.

Quietism is an easy alternative solution to problems. Everything remains the same, and usually does not affect you. The question is whether it’s worth it. I can attest to the fact that it is not worth it but many people have different thoughts. What are your thoughts on this situation, is it worth it to be quiet?

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6 Comments on “Is staying quiet worth it?”

  1. Michael Zanger Says:

    It’s completely different to compare religious beliefs and situations to defend a group of people or an individual (the children who were sexually abused by Paterno). One is a debate (because people need to understand that someone out there believes everything they consider a ‘belief’ is wrong) and the other is an act of heroism.

    In my experience, being quiet about an issue is just as bad as the act itself. An example is when kids in high school don’t stand up for others because they don’t want to be singled out. Bully calls kid names and everyone in the perimeter either becomes a bystander or a hero. What does it take to speak-up for what you believe in? If anything, you preserve your own individual dignity while doing the right thing.

    We all have those memories where we wish we would have done the right thing. If you always speak-up, you wont regret anything (as long as you’re doing it the right way).

  2. rmwells3 Says:

    There is never a time in which not speaking out isn’t worth it. If it is morally right, then it should be spoken and never suppressed. Sometimes, however, there are other personal reasons surrounding us that force us to suppress what needs to be said. It is these special self-interest reasons that keep us quiet and from speaking out. In a perfect world, where we could be rewarded for speaking out, we all would no matter what.

    I think that, because our self interests are always intertwined and conflicting, we often find ourselves in positions in which we would be persecuted and ostracized if we didn’t remain silent. Money, job, family and public persecution are more than enough reason to keep our mouths closed. It is hard to overcome any of these obstacles for “the greater good” especially when we are rarely rewarded for it.

    I wish I could say that I would always do the right thing or always speak out, but I know in the face of adversity, I most likely would succumb and keep quiet if jeopardized my best self-interests.

  3. schoiidaho Says:

    I would always have great respect for people that are willing to stand and speak up about their beliefs and flaws in the society, and I would like to have the kind of courage and dedication to do this. However, most times, their voices are hardly heard, and the ones that decide to speak out against gets ostracized, jailed, and scoffed at by the majority of the society. However, at the same time, if something is seriously wrong and we know it, I feel that we almost have an obligation to change it and make it rightful. I would like to say that I believe that it completely depends on the situation and where you are.
    For example, we all know that it is wrong for a child to be made fun of, bullied, and singled out at school just because of their skin color, race, personality, or other features. In this case, it is necessary to stand up for the kid and put an end to this.
    However, if you are a privileged, high ranking official in communist North Korean regime, it might be a smater choice to keep quiet. The corrupt government neglects and abuses the ordinary citizens, misuses all the resources, and basically takes from the public and keeps it for themselves. You are living a very wealthy and comfortable life, but know that doing so at the expense of the suffering of your citizens is wrong. However, if you decide to speak out and demonstrate against the regime and for the rights of the common people, you and your family will be sent to concentration camp, possibly executed, and the future generations of all your family will be ostracized and abused and never be able to climb back up the privileged class. Also, everyone in North Korea knows criticizing the government basically means death in an internment camp. In this case, it might not be worth it to jeopardize the lives of your family members for a fruitless speakout.

  4. danielpienkowski Says:

    Truly, when it comes to defending one’s beliefs against large opposition, quietism is part of human nature in a sort of fight or flight sense of the term. It is usually easier to just walk away from a confrontation than actually voice your opinion and try to defend what you believe in, as it might end up poorly for you in the short run. Also, I believe that there is strength in numbers, so an individual “martyr” going up against a whole system that they don’t believe in take an incredible amount of courage. Addressing the Occupy movements, I think the whole idea of quietism sort of wanes as well, since as of now, the movement has lots of support so becoming a part of it isn’t as risky or dangerous for each new individual.

    But I recently watched a documentary that seems to deal with this issue of quietism and a psychological concept called “the diffusion of responsibility.” Essentially, this documentary showed that most people are indeed scared of standing up for what is right and would rather walk away from any confrontation. This diffusion of responsibility showed that many individuals would rather keep quiet because they believed that if something bad indeed was happening in society, it wouldn’t be their personal responsibility to fix it. Now obviously, if everyone thinks like that it is easy to run into problems. In the documentary, they created the following scenario: there were two voluntary actors, a young girl as well as a very “thuggish” looking man. They were out in public on a decently crowded street in the middle of the city. The man’s role in this experiment was to pretend to be kidnapping the young girl, all while she would be screaming and shouting things like “you’re not my dad” or “I don’t know you, let go of me.” Startlingly enough, people kept walking by, seeing the event unfold, but then looked the other way and did nothing about it. It took over 15 minutes before a few men ran up to him to protect the girl. Essentially, the girl was screaming for help in a public environment for over 15 minutes and no one has the courage to help her.

    Altogether, I believe that quietism has practically no merit and that we should protect what we stand for. Unfortunately, however, we usually chose the road with the least opposition and quietism, whether we like it or not, becomes a reality.

  5. clinthng Says:

    I agree with the comments above; it is easier to do nothing than to raise your voice. I don’t think it’s about the worth of being quiet, I think it’s more about the issue itself and the immediacy it presents. For instance, if I found out tomorrow that all University of Michigan students were being deported, you can bet that I’m not going to be staying quiet about the issue.

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