Silence is no longer an option, especially as the world fights back against police brutality, the thieving of freedom, and injustices across volatile political climates. No matter who sees or hears it, speak up.
Let’s get up to speed shall we. You know, in case you consciously turned a blind eye and a deaf ear over what has been viciously and violently gnawing at the fundamental foundations of the world and its progress.
In Hong Kong, democracy protesters are not only being tagged as insurgents, but arrested by the Chinese government as it tightens its grip on the autonomy to impose security laws, essentially ridding them of their liberties; In the United States of America, the nation is in various stages of protest from the peaceful to the harrowing anarchy following an exasperated outrage sparked by the death of George Floyd under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a police officer, and let’s not forget how outgoing and potentially impeached president Trump has blatantly disrespected their democracy in the recently concluded election, which was further exacerbated by the riots at the Capitol, which was a manifestation of domestic terrorism; And in the Philippines, the country is in a perpetual state of panic and paranoia over the incompetent and inefficient handling of everything from the hopeless healthcare crisis response, the severe lack of mass testing and contact tracing, the blatant disregard and pardoning of officials bending protocols, the expediting of the amended Anti-Terrorism Bill in the senate and congress (which in essence wrings the citizens when it comes to freedom and human rights, making us all qualified for political dissidence), the shameless red-tagging, the reported smuggling of vaccines for VIP use, and most recently, police incompetence and brutality. Now that you’re all caught up, let’s talk.
At some point or even to the slightest degree, you have been made aware of the obvious degradation of society and destruction of the world as we know it. It is all over the news. There are countless petitions and posts under pertinent hashtags such as #WeStandWithHongKong, #BlackLivesMatter, and #JunkTerrorBill. Even from the comforts of our personal privileges, this is the harsh reality we are faced with everyday: our institutions are being weaponized against us, the true stakeholders of a democracy. And as the world links their arms in solidarity on a URL or IRL, it is disappointing how some people, especially those of influence, are still choosing to not speak up, functioning as a bystander in silence as the embers of hate are gassed and fanned to an eruption of flames that could put Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to shame.
Many bold and brave pioneers have done everything from throwing bricks, riling up through inspired literature, and even risking their lives for the movement, yet here we are, still struggling to untangle the knots of hate and prejudice. It may be difficult to stomach, but here’s the thing: The oppression across many segments of society is so intrinsically embedded to our upbringing that we have become complicit to its persistence to this day. And what does a sizable chunk of the population do instead? Sit in silence, hoping that it sorts itself out for everyone.
Look, this too shall not pass the way an Instagram Story expires after 24 hours. Having gone on for way longer than it should, it is our civic duty and human responsibility to make sure that our voices are heard, truths are respected, and lives honored regardless of race, gender or social status, even if say you are not as informed or educated in the issues plaguing nations or are uncomfortable confronting them to begin with. Now isn’t the time to wince and back down in reticence, because this not only concerns you, but as silence allows freewheeling cruelty to endure, the very thing you refrain to speak up on could very well happen to you, too.
“Listen, I want more people to be aware of what’s really going on with the political climate right now,” begins social media superstar, Bretman Rock, on Instagram. “As an influencer, I do feel the need to say this, I just have to say it: Some people have just been too quiet lately, not using their voice. Yes, retweeting things is cute and all, but that is not using your voice, that is not using your influence, it’s not. People need to hear your voice to really know.” We couldn’t agree more, because now isn’t the time to be cute, acting as if things are well and good when in fact, the elusive end to all of this remains out of reach despite all the years of taking a stand and fighting back. Imagine, with a considerable platform and network to engage on, followed by more people they can keep up with, and yet they decide to speak up only at their self-interest and convenience, attempting to play clueless when called out. “The excuses that I’ve been seeing [are] lame. Like, you don’t want to talk about Black Lives Matter because you’re afraid of losing brand deals? You’re worried about fucking money, b****? Right now?” he exasperates. “I don’t even know any brand that would pull the plug on brand deals if you talk about things like this. I’m not here to talk about that. I really do not want this to be fed with anger, I just want to speak to the heart but people aren’t talking about it for their own self-benefits. That is not an influencer to me, I’m so sorry but…I can’t even talk about anything else.”
If you have the audacity to put influencer on your profile, rack up deals you link in your bio, and stories blurred beyond recognition, why does it seem so infinitely difficult to speak up on things that actually matter to our collective future? It isn’t supposed to be hard, because it is, as it should be, a conversation worth having, especially if you have people looking up to you and listening to every word you say. There is great power there, and the responsibility is just being waylaid to not even the barest of minimums. Crack open the spine of a dictionary, or well, run a quick Google search on what it means and understand what influence actually means for generations of the oppressed, breaking and fighting the cycle of cumulative trauma prescribed by a society who constantly pilfers from their respective realities. Everything else can wait, but not the survival of lives that want nothing more than equality. You can’t just plaster your carefully curated photo to mask the succeeding swipe rights to reveal the cause or dull the brunt of resistance with an unrelated photo and a tone deaf caption just to maintain an aesthetic, because let’s get real, this isn’t a situation you can’t make light of or pretend doesn’t exist. Look around you, it is happening faster than you aimlessly scroll through your saturated social media feed.
“Speaking up against what you feel is wrong can play a part in the solution,” offers Catriona Gray in a keenly aware, but well-crafted statement on Instagram. “Let’s lean in, engage, and stay on the line.” It doesn’t have to be a grand showing of rabid rah-rah-rah at the start, nor does it have to be diluted as performative and posturing show of support to be forgotten quickly after. Awareness alone doesn’t put a compelling dent on the cause. What the world needs now is something more than just knowing the issue, but an active understanding why people are angry and holding others accountable for it. A simple act of reading the stories that pepper the internet to at least sow the seed of compassion and empathy for the movement, spreading awareness, and demanding accountability from those who bulldoze through the liberties that are right by them is a necessary step when you do use that voice for good.
Realizing this, as well as of the immense power that her enormous platform has, Billie Eilish really went off and spoke her mind in an impassioned post published on her Instagram page, echoing a sentiment laser-focused on fence-sitters who tiptoe on the issue, but somehow find a way to turn it into a pity party centered on them. “This is not about you. Stop making everything about you,” she writes. “Nobody is saying that makes you better than anyone. It just lets you live your life without having to worry about surviving simply because of your skin color! You are privileged!” See, she gets it, why can’t the rest of you?
If there is anything we learned in the past year and for there to be remotely any hope for the future, the rest of the world has to wake up and pay attention. You can’t keep on living on the frays of democratic evolution, reaping through the benefits of blood-stained streets and lives lost for the movement. This is your future too, and you are just as responsible for its outcome as the rest of us. The challenges are explicit, yes, which will require a lot of steadfast solidarity and mental tenacity, but we can’t just leave the equilibrium of society to even out to the laws of physics. It has teetered on the fulcrum of conscious intolerance for so long, it is time to lift it to its balance. In order to fight back and take what is rightfully ours, as protected by the constitutions of our lands and of the greater omnipresence that we each believe in, you have to speak up.