Do you know that one in seven people on the planet log on to Facebook every day? That’s 1.43 billion people. I bet you were one of them. I was!
That can make us feel one of two ways:
- Bursting with possibilities.
The opportunity for global connection and interaction is mind boggling! The potential for the amplification of message is boundless and immediate.
I reckon I know someone who is rubbing their hands gleefully and leading the charge in social media rhetoric. They call him Trump. Donald Trump.
How does a man who spouts duality, alienation, and violence get away with this? He lets his voice trumpet. Pun intended. He is broadcasting with unabashed conviction. And folks are eating it up.
Some anyway. Others, not so much. However, most opposition has been ineffective to date. The New York times writers have called the opposition within his own alarmed party as ‘weak tea’.
The sad truth is that most of us don’t bother to speak up. We’ve got all sorts of reasons not to:
- Don’t want to rock the boat
- Don’t want to lose my job
- Don’t want to get involved
- It’s not my business anyhow.
We keep squarely to the little patch carved around us. We stick our head in the sand and pretend it will all be ok. Except that it’s not and it won’t be. This is how despots like Trump rise.
These excuses are actually symptoms of more insidious hidden problems:
- Unchallenged loyalty
- Blind deference to authority
- Playing victim to avoid responsibility.
We are hardwired for loyalty and obedience. This has ensured the success of our species: band together to avoid threat from the ‘other’. When we obey and defer to our tribal leader, we keep the tribe strong. This is why whistleblowers are so maligned: when they call leaders or the tribe’s way of doing things to account, other tribe members feel their safety is compromised. Better to destroy the usurper and protect the status quo.
Challenge to authority threatens the integrity and thus the safety of the tribe. In Influence, Robert Cialdini describes some frightening experiments where people will do the most extraordinary, horrible things to others if asked by people in apparent authority roles. It explains how otherwise normal, caring people turned into Nazis.
But times have changed. Most of us in the western world are not sheltering in caves with one eye out for hungry predators and the other for threatening neighbours. We are global citizens, with interconnected economies. We need each other.
Speaking up requires that we overcome our own biological urges for connection and safety of the tribe. It means we’ll be seen. Read: become a target.
If speaking up means we need to fight the fear of being attacked, or of being excluded from the tribe, why on earth should we bother?
Here are some compelling reasons:
- We avoid complacency in the face of injustice
- We stop being complicit in the face of inequity
- We add colour and depth to conversation, avoiding the grey-beige of status quo
- We stop playing victim and take charge of our own life.
And yet I know this is sometimes not enough to strum the courage cords within.
When we don’t speak up, we sail close to shore, in the ‘safe’ shallows of unfulfilled potential.
Our ship of life is a grand vessel. It is not meant to keep to shore. In the shallows it gathers barnacles, and the keel tangles in weeds.
If we look out to sea, just past the headland where the water turns a little rough and wild, we see the drowning face of our captain: the person of integrity we always thought we could have been.
It’s never too late. We can learn to speak up, and steer our ship out to sea, and save the captain of our soul.
What are you keeping quiet about, and why? What would it mean for you to share your truth? How can you start to share your thoughts today?