Don't Confuse This With Absence

In this essay, Eva Meijer maps out the different kinds of political silences and, in an original and informed way, marks out the moral dilemmas that are hardly ever discussed in the heated (social) media debate.

Eva Meijer
Original title
Verwar het niet met afwezigheid

Language is central in politics: in parliament, on social media and in the public debate, words are used to fight. In philosophy, too, language is always linked to politics. But who is able to speak is never certain: in Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and climate marches, people who have traditionally been silenced are claiming their voice. Silence can suppress – sometimes people (and other animals) are literally deprived of their language, other times, they are figuratively deprived. ‘Speak up,’ says poet Audre Lorde, ‘your silence will not protect you.’

But silence also has another, often overlooked side: it can be a path of resistance, a refuge, or part of a conversation in the form of listening and silence. In an increasingly loud world, we can develop new political manners by learning to be quiet from time to time.

‘Writing concisely, philosopher and NRC columnist Eva Meijer casts herself as a spokesperson for silence. She says: not all silences are the same, just as listening and remaining silent are not the same thing.’

Eva Meijer
Eva Meijer (b. 1980) is an author, philosopher and singer-songwriter.
Part ofNon-Fiction
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