Haven’t you heard? Silence is golden.
Picture this: a timid girl, fresh out of the nurturing cocoon of a kura kaupapa, stepping foot into the imposing world of mainstream schooling. An all-girls school awaited, with hallways smelling of hello kitty underarm and Uncle Ben’s pies.
I managed to pass the aptitude test and even talked my way through a Deans interview. But this feign of intelligence disappeared at the mention of my placement in the accelerated stream on the first day of class.
Surrounded by the brightest and most opinionated twelve year old minds of Rotorua, our classroom was often a minefield of political beliefs and personal morals. Teen pregnancy, binge drinking, domestic violence and even the ‘immorality’ of plastic surgery.
Our different upbringings were evident in the way we approached issues and how we treated those we thought ‘against’ us. If God was a defence; the rights of man were spat back. We thought of ourselves as champions of change, but at the end of the day we were just mouthpieces for whatever information we received at home.
Our year 9 English teacher, Miss Morgan, a lovely pākehā woman who also took our art lessons often saw us at our very worst. After a particularly heated mock debate on drink driving, in an attempt to get us out of the space of tūmatauenga–of war and words, she played us the 1967 Tremeloes hit, ‘Silence is Golden.’
She made a whole show about listening to other people, perspectives and understanding the tāonga that is quiet introspection. From that day on the song featured in our silent reading playlist, played during independent study and on occasion welcomed us into lessons.
What I’ve come to realise is that in this industry a quick reaction and even quicker fingers will get you a long way. We are often at the helm of talkback politics, misguided opinion pieces and morning tv hosts filling air time with ill-considered opinions.
As the mainstream media struggles with the impact of social media on news, they are under more pressure than ever to spew out constant content and keep up. In the fight for your attention, facts and reason are left at the door. Initial reporting is breathless, speculative and by the time the truth becomes clear, nobody is there to hear it.
Before PM Hipkins had even finished announcing the details of Kiri Allan’s resignation, we were blasted with armchair analysis. Following the Auckland shooting we’ve been flooded with speculation and faux concern from personalities who can’t even pronounce the names of the victims.
How about we all just shut the fuck up? It’ll be tough, we know. Because if there aren’t wildly uninformed opinions, what is there?
Cutting regurgitated ‘facts’ out of topics of conversation will leave a lot of empty air, but it’s not as scary as the alternative–transformative conversation.
This election has been dominated by misinformation. Last season’s vaccination boogeyman has been replaced with Co-Governance. And Julian Batchelor is the newest conduit leading the charge and raising an army from the nearly dead, apologies Grey Power associates.
He exemplifies the need for all to just shut the fuck up sometimes. What are Jualian’s qualifications to speak on Māori-Pālehā relations? His degree in theology?His experience as the director of a company he created?
Despite all this, councils, mayors and your uncle with the farm just can’t get enough of him. Julians inability to shut up has attracted a crowd equally unable to do so; Crowds attract the media, and the media attracts more crowds.
It’s often said that prejudice comes from ignorance, and yet the information age hasn’t made us any smarter.
We’re facing a lot of hard problems right now, opinions on co-governance, mental-health, crime and the cost of living; to which there are no easy solutions. Despite this we’ve all individually decided we have the solution and aren’t willing to have them challenged.
Transformative conversation looks like shutting the fuck up and listening. Opening an ear to those most affected, to those most knowledgeable and to those with inclusive innovation.
Remember, talk is cheap.
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