Silence is powerful. It’s also versatile. Silence can be used to make a statement or wielded like a weapon. It’s a very effective form of protest and a means of nonviolent action. Silence can speak volumes. It can signal disapproval and disagreement without being disagreeable. At a time when people routinely use loud, angry voices, caustic speech and violent action to get their point of view to the masses, silence can be a louder statement. Without saying a word people can let others know exactly where they stand and what they stand for.

People involved in the struggle for civil rights and human rights have long used silence to make a dramatic statement. In an increasingly loud world silence is an effective way to get attention. It also reflects quiet strength in the face of bellicose and brutal opposition. Many times when faced with injustice the easy solution is to speak out to make sure the injustice is noted and addressed. But in cases where long, eloquent impassioned soliloquies have fallen on deaf ears, silence can often get the point across. An organized campaign of silence is a very good way to express one’s displeasure with social and political policy.

Silence as a tool of non-violent protest has been used to great effect many times. From the civil rights sit-ins in the United States, to silent monks in Tibet to the rallies led by Mahatma Gandhi in India silence has proven to be an effective tool for raising public awareness. Few statements are as powerful an indictment of injustice as a silent protester in Tiananmen Square in China standing their ground in the face of a phalanx of tanks. That protestor said nothing but the whole world got the message and was moved to take action.

Oppression is often promoted by a torrent of words accompanied by brutal action. Trying to shout down oppressive and repressive speech has often failed and inspired a violent response. Many find it near impossible to fight silence. Silence can clearly signal withdrawal and renunciation. In non-violent protest silence is the ultimate weapon. The silent masses defying unjust action speak volumes. But it takes internal fortitude and strength of conviction to protest silently and non-violently when the popular response is noise and violence. People who are able to let their silence speak for them often earn the respect of the masses and attain their goals.

Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.

Also check out The Politics of Nonviolent Action Part One / Part Two / Part Three.

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