‘Listen with your heart. You will understand.’ – Pocahontas
In the last few years, more and more campaigns have encouraged people to talk about mental health. Why does it matter whether a person speaks up or not? A month ago I wrote a post, ‘why should I write?’. To me, writing is a form of talking, a healing process. This healing process allows me to recognize that I have become a silenced person. The painful thing for me to address to myself is that though I have been suffering from negativity casted by the others, but at the end, it is not the others but me who are my own darkest trap. I am the biggest informer to silence myself. I silence myself because I struggle to face the outer pressure. I cannot comprehend what’s happened to me.
I once read a comment on the world’s renowned singer Lea Salonga – ‘I like it that she didn’t play a VICTIM of racism, instead she proved herself worthy to get the roles. That’s what we call a true role model.’ This comment carries a lot of weight. Many people celebrate their role models’ successful stories. They look up to bravery to advocate and combat oppression. I wonder how many more are never able to be noticed before they even gain a voice. Many more who linger over the significant amount of bitterness and hurdles and are too behind from overcoming the suffering, let alone to be able to finally be content with himself/herself. Frankly who wants to play a victim? The word ‘play’ itself has a strong indication that the person has a choice to be a victim. But then who gets to decide to be under suffering? No one, even the strongest person cannot be indifferent to pain and hurt. The more we try to deny suffering, the more we continue to be muddled in pain and emotional turmoil. In fact the act of ‘playing’ a victim indicates self-loathing attitude. When we have suffered enough to the point that we become numb to our pain and depression, we can cross the moral border of self-dignity and use, or what others describe, play around our own pain.
So here is the dilemma in this world. Those who silence themselves are victims but they never get heard. Then most of those who speak up and are not ‘powerful enough’ are stereotyped as playing the victim. So who are the real victims? Who deserves a voice?
In the past years, I have had different conversations on the meanings of advocacy. There was once a comment I still remember – ‘I am uncomfortable to look at advocacy on feminism. I see that most of the advocates are from the bottom backgrounds or are not able to deal with their own problems. How can they act as a model of advocacy and efficiently convince the powerful ones?’ I was discomforted by the comment. To me, such comment implies an ignorant mindset that the underprivileged and their inevitable suffering is a neutrally factual phenomenon but not a manmade cause. It implies an expectation that those who are casted with suffering should be able to overcome it on the own before they could speak up – the weak ones do not deserve a voice. Voices are for the legitimate powerful ones.
However, who am I to judge an ignorant mindset? The person who gave the above comment was actually not a, what some would describe, white male supremacist, but a woman who genuinely brought forward her own doubt. She did not hate being a woman; rather worried about the fact that advocacy by women themselves would only lead women to be more misunderstood, looked downed on and despised.
See, ignorance is sometimes a narrative of fear, avoidance and pain. People (or can I be confident to use the word we) are well adapted to the normalized pain and suffering caused by injustice in the society, that we are fearful of facing more adversity if we even dare to wonder about a world in which we can truly become equal. Avoidance is not an act of coward, but self-protection and an act in earnest to remain in trouble-free.
We want to choose not to be a victim. Having a choice is not a statement, but a transformational growth. To do this one has to overcome the bitter cup. We have to speak up in order to reverse the silenced state – the deepest reason of the own trauma. The real battle is not against the outer demons but the inner-monsters. No one is perfect. In fact we are far from being perfect. Let us be proud to say that we do not need to be perfect to speak up. We do not need to be strong enough until we are heard. We have the right to heal.
I define talking as a process of reconnecting with the own beliefs. I remember a vivid scene in a Disney movie, Pocahontas 2, in which King James asked Pocahontas, ‘Why do you speak out when so many doubt you, even when it could mean your life?’ Pocahontas replied, ‘Because I speak the truth.’
I/we walk a road less traveled, but I/we am not alone. Why shall we speak? Speaking up is a process of letting go. Writing is a healing process. Sharing allows us to be able to let go of the burden.