Thought Box



by Vinta Nanda June 8 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 6 secs

In an era of unprecedented division, the gap between mainstream and alternative opinions widens as economic disparities silence marginalized voices, writes Vinta Nanda.

Privilege shields the apolitical, while powerful corporations suppress dissent to maintain the status quo. I’m exploring here the dynamics of silence, the moral responsibility of the privileged, and the struggle of independent voices against systemic oppression.

The concentration of wealth among a privileged minority has not only amplified their voices but also suppressed those of the impoverished and marginalized. This economic disparity has resulted in a society where the voices of the disadvantaged are increasingly drowned out by those who control the majority of resources and influence.

The mainstream's reliance on powerful corporations has further silenced the majority, creating an environment where independent voices struggle to be heard. These corporations, which hold significant sway over public discourse and policy, prefer to maintain the status quo that benefits them. As a result, any dissenting voices that could potentially disrupt this balance are systematically marginalized. The privilege of being apolitical is an extension of this silence, where those unaffected by political decisions opt out of the conversation, leaving the vulnerable without advocates and further entrenching systemic oppression.

Understanding why some individuals remain silent when witnessing oppression or injustice is important. Several factors may contribute to this phenomenon e.g. individuals might be dependent on those who support or perpetrate oppression, making them reluctant to speak out, or they might personally condone or support oppressive actions or ideologies. Also, people who prioritize religious or ideological beliefs over human rights remain silent or even support oppressive actions, and the privileged might not speak out because the oppression does not affect them directly. While the fear of being ostracized by their community can silence individuals, a lack of awareness or interest in social issues is also a cause of inaction.

The extensive commentary on the anatomy of silence across various media speaks of these complexities yet many still refuse to engage in political discussions, especially when confronted with viewpoints that challenge their own. Art, too, has always been political. Historically, artists have used their work to deliver political messages, support the oppressed, and criticize oppressors. Choosing to remain apolitical is, in itself, a political stance. By avoiding discussions or actions that address the safety and rights of vulnerable communities, one contributes to systemic oppression. Silence and political ignorance fuel this oppression, and the absence of public opinion does not absolve one from participating in harmful systems.  

Anika Gordon in The Beacon argues that claiming to be apolitical is inherently a political act. Those who avoid political discussions often assert that this stance keeps the peace or elevates them morally above those engaged in debates on issues. However, choosing silence signals a lack of concern and a preference for the status quo, implying that nothing in the world needs changing.

By dismissing political conversations, even casually, one expresses a belief that no change is necessary and avoids confronting injustices. Silence about injustice often comes from not recognizing it, sometimes due to skewed perspectives aligning with oppressors. This tacit approval emboldens wrongdoers, signalling that their actions are acceptable or tolerated, thereby encouraging further injustice.

Yash Jaiswal in a piece I found in Medium identifies two types of participants in heated WhatsApp discussions on socio-political topics: Those who express their opinions loudly, regardless of their accuracy. Those who remain silent not due to lack of time, but because they simply do not care.

Jaiswal argues that the latter group is more dangerous to society. Vocal individuals can be persuaded or corrected, but apathetic individuals contribute nothing meaningful and avoid confrontation. They might dismiss discussions with jokes or vague calls for unity, effectively contributing "moo points"—points that are irrelevant and inconsequential.

Privilege allows indifference to politics, he writes. A rickshaw driver struggling to survive cares deeply about political representation and government policies that could improve his life. Those in vulnerable areas worry about the safety of their loved ones during unrest, where the poor often suffer the most, regardless of religion.

Those who benefit from current politics have little incentive to seek change, driven by "survival instincts." Some make jokes about political opinions as a defence mechanism to mask their powerlessness and guilt over their silence.

Holly Wallman-Craddock in DEFIANT argues that accepting the status quo is a privilege. If you can choose to be apolitical, you are among the fortunate whose lives aren't deeply affected by political decisions. For many, politics determines their ability to feed their families and live safely. If you are so privileged that politics doesn't impact your life significantly, you have a moral duty to use your privilege to support others' rights. Fighting for others' rights also protects the rights you take for granted. Being apolitical not only ignores the protection of others' rights but also risks your own by allowing politicians to act without opposition.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.