I first saw “Silence is Permission” as a sticker on a construction supervisor’s hard hat. The gentleman explained that its purpose is to remind people that if you do not speak up about a safety violation, you have become a party to it.
Silence is permission applies across a broad range of human behaviors from
– witnessing bullying, to
– being silent when unkind words or are spoken, or
– hurtful gossip is spread, or
– company policies are circumvented, or
– moral codes are bent.
The failure to speak up is a passive failure and at times the moment can pass so quickly it is only in retrospect that we realize that the opportunity to act or speak positively was there. We hope we can go back and share our belated understanding, make clear our lack of agreement.
Be aware of sanctioning with your silence. These things may seem small but they add up (see my “Broken Windows” post). As Philip Wylie; 1902-1971, wrote in “Generation of Vipers,” “The road is hell is a spiral, a gentle but persistent bent in the straight and narrow.”
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” — Martin Luther King Jr.; 1929–1968, sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, April 30, 1967.
“Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit” (Thus, silence gives consent; he ought to have spoken when he was able to). — Latin proverb
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke; 1729–1797, Irish political philosopher