Last year, James unexpectedly got hold of cheap tickets to see Brighton and Hove Albion play against…another team…but all of his regular football-loving chums were unable to go to the game. I have never been accused of being a football fan, but I figured it might be a fun, different thing to do of a Monday evening and so I volunteered to take the extra ticket (yes, I’m an incredibly selfless, giving person, thank you very much).
I can’t tell you really anything about the game itself (I think maybe Brighton lost?) but what was interesting was being in the crowd with the other fans. Typically you’d expect football matches to be fairly noisy affairs. I was ready for some punny chants, maybe even a punch up, but on this occasion the crowd was quite subdued. It was a Monday evening. It was a friendly. It was not a Big Important Game (hence the tickets were so cheap) which meant there were very few people actually there, and the fans that had showed up were not feeling particularly rowdy. Well, most of the fans.
A few rows behind us, there were two guys who were not going to be deterred by Monday night football apathy. They started singing songs. They did the clap-clap, clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap, BRIGHTON thing (which is hard to convey through the written word, but you know what I mean). But the rest of us did not join in. There were a few wry smiles, a couple of people nodded along, but these guys were not drumming up the support they were after.
For a moment they stopped, and the rest of us assumed they’d given up, but then they started a new chant: “We can hear your being quiet. We can hear you being QUIET” People started laughing, but we’d been rumbled. We thought we could keep our heads down and go unnoticed. We thought we could let them get on with it, and we wouldn’t have to participate. But these guys weren’t letting us get away with taking a back seat. They could hear us being quiet. They could hear it, loud and clear.
I wonder how often we think we can keep shtum and no one will notice. We see something that’s wrong, some kind of injustice, but we don’t speak up or get involved because, “It’s not my place” or “I don’t know what to say” or “I know I should, but someone else – someone better – will probably step up instead.” There’s a homeless person on the street and we walk past without making eye contact. There’s an abuse of power happening at work but we turn a blind eye. There are injustices happening all over the world but we don’t buy fairtrade, we don’t reduce our plastic, we don’t give our time or money or attention to a cause, because it’s difficult or inconvenient or it doesn’t feel like you’d even make a dent in the problem. And so we keep our heads down, hoping the injustice will be solved but doing nothing ourselves to solve it, and people notice. They can hear you being quiet.
My friend Nicole is not one of those people who stays quiet. On her train to work, she often comes across a group of “lads” who make life miserable for the other passengers, and the other day they were harassing a Trans person. Nicole didn’t know any of these people, but she was livid – and she spoke up. She called these guys out on their behaviour and told them it was unacceptable. She walked the Trans person off the train and along the platform so they weren’t harassed anymore.
It wasn’t easy or convenient for Nicole to do that. She knew the boys would be getting off the same stop as her from the train. She knew they would get defensive and redirect their anger to her, which they did (as she put it, “Nothing angrier than a chav who has been embarrassed in front of their friends!”) She was talking to us on WhatsApp the whole time saying she was shaking. But she refused to let their behaviour go unchecked. She refused to think, “Oh, how terrible” but also keep her nose in her book or pretend to stare out the window and not notice.
Because for the victim in that situation, that’s what everyone else was doing. The victims of injustice can hear you being quiet. The victims of injustice can see you stepping back when you should be stepping up. If we claim to be Christians, or good people, but don’t throw our hat in the ring when the world needs us, the world can still see us. Being quiet doesn’t make us invisible, it makes our inaction visible for everyone to see.
I’m not saying we should storm in, guns blazing, to every injustice we encounter. Making change happen is a lot more nuanced than simply ranting into the void (in fact, I’ve got another blog post brewing about this very idea) but I am saying we need to speak up. I am saying that we need to be conscious of our choices, because inaction is a choice. Not being part of the solution does make you part of the problem. We need to vote in elections and use our voices. We need to think about what we spend our money on, because money talks louder than anything else in this world. And we need to step out of our comfort zones when we see someone in need. They can hear you being quiet, and it’s time to make some noise.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti