In my travels around the community this week, I have heard a lot about the “silent majority.” I’m curious what that phrase really means.
Who is the silent majority? Where are they? Why are they silent? What would they say if they could speak? If they really exist, how do we create a forum where the silent majority can be heard? Because a democracy is not a democracy if the majority of its citizens do not speak.
I challenged a neighbour who spoke, in hushed tones, about the silent majority in the Crowsnest Pass. Who or what did this shapeless mass support? He actually looked to his left, then to his right, before he answered. “I’ve heard they support the Mayor and Council.” How does anyone know that? Does the silent majority hold secret meetings, have a special handshake, or issue communiqués in invisible ink? And why is it something to be whispered about? Or used as a threat? Everyone has the right to support whomever he or she chooses.
Politicians sometimes use the idea of a “silent majority” to convince their opponents that they are backed by a fierce force waiting to spring into action. How silly is that? It’s like filling a stadium with ghosts and convincing yourself that you can hear the clapping.
If a silent majority exists in this community, what prevents them from being heard? Perhaps, its members are afraid. Intimidated? Bullied? But how is that possible if they are the majority? Maybe they are bored. Indifferent? Cynical? If they are not heard because they do not care, then their presence cannot be used “in absentia” to win an argument.
Just as you cannot win a football game by standing on the field and whispering that there are actually 11 players, not present, who support you. A silent majority is a myth unless it takes shape and roars.
And if the silent majority is organized and focused enough to support someone, why stay silent? Why hint and whisper about the power they possess instead of demonstrating it? What honour is there in threatening others with the spectre of power but not stepping into the arena to use it?
If a silent majority does exist in this community, then the “vocal minority” who exercise their democratic rights by being heard, who act out their responsibilities as voters, tax-payers, volunteers, or political candidates should not be intimidated by the whispers of a force that is silent and all-powerful. If such a force exists, it’s time the people who are part of it get off their backsides and help shape the future of this community. We need their voices, energy, and vision. What we do not need is political manipulation camouflaged as meaningless rhetoric.
To sustain the elegant framework of a democracy requires that everyone who is eligible take part in the governing process. It is not a momentary responsibility. It requires vigilance, awareness, communication, and passion.
I’m not convinced that there is a silent majority in the Crowsnest Pass but if there is, this is the time to step into the light. Be heard. Take action. Honour the process. Create a different tomorrow.