Thursday, July 1, 2021

Silence Is Golden (MY Eng #18)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet' and 'go the extra mile'.

There's no short of drama in any industry. Corruption, harassment, discrimination - the dirty laundry list goes on. Naturally, it's in the interests of everyone within the industry to get the latest inside scoop and have their say.

Still, in the digital era, there's a tendency of unnecessary noise to drown out of the natural sound. Spreading deceptive misinformation and baseless speculation. Making a mountain out of a molehill (yes, covered that one before). Putting the cart before the horse (this one too).

Lawyers, especially, like to shout at the top of their voices and bang the drum, when their own kind is standing on trial. Whatever happened to 'presumption of innocence'? Or letting investigations to run its course? Why the media witch-hunt?

* * *

All of us have seen the sign hanging in the library entrance or between bookshelves: silence is golden. But the idiom doesn't only hold true for libraries, but our everyday lives.

Or as Mahatma Gandhi eloquently puts it: "Speak only if you can improve the silence".

Yes, lawyers and law students have a lot of opinions. A large part of legal training is critical thinking and speaking up. Still, freedom of speech is not absolute. Not every piece of news which is interesting to the public is in the public interest (as many judges are prone to emphasise its distinction). The right to information serves mainly to inform people with facts, and not to voice your feelings. Constantly repeating what's already reported adds nothing to the debate.

But there are always people out there who thrive in mischief. Generating more heat than light. Adding fuel to the fire. Pursue personal agendas under the cloak of public interest.

* * *

People who are overly vocal about everything tend to spend more far time educating others than themselves. And that's their main problem right there. They're far more interested in showing how smart they are than actually improving their smartness.

Don't be like them, kids. Stay in the library, rather than hang out in the echo chambers of social media. Learn before you teach. Practice before you preach. Speak only when you have something truly useful to impart to others.

For only one who knows when's the right time to stay silent and to speak up has ideas and information worth listening to.

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