From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this quote from Jane Goodall – “The least I can do is speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Of course, Goodall was speaking about her life-long work with chimpanzees. Over time Goodall became recognized as the “voice of the chimpanzees”, speaking on their behalf to try to get them protections and better treatment.
Many pet owners (myself included) become the voice of their pets, sometimes carrying on conversations with them by asking and answering questions of them or expressing what we believe to be their feelings at the time. I know that my two dogs Saddie and Skippy have different and distinct voices as I speak for them.
Here is also a tendency on the part of some to try to talk on behalf of others who do have the ability to speak, but who chose to remain silent. These representations of the thoughts and will of others often start with the phrase “Everybody says or everybody knows…” In those cases, the speaker has actually usurped and perhaps distorted the thoughts and opinions of other. That happens a loty in politics these days as various speakers loudly proclaim toe be “speaking for all of us”.
In the case of Jane Goodall it was compassion for the inability of her beloved chimpanzees to actually speak in order to communicate their needs and thoughts. In the case of many loud and outspoken people these days it is a form of coercion that drives them to speak on others behalf. They believe that they can take advantage of the silence of others to further their own causes.
So whenever you hear sentences starting with “Nobody wants…” or “Everybody knows…” or maybe “The majority of us believe…”, immediately question the speaker about who gave them the authority to speak on your behalf, or for anyone else for that matter. Ask them what statistics they have (and from what source) to back up their assertion that their statement represents the sentiments of some portion (large or small) of the sentiments of the general population. Don’t accept the “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true” defense of the stupid statements that you may hear. Recent news has shown that unscrupulous actors trying to influence you towards some belief may plant much of what you may see on the Internet there. Certainly almost nothing on the Internet has been subjected to verification of any level of rigor.
So, are you letting someone else speak for you? You might as well be one of Goodall’s chimpanzees. Take the time to think about things, research things and form your own opinion about things. Don’t let others coerce you into allowing them to speak for you. It’s OK to belong to one political party or another, but try to be more like John McCain was, have your own opinion, based upon your own moral values and don’t just go along with the party line when it doesn’t fit those values.
McCain was called a maverick for his independent streak; but, in reality, he just decided long ago not to let someone else speak for him. He did not toe the party line when it didn’t feel right to him. We also see stories in the papers about Democrats (mostly new one or those running to replace retiring members of congress) who have stated that they will defy their party line and support someone other than Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker, if their party prevails in the fall elections. They are the John McCain’s of their party seeking to speak for themselves and that’s a good thing.
So, resolve to speak for yourself and not to let others usurp that role. If you don’t, you might as well sit over in the corner and eat your banana.