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I recently submitted a proposal to a certain company and I was later told that it was a good proposal, but, regardless, it was not going to be accepted because, for some unknown reason, “the boss” didn’t like it. I asked the person who gave that explanation what he said to his boss. “Nothing. I keep silence in front of my boss”, he said.
That answer was, for me, a clear example that many times when we are working we are not getting paid for our work, but for our silences. The money we get is not in exchange for our work, but in exchange for not thinking and not talking.
Truth is no longer important. Opportunities are not explored. Dialogue becomes irrelevant. The only acceptable answer is silence, which is compensated with salary so low the only option for the next day is to remain silence again, accepting the narcissistic authoritarianism of those whose only power is to sign our checks.
Kafka was right when he described us, workers, as unwanted, impure, ugly-looking, good-for nothing insects (all those are proper translations of the word Kafka used in his book Metamorphosis to describe Gregor Samsa). In our society, we are so connected with our job, that we assume our whole identity depends on keeping that job.
It seems Nietzsche was also right when he talks about the “last humans” who only blink, pretend to smile and other willing to stop thinking if they are compensated, even inadequately compensated, for not thinking.
Obviously, there are times when silence is an expression of wisdom. For example, when Job (as told in the Hebrew scriptures) stopped talking about all the wrong things in his life and remained in silence, he received an answer from the divinity. And sometimes, Buddha’s disciples didn’t answer: they just smiled.
Yet, in many other cases, silence is neither the result nor the expression of personal wisdom, but just a prerequisite to receive yet another check or payment. In that context, silence is both destructive and self-destructive.
I am judging anybody who chooses not to talk so he/she can keep his/her job. My problem is not with that person, but with a society where something as human as expressing our own thoughts creates undesirable consequences.
I also want to be clear it is not a problem if any of my proposals is rejected. Nobody is under any obligation of accepting anything I say and I don’t have any rights regarding the acceptance or rejection of my proposals. The problem is that people are forced to live in silence because their silence is more important than their actual job if they want to keep their job.
I am aware I have no right to think about Utopian solutions and even less to propose such solutions, and I will not offer any advice, because, after all, I don’t know what the future may bring. I only wish to become wise enough to know when to talk and when not to talk.