Humans have been, for ages, found themselves being challenged to do what is just and right. However, this idealism is often created out of confirming with one’s society. Each society has its own culture, principles, traditions, politics and religious beliefs. One’s act of good deed may be considered the opposite in the eyes of a person foreign to his culture. Confirming with the society’s norm had been considered a conflict to a person’s decision-making. One person may want to speak out his mind on such controversial issue but kept mum to avoid being antagonized by his peers.
The public media and press became the gladiator’s arena between freedom of expression versus tact according to society. Raising one’s voice that opposed the society’s mentality is often discouraged due to gaining nothing but people’s ire. But not saying anything at all is also considered as moral cowardice- it produced same negative results as those of irresponsible communication. This essay would like to persuade its readers or listeners that voicing unpopular ideas can make a difference in the world. To quote as famous statement from the past, ‘The right way is not always the popular and easy way.
Standing for right when is unpopular is a true test of moral character’’( One historical example of positive results from expressing one’s voice is found in Japan. Japanese politics had been exclusive only to men for centuries until around 1920’s. The 1920’s had been the era of revolutionary reforms that greatly overshadowed the older conservative laws under the Japanese government. With reforms being entertained to be made on the Japanese constitution, two of the most highlighted changes are the women’s suffrage and political inclusion.
One notable woman who campaigned for the women’s rights is Kato Shidzue. She is the first woman to be elected in the Diet and famously assisted Margaret Sanger, a fellow feminist, in promoting birth control to Japan. It was a period where in a transition is still undergoing, from conservative upbringing to a much more liberal lifestyle. Being a feminist brought Shidzue anger from most men specifically the Japanese military. This resulted of her being arrested on 1937 for opposing to the ruling of producing as many children as possible.
Yet, her perseverance of expressing her principles and fighting for equality served as one of the founding blocks of just treatment of both genders (Hopper, 2004). Another example would be Martin Luther King Jr. , the famous civil rights activist who campaign to end the racial segregation and discrimination. Despite the strong dominance of the white supremacists around that time, King took action through organized and peaceful means. He was a firm believer that violence was not the answer to the problem and knew that with this tactic it would garner the public’s attention more compared to the former.
On that fateful day on the year 1963, his speech entitled I Have a Dream was the most pivotal moment during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. With genius use of rhetoric along with fiery passion, King called for his country to acknowledge racial equality and to end discrimination of color. His life was threatened several times due to his message of bringing equality for the ‘black people’. To this day, no single American had forgotten the I Have A Dream speech of this brave believer of what is right and just for all people (Kirk et al, 2007).
History repeats itself as someone quoted from the past. To this day, this saying still rings true. Moral cowardice does have repercussions if people remain passive in a long period of time. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for one’s belief so it is reasonable if not all would be eager to clash with society’s norms. The consequences of this inaction would usually end up regrettable and horrifying. The Holocaust is one fine example. At first, the Jews were ridiculed and discriminated in Germany. No one tried to question this action for fear of receiving the Germans’ wrath.
The Aryan race factor also fueled the fire which led to antagonism to both races. It was already too late as the war finally occurred; Nazis ordered a systematic genocide of all European Jews that now famously called the Holocaust. Over 17 million casualties resulted from the state-ordered annihilation (Niewyk; Nicosia, 2000). Another example would be the Martial Law in the Philippines during the 1970’s. President Ferdinand Marcos held the presidential seat for almost twenty years, ruling the country with an iron fist.
For several years, only few dared to stand up against the Marcos’ regime and question their intentions on proclaiming Martial Law. The Filipinos suffered the continuous wreckage of its economy and the severe corruption of the said government. If it wasn’t for Benigno Aquino Sr. ’s assassination, the people would never be motivated to fight for their rights and wish for a democratic government (Ackerman; Duvall, 2001). A pen is mightier than a sword is not message to be taken lightly. Speaking out one’s mind has the power to motivate people to either take action or change their opinions.
No matter how unpopular an idea is to the society, what mattered is the courage to stand up for one’s principles. Martin Luther King Jr. and Kato Shidzue proved that even with several obstacles barricaded in front of anyone, one should always defend what is just. As long as someone listened, there will always be people who will be supporting the idea. Moral cowardice maybe a norm for the most people around, but historical events such as the Holocaust and the Philippines’ Martial Law proved that staying tight-lipped would not guarantee’s a person’s safety.
References: Helen M. Hopper, Kato Shidzue : a Japanese feminist (New York: Pearson Longman, 2004). Kirk, John A. , ed. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement: Controversies and Debates (2007). 224 pp. Niewyk, Donald L. and Nicosia, Francis R. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, pp. 45-52. Peter Ackerman; Jack DuVall (2001), A force more powerful: a century of nonviolent conflict, Macmillan, p. 384