The Silence of Buddha and the Silence of the Voter in Goa

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The silence of the Goan voters is loud and clear.  The sound of silence is reverberating even as the votes have sealed the fate of the candidates in the EVMs. For the first time, the Goan voter seems to have gone into a silent mode.  Is this silence a fatigued response to the vitriolic campaign of the national and local political parties with an official as well as dummy candidates confusing the voters?  Maybe not!   Some may have interpreted the disturbing quiet of the people as a silent killer.   But one thing is certain. The silence of the people has added to the climate of uncertainty that had been already created by the surplus number of candidates in the fray.  Not less than 241 candidates were in a battle for Goa.  While the silence is slowly breaking into murmurs, the Goan voter seems to be all set to spring forth a bombshell of surprises on 11 March 2017.  As more than 40% of the Goan electorate constitute the youth and out of which about 33,000 alone being first-time voters of the total 11.1 lakh, some analyst are seeing a vote for a decisive change in the silence of Goans. 

The silence that faces us today is strategic and profoundly political.  People wish to keep the secrecy of their vote guarded. We like silence in its aesthetic and spiritual guise.  But when silence walks in political clothes, it is certainly disturbing.  We are all used to linguistically negotiated politics.  The politics of silence is discomforting in all its hues.  In politics, we seem to follow Wittgenstein’s dictum that says ‘where off we cannot speak, there off we must keep quiet’.  Thus, silence has been viewed as the option of the defeated.  In the face of defeat, we certainly fall silent. We saw how the people of Goa had silenced several arrogant candidates during the last state election. But the silence of the voter at this venture does make a claim for a space for silence in politics.  We can feel the power inherent in the silence of the voter.  Here silence has become more than a lack of communication. It has begun to speak in multiple tongues.  This avoidance to speak about their voting practice is indeed a conscious political choice of our people. 

We are accustomed to viewing silence as the absence of speech.  We continue this absent-centric thinking even in politics. We can trace several shades of silences in our society.  The women, children, outcasts and subalterns are often silenced and rendered voiceless. This condition triggers resistance and recovery of the voices of the silenced.   This way of viewing silence as an absence of voice, self-dignity, freedom and power is legitimate and has several emancipative aspects.  But the silence of the Goan voter invites us to think of silence differently.  Instead of viewing silence through the prism of absence, we may do well to look at it through the window of presences.  The existence of silence can become a mode of resistance, non-participation and rejection of the practices of power. The power of silence that we feel in Goa is what may be called resistant silence.  Hence, the silence that we are subjected to is not passive but one of active resistance.  

In a country where we saw noisy chants of nationalism and anti-nationalism, the fact that we are faced by the sudden silence of the voter might suggest something profoundly instructive.  Maybe in a society where dissent was vehemently crushed, silence is steadily emerging as a political tool of the people. Silence seems to have finally become the political resource that cannot be detracted or exploited and politicised by the political spin masters.  Silence can only be interpreted. There is no one singular interpretation.  It remains open. But it speaks profoundly of our deepest selves. Therefore, it can be an emancipative practice of self-creation.  Hence, in the context of Goa, we are challenged to listen to the silence of the people of Goa. It is not merely withdrawal or pointed avoidance. It is passive aggression. Some call it the silent killer. Hence, the question that asks ‘who is killed by the silent vote of the voter who has gone silent?’ cannot be ignored.  Maybe we will see the rolling of the heads of some political heavyweights once again. 

The silence that is staring at our face today in Goa is not the usual silence of powerlessness. It is certainly the silence of power. There is power in this silence. It presents to us the public posture of the Goan voter. It is evocative. It is calling for a response. It has a demand on the political class. It is not asking for silence in return.  The advantage that this silence has is that it keeps everything open and does not bring anything to closure. Hence, the silence of Goans speaks in multiple tongues. It speaks in the silence to the heart of the politicians.  It calls everyone in public life to self-introspection.  It impels us to listen to Goa and its people.  There is a message for everyone in the silence of the voter. But this message is different to different participants of our democracy.  Such silence is in keeping with the spirit of democracy.  Our country has this tradition of affirmative silence.  The silence of Buddha in the face of all metaphysical and theological questions can teach us a lot.  It does appear that the silence of Goan voter has become somewhat Buddha-like. This is a healthy sign of the rising political maturity of the electorate in Goa.  The stillest hour has arrived in Goa. Something powerful is voicelessly speaking.  The Goan is speaking in his/her silence. He/she has embraced a non-linguistic mode of speaking. Do we care to listen?  


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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao