Thursday 25 January 2007

Speak or be Damned

This is an angry poem, an outraged poem.
I rarely get angry, ever, but as anyone who has ever been involved in an internet forum knows, nothing can be as devastatingly vicious or bitchy as a falling out between online "friends".
There is a peculiar kind of passive aggressive behaviour played out online, which is not only almost impossible to counteract but worse, is insidious -sooner or later it infects you. Worse, it can inform your own behaviour to a startling degree.
In 2005 a group of close friends split apart revealing deep-rooted resentments, lies, betrayals - a painful thing to watch and a sorry tale all round. One of the most frustrating things about the situation was that while knowing that people were lying, if we tried to explain our point of view there was no way to do so without revealing extremely damaging things about people who were after all, once friends. We also wished to avoid imposing the situation on those not directly involved so we forbore to bitch and whine at them.
But by not doing so, a lot of people believed the one side they heard in detail and interpreted silence as either guilt or acceptance. One had to choose between personal integrity and self defence - a deply uncomfortable position.
And this was just online stupidity; imagine the wife trying to fight against the shadow of her husband's mistress or the person trying to defend against the hydra of rumour in the workplace. The political prisoner or the innocent wrongly convicted - how often can they cry out without being dismissed? Michael Moore is labelled a crank for telling us the truth as he perceives it. Other figures suffer similar malignancy - but silence is and always will be interpreted wrongly.

A friend once told me "you can't be misquoted if you say nothing". I now disagree - I have seen myself quoted having said nothing. My silence was either quoted against me, or my silence was filled with words and lies of their choosing. I was lucky, hurtful though it was it was all trivial, it was not real life nor a matter of great importance nor when it came down to it did the loss of such people diminish my life in any way. All that was hurt was pride; and perhaps a little tender-heartedness and sentimental sniffling, go on I'll admit to it!

But it did make me think, and as always happens when one tastes injustice - or at least should always happen - it made me a tiny bit more appreciative of all those who really suffer from it I understand those who are trapped between the desire not to debase oneself in the game of mudslinging and the added injustice of having such mud slung all the harder, because they will not play. And of course of knowing that the moment they do stoop to respond there will be happy and gleeful cries of "AHA! you're just as bad...." So this little poem, while not terribly elegant is heartfelt and dedicated to those who have the real experience, of which just a taste was enough for me!

Speak or be Damned

There is nothing like the itch
of unspoken secrets, the fever
of injustice when we know ourselves
maligned. The ache of heart
when innocence is bought and paid for.

What coinage this, tarnished and warm
from dirty pockets? have you ever realised
betrayal in the silence of a friend? oh, i
am heartsore with the glances
whispers like arrows and words
like stones.

Were you, like me, brought up
to be graceful? don't give them the
satisfaction, don't backbite, don't bite back.
if you do, the taste of it lingers like
drinking blood, curdled.
and what can you do?

Speak and be evil spoken:
stay silent and be mis-spoken: the
burden of soiled trust is not easy to unload.

Geraldine Moorkens Byrne


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Powerful. Absolutely Powerful.

I love the intros to each poem btw...really brings them to life for me.