After posting the link of the Youtube video on the Y Factor page, I asked the overarching question that exemplified my initial ideas, hopes and qualms: ‘who would be willing to organise this in Sydney?’ The response was promising. A committee of young advocates was set up and the movement was born!
Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller, The Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference, writes: “social epidemics…are driven by the efforts of a handful of exceptional people.” We aspire to be a handful of exceptional people. The Silence is Betrayal (SIB) committee consists of young Australians, some students and some working full-time, who are passionate about speaking out for justice and advocating against injustices around the globe.
I recently asked the committee members to share their thoughts on why they opted to join SIB. Their responses are enlightening to say the least.
“If we don’t do it - who will?” implores Souha Alameddine. “Who says young people are full of apathy? To a large extent, that’s quite the opposite I dare say.”
“When they’re free, then so am I,” stated Hisham Krayem. “I didn’t earn my freedom, I was born into it. They didn’t earn their oppression, they were born into it.” This sums it up we need to show empathy for our fellow human beings.
“It’s my religious and moral obligation,” Mohsen Saleh said. “We should use our liberties to stand up for the greater good of humanity…it’s my way of appreciating my own liberties.” He is extremely thankful and wishes to share these liberties with others. .
“It’s (about) creating a voice for the people that don’t have one,” shares Nadia Abdel-Fatah. The sense of duty above all.
I thought it would be insightful for you to hear from the team members themselves. This is our impetus, our vitality, our motivation, and our aspiration. Our mantra is in every sense of the word ‘simple’: If we remain silent, then we betray our moral obligations by not speaking out for justice and against injustice. This principle was inspired by the great Christian preacher and activist, Martin Luther King Jr, when he famously said in 1967, as he delivered his first major speech on the war in Vietnam: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”
My friend Richard Telfer, who is studying to become a Uniting Church minister, recently blogged:
“My young Muslim friend was influenced by MLK. I was really touched by this. What a fantastic society we live in. People getting influenced by other people’s religious teachings AND keep their own religious identity. Fantastic.”
It is clear that freedom and those who call for freedom and justice share the same sense of humanity that much of our world lacks today.
Silence is betrayal!
These are three words that will hopefully resonate with thousands of people across the globe. This is a slogan that people from all walks of life; from all creeds, colours, races, nationalities, backgrounds, political affiliations and spiritual inclinations can relate to. Freedom is not exclusive; it’s inclusive of all.
Our mantra is straightforward but our means of conveying that message is where our creativity and innovation comes into play. Our choice of flash mobs as our means of activism and expression is a product of the digital age we live in. As opposed to the traditional protest consisting of marching, shouting and chanting, flash mobs are characterised by being unpredictable and provocative.
The guidelines of a flash mob seem fairly simple: round up some people, rehearse, pick a location, execute and Bob’s your uncle. That’s essentially right! However, the thought-process and decision-making has to be intelligent, creative and inventive. The execution has to be efficient. The participants need to be on the ball. The idiosyncrasy of the flash mob has to be one of originality and imagination. It is a performance where the participants are actors playing different roles.
Traditionally, flash mobs were organised to entertain and to satirise. They were also a means of artistic expression. Since our cause is one that involves politics and the like, we’re willing to push the boundaries and allow our creative juices flow to enhance our message. A feature we really capitalised on was the ability of a flash mob to provide a platform to tell stories – real stories. For our first flash mob for Syria in Darling Harbour, there were a series of scenes, each depicting a real story of suffering. Whether it is an oppressed mother protecting her children or a wounded civilian being tortured by militants, they were visual stories, riveting for the curious onlooker.
Fiona Fonti, an onlooker at the Syria Flash Mob, said, “This is really different.” Another bystander, Marinke Kat, wasn’t aware of the situation at all. It’s ironic, the silence is actually ‘deafening’ for the curious passer-by who sees a silent and still mob of people. Anas Altikriti, founder of the Cordoba Foundation in the UK and organizer of major demonstrations against the Iraq war shared the SIB link, adding that it was the one of the best flash mobs he has seen and that “the silence is striking!”
As Malcom Gladwell articulates in his book, we should think of ideas, messages and behaviours as epidemics. Once we do, then we’ll understand that social epidemics have the ability to spread like viruses do. We have been contacted by interested individuals from the US, UK, Germany and Holland. To date, three Flash Mobs in Egypt, Malaysia and Denmark were inspired by Sydney’s flash mob. Our next flash mob will also occur in Perth at the same time. Our current project is Syria. Our future projects are open. SIB will act for domestic and international issues alike, be it as large-scale as a nation’s revolution or a local social issue such as homelessness. We want to spread the SIB epidemic to Australia and the globe. SIB’s passion for justice is contagious.