TODAY -

? : I Don't Know!
Breaking the Spiral of Silence

Gautam Sharma *

I Don't Know!



IN Which category of people do we belong to: Express Minority or Silent Majority?

Do all of us have said, "Yes, Let's Ban the beauty contest in Manipur". Do all of us have agreed with the opinion and decision to ban the 'Miss Manipur' contest placed by the combined-force of women CSOs and pressure-groups (Miera-paibi emas). Is it a public opinion becoming a decision of public? How many from 2.7 millions state populations had expressed their opinions about good and evil on their decision? Do we live spinning inside the 'spiral of silence'?

This are the "?", which I sense like 'I don't know', even though I sense it as I know, but I was silent and reluctant to put my opinions in a public forum. Because, my hunch, my opinions would gain less favor due to bit opposite from the expressed Minority. So I was scared to express and can't voice it freely. Methinks, just can't break the 'spiral of silence' that is spinning me by the knotty-entangling social strings.

On that day, like usual, I was following my own day-chores; 'taking evening tea-time and su-sa-su-sa break'. The 'Kaffee Hause', of that evening was filled with A-Class looking chattering-community and the room was noisy with views and opinions. They exchanged their views & opinions referring to the news item about the ban on beauty contest, jumped to the muddy conclusion.

I wanted to participate in discussing the agenda that they tabled just beside the coffee-cups but I can't, because I don't have a title ahead of my name, nor I can't manage to pretend to be a social scientist and also I'm not a chief of a CSO or pressure group. So I thought who would count my opinion. Being simply myself, what I said silently was 'Dear oja-guru (mentor & learned men), your ideology seem to misfit with the running contemporary wheels'.

Back home, me throw some questions to myself: Is the public opinion really an opinion of public, or is it an opinion of few express minorities that are placed in the public forums? Could the opinions of 'express minority' have the probability to become public opinions? Why some groups remain silent while others are more vocal in forums of public disclosure? Won't it be interesting to know, whose opinions really count and followed by us?

Meseems, now, when opinions of strong few expressed individual and groups floated in media- wires, papers as news and views then it has a potent likeliness to become public opinions, and when it becomes a public opinion then it could also influence in public decision-making. We count on their opinion and followed their ideology and decision, even though our-own are bit opposite. They speak-up and we silent-up, we remain mum and followed with due fear to confront openly with our opinions which seem to be at minority. We just can't break the spiral of silence.

Research finding says we tend to remain silent when we feel our views are at minority. When someone's opinion becomes dominant and when we perceive our opinion to be in the minority, we don't speak up because we fear isolation from society. The degree of our opinion expression seems to be higher if it is thought to be the public opinion or if it pertains to the prevailing public opinions and likely to share openly in public.

The closer we believe that the opinion we held is similar to the prevailing public opinion, the more we are willing to disclose openly that opinion in public. Then, if public sentiment changes, we recognize that our opinion would be in less favor and we become less willing to express that opinion publicly. And the more distance between us and public opinion, then our personal opinion sharing is more unlike to share.

For instance, during 1991 Gulf War, a study says, the U.S. support for the war was measured and, view and news of popular support were also presented in media. But, in a survey that asked about people's opinions, respondents were clearly less supportive to the war than the popular support depicted by the media but failed to express.

So, did media coverage contribute to a spiral of silence that dampened opposition to the war? Those who watches television perceives that the public supported the war, and they themselves were also compelled to become supporters. This study supports the spiral of silence and suggests that people are swayed by bandwagon effects rather than fearing social isolation.

And coming closer to home, I have no comment over the recent 'ban of beauty contest' as I live within the spiral of silence. But, Meseems, many have failed to understand the changing role of women. Living in the 21 Century, it seems we've failed the test in dividing the lines between Modernism and Westernize, professionalism and Culturalism.

Everything is in mess but we still have time to improve.

In other parts of the world, hailing from the Land of Mary Kom, Lin Laishram has blown the harmonica of thousands with her focused attitude and killer body. Lin Laishram is raring to go! She leaves the other Kingfisher contestants behind, as she manages to impress the judges with her picture perfect poses. Lin symbolizes the fact that Manipur is a land blessed with talented people and little push and right path can take Manipur on the global map. Lin has not forgotten her roots, she still enjoys the home cooked Eromba. Is this a cultural pollution? Or, did she thrust herself as commodity?

After breaking the spiral of silence, everything will fine. As, the Spiral of Silence is fragile and if one by one, we stand up and speak out against those handfuls of angry voices that stranglehold and control the most fundamental choice of life and liberty.

Newsperson: Out of station for 'Breaking the spiral of Silence'
Tagline: 'we are a product of this environment, environment is their product'.




* Gautam Sharma wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) as part of "Young Witty & Scurrilous"
This article was webcasted on November 11 2012.


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