By Lucas Rucchin (’24)
This February 18th, we experienced WPGA’s annual silent day, an awareness-raising event dedicated to those who lack the influence to voice their sentiments around a cause. Selecting an issue or purpose of their choice, Silent Day participants willingly remained uncommunicative for the entirety of the school day, determinedly renouncing their speech in dedication to the cause hung around their necks. It was hard to miss: black-coloured masks and white tags filled the halls, but more so noticeable was an unusually serene quietness, in classrooms, in lunch breaks, in corridors. As humans, we don’t commonly receive the opportunity to spread attention by such means—generally, we are prompted to speak out about a topic in need of awareness rather than keep quiet about it—which is what makes Silent Day so distinct from other events of its intention, in a good way. Here’s a synopsis of 2021’s day dedicated to how we can use the lack of voice to shape the loudest words.
Statistics and notable causes
Since the opening of the Silent Day sign-up in the Daily Announcements, 100 students registered across grades eight to twelve: 22 in grade eight, 31 in grade nine, 20 in grade ten, 10 in grade eleven and 12 in grade twelve. Considering how there are about 400 students in the senior school, about a quarter of the entire population spanning the five grade levels signed up, demonstrating WPGA’s recognition and appreciation for problems facing individuals around the world. To get a better grasp of what issues sprouted the most awareness in 2021, here are some noteworthy causes students chose to remain silent about:
“My cause is for women around the world who don’t get a voice.”
“My cause is that I will be silent for the black lives matter movement.”
“Persecution of Uighurs in China.”
“Asian brutalities from COVID stigma.”
This is just a small pool of the immense and diverse list that Service Council received, a testament to the variety of worldwide difficulties students at WPGA have been exposed to and can comprehend. Whether the knowledge of these causes were acquired from the internet, in writing, or from peers, Silent Day is a meaningful exhibition of what we, as fortunate individuals, chose to care and research about in a troubled world. You can take a look at a more detailed list of data and reasons here: Silent Day 2021 – Statistics.
The effective method of awareness-spreading?
It is fair to argue, from first glance, that an event like Silent Day may not be the most productive strategy in making an issue known. Isn’t it more effective to be open and straightforward about a cause? Shouldn’t advocates make their advocating known through a prominent speech or discussion? Is staying quiet essentially counterproductive? I beg to differ—Silent Day’s approach, through my eyes, is just as practical.
Communication is something we as a species take for granted, especially in a world of interconnectedness and joint knowing: messages are constantly received and relayed in a sea of other discussions. Contact is instinct, whether that be verbally, through movement, or a screen, forming the bonds of how we grapple through every day and prepare for the next. By remaining silent, you are transmitting just how notable a cause is to surrender such an important skill, ultimately conveying that a cause worth exchanging for your voice is a cause worth understanding and caring about. An audience will be forced to ponder over both an emotionally-saturated statement and a persistent silence, especially when it is fulfilled in numbers: exactly what WPGA has achieved.
This being said, silence—due to its scarcity—stands out. If you were someone who did not partake in the event, you were most likely taken by surprise when your peers refused to return your dialogue; such is a confrontation that you will likely remember much more extensively than a conventional exchange. The white tags displaying partaker’s causes were enough to prompt thought.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that speaking out is completely inferior and should not be employed. Silent Day benefits from the fact that our society is one that depends on communication, and utilizes the notion in order to spread awareness for those who lack the ability to express their opinions. Yet, spreading awareness in our busy and cluttered world is not as simple as conveying information through an informative speech or article, but requires something that grabs your attention: silence.
Succinctly, both silence and speech—while distinct and unique in their means of conveyance—are viable ways in transmitting attention, each with their own strengths. Whichever one you choose to spread awareness, hopefully 2021’s Silent Day has encouraged you to adopt a wider understanding of voiceless individuals everywhere.