Who Speaks for the Voiceless?
by Paul Hazelden

Who speaks for the voiceless?

Who speaks for the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the powerless, the cold, the hungry and the despised?

Who speaks for those who do not know what they need, because they have never had it? For those who do not know the right words to use? For those who do not have the right to speak?

Who speaks for the voiceless? Not me.

Even to attempt to speak for the voiceless is to deny who they are. They have no voice. They cannot speak. And they cannot speak through the mouths of well-meaning powerful, articulate people.

I cannot speak for them because they cannot speak.

Even to attempt to speak for the voiceless would be to deny who I am. I am not voiceless. Compared to them, I am rich and powerful.

I cannot speak for them because I am not them, I do not know what to say. I must not pretend that I know, that I understand. I have not stood where they stand. I have not been ignored, overlooked and forgotten.

I cannot speak for them, but I can remember that we have met. Our paths crossed, and I have been changed by that meeting. I do not know their experience, I do not understand their dreams and fears. But neither am I completely ignorant: we met, and I learned one thing at least. They are people like me.

I do not need to speak for them. But I must speak, knowing they are present. I must allow them to shape my words, my work and my world. I cannot pretend that the voiceless do not exist. The future I strive to build must have a place for them, a future where one day perhaps they may not be silent.

Who speaks for the voiceless? Nobody. But we must allow the silence of their voices to shape the future we choose.

We must live and act and fight and love, so that they will have a place and one day a voice. And future generations, looking back, they will speak.

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Copyright © 2008 Paul Hazelden
http://hazelden.org.uk/gr01/art_gr039_voiceless.htm was last updated 6 December 2008
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