Of grey areas and straddling of fences…

Being different has always been the curse of the bold. Galileo Galilei was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy in 1633 when he defended heliocentrism, a theory that places the sun at the center of the universe. The Church forced him to recant on penalty of death rather than change antiquated notions.

In the world over, many communities believed and practiced FGM, given the importance given to virginity and an intact hymen. Waris Dirie was nearly crucified (metaphorically speaking) by her people (and others of the same beliefs) for running away, and eventually becoming UN’s Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. She still lives under the shadow of threats from fanatics who consider FGM a holy rite of passage.

There are many examples of bold people suffering because of speaking out littering the paths of history. Conformity has been glorified from time immemorial. Even in traditional Kenya there are proverbs and sayings that promote conventionalism as a way of being. Contemporary Kenya has perfected the art of toeing the line to the point where having an opinion or stating a clear stand seems irrational. After all, if everyone is doing it or saying it it must be right, right?

Grey area (n): an area, situation, etc., lacking clearly defined characteristics.

Grey areas have become a cesspool of everything “sensitive, delicate or socially offensive”. This is the place where we throw in anything that makes us feel anything from mildly uncomfortable to deeply offended. Abortion, gay rights, the ever-widening poverty gap between the rich and the poor, our failing education system; you name it and you cringe, it’s in there.

One could say that by not taking a stand, one is taking a stand. After all, I choose not to align myself with either camp because both have valid points (or none at all). But the danger here is that there will always be only one voice being heard: the voice of the majority which is not always right. And when the majority quieten down, there will be the deafening sound of silence from you and I who choose not to speak up or do something.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

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