I was told by a colleague today I should speak up more.
“You seem disengaged.” He said.
To be honest, I have been told this all my life, by my teachers, my professors, and my employers. Most of the time, I choose to ignore it or share this remark with my family. This very day, however, I decided to respond.
“Have you ever been to Taiwan?” I asked.
Looking puzzled, he said no.
So this is what I said to him, and I will say it to you now, because I believe it’s important that you know.
If you have traveled to Taiwan, or you have met people from Taiwan, you will notice an inherent sense of kindness among us. We are helpful, we are genuine, and we are sincere. However, our kindness is not a gift that was given to us. It is not a moral law. It is not a social doctrine.
Our kindness is a product of oppression.
We are witnesses to foreign occupation, threats of military invasion, economic sanctions and global political discrimination. Our agony can be heard in our songs. Our struggles can be read in our poetry. Our heartbreak can be seen in our art. We are kind because we know what it is like to be oppressed. Our kindness is a reflection of our pain.
We are a people who don’t have much. Oppressors have the privilege of endless consultations, negotiations and discussions. Survivors do not have that luxury. So when you say I am disengaged, and I have been told this all my life, by my teachers, my professors, and my employers, you need to look closer. You will see that I am listening. I am listening for the effective time to speak. I am listening for the right moment to be involved. I am listening for survival. Because for us, all we have are our words, and every single syllable counts.
I can see my colleague mouthing the word “but” for a potential rebuttal, and I ended the possibilities of that happening by walking away. It is funny how people want me to speak up, but when I do, they don’t listen.
Yet I am the one disengaged.