On using your voice

Farnham reminds us that we have a Voice and we should use it. Picture: UNSPLASH

By Maria Millers

Last week watching the John Farnham documentary and hearing his career changing song, You are the Voice made me reflect on how infrequently we are prepared to stand up and be heard.

This song recorded in 1986 became a huge hit and reignited Farnham’s flagging career.

It spoke to the idea that individuals have the power to make a difference in the world.

Its empowering ‘anthemic’ message encourages us to speak up, stand up for what we believe in and take action for positive change: We have the chance to turn the pages over/We can write what we want to write.

Back In the 60s, Simon and Garfunkel released a song with a similar message: The Sounds of Silence.

While maybe not intended as a direct political statement, nevertheless it has at its heart the superficiality and shallowness of political discussions and the failure of individuals to truly communicate their concerns and grievances to those in power.

Or even indeed to talk about them with friends and family.

People talking without speaking/People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share/And no one dared/Disturb the sound of silence

Like Farnham’s song so many years later the Sounds of Silence urges us to break the silence that separates us.

It encourages us to speak up for what we believe in and take action for positive change.

The song suggests that amidst the superficial conversations and distractions there is a profound silence: “Fools”, said I, “You do not know?/ Silence like a cancer grows

And indeed there is a cancer of silence and disengagement spreading aggressively through our society.

As Farnham sings: We’re all someone’s daughter/We’re all someone’s son/How long can we look at each other/Down the barrel of a gun?/You’re the voice, try and understand it/ Make a noise and make it clear, oh, woah

Why is it then that so many of us are reluctant to stand up and be heard on social and political issues?

It’s as if we are under the influence of daily doses of Soma, like the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World used to sedate and control the population, keeping them docile and obedient and preventing any dissent.

So what is our soma?

Could it be years of conditioning in a culture where any substantive discussion unless it revolves around sport is not encouraged.

There is an avoidance of what can be seen as uncomfortable topics, but these are usually the ones we should be talking about.

News is consumed on a superficial level and there remains a high level of wilful ignorance about crucial issues which eases the way so easily for political manipulation.

Maybe what stops us is the frenetic lifestyle that many pursue either as a personal choice or one dictated by circumstances.

There seems little time for any kind of considered reflection on what is happening around us or indeed what is being done in our names. And even less so in articulating our concerns.

There are so many issues not just in our country but across the world that need to be faced.

From wars and instability, growing inequality, pollution of all kinds, food insecurities, population, climate change. We are also facing crises in health, housing and education.

And programs for the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians are still unresolved and have fallen away from public consciousness.

As global citizens why has it taken so long for our government and indeed our community to respond to the tragedy that has been unfolding daily in Gaza?

Have we been afraid to voice our concerns?

No one is suggesting that we should forget the Hamas attack of 7 October but nor should we ignore the plight of innocents.

And as has been pointed out only when an Israeli drone killed Australian aid worker, Zomi Franfcom and six of her colleagues that there has been front page coverage and public reaction.

The usual response is to turn our collective gaze away from the unspeakable horrors of seeing injured, dying and starving children, and get on with our busy lives.

Farnham reminds us that we have a Voice and we should use it: We’re not gonna sit in silence/We’re not gonna live with fear, oh, woah/You’re the voice, try and understand it/Make a noise and make it clear, oh, woah

We often forget how privileged we are to live in a country where we have reasonable access to our decision makers and a free press, though regrettably with increasingly fewer dissenting voices allowed to be heard. At the same time we have access through technology to hear these voices, if we are prepared to make the effort.

Yet few of us make the effort to exercise our democratic rights beyond participating in a compulsory voting system when an election takes place.

Farnham’s song serves as a reminder that genuine communication, empathy, and the courage to speak out against injustice are essential for creating a more harmonious, compassionate and democratic world: This time, you know we all can stand together/With the power to be powerful Believing we can make it better

Both songs are a testament to the power of music to transcend time and space and speak to people across generations.

They remind us of the importance of genuine and honest communication, empathy and the courage to speak out against the injustices we see around us.

And to be prepared to fight for a more harmonious and compassionate world.

I urge you to listen to both of these great songs.

The Sounds of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone

‘Neath the halo of a street lamp

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by

The flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools” said I, “You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you”

But my words, like silent raindrops, fell

And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon God they made

And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming

And the sign said

“The words of the prophets are

Written on the subway walls

And tenement halls

And whispered in the sound of silence”

Songwriters: Paul Simon. For non-commercial use only.