Sunday March 17, 2013
When we talk, talk and talk
Sunday Starters by SOO EWE JIN
At the end of the day, our perspective on life will determine what we lend our voices to.
I MUST confess that whenever there is a dinner with more than five people on the table, I will eat the least. This is because I talk too much.
Of course, I can also blame the others for asking me too many questions simply because I work in the media.
Whether it’s about the date of the general election or if property prices will come down, I have no choice but to respond accordingly. And since I obviously do not know the answers, it’s mainly talk without any substance.
And, for the less politically-inclined friends, they always want to ask me about my health and whether I am allowed to eat the food they are about to order.
And so I have to go on and on about what my oncologist said and why it’s okay to order the curry fish head, my favourite.
However, I can also be quiet as a mouse when the occasion demands. Being quiet in the midst of a noisy environment is actually good therapy.
But taking time off to commune with nature, as I have been doing with my wife of late as we explore some of the hidden wonders not too far from the Klang Valley, is even more invigorating.
But in our normal day-to-day life, it would seem that the order of the day is to out-talk one another. At committee meetings, whenever a person starts out by saying, “Mr Chairman, let me be brief…” it’s actually a cue for him to hold the floor for a long time.
So one must salute Senator Rand Paul, who gave notice at the beginning of his speech last Wednesday, that he intended to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA.
“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said. And so he did — for nearly 13 hours.
In the American tradition, the filibuster is a tactic used to delay a vote in a legislative assembly. Some of us may be familiar with the James Stewart classic, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, where he played the role of the naive and idealistic Senator Jefferson Smith, who spoke for 24 hours and drove himself to exhaustion to successfully delay a spending bill.
Paul’s filibuster in the Senate, however, is only ranked at No 9. The record is held by Senator Strom Thurmond, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in an effort to block the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
But Paul certainly made all of the US aware of him, and his filibuster has certainly propelled him to be the Republican frontliner in the race for the White House in 2016. So, in his case, talk is good, and profitable as the money for his campaign starts rolling in.
In the United Nations, talk is what they do best, and the record for the longest speech is held by Krishna Menon, the Indian UN envoy who, back in January 1957, spoke at the Security Council for more than eight hours.
Menon actually collapsed from exhaustion midway and had to be hospitalised.
He returned later and continued for another hour while a doctor monitored his blood pressure.
It has been said that in real life, there is no such thing as a “quiet achiever”. We are told to work smart and trumpet our achievements, or risk being passed over.
That may be so, but at the end of the day, our perspective on life will determine what we lend our voices to. I could be a smooth talker, adding to verbal diarrhoea or I could use my speech to build up, affirm others and spread a little light on dark days.
The choice is entirely mine.
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is impressed that C-SPAN has the full video recording of Ryan Paul’s 13-hour speech, or more precisely, 12 hours, 52 minutes, 11 seconds, available online.