This is a noisy land. And it is not a joyful sound we hear: it annoys and distracts. In densely populated urban spaces especially, citizens are constantly assaulted by wafts of discordant, jarring sounds, the nature and stridency of which vary with the seasons. From Xmas/New Year to Carnival the intrusion is relentless!
Noise is defined as “… unwanted sound—sound that is too loud, sound that disrupts and causes us bodily stress and even harm.” It is a complex phenomenon, both subjective (personal) and objective (measurable).
The health consequences of prolonged exposure to elevated sound levels include hearing impairment, hypertension and heart disease. Additionally, loud music and vehicle, aircraft and industrial noise disturb sleep, cause stress, increase workplace accidents, and stimulate aggression and other anti-social behaviours.
In Europe, traffic noise is estimated to harm the health of almost every third person; regular exposure to nocturnal sounds potentially adversely affects one in five.
Is there a link between noise, the prevalence of anger and the rise in crime and other social problems in our society?
Noise is omnipresent. We surround ourselves with entertainment, news, music, continually talking, texting and tweeting, “… all contributing to a collective … cultural tinnitus”. Mobiles are brazenly used during church services. Cell phones, iPods, tablets, TVs, and vehicles blaring insensitively and unconscionably loud music leave us toxically over-stimulated. There appears no place to retreat for quiet and stillness. Silence seems a luxury; quietness, “… a form of wealth”. Only those with the means can manage to escape the clatter and hubbub to find solitude.
How do we deal with this toxic pollutant, noise? We can try making less of it, striking a balance between living quietly and living in a more ecologically sustainable way, negotiating a minimal level as inevitable collateral damage of our modern lifestyle. We can explore options “… between the extremes of deafening din and paranoiac soundproofing.”
Moral sanction alone will not suffice to constrain a noise-making public, disrespectful of those yearning peace and quiet. The enactment and strict enforcement of laws are indispensable to the common good.
We must robustly defend the right to silence and stand against those who foist noise upon us. This is not a paean to painful aloneness or an attack on dance, song and other joyful expressions of human warmth and roundedness.
Instances of deliberate or at the very least thoughtless, noise creation are too prevalent in this country. Any society concerned about the mental well-being of its citizens should curtail this by law. For “… loud, unsought noise is mental torture, and prolonged exposure … makes rational thought and behaviour increasingly difficult to sustain.”
Silence can be profoundly influential in our daily lives—it is a healing tonic, conditioning our thoughts and actions. It rids our minds of clutter, nurturing creative inspiration, giving us the opportunity to think, reflect and introspect. By creating a supportive environment for thinking, silence promotes the development of more rational citizens and a better society.
We are wise to favour the sound of silence by reducing noise to a minimum. Sadly, most are uncomfortable with stillness, seemingly unable to handle too much of it.
We human beings must remember or relearn the forgotten skill of sitting quietly.
We need more silence and silent spaces in this our native land!
Winston R Rudder