A Humble Defense of Being Highly Opinionated

Consultation with my Magic Eight ball confirms that impassioned rage coupled with a superior sense of self-righteousness manifesting as a series of overly verbose missives can only be employed finitely before one begins to sound like and morph into a pale, obese, sweat-stained fringe political talkshow host on satellite radio, or gets offered a role at the UN drafting strongly worded resolutions in response to global crises. As this is something I wish to avoid, I’ve decided to have a crack at being reasonable and calm, and avoid profanity in a shockingly unexpected attempt to demonstrate that I am not a blustering fool. Well, not just a blustering fool. Ha!

Anyway, over the last few months I’ve seen a fair number of people involved with both the Brexit and recent US election on the winning side seem to have adopted a “Now everybody shut up, we won, you’re not allowed to say anything ever again, bow to your new overlords!” type of approach to things. This is quite obviously in line with the democratic spirit, as long as your name is Genghis Khan and by ‘democracy’ you understand “military aided unilateral imposition of governmental authority, perhaps with a side of rape and pillage”. Some have gone further and told those daring to comment on social media that because we aren’t British or American we shouldn’t presume we’re allowed to have an opinion at all. Or, because opinions on social media are similar to Whose Line is It Anyway, where it’s all made up and the points don’t matter (yup, I just did that), people should just focus on their daily lives and being useful to the people who are in their immediate vicinity.

Now, I know that a large number of the sort of person who votes for things like banning immigration based on race and religion, and cancelling trade agreements, or thinks that the head in the sand approach is the ideal way forward,  very much want to believe that the world is huge and we all still live in isolated little villages a la the indomitable Gauls. However, the absence of things like scurvy,  widespread gangrene as a result of cannon-ball inflicted injuries to limbs and dramatic night-time entrances into smoke filled inns by horsemen carrying lanterns and warning of some or other impending disaster about to befall the land do, in fact, support the notion that it is not 1835 anymore. This has turned into a long-winded and overly image-laden way of pointing out that globalisation is a reality, and we live in a global, interconnected world whether we like it or not.  This, in turn, means that everybody is affected by things like a potentially insane dictator-wannabe getting his grubby little finger near the nuclear codes of the USA, or a man who looks something like a shaggy dog in a suit taking over responsibility for the UK’s foreign policy, having a few short years earlier written a poem about the Turkish dictator president shagging a goat.

I can forgo the profanity, but forgoing a good underhanded strikethrough-based insult is a bridge too far.

My point is, things just don’t happen in isolation anymore – and on top of that, news spreads fast now. And I think that gives everybody the right, and maybe even responsibility, to have an opinion about important things – whether or not they’re immediately or directly impacted. Pension funds invest in global portfolios, with global exposures to multiple currencies. Wars are no longer local in scope and location. Emigration no longer means moving to the village a couple days walk down the road. Society is more integrated and diverse than ever before in history. In a world of instant, widely available information, we are confronted more than ever before with beliefs, customs, cultures and ideologies that make us uncomfortable, and challenge us. In a global world, everything affects everybody in some way eventually.

Unfortunately, it seems that in this day and age, the lunatic fringe is taking the center, and in place of a real debate where we all bugger off to the pub afterwards and agree to disagree over a good glass of wine, we now have screaming, hand waving, frothy demagogues with bad hair and very flimsy senses of responsibility whipping up legions of nameless, faceless keyboard warriors into frenzied caps-locked diatribes, railing against anything and anybody who dares to disagree with their appointed saviour’s infallible opinion.

This used to be amusing if only for the obvious irony that this lot seems to miss every time, but things have taken a darker turn in recent years – #Gamergate is one example, but there are plenty of others as well where victims (and anybody who defended them online publicly) had personal details and correspondence hacked and published online. People’s lives have literally been ruined for simply disagreeing with a point of view. Once, it was he who dares wins, but now, it seems it’s he who shouts loudest and has the best IT skillset (this is apparently a viable election strategy as well). As an aside, if I ever have a child I dislike, I’m going to call it “Irony”, just so that I can smugly answer “NO!” and chuckle every time they come home from somewhere and ask if I’ve missed them.

Anyway, here’s my two cents for better or worse – let’s not be dicks when it comes to allowing other people to express their thoughts on an issue purely because we disagree with it. The more people who are informed and educated in this world the better. BUT…pay attention to that word “informed” – if you’re going to have an opinion, please for the love of God make sure it’s informed. It really isn’t any surprise that a website with “altnaturaltruth.org” in the URL and an article headlined “OMG GUYS VACCINE COMPANY DELIBERATELY MURDERS BABIES IN CHINA” has found research confirming that vaccines are, in  fact, responsible for a genocide far worse than Hitler ever instigated. Maybe try reading something a little more balanced and scientific – or don’t, but then expect to be eviscerated for being an idiot.

And that’s the first caveat –  you only have the right to hold an opinion respected, not the opinion itself. Don’t be that guy who screams that people have to respect your opinion when somebody disagrees with you – it’s not true, and you don’t understand things. If I was of the opinion that the odd kiddy shag every now and then was a great way to spend an evening, you wouldn’t respect it, you’d call the police. So when you have an opinion that is idiotic, don’t be surprised when it gets called out as such. And don’t then get offended and start yelling something about Hitler and mothers and libtards and neo-colonialists and privilege. If your opinion is stupid, factually speaking, it’s your own fault. And don’t go the free speech route either – the right to free speech is the right not to be imprisoned or otherwise persecuted by the government for what you say, not the right not to have your dumbass ideas dismantled by somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about.

And the second caveat, following on from that, is to have an open mind to the possibility you’re wrong. This is one that we’re always happy to apply to other people who generally are wrong, but never ourselves because we’re not. If somebody provides an argument that, on the body of factual, objective, verifiable evidence presented makes more sense than yours, have the balls to change your mind. That’s at the heart of the scientific method, and without it, I’d still be blaming myself for all of my shortcomings and giving kudos to a magic sky wizard for all of my victories. And pretending my kid was the result of immaculate conception because intercourse without the legitamacy of a signed piece of paper results in nothing but hellfire folks.

So there you go, an entire post without profanity – hooray! Now, get out there, learn things, think about them, form opinions! But please, don’t just base them on something you read on something like a random, unlinked  fucking blog.

Ah shit.

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