The Blight That Is Opinion

“Interesting choice of title,” I hear you say. “Very lighthearted. A sunny piece of writing, this is sure to be.”

Don’t worry, Reader, I haven’t been radicalised — or anything equally sinister. Nothing like that has happened for weeks. I have merely grown weary of logic and sense being treated as things that are, in the end, optional.

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The equality of individuals is often touted as one of the greatest hallmarks of our time — and rightly so. We now live in a world in which a great many of its citizens are allowed to vote for whomever they choose, and are given — in at least some capacity — a say in all matters of importance, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or social class. Such a thing is unquestionably honourable, and should fill each of us with a sense of achievement; despite the great tragedies and atrocities that continue to plague our species the world over, we have succeeded in at least some small way in transcending our primal instincts and elevating ourselves to the state of Enlightened Beings.

I fear, however, that the principles on which these freedoms are based — freedoms that men and women fought and died for over the centuries, freedoms that people continue to struggle against every day — are scarcely appreciated by the masses as time progresses. As these liberties settle in our minds as given, as gratis rights that are inherent to the very nature of our existences, we lose the very sense of responsibility that is vital to the integrity of their usefulness.

Perhaps that sounds overly philosophical and/or convoluted. What I mean by a statement is that whilst the citizens of the western world have provided for themselves and their descendants a priceless freedom, they and those very descendants for whom they fought so hard to liberate are moving towards a situation in which they will, unintentionally, undo all of their hard work; now that the freedoms have been won, they are taken for granted, and so the minds of many grow lazy.

Why? Because it’s easier; quite naturally so.

I speak, of course, of the influx in the defence at all cost of ‘opinions’, and the growing outrage at anything and everything that could possibly mar them — anything which could cause offence when in contention with these holy ‘opinions’, including logic, satire and common sense. Such defence takes the form of credence being given to all points of view regardless of any measure of justification, in the name of ‘Balance’.

It is, of course, true that everybody has a right to an opinion — an individual concept of the world that they inhabit, and have the right to express such a thing in a manner that is free from bias, coercion and fear of reprisal. What they do not have the right to, at least in a purely frank manner, is the right to have such an opinion heard, agreed with, or respected. Unfortunately, not all opinions are equal.

This strikes one’s ears as immediately draconian and ‘wrong’. Such a mentality pervades our collective consciousness; to speak of inequality in any manner encroaches on a slippery slope upon which none of us wish to tread, and hope to keep those who do from ever reaching it.

But stating that opinions are unequal is, on inspection, nothing more than an analysis of how the definition of an ‘opinion’ has been warped over time.

One person may say, “I think that X is the right way to go; two decades of research have made serious headway with it, and we have many technologies that demonstrate its accuracy and validity, and Y and Z studies indicate that the negative effects are limited to A and B.”

Another person may say, “No, they aren’t. They’re bad.”

Such words are said to be equal. They clearly could be nothing further from equal. One is a well-reasoned opinion. The other is just something that a person has said.

A true opinion is something based upon clearly defined lines of reason, drawn from fundamental axioms which are themselves formed via the expression of empirical evidence. It is by no means an irreducible, baseless statement which is composed of nothing more than whatever happens to appeal to that person the most.

A modern faux ‘opinion’ is one that should set alarm-bells ringing with immeasurable tenacity in our heads, for it is akin to a belief, but lacks the very attributes that grant beliefs inner dignity, and at least some semblance of stability: whereas beliefs are by definition leaps of faith without cause for justification, faux ‘opinions’ are prone to being riddled with half-baked, shaky innards which only serve to mask their true nature.

This distinction, however, seems to have been forgotten, or at least is no longer observed by a large sect of people. In fact, many consider an opinion to be an excuse to say whatever they want without having to give any thought to the validity of their words, or indeed to fear rebuke, ridicule or opposition. In addition, it allows those who revel in woolly-thinking to retain a foothold during the height of a dinner party debate.

Once such a person has been backed into a corner — once it has been made clear that they are unable to justify themselves — they rise up and declare that, despite your carefully crafted criticisms and hand-holding lines of reasoning, they are Entitled To Their Opinion. Thus, you are defeated; there is no defence against such a thing.

It’s also worth pointing out in no uncertain terms that even well-reasoned opinions mean nothing at all in the face of sufficient evidence on the subject in question. In addition, an opinion may be well-reasoned, but the person expressing it may be simply ignorant or misinformed. Therefore, people who pride themselves in their rationality often end up believing that they are entitled to opinions regarding matters that they know little or nothing about.

In essence, we have grown used to the concept of our sugar-coated views of the world as immune from ridicule. We are safe. Our bubbles will never be burst by mere rational argument; we are impenetrable to such petty bombardment. Even when the consequences of holding to our ill-conceived opinions are dire — homes, jobs, wondrous discoveries, great leaps in human understanding, and even lives —we can console ourselves with the fact that, in the end, we are entitled to our opinions.

It is with these weapons that spiritualists, psychics, homeopaths, astrologists and their ilk beat back the otherwise impenetrable pall-esque trinity that are Science, logic and evidence. Such people hide behind principles of equality that are themselves just, but have been twisted into a truncheon with which an even keel may be kept.

It is said that a well-reasoned argument is equal to a baseless statement born of gut-reaction. Not only is this claimed to be true, but on top of that: people who spout the latter are protected from ridicule and rebuke like badly behaved children who are allowed to keep their toys even when they refuse to play fairly.

I am not a man of absolutes or ultimatums. I hope to be forever a man of Logic and Reason. Nothing delights me more than a chance to exercise my mind; to consider. But I hold one ideal close to my heart, one that I aim to live by when all else has failed: nothing is immune to ridicule.

Such an ideal seems more prominent in my mind with each passing day, for we stand close to a precipice that could see our freedoms of speech stretched and wrung out to the extreme. We may see liberties stray from a state of granting freedom to oppressing discovery and rationality; the very things that they were brought into being to fight against.

A band of beigist woolly-thinkers with lion bodies and the heads of men prowl amongst us, bearing gazes as pitiless as the sun; they are seeding the beginnings of what could potentially lead to the dawn of a new Dark Age — a zeitgeist that may see our technology, science and way of life endure, but also see the very spark that is free thought warped until blackened and ugly. Once again, all in the name of ‘Balance.’

Whilst I am fully aware of a possible lapse into abject narcissism inherent in the following statement, I shall state it nonetheless: I hope that there will always be people like me around to stand in their way.

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