On being opinionated

(Willy Wonka speaks the truth)

(Willy Wonka speaks the truth)

Having a view is overrated especially when you actually haven’t thought about an issue with much depth. I find it odd how some seemingly innocuous questions are a dividing line, or how issues which may seem arbitrary to someone without any familiarity can be the basis of heated disputes. I remember observing a conversation where someone pointed out that one Latin American country had a very good healthcare system and research funding infrastructure in medicine. However, the person who took offence happened to be from another Latin American country and the facticity of this issue was a matter of national pride.

I think the age of media has a lot to blame for this need for answers all the time. This morning I was on the BBC news website (a prelude to getting to work in the morning) and I saw a story that Prime Minister Cameron refused to disclose the names of his guests, I then saw an opinion piece by editor Nick Robinson, which I subsequently opened to read. As I went back to the previous home page for BBC News, I immediately then found a change in story that Cameron was in fact going to disclose his private guest list.

Social media, and the traditional press is oriented towards opinions, talking heads and having a point of view on an issue. What ever happened to ‘I’m need to think about this issue some more’. Perhaps it is the staple of conversations which are not going very well, when one has to ask ‘what do you think of this issue?’, which I find very often very wooden and unconvincing when I ask this question. I am however very animated about some issues and I would genuinely ask if I cared what someone thinks on an issue if they had relevantly interesting insights.

I am not interested in pre-fabricated diatribes that read like a bad undergraduate essay that didn’t actually understand the examination question. I am not interested in your opinions if they are regurgigated from somewhere more interesting or influential where you didn’t think for yourself. I also don’t care for your non expert opinion on a technical issue. Why should we be interested in the views of non experts? Why should we care about the views of celebrities?

I must concede that some famous people use their reputation to raise awareness of issues, to an uncertain degree of success at times, and this is done purposefully to show a world away from their own experience to talk about something vastly away from the cult of personality, and I’ll accept thats a pretty good use of attention when they know the weight of their moralistic perspective is undeserved. George Clooney’s activism relating to the Sudan comes into mind.

I am self conscious about having an opinion often. When I saw that Cameron story that he refused to disclose the names of his private lobbying funders, I thought that was despicable, but then the story developed and he changed his mind, and then I felt, in a manner that Spinoza eloquently observed; my sense of indignation dissipated.

I also must be aware of my own sense of righteous indignation. In a previous post Michael made on self-critique, I considered the ways in which I have my own shortcomings on having pre-prepared diatribes on issues, or how I don’t actually answer questions people ask me if I don’t have a view. I’m reminded of Adorno’s strategy in the essay ‘Resignation’ where he addresses a criticism he has laid against him that is quite important, and he responds in no way actually addressing the criticism, but critically unpacking certain assumptions about the view someone might take on social change. I’m aware that I’ve written an opinion piece on how I am tired of people being opinionated, which means I am the subject of this criticism myself.

So I’ll need to think about this some more.

Sinistre

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