They say everyone is entitled to their own opinions and why shouldn’t they? Of course everyone deserves the right to express their views, it is exactly this freedom that makes debate interesting, besides freedom of speech is a fundamental human right and so on.
The problem isn’t exactly with this statement but with its more serious implications.
The question is this; should people use opinions to mask their ignorance?
If you’ve ever been caught smack in the middle of an argument and haven’t tried to invalidate the entire debate by reminding other people of how you’re entitled to your own opinion, then you might just be a saint.
Truth be told, while this author is a strong advocate for freedom of speech, sometimes we forget that there are certain issues on which we can’t play the opinion card simply because the presence or absence of our opinion does nothing to solve or demystify the issue at hand. Or perhaps our opinion isn’t really needed simply because we have no knowledge of the subject. The possibilities are limitless.
Opinions, unlike facts, are colored by our prejudices, our preferences and a variety of other factors which might have no basis in reality. You might think that no rational human will object to your harmless opinions on food, cinema, art, literature but if you form these opinions without eating the food in question or without reading the book then your opinion is essentially an uninformed one. These might be harmless enough but they’re still based on lack of knowledge and/or ignorance and thus, cannot be regarded as valid – most opinions, as you will now observe, are exactly like this.
In fact, this author has it on good authority that people who haven’t read, say, Jane Austen will think of her as a bad writer simply as an excuse to not make the effort to read her books and then form an opinion based on exposure and knowledge. The same formula can be applied to multiple situations and you’ll notice how we’re using our uninformed opinions as a method to invalidate a discussion that would have been more fruitful had it been based on knowledge. However, using harmless opinions like these is in itself an art and makes for interesting though futile debate.
But we digress.
Let’s progress to some serious situations in which you can’t use your opinions as an escape route.
Any discussion that centers around human rights cannot be avoided with an opinion as some excuse. You cannot possibly have an opinion on something that aims to improve or protect the situation of people around the globe. Similarly, you cannot have an opinion about any stressful situations that you haven’t gone through yourself simply because you’re not a part of those who did experience situation X. The same rule applies to a ton of cases and hopefully, you’ll be quick to spot it yourself now.
This is obviously not to say that it’s wrong to have an opinion, it’s a very healthy exercise if practiced in small, minced portions and only if you’re quick to evaluate your own opinions and let them go if you formed them to hide your ignorance of the subject. Remember to be critical of yourself before anything else and learn to accept your ignorance and shortcomings instead of calling everything an opinion.
So the next time you find yourself in the middle of an argument, try to analyze whether it would make any difference in the discussion if you were to flaunt your opinion, soon you’ll find that most people couldn’t care less for what you might think. If you don’t know anything about the debate, accept your own ignorance rather than calling it a difference of opinion and be ready to learn, even if it is from people that you might have strong opinions about.