The Sad Death of Opinions
What happened to opinions? The least intelligent thing that far too many have said is that we should keep our opinions to ourselves. Sharing opinions, debating them is one of the very few things that separates humans from other animals. Humans are, as far as we know, the only creatures with self-awareness or the ability to think abstractly. That means that we are able to think about a ‘bigger picture’. Sadly, it feels like the average person is deciding to forego the very thing that differentiates us from farm animals – offering their part in human cooperation.
I have strong opinions on many things and I am willing to share them. I believe that we, as humans, have a moral responsibility to do that but it has always, and especially recently, made me feel like an outcast. I do not mean outcast in the sense of being a victim of anything or that people are treating me this way, but rather that I am not like most of the rest. I think that I am different because I am willing to offer opinions on topics. Throughout my life I have known thousands of people, hundreds of them well and it is worryingly rare that I have been able to identify any strong opinion that any of them have had, despite being very interested to learn. It is my current belief (and I would love to be proved wrong on this) that people either do not have any strong opinions or that they put a lot of effort into hiding their opinions. If it is that people hide their opinions, I would be very interested to know why this is. I need help with this. You can help by either sharing any opinion that you have or explaining why you hide them. If you can help me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I worry that it is not that people hide their opinions, but that they do not have them. I have been thinking about why that would be the case. I have some thoughts on that. I think one of the major factors is that society encourages people to fit in with crowds. An example of this is group chats. The amount of human interaction that takes place in groups has increased exponentially over that last decade and that is having an effect. Communicating in groups with the goal of ‘everyone getting along’ will mean that you can not express any opinion that may exclude either yourself or anyone else in the group, which means not expressing any meaningful opinion – and nowadays much of our communication is in groups. There are only two ways to correct this problem. Either you can strive on have more communication in a one to one setting or you can change the goal while in group conversation. Perhaps instead of having the goal of ‘everyone getting along’, the goals should be to ‘figure out who in the group you get along with’ or to ‘learn more about the people in the group’. I am not sure exactly what the goal should be, but I am certain that the goal of not expressing any meaningful opinion is the wrong one. I personally think group chats and text messages in general should be limited to swapping information or making plans because trying to have conversation in this way does not work.
This brings us to the second problem – the fact that most conversation is by text these days. People are not as capable of having conversations is they once were. Many are not even willing to try. You may think that this is hypocritical of we, given that I am writing this in a blog. The goal for my blog is essentially an invitation to have a conversation and I hope that people can see it that way. I would love you, whoever is reading this, to accept that invitation. I love talking to people about their opinions and it does not matter if I agree with it or not. I think if you have even a single opinion that you are willing to talk about, you are exceptional. I hope even if you do not reach back to me, you take a moment to try to identify an opinion that you have. Most people can not identify one.
So what happens in the future if opinions truly are a thing of the past? I don’t know but I do not think it is good. I don’t want to think about that. I want to correct the problem before it is too late.
I am trying to figure out how to do that and think I need to be more aggressive in my efforts. I think most, if not everyone that reads this will probably close it and put no further thought into it. They might think I am making sense or that I am not, but either way they will do nothing about it. People will move on with their lives because either they do not believe that they can help solve the problem that I am talking about or that trying to solve it would not immediately help them. Firstly, you can solve this problem simply by talking about it or sharing your opinions. You may be right that solving the problem might not immediately help you in a way that people can see. This points to the final thought I want to share on the problem.
Lets go back to what separates us from other animals; we are capable of mental time-travel. We are able to look forward and imagine a world that exists in the future depending on whether we solve this problem in society or we don’t. I know that the future is better if we solve this problem and I suspect most will agree. So why would we not? I not think failing to solve this problem can be because of a lack of ability because it is so easy to form and share opinions and to encourage other to do the same. Not solving it can only be because of fear or selfishness. Fear of being an outcast, like me or not being willing to suffer any personal consequences for doing what is best for the greater group. We all have two interests. What is best for us personally and what is best for the world. Putting 100% of your effort into the first interest and completely ignoring the second is selfish.
What will you do?
Thank you for reading. Again, this blog is an invitation to anyone to have a conversation. I hope you take that invitation.
My email address is email@example.com