Opinion: In general, an opinion is a judgment, viewpoint, or statement about matters commonly considered to be subjective.
There was, as you are all undoubtedly aware and completely unsurprised about, another Twitter debate that involved/angered a large proportion of tweeps earlier this week.
And I watched and read every tweet with interest. Just as I did after the election.
But not just because of what the debate/argument was about, but more to see how it played out.
You see, I have been involved in many debates of the last few months, mostly during university sessions, and I have become fascinated by the way in which they work. People have always interested me and I always try and look behind the bravado and the words and to work out why they are saying or behaving in the manner with which they are.
Usually it’s about what has happened to them. Their past and all of the many varied experiences they have had which culminate in this thing we call an ‘opinion’.
And, more often than not, when people no longer have a valid argument or line with which they can follow, their response is ‘well it’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.’
I think it’s that word that sits uncomfortably here. What makes someone ‘entitled’ to something? And does being entitled to an opinion qualify it and protect it from attack?
Opinions are constructed over time from influences both socially and culturally. For example, natural desires and behaviours corresponding to the female body are born from natural occurrences, whereas feminism stems from cultural constructiveness.
Everyone’s differing points of view are huge bubbling pots of individuality, into which ingredients have been slowly added and combined since each individual was born. In went what their parents thought. Followed by what they heard from their peers. Spoonfuls of ideas gathered from reading magazines, books, and newspapers. A large dollop of what they have watched on the television, or listened to the radio. Snippets soaked up from having travelled to different places peppered with the suffering of a range of illnesses and hardships.
And then…the wonder that is confirmation bias enables people to surround themselves with likeminded people who compound their beliefs. That flavour their opinion soup, so to speak. I mean, having experienced something that means you’re entitled to an opinion on it…right?
But then doesn’t everyone experience everything in a unique way? So won’t each person’s opinion be a different one?
I’m digressing somewhat. Which isn’t a surprise given that I am attempting to discuss something as diverse and complex as this.
Let’s take parenting a newborn as example. You’ll find that everyone has an opinion on that whether they’ve had a baby or not. And, oh, what a variety of opinions on how to handle a newborn there are, some of which are extreme polar opposites. They vary between genders, classes and generations. Instincts are those natural occurrences that feed desires and behaviours whether we are aware of them or not. And then there is the culturally constructed side of parenting. The attachment parents, the cry it outs, to name two. I’m intrigued as to what makes one mum differ so much from another and believe, sometimes vehemently so, that their opinion on how babies should be handled it without doubt the only valid one. It’s like the old nature verses nurture debate. Or…
Nature v Culture. Or…
Naturally occurring v produced. Or…
Natural instinct v human nurture. Or…
Emotion v reason.
I could go on.
The debate this week wasn’t one sided, it wasn’t even two sided, and was almost too complex for me to follow at times. But what I did follow was anger towards someone, who was technically expressing an opinion, a thought, voiced through many differing opinions. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground or initial questioning of the tweet that caused the outrage. There were sweeping statements and judgments and at times became painfully personal.
For me, what there wasn’t enough of was evidence. Some people believe that in order to have an opinion that you are ‘entitled’ to, you don’t only need to have experienced something, but studied it. Learnt the facts. Be able to back up your argument with truths and statistics from reputable sources.
One could argue that your own emotions are a reputable source and that you have an opinion because you wholeheartedly believe it.
Trouble is, those opinions are the easiest to attack and criticise. Not so much opinions, but beliefs maybe.
They are personal. They are individual. And they are real to the person who holds them.
In my opinion, we all need to be a bit more tolerant of those who do not share our views. Especially where those individuals in question are attempting to support and help others.
You are entitled to your own opinions, but what you are not entitled to do, is attack someone else because they don’t share the same ones.