Before I was laid off, I heard a lot of right-wing nonsense around the office, but I held my tongue, no matter how ignorant of fact or logic the argument seemed to be. Why? Because I have no wish to express an opinion that may cause grudges to be held (I give no one the benefit of the doubt in this regard) and because I am cognizant enough to realize that people are not necessarily interested in what I have to say. You may reach this conclusion before you reach the end of this blog.
Another realization I have made is that no matter how ill-conceived, poorly thought out, propagandistic, or just plain wrong an argument is, no one argues for something they don’t believe. My wife actually thinks I have hobbies to occupy my time so I don’t have to bother with her. Dave, my needy, egotistical former boss, has demonstrated that he will literally believe the last thing said to him – especially if it has the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/GOP seal of approval on it. I have seen it and others mentioned that quality about him, as well. He’s like the toy robot you push in one direction until it walks into the wall, and then you scoot him around in a different direction so he can keep walking. He started out actually calling Harry Potter “evil”, but changed his mind when confronted with demands for proof. Now, he will deny that he thought such things until he is reminded, to which he responds with a nasally whiny, “Welllllll…” More on him later.
But there are few things more aggravating than having to listen to some so-and-so drone on about some political nonsense you couldn’t give two shits about or offer up your own brand of fertilizer only to be met with distain or dead silence. So I finally decided that it was high time to lay down some rules about opinions and make the world a better place in which to live.
Presenting: James Montgomery’s 3 Laws of Opinions:
Simply because you have an opinion:
1. …doesn’t mean that you have an inalienable right or authority to subject an innocent bystander to it.
2. …doesn’t mean that you are well-informed on the subject or even have a clue about what you’re discussing.
3. …doesn’t mean you are right.
Simple enough? Let’s discuss, shall we?
1. You have an opinion? Really? And I asked to hear about it when?
Have you ever had someone in the workplace, family gathering, or other place of congregating lay into some religious, political, or gossipy litany that you couldn’t care less about? Why the hell should we have to suffer through that kind of crap while we are secretly trying to formulate a diplomatic way out of the one-sided conversation? The answer is we shouldn’t have to and you don’t have a right to put someone through that. I don’t care how important you think your opinion is, shut the hell up! If you want to discuss something like politics or some other potentially controversial subject, ask the person who will be your victim if they want to hear your opinion on the matter. That, at least, gives them the option to say, “no.” And don’t get your feelings all hurt and screwed up if they do say no, because you don’t have the solution to the world’s problems floating around in your punkinhead. Your opinion is not nearly as important as you think it is. And even if you did have the salvation of the world or, at least, the health care problem in the U.S., on the tip of your tongue, we could just proclaim you as “Smarter than Einstein” and let you get to work and not have to listen to you.
Bear in mind that there is a difference between an opinion as a matter of chit-chat and an opinion as a means of problem solving. If you have made the insane decision to involve yourself in the community of civic leaders and decision makers, then you will have to sit through inane opinions ad nauseam because YOU ASKED FOR IT! It comes with the territory, unlike simply breathing air and innocently being in someone else’s proximity.
One of the wisest words of advise I ever got was when I was a bartender: Don’t discuss politics or religion with your clientele or co-workers. Ignore this at your own peril and embarrassment. This advice has kept me out of many potentially bad situations.
2. The thought you are trying to pass off as your own should be yours.*
So, now we come to Dave, my disappointment of a former boss, who seems to have no ability to see through the Republican façade. I’m not saying the Democrats are anything better than spineless opportunists, but that doesn’t mean you jump on board with the fascists.
Dave is my whipping boy du jour because he is the physical embodiment of why Christian fundamentalism needs to be regarded with a wary eye in relation to our politics. My observations have led me to see that a fundamentalist, who has invested such will to believe in a certain dogma, has a greatly diminished capacity to treat secular issues as secular. Opinion makers on the right play on this (but this is a topic for another day).
I had the misfortune of going to Toronto with Dave for a video shoot and we were taking a taxi downtown. Once the driver discovered we were Americans, he asked about the presidential race, since this was late 2000, and Bush vs Gore was in full swing. Knowing which way Dave leaned politically, I was not going to jump into this fray, but I hardly expected the abject stupidity that came out of Dave’s mouth — for they were not his words! Let me explain:
I also had the misfortune of going to lunch with Dave a few weeks previous to this, which meant that I got the daily dose of Rush Limbaugh pontificating from 12-3pm – at least for the time it took to drive to the restaurant in Dillon. During this static-filled bashfest of the left-wing, Limbaugh ventured, in his typical overconfident aplomb, that this election wouldn’t be that close; Bush was going to romp.
Back to Toronto: Dave proceeded to recite Limbaugh’s prediction word for word! I was dumbstruck! Had this guy no shame; and, more importantly, did he not have any original ideas? He was trying to pass off Rush Limbaugh’s bullshit as his own. It was then I truly realized the pure facile and snivelling milquetoast I worked for. The taxi driver listened politely, not offering any opinion that I recall, but I was sunk in pure, soul-sucking mortification, so I may have missed it.
By the way, the 2000 presidential election turned out to be the closest in United States history, at that time, and, thanks to the fine folk of the state of Florida and that coven of incongruity called the U.S. Supreme Court, Bush was awarded the victory. I never heard anything more about it from Dave or Rush – so much for their opinions.
Concerning the media: There was a time when the “news” was the news. Walter Cronkite was regarded as the most trusted man in America. His personal politics leaned to the left, but that didn’t seem to be an issue. How many people now would even give him the time of day simply because he didn’t fit an ideological image? Listening only to what you want to hear is as destructive to rational opinion making as being completely ignorant. Some call it “anti-intellectualism” and for those people who want the world to be black and white, yes or no, my way or the highway, well, it isn’t.
But even beyond this, have you ever run into someone who holds a completely illogical viewpoint, based on nothing that would require knowledge of the subject or facts concerning the topic? I have; I married her. I don’t know how many times we have discussed topics – normally involving social issues – where she simply stated “I’m not going to research every little detail I talk about. I don’t care about the ‘facts’, that’s the way I feel.” Faced with an argument like that, which is really the seeds of totalitarianism, I just drop the debate with, “Well, good for you and your feelings.” Mature? No. Ending a waste of my time? Definitely.
* This also applies to those who, absent the ability to form and convey an informed, logical argument, will link anything on the internet that supports their viewpoint. Commonly these links involve statistics and polls. Linking is not research or knowing your subject. Statistics and polls are not “facts”.
3. Is an earnest opinion the intellectual equivalent of “we have a winner!”?
The last point is rather obvious to me, but may bear some discussion. In discussing this topic with a coworker one time, he asked me, “Who’s to say what’s right?” I was taken a little off guard, but I saw where he was headed. A chosen path of decision may not end in a favorable resolution, no matter how “right” the decisonmakers felt they were or whether there was a consensus on the decision by those involved. As I mentioned earlier, no one argues an opinion without believing in what they are saying – if they are being honest.
Simply having an opinion doesn’t mean your logic is intact or that you are aware of all pertinent information. An opinion you may have, based on a feeling, doesn’t mean others share that feeling. A person who can influence opinion through charisma may not be correct on anything and is a danger to an unwary or unquestioning audience. But the real danger in believing oneself to be “right” is the tendency to be close-minded. Closemindedness is the worst kind of hubris and will usually lead to ignorance. A closed mind won’t hear facts or logic – especially those facts or logic which differ. And if you don’t have facts to back your opinion? SHUT UP!
If you are going to offer an opinion on a topic, you have an obligation to listen and fairly consider a differing opinion. Debate from experience and from what you know. But above all, remember the three rules of opinions before you open your mouth. Life is too short for all this yip-yap – but that’s only my opinion…