A man could have an opinion on everything because of one of three reasons; one, that he knows everything; two that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know everything and three, because he is a liar. So before I offer my opinion on a subject, I do well to evaluate my knowledge of it, acknowledge the gaps in my knowledge and finally evaluate my commitment to the truth. Before my opinion passes all three tests, I better keep it to myself, where it hurts only me.
Perhaps the hardest of the three tests is the test of truth; what is your motive, really? To me, the objective of every discussion should be to refine ideas by way of sharing facts. But when we only seek to impose our ideas, the discussion becomes an argument, messy and futile. So the question here is, do you seek the truth or simply to make a point?
I debated a bit while I was in high school and one debate comes to mind here. The motion was, “Should prostitution be legalized?” Being religious, I opposed; and being religious, I thought I would win. The last speaker in the debate was for the motion. He gave a presentation so good that I was converted. He educated me and challenged me in ways I couldn’t anticipate. He was so good, they won the debate.
But I was not bitter, because the debate had achieved its goal; it had refined my ideas. I went on to debate afterwards until I left high school but that day changed the way I approached rival teams hence forth. I was more open than I was competitive and in fact, I have never won a debate since.
Many of my opinions don’t pass the test of truth because I later realize something that I didn’t before that makes me reconsider my stand and nearly converts me to the other camp. So I return to the drawing board and again, I just can’t seem to choose a side!
The world wants to be divided, everyone wants to pick a side. Like one’s opinion doesn’t matter unless it is seen in the context of a larger set of opinions that is the party they subscribe to. They want us picking sides before we have enough information to make an informed decision and then they want us to be sold out to a cause and defend it at the expense of truth thereby driving all of us into a ditch that is ignorance and barbarism.
Fear is bad a lot of times. Fear should not guide us, fear should not lead us. But some fears should be respected above others and maybe even be embraced in favor of others. Among these, I think is the fear of a deleterious opinion.
Featured Image: Petr Pavlensky, A Russian performing artist form galeria-arsenal