Why It’s Great To Have An Opinion, But Not When You’re Blindly Following The Herd

Posted on February 10, 2016 in Society

By Shasya Goel:

Source: Flickr.

In this fiercely opinionated world, not having an opinion is considered a crime unparalleled by any other on Earth. But how is it possible to maintain a consistent stance in a world full of paradoxes? Let alone the run-of-the-mine mortals among us, even those gifted with superior brains can’t do so. You don’t have to look too hard to believe that. Just pick any article that talks about the benefits of, say, a ‘healthy vegetarian diet’, beneficial both to our bodies and the environment, while warning of the hazardous environmental consequences from consuming meat products, and see how it convinces you to take its word as Gospel, backed by decades of research by the most eminent scientists, as it were.

Now don’t be too shocked when the next day you are informed that, lettuce is more than three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon.”

Not that I have anything against such dubious investigations. It’s part and parcel of an advancing, knowledge hungry society after all.

But what becomes problematic is when opinions, both in the personal as well as the social realm, start sounding ludicrous to everyone except the one holding them with such extreme fanatic fervour. Perhaps their lowly brains don’t understand the mechanisms of our society at large. What they think is not really what they think, but what they feel they should think. Or in other words, what the society wants them to think. Having an opinion then becomes not a matter of choice, but a matter of coercion, as what you think ( or like to think), becomes of paramount importance to others, if not to yourself. Sounds confusing, does it?

Take for example the recent debates over religious intolerance and the Dadri lynching doing the rounds in our country. It only takes one motor mouth to start off, either in action or through words, and the entire nation starts chanting the same tune. So if society thinks eating beef is bad, how can we not nod our heads in agreement and kill a Muslim man for allegedly storing it in his house; like a bunch of cowards committing a murder in the cover of darkness, dense enough to hide our deeds, but not our insecurities or, rather, inhumanity. And if the same cowardice leads to the nation standing up against such acts of intolerance, how can we not be the first to return our awards in protest, and talk about leaving the country?

This vicious chain of events escapes the eyes of all those who boast of having an ‘opinion’, and acting on it. Whether it’s right or wrong is totally irrelevant.

So where, and more importantly, when does all this stop? The answer is, nowhere. Because as long as we humans inhabit this world, there is no respite. We will never breathe freely, nor let anyone else do the same. And don’t worry about running out of topics, if you can’t find one, just create one.

In a world beset with opinions contradicting each other at every step, and clamouring to fight for attention, how do we know when to stop thinking?

Thomas Nagel very rightly said that if we tried to rely entirely on reason (or in our case the lack of it), and pressed it hard enough, our lives and beliefs would collapse. This is not to say that having an opinion is bad; just that an excess of it, like everything else, diminishes the very act of productive thinking. All your resources and energy are directed towards coming up with an individual opinion, forced or otherwise, with the aim of indulging in a battle of intellectual prowess with ten other nitwits who, including you, don’t know the first thing about having a discussion.

Face it, even as you’re reading this, your mind cannot stop working in ten different directions to either refute or concede my point. Merely throwing caution to the winds has become passe, it’s more like throwing missiles, rockets, bombs, (hell, whatever it is you can get hold of) disguised as explosive earth-shattering opinions that has become the mantra of today’s world.