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October 12, 2014 | by  | in Features |
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A meta-opinion

I have decided to virtuously strive for being opinion-less. Wiping the slate clean because after embarking on extensive rants recently about the dogmatism of others, I’ve concluded that opinionated people are insufferable. They talk too loudly at dinner parties, have an infuriating success rate at interrupting, or simply don’t acknowledge your existence because you’re not pretentious enough to qualify. They religiously publish blog posts deeming John Key to be the worst thing that ever happened to this country or that you’re ignorant to the cause for not having analysed the theories of a particular feminist academic, like Emma Watson (who doesn’t hate men enough, apparently). All accompanied with a strong sense of entitlement to those three difficult words: ‘freedom of expression’.

To be described as ‘opinionated’ is simply a polite way of saying you are annoyingly self-important and need to get over yourself. But upon reflection… if you have no opinion at all, then you have no personality, i.e. to nod along blankly with everyone else is somehow also socially unacceptable. “I just wanna meet a girl who isn’t shit-chat,” muses a friend of mine. How to win: avoid being arrogantly opinionated, but have enough of a well-informed, non-threatening viewpoint that is respectfully expressed in order to be interesting. “Having opinions is what makes you, you,” spouts a self-help site, “speak your mind”. Add your own pithy insight, founded on credible (and impressively intellectual) evidence and you prove you have a working brain, apparently. One pro-opinion blog ambitiously entices readers in with the catchphrase “let’s revolutionise your life”, because to be opinionated is to have drive, ambition and goals. Expressing strong opinions is also plainly attractive. People want to know if they’ve met their intellectual match. If you don’t like it, then you’re simply intimidated by the sass. Respect.

People who withhold their opinions do so out of fear, it is claimed (presuming they have opinions to start with). What if you’re ignorant and other people prove you wrong? What if the delivery falls flat? I often stumble awkwardly through sentences, so, if not feeling articulate, tend to say nothing (but then I worry about being boring, a paralysing conundrum). For a long time, I would also abstain from contributing to arguments involving economics due to a very heightened awareness that I had to subtly google ‘dividend’ for the countless time under the table. That all changed after a politics paper in which I had to write an essay about economic voting, and now I don’t hold back, boosted by grasping a general difference between macro- and micro-… something. Feeling informed fosters confidence and flourishes into profound opinions that we enjoy imparting upon others so they experience the same enlightenment.

There are some who aren’t afforded the same luxury to generously spread their personal opinion. Two journalists who commendably deal with the expectation of objectivity from the media, for example, are Paul Henry who described David Cunliffe as a “stupid, stupid man” on his late-night show, and Mike Hosking who tells everyone that those who advocate for more taxes want to “chop the tall poppies”. Vice suggests that the historically unprecedented election result we just experienced is predominantly attributed to the right-wing slants of the mainstream media. Or take even our formal education. In Year 5, a teacher told my class that people who were homeless don’t want help because it’s a lifestyle choice. Being nine and unable to see her as a normal human being yet, we believed her. Having a forum to express opinion is power.

A wikiHow explaining ‘How to deal with opinionated people’ advises readers to be opinionated back. That could work. By being in charge of film reviews this year, I’ve been able to indulge in voicing certain viewpoints, often ones not entirely in tune with what I personally believe but think people should think about. The stimulation of discussion is vitally important. Offering up alternative opinions using objective language is possibly the best tactic to deal with bigoted people who refuse to engage in such discussions. Especially if you manage to figure out exactly why they are being obnoxious. There are those, however, who persistently play ‘devil’s advocate’ on absolutely everything, purely for their personal kick in winding you up. They’re just exhausting and manipulative. I don’t have an answer for that one. But offering up an opinion at least stimulates discussion, and in what other era could we anonymously set up a reddit account and be free to say exactly what we want in the heat of the moment with few consequences?

This is all, however, I guess, just my own personal, biased, confused opinion… informed purely by, what I think, are acute observations of the world around me. Please disagree. Yet as Dr Seuss points out: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”.

Charlotte is in her penultimate year of university, has a lot of hand gestures, and fills up coffee cards too quickly.

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