Opinions – to have or not to have

Opinions – to have or not to have, that is the question. Whether it is more prudent to shut up or speak up courageously and denounce a group of people you don’t understand.

Courageous? Hmmm. Recently on the evening news, every night in fact for the past week, there has been a huge fuss made over a football player here in Australia who voiced an opinion on social media that homosexuals will burn in hell unless they repent and turn straight. He quotes Bible passages and other opinions to back him up. Some people think he’s very courageous for voicing such a politically incorrect opinion. Others think he’s a bigoted moron. But if we can believe the stats on Twitter and not assume it’s Russian meddling or fake, everybody’s talking about him, about his right to have and express his opinion.

Democracy says he has the right. And there is certainly some value in knowing what idiots think (just my opinion). However when you consider the fact that this guy is a major footie celebrity whom legions of devoted fans listen to and near-worship I have to ask myself whether or not he does have the right to express such a hate-filled and negative opinion, especially when there’s a good chance his opinion will fuel homophobic views in a country that has worked so hard since 1978 to engender acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community. Australia has only just legalised gay marriage and our famous Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras had a record turn out this year. In 1978 gays were routinely bashed by police and took a risk walking home alone day or night. Gay men were fair game for a certain type of anger. It has taken years to wean the general public off their fear and hatred of homosexuals. So back to democracy and the democratic right to have and express an opinion.

I think (and this is just my opinion) that arriving at a firm opinion about anything at all must be the end result of much investigation and information-gathering. My opinion is that before you express your opinion about anything make sure it is YOUR opinion and not the indoctrination or persuasion of peers or society or religion or family or the reactive product of your own fears. Think about it long and hard and try its opposite on for size. By that I mean examine the opposite side. Sit with it and see how it feels. One of the first rules of debate is a open-minded willingness to argue for both sides. Yes, I was on the school debating team and we often had to argue convincingly against our “opinions”. Stephen Hawking said “question everything” and I could not agree more. That is one opinion I hold very strongly, which brings me to the Facebook debacle and the claims that “fake news” filtered through multiple fake sights influenced the recent election in America. Again I would suggest (my opinion) that a little bit of observation and careful listening to the rhetoric of Donald Trump during the campaign should have been sufficient to inform anyone with an open mind that the man was unfit for the Presidency. What were his policies? What was his history? What was he actually saying apart from spin? What does Make America Great Again actually mean? Broad claims are mere dogma and believing dogma is the same as claiming homosexuals will burn in hell. Based on what history? Supported by what evidence?

So I guess by now you can see that I think all this FB debunking is more of the blame game and sidelining that has been the hallmark of the current POTUS’ time in office. Advertising spin is very effective and if you keep a mantra going long enough it will become a “fact” in the social consciousness.

Be careful what you believe and be super-careful what you express publicly as your opinion. Even the line “everyone has a right to their opinion” was just somebody’s spin at one stage. Now it seems like a social justice. The ancient Greeks had a forum for expressing opinion. It was done on a certain day at a certain hour and you picked up a card at the entry which gave you the right to speak and the right to be heard. Women were banned from the event but hey, justice is a slow-moving behemoth, but that aside, when your card was chosen you took the stage and had a limited time to make your point. And points were made. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of democracy and opinions were valued unless you were Socrates and rocked the boat too much. But even then it’s reasonable to say that Socrates’ opinions had so much value they were considered dangerous and he was silenced with hemlock.

Nobody is silenced with hemlock these days. They may be taken to court. But mostly anybody’s opinion is tolerated when in my OPINION it ought to be debated.

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