On Opinions.

The school bell rings indicating the end of the “day”. A student whooooshes pass on a skateboard. Abruptly stops. Lifts the skateboard and walks back towards me.

“Mo! I have a problem. I don’t have opinions about things. Help me.”

I tell him, “You do not have to rush to make opinions for the sake of making one or simply because you can or because others around you are giving “opinions” at the drop of a hat.

What you ought to be doing is informing yourself from all possible sources. Listen, read, watch, observe, ponder and brew. Let the facts, thoughts and emotions brew a little longer. Then, if you really feel the need to express yourself, provide an opinion.

Sometimes you will not have an opinion. Sometimes you may have an opinion but think it is wise not to express it. And, sometimes you may have a well formed opinion but may encounter a fact or undergo an experience which will make you change this opinion or not hold it anymore. All of these are acceptable.

What is not acceptable, is making opinions just because you can or you are being pressured to make one. And, it is worse to have an ill informed opinion in haste.

This does not mean that you must not have opinions. Opinions are essential as they express our stance on things. And, being able to sense, think, feel and express this freely is one key attribute of being human. [This line was added after I read this post and realised I had not included it from the original conversation.]

Just do not be concerned on not having opinions. Right now your concerns should be to expand your body of knowledge by keeping yourself well informed and learning everyday.With this exposure and experience, well rounded opinions will start forming”

“Hmmmmmm…I did not think of that. Thank you!”

He shakes my hand and whizzes away on the blue wheeled skateboard.

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions that differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” -Albert Einstein


This encounter got me thinking about my high school experience.

For about 2 years I struggled with the above thought. Objective academic assessments made me believe that:

  1. I MUST always have an opinion.
  2. I MUST have an opinion on everything.
  3. The opinion must be acceptable by everyone (at least the adults around me).
  4. If others did not share my opinion I was wrong.
  5. An opinion once formed cannot be changed.
  6. I cannot have two differing opinions at the same time.

During these 2 years I mostly did not take part in discussions. If I did it was either due to academic / peer pressure or to please an adult.

This did not bode too well with me until I read “If—” by Rudyard Kipling.

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,”

I suddenly realised I was not speaking the truth and in my rush to have (or not have) opinions I had put myself into a vicious trap. What a fool!

NOTE: I point my finger at objective assessments. This does not mean I not agree with them. They serve a certain purpose and do it well. The obsession by most formal systems of education on having the right answers all the time for almost everything is unsettling.



“When I was young and bold and strong,
Oh, right was right, and wrong was wrong!
My plume on high, my flag unfurled,

I rode away to right the world.

‘Come out, you dogs, and fight!’ said I,

And wept there was but once to die.

But I am old; and good and bad

Are woven in a crazy plaid.

I sit and say the world is so,

And wise is s/he who lets it go”  -Dorothy Parker (originally read this poem here)

This afternoon over lunch I voiced a concern to a colleague – polarisation.

The growing global trend of most media outlets, political leaders, religious leaders, (pseudo?) intellectuals and (pseudo?) rational thinkers of adopting a style of – seemingly informing and educating but actually bombarding with rhetoric with the intention of splitting the consumers of infotainment quickly.

Let me say it again. Most of these “intelligent” conversations quickly resort to using “us” and “them’. Give clear “evidence”. Consult “experts”. Use mockery. Are time bound. And, force the participant to make a quick choice and express it. There is no room left for grey areas and those siding with the grey area / balanced approach are quickly cornered, labelled and disposed.

Black or white. Left or right. Straight or gay. Israel or Palestine. Pink or blue. Paperback or Kindle. Apple or Microsoft. Shia or Sunni. Atheist or believer. Coke or Pepsi. Cat or Dog. India or Pakistan. Tea or Coffee. Diet or exercise. Patriotism or Nationalism. Travel or work. Capitalism or communism. Democracy or dictatorship. Heaven or hell. Human or animal. Terrorist or Patriot. War or peace. Cheese or wine. Uber or Lyft. 6 or 9. Earth or Mars. WTF or WHAT THE FUCK?

Not very different from a Brave New World set in 1984 right?

SHUT THE F*** UP and go back into your hole.

Humans are complex. This planet is complex. It is getting complicated with each passing day.

Just because you express your concern for a particular issue does not mean that you do not care about all the other issues that exist. On the flip side not sharing your concern for something does mean you do not care about it. Similarly, being a part of a larger group by virtue of birth, gender, name, colour or choice does not completely define you. And, claiming (by adopting the vocabulary, colours, clothes, food, etc.) to be a part of a group doesn’t necessarily make you a part of the group.

Just because you shared a Taylor Swift GIF doesn’t mean you don’t care about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. At that time you simply felt the need to share it and chose to do it. Just because you went to a fancy restaurant for dinner doesn’t mean you are a “snooty b****” who doesn’t care about the world’s hungry. You simply wanted a nice warm meal with decent company and could afford it (for which you are grateful).

Can we stop having “opinions” about everything. By the way, in my humble opinion, a statement made instantly, without fact checking, thinking and pondering is a judgement.

Once again, this does not mean that one must not have opinions. It just means that one must not have an opinion on everything.

I would urge that people explore, investigate, think, ponder, learn,unlearn and reflect to develop their own set of personal values. Thinking and forming balanced opinions is difficult, judging is easy. And that is one thing parenting and education should be doing.

Can we for the love of God (Allah) start scratching the surface, knock the walls and dig deeper. Keep going. A little more. Now stay there and get back to what you were originally doing. The stuff that makes you come alive. The stuff that gives you a sense of purpose and direction. The stuff that makes you happy. The stuff that will make our world a better and hopefully less complex place.

Have a bittersweet day.



Originally posted as a Facebook note: http://bit.ly/moopinion


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