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Does everyone need an opinion?

Posted: 4th November 2021

a graphic of people talking

I don’t take politics as an A level and I don’t really discuss politics with anyone, especially not with my friends. This is because of how I was raised, I was raised to believe that your opinion only gains validity when you’ve studied what you’re talking about; that the only way to have conviction in your belief is to know where it came from. Now despite the fact that this can help in some areas, it completely misses the point.

Today’s culture, media, and politics are more inclusive than ever before. We live in an age where anyone who has a story and needs the help or protection of the masses can achieve that. Anyone who needs help can post on Instagram, Tiktok, or even Go Fund Me to capture people’s attention and ignite a conversation. This is perhaps the most amazing thing produced by the internet (besides maybe memes and adorable videos of dogs acting like people). It is a great and powerful opportunity but, like everything else, it has flaws.

Internet culture and identity politics have, in my opinion, created a society in which everyone is expected to hold strong opinions on everything. Where every individual member of each minority is expected to be an expert on the issues that affect them. As a Jew with relatives who live in Israel, I feel pressured and expected to have an opinion on the Israeli elections, on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and on every issue that affects Jews internationally. But it goes beyond that. I’m supposed to have an opinion even on the American elections, a country that I have neither lived in nor have a family connection to. Nor will I ever have to cast a ballot there.

This is an example of something I would like to call “The pendulum effect”. The pendulum effect is when one believes that the only way to effect change is through overcompensating and doing the same damage to the opposite party. If we look throughout history we see this again and again; this swing back and forth. For example, how Pythagoras’ theorem led to a cult following who were apparently so outraged that √ 2 was not equal to a fraction that they threw him overboard and then sailed away.

This is a concrete example of how pushing the pendulum too far can do more harm than good, and how it might often be necessary to overshoot something and move backwards. However, it should not be the goal. I think as human beings we are wise enough to be able to look at an injustice and see not only which direction we need to go, but where we aspire to reach.

To bring things a little bit back to topic, I would like to share one of my favourite metaphors: the ‘colour picker’. If we look at the bar on the right (image below) we see a spectrum that takes us through all the colours of the rainbow. Now think of this like the political spectrum. On the left we have something truly marvellous: the ‘hue picker’. Now in the ‘hue picker’ we have every shade of every colour we could possibly see. When we start to move too far down, too far up or even too far left, the colours simply become black and white. We are unable to identify the original red or maybe blue. But if we refuse to restrict ourselves to a single point along the colour spectrum, we have the freedom to enjoy all the magnificent shades of colour available to the human eye. We become unclassifiable, we become something that’s impossible to put a label on. And this is where most people live. So I present to you, as a unique and wise reader, the question, “why should we be expected to pack all our views up into one little opinion and be able to explain this to someone who has no idea what it’s like to be us?”

On this basis, I would like to suggest a new political tolerance: that of the “anti-political”. I would ask everyone reading to consider in themselves and in the people you talk to whether or not you want to express your opinion on every topic under the sun. Think about whether or not the pendulum needs to start slowly moving back towards its rest. And, if that’s the case, then perhaps we should hesitate, let our opinions slowly come together like the atoms in space that will eventually come together to form a planet. Maybe we should accept that in some topics we don’t need to be pioneers, to “boldly go where no man’s gone before” and to simply focus on the issues that are closer to home.

But then again, whether it’s needed or not, this is just one man’s opinion.

By Miles Bloom, student