So you have an opinion and no-one will convince you otherwise? Join the club. Modern globalised society is awash with smart-arses ready and able to communicate their mighty opinions at the drop of the smallest provocation. You tell me I’m a racist? Well let me grab my smartphone out mister and I will set you — and the world — right.
Thanks to the Mail & Guardian I’ve been given a platform from which to impart my own slightly whack worldview and boy do I have a couple of things to say! It’s true that like most modern citizens of the world I know a couple of things about absolutely nothing and nothing about anything relevant — leave alone significant. I get my opinions not from any real life experience or source but rely instead on three or four media houses to feed me reality — yet here I am, armed with an opinion and someone is gonna get hurt.
Over the past two weeks I have tried to use Rene Descartes’ method of finding truth. Descartes’ is the French philosopher who famously removed himself entirely from society to erase all that he understood to be true about his life. He would repeat to himself every single “fact” during his meditations and then disarmed these facts and declared them invalid going forward. He managed to re-boot his own reality in order to find the true essence of who he is.
Now my modern mind did not get very far with this exercise. I realised I had deep issues about Africans based on one experience a lifetime ago, and that I fear the people of Parkhurst because the Afrikaans society that raised me sustained psychological damages during the war. Yet for the most part my mind simply could not progress beyond the trivial because I struggled to ask any meaningful questions about my life. To most questions the stock answer was the same: “Brendon you are just ignorant and need to get out more.” I mean c’mon — here is whitey proclaiming how shallow hip-hop music is yet cannot even define the genre. Not knowing anything about hip-hop did not stop me from having a strong opinion about it. Why should it? I am a modern human being with an education and a bag full of human rights.
There are many like me. The amount of times I have sat in a pub to watch a rugby game only to have some oke come up to me pretending to know the game yet he thinks Francois Hougaard is the best hooker in the world? We do not think to ask about the things that we do not know. Instead we will latch onto any insignificant snippet about the topic and share our opinion on it, as if to suggest we know a whole lot more, and for this we demand respect. It’s totally irrational behaviour yet somehow “having an opinion” has become a currency. God forbid you sit at a dinner party and mind your own business because you simply do not know enough about the topic to warrant an opinion?
However there could only be one thing worse than a society full of opinions, and that is a society without. My Descartian mission has yet to reveal the true essence of who I am, but I have learnt one significant thing: It is the debate that matters, not the opinions that shape it. No matter how dumb we sound or how much we argue — it is better to keep on talking. I would rather call you a racist or a moron than ignore you, and even if I think your opinion is ignorant or dumb — keep’em coming. I hope you afford me the same.