I have often thought that a sign of cultural degeneration is the repeated inappropriate employment of semantics. This happens when single individuals or groups of people start (ab)using words at their own discretion for the benefits of their own beliefs. When they arbitrarily associate new meanings to words that already have an existing and motivated meaning.
Let’s take the word “opinion”. To avoid each reader having a different opinion of the word opinion, I have looked it up on the Oxford Dictionary, whose definition I report literally:
Opinion: A view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
So, it looks like that there is nothing factual nor scientific about an opinion. Hence, if we give ourselves the grace of applying semantics, then it is correct to say that an opinion is not a fact, it is not an axiom and it is surely not the truth. It bears legitimate value but it’s far from being a certainty.
Thus I assume that we can agree on the fact that an opinion is a belief, a viewpoint, a sentiment, a feeling, a judgment. So, logically, we would not carve in stone an opinion, would we? Simply because we can’t prove it right. By the way, the above statement “we can all agree on the fact…” is clearly just my opinion as I have no data’s backing up this.
But this is when my low-capacity brain goes on a short-circuit. Because if experience has taught me that the more I know the less I know, how come I feel surrounded by people who know everything about everything? Why do I have the impression that opinions become truth for the ignorant? Why does it seem to me that people advocate for viewpoints and beliefs rather than true, proven, evident and scientific data’s? Is it only me? Am I becoming paranoid?
I know I have a latent tendency to fixate myself on trivial points sometimes and yet, I am not convinced I am the problem this time.
A couple of years ago I was trying to offer a workshop to a fairly young entrepreneur (around my age 😉 ) of a quite successful and dynamic company in my town. During our coffee in his stunning office he said: “I care about my employees. I want them to come to me every time they need me and I always want to advice them the right way. That is why it is important for me to have an opinion about everything”. I remember myself nodding in approval without meaning it, like we often do subconsciously when we try to please someone. That sentence though has kept echoing inside me for a long time. His intentions were noble and yet the idea that someone lives the illusion of having an opinion about everything made me very uncomfortable. For the records I never got to do the workshop there and looks like the company has undergone a massive employee’s turn-over. But that’s now his problem.
When the problem becomes mine and yours is the moment opinions begin to be the truth on a wide scale. And that’s not novelty. This mind trick is pre-existing of our present times. What’s scarily different in our contemporary world is that opinions today travel at light speed. Social media’s have given millions of people a voice, transfiguring single distorted thoughts and feelings into legitimate reality for many. Fake news, earth-flatters, anti-vax, race/gender-based discriminations, without detailing old and new spiritual beliefs that actually end up creating mystified versions of reality. None of this is fact-based neither supported by science. Yet, it’s there now, it impacts us one way or the other and we have to deal with it, like we had nothing more important to care about.
Not long before dying, Umberto Eco wrote: “Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community. Then they were quickly silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots.”
Try to argument against it, because personally I am not able or willing to.
Don’t get me wrong, this post does not want be a condemnation manifesto of opinions. Opinions are great, valuable, revolutionary. They account for intellectual exchange, critical thinking and perspectivity. They start being a problem when we associate them with certainty and we stop searching, investigating, studying, listening, thinking, challenging. When we offer and take opinions as justification and legitimation for our existing constructs, personal beliefs, and wishful outcomes. There is no scientific proof that black genes are inferior to white, there is no scientific attestation that women are less capable than men, there is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism. And when science talks, it says actually the exact opposite.
So please dear reader, should I ever come across you in life, don’t hold a grudge against me if I turn my back at your unsupported opinions. Bring me facts and I’ll listen.