Monday, January 28, 2013

Opinion-o-phobia

You have to have the guts to form an opinion, to express it, to hold it, and to change it whenever you deem necessary.

The problem with conventional structures is that you fear you will be looked down upon if you change your opinions.

Because of the fear of being looked down upon, we find people taking the safer option of not really holding any opinion on issues that may involve a bit of uncertainty. This attitude then gets labeled as more "objective" or "professional" or "unbiased". We conveniently forget that we have to actually take decisions one way or the other and that the decision can only be made if any opinion is formed at all.



So what happens, then, is that due to our inability to form an opinion and consequently our inability to take a decision, we simply flow along with the status quo, even if we are not convinced by it. In many cases, it may be painfully obvious that the status quo is wrong; most of the people would know that it is wrong; yet their fear of expressing any opinion makes them flow along and thus inadvertently they end up strengthening the status quo -- they end up supporting the wrong side while all the time proclaiming their neutrality and absolving themselves of any consequences that follow. Of course, just stating neutrality doesn't really fix things and ultimately the accountability for their action of supporting the wrong side catches up with them.
Analogy: You cannot be stationary in a moving stream if you're not doing anything at all to counteract the flow.

It can get downright funny, how on one end they totally defend the status quo or those in power, while at the same time being completely devoid of any empathy for the wronged party. I've seen people jump to defend the boss in the case of an illegal termination by using neutrality : "I can't have any opinion on the matter so I can't say if he did anything wrong". But what about the person who's been chucked out? What about the extreme hardship and trauma visited on the unfairly treated person? Would they, in the name of the same neutrality they were just now professing, at least advocate taking a safe measure of staying the termination until things can be verified either way by a proper investigation? "Oh, too bad. Wish there was something we could do. Sigh." My ass. Obviously their primary concern is to not offend the establishment... its victims can go to hell for all they care.

And increasingly, there is a trend of shutting one's eyes to avoid taking any side. You will find people despite knowing everything needed to know about a matter, clinging on the fact that since they weren't physically present in that place and time, that they are in no position to make any opinion. I'm not making this up: I've literally heard people say "I can't really say anything about that because I wasn't there at the time". Way to go, Sherlock Holmes. Makes you wonder how anybody does law, then.

So if you weren't physically present at the scene of a crime, despite all the evidence staring you in the face, you absolve yourself of any obligation to decide. Imagine how people like that would handle a conflict or abuse case where nobody but involved parties were present when the event occurred.

We need to tackle the conventional malpractice of looking down upon someone who holds or changes an opinion. Rather, it should be seen as a sign of intelligence. After all, only an idiot would ignore reality to stick to beliefs. This treatment also has a very dangerous effect which I've witnessed : A person, once he has expressed an opinion, when confronted with facts that challenge the opinion, then tries to lie, cheat, deceive, block, intimidate, sabotage, etc in order to make the generally perceived reality fit his opinions, instead of the other way around. Like fabricating evidence to support your case. The intent inside that person is simply to protect his reputation as the strong, stable person who has formed an opinion and will "stick to it, come what may". But in the process of preserving reputation, if he had initially just made an innocent mistake, he now he ends up committing a heinous crime, which causes even more pain and suffering to the already wronged person and more damage to the institution he represents.

So there is a clear need to be more tolerant and forgiving of people who see the light and change their opinions to suit the facts as they stand. It is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.

And a need to be intolerant of the neutrality-pretenders who end up compromising the ethos of the whole organisation they are in, in the name of neutrality.


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