By Shannon Craig
There is a saying commonly referenced when opinions are discussed. To avoid being cliché and offensive, which I have tendency to do, I will refrain from stating it here.
I will say that opinions about opinions and whether they are opinions is more prevalent than ever nowadays.
My brother Trey was a member of a little league baseball team when he was a kid. Despite years of playing, he never became that great at it, bless his heart, but every year he received a trophy just like everyone else. As a matter of fact, every child, on every team, in every level of little league received a trophy, regardless of ranking. All of the trophies were the same size, even for the team that should have technically been considered “the best” based on scores.
This was my first experience with the Millenial-style mindset that anyone and everyone deserved to be praised and considered important, even if it’s just for showing up. Children who grew up with this sense of entitlement (which is really what it was in this case, a trophy) have grown to believe that their voices or opinions, to be entirely specific, are worthwhile regardless of their amount of education or personal reflection and study of the subject.
The question is whether they can be held entirely responsible for their behavior, or does someone or something else deserve the accountability?
With the advent of social media, the rate at which opinions can be shared has reached a speed above and beyond what many of us can conceptualize. If you have a computer and an account with a social media website, you have access to the opinions of all other users, and you certainly have the outlet to provide your own commentary.
Sure, social media feeds into what many consider a need to be heard, but it can’t take the whole of the blame for the overwhelming number of opinions crowding the internet.
The Latin phrase ex cathedra, literally meaning “from the chair,” refers to an idea that basically states that the opinion of a person in a position of authority (politicians, priests, judges, teachers, the pope himself, you name it) is the word or doctrine which defines the beliefs of an entire society. Though the roots of ex cathedra are practically ancient, its fundamentals have branched out into our own practices in the 21st century.
Fortunately, even before the practice of ex cathedra, there were skeptics. But those skeptics were a rare group and were expected to do their research before they formed or argued their rebuttals, often having to perform their own experimentation to challenge universally accepted facts.
So does that mean that in today’s society we are all skeptics, even if we do not do the adequate research when debating an opinion or fact? Or are skeptics merely practicing ex cathedra from the other end of the spectrum?
I will reference a statement that I hear a lot, “I don’t listen to (blank) News, it’s biased.” I normally ask what outlet they choose for news instead and they will tell me another anchor’s name, another network, another newspaper or radio program. The internet is a popular and unspecified answer. They have formed an opinion that said network is biased, but on what grounds? Normally the only source of this opinion is another source of opinion which if that source of opinion is formed from another source of opinion…the facts have tendency to get lost.
Holy Leonardo DiCaprio, where do we end up?
Even the definition of what makes an opinion a fact and a fact not an opinion has been questioned by authors of critical thinking texts. From Howard Kahane to Robert T. Carroll, the definition can be interpreted from a similar angle but different perspectives.
There are an enormous amount of questions that I choose not to answer either because I have yet to understand them or I feel that my opinion doesn’t matter. That’s not an emotionally charged statement either. In the grand scheme of a question, what would my opinion matter were I to provide one that did not have grounds in developmental research or broad study along the spectrum of universal thought.
When did we decide that our opinions were correct? When did it become acceptable to have an opinion on anything and everything, especially when one’s opinion is just the mimicked opinion of someone else? Who cares?
I don’t think any of these are questions that can be answered in truth.
That’s my opinion, anyway.Contact Shannon Craig.