I am right and you are wrong (regardless of whatever you are saying).
We are all human; we are all fallible and none of us are all-knowing. Most of us are beset by doubts, and we hold a number of conflicting opinions (which we usually try to pretend aren’t there). Is this a bad thing? Quite the opposite, I think.
We can only really grow in the company of people who challenge our beliefs. We can only really attain empathy for others when we understand where they are coming from. That is why it is, for example, so important to understand the reasons that terrorists carry out atrocities. Understanding is not the same as condoning. Understanding someone’s point of view, understanding why they hold that point of view; what events have shaped their lives, can only help us to a better understanding of how to deal with any conflict that this may produce. This is the way that conflict resolution works, and the way that we can work towards ensuring that in the future individuals or groups feel less inclined to resort to violence.
On countless opinion boards across the internet, countless posts seem to hammer home the point that there are no shades of opinion, only polarised beliefs. Whether it be political, religious, ethical living or even sport, it feels as though the only people who post comments, are those with extreme, unshakeable beliefs.
Just to contradict myself, though, for a moment, there are also plenty of posters, of course, who are constructive, questioning without being confrontational, willing to concede points, and even, heavens above, polite. They do seem to be in the minority, though.
But the predominant narrative does appear to be ‘this is my opinion, and I am right; I challenge anyone to dare to disagree with me!’ Does this all simply reflect a certainty that we are the only ones in the world who understand what is going on? That we have all of the relevant facts at our fingertips? That we are the experts on this or that subject? That anyone who disagrees with our opinion is a knave or a charlatan? It surely sounds ridiculous when put that way.
No one, as the saying goes, has a monopoly on the truth.
Phrases such as the ‘the voice of reason’ or ‘the voice of common sense’ prefacing an opinion piece are generally a warning that a bigoted piece of writing is following. Equally infuriating, I find, are ‘received wisdom’; such as ‘it is received wisdom that all left wing/right wing (delete according to your preference) politicians are out to feather their own nests and hate little fluffy animals and would probably eat babies if they had half a chance’ or something similar, or ‘everyone knows that…’ All of these are meaningless phrases, inserted into the piece in an attempt to justify the nonsense that the author is spouting.
To take a step sideways, slightly, there are the leaders who surround themselves with yes-men. This is generally considered to be a foolish move in a corporate situation, for a bad decision is unlikely to be challenged until it too late. And the nodding advisers are dismissed as sycophants.
It would also appear to be a common trait of dictators of whatever hue. Whether it is North Korea, Stalinist Russia or Hitler’s Germany, to contradict the great leader is usually a guarantee of a rapid and, often, most unpleasant end.
These are examples of where such blinkered certainty eventually leads us.