This is My Opinion

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Having an opinion is not an art-form.

It's pretty easy, really. All you need to do is think about something for a little while and your opinion will form. But - did you catch the important word in that sentence - you have to think. If you're capable of thinking, you're instantly qualified to hold an opinion. Conversely, if you're incapable of thinking, all you can do is hold someone else's.

How to Have an Opinion
There are some rules to having an opinion. First off, your opinion shouldn't just fall out of the sky. Secondly, your opinion should be based on something. Lastly, you should be honest with yourself about where your opinion came from, and what it's based on. Knowing what your opinion is based on is absolutely crucial to being able to defend it, as well as being honest with yourself about its value.

Let me give you an example: you turn on the TV and some talking head is ranting about how such-and-such is a huge crisis. Now, there are several things you can do - first off, you can turn off your brain and simply accept his opinion as yours: "uh, OK. it's a huge crisis."  Or, you can think about it and maybe you'll get inspired to do a little research, gain a little knowledge, and form your opinion based on your own thoughts. Of course, your research could still be bad - or you might just be a fool - but you're now able to support your opinion with some ideas and knowledge of your own. It doesn't make you more or less right it just makes your opinion more or less strongly held.

So, if you're intellectually honest, and you're standing around at a cocktail party, and someone says "such-and-such is a huge crisis" you've got an opinion. At that point, you can either hold your silence, agree, disagree - whatever you like. But here's where it gets fun: if you want to torture someone whose opinion you disagree with you can simply cut to the chase and ask them: "how did you form your opinion?" If you're like me, and conversation is a blood-sport, this is a devastating strategy; it doesn't sound like an attack although, in effect, it's like an underwater shark-bite: the pain just builds and builds. What's nice is that, if the "victim" actually has an opinion, they won't be bothered - they'll be able to rattle on and hold forth about how they got there. But, oh, the poor chumps whose "opinion" is really just that they're blindly repeating something they heard on television!!! All they can do is thrash around in circles in the water, leaking tasty blood, trying to avoid saying, "well, it's what Oprah says..."

Carrying around someone else's opinion is like walking around with an empty .44 magnum. It's a big heavy-looking gun - but if it's empty you're just asking for someone to take it from you and pistol whip your teeth out with it. Someone like me, who'll do it for fun and smile the whole time.

Being Wrong
If you're able to explain where your opinion came from, then you're also going to have at least some idea of the underlying set of beliefs or facts that you based it on. That way, when someone challenges your opinion, you're not defenseless - you can quickly outline how you got there and one of two things will happen:
a) They'll shut up and slink off because they got their opinion from a television show or someone else. Be gracious as your broken foe abandons the battlefield.
b) They'll attempt to challenge your underlying knowledge, or adjust your beliefs. Maybe that'll succeed or maybe it will fail, but you're in great shape either way. Because if one of your underlying pieces of data is wrong, you can say, "Oh, fooey! I misunderstood X, Y, Z - and that's what I formed my opinion on. So let's just say I've got  to go back and do more fact-checking."

That's how to be wrong with style. It's intellectually honest, and there's really nothing anyone can do to you once you've explained how you got from A to Z based on your underlying assumptions, if they were wrong. By the way, this is the core of Science - being wrong with style. One of the most moving stories I've ever read was an account of one scientist who had formulated an important theory in Physics, who happened to be present in a colloquium in which a younger scientist thoroughly demolished his life's work. The senior scientist stood up, walked quickly to the front of the room, and shook the young scientist's hand and thanked him for clearing things up so nicely. I tell you no lie: I get all choked up whenever I think about it. That's style!

But WTF Marcus?
How did I get on this topic? It's a bit far from photography, or talking about pretty girl's butts, or cool artists, isn't it?

Well, it's been bothering me for a while, because of a couple of interactions that have happened here on DA. First, there was little miss cupcake, who I crushed like an ant with my iron fist of contempt (here: mjranum.deviantart.com/journal… ). And then there were a couple of people who made silly comments about art-versus-porn when one of my pictures (eek! a nude!) was on the "popular" page one day. I'm not going to resurrect those discussions, I promise, but what really struck me was the reaction that I got when I engaged ( you might say 'counterattacked' or even 'attacked' ) their ideas. Did I get a return argument? No. Did I get people pointing out flaws in my opinion? No. What I got, over and over again was this:
"It's just my opinion"

There are so many things wrong with that, it's hard to know where to start!!

First off, my opinion is never just my opinion. It's not merely what I think. It's something I crafted, polished, carried around with me (sometimes for decades!) - sometimes in my heart, and other times in my pocket. Or, maybe, down the front of my pants. But it's my opinion not "just."
It's. My. Damn. Opinion.

When someone says "it's just my opinion" they may as well be saying "This is just an opinion I picked up from some VJ on MTV, didn't really think about, and have been carrying around with me. So I don't mind just dropping it if you're gonna give me push-back."

Excuse me, but if you're not willing to defend your opinion, then just drop it right now. You're not worth talking to because you don't apparently believe in anything. Get back on the couch and watch some TV and keep quiet when the adults are talking.

The Tyranny of Balance
Here's my opinion: we're dealing with left-over political correctness. The main tenet of the political correctness ideology was, basically, moral relativism applied broadly to culture. We weren't allowed to say that someone was smarter, or stronger than someone else - they were "differently abled." We weren't allowed to say that one idea was better than another; they all had to be considered equally. Consequently, we're dealing with a whole generation of young people who grew up with the idea that "my opinion is just as good as yours" - simply by virtue that it exists. This attitude was particularly prevalent among post-modernist intellectuals - to the point where some of them tried to argue that The Laws Of Physics were a cultural phenomenon. As if, somehow, western thought and science were victimizing the more touchy-feely laws of not-quite-physics - laws which would be equally valuable in a different social and intellectual context.

Yeah, well, only if your social and intellectual context is "bullshit."

Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. But simply having an opinion doesn't make it right. Being able to defend it is what makes it right. More importantly: truth is not a democratic process. Once upon a time Copernicus was the only person on Earth who knew that we orbit The Sun. If they'd taken a vote, the score would have been:
Against: (Earth's entire population - 1)
For: Copernicus
Winner: Copernicus

He had an opinion, and he could defend it. And he was right. Unfortunately, for him, the forces of orthodoxy had an ad hominem argument on their side called "The Inquisition."

As I write this, I am primarily thinking of religion as an example of the non-democratic nature of opinions. I listen to a lot of BBC radio and NPR in my car, and before the Republican nomination for president was sewed up by McCain there was considerable discussion about whether candidate X's religion mattered or whether candidate Y's religion mattered. Usually, that was in the context of "will the electorate care if this presidential candidate believes that Earth is only 6,000 years old and that the whole universe was snapped into existence by a supreme being with a bizarre sense of humor?" Or "will the electorate care that this candidate believes that if you do a good job here on Earth you get an afterlife in which you are given your own planet to be in charge of?" And everyone was very careful to dance around the obvious, huge, reeking, pile of poop on the floor - namely - that anyone who actually believed something so stupid is an idiot! The world should scream in outrage and terror at the very idea that they'd be given control over the United State's thermonuclear arsenal! Simply having an opinion - even if you're a president or a pope - doesn't make your opinion any good unless you can defend it in the battlefield of ideas. The usual defense of people with weak, flimsy, undefensible ideas is:
"It's just my opinion"
"Hey, you should respect my beliefs."

If we were still respecting the beliefs of the alchemists, you wouldn't be reading this journal entry on a computer. If we were still respecting the beliefs of Copernicus' tormentors, your GPS wouldn't work. If we were still respecting the beliefs of idiots who believe that "the rapture" could happen any day now so there's no need to worry about global warming, we'd, uh, ur, have a - global superpower that didn't care about global warming? Bad example. My point: just because you believe it doesn't make it true. If you want to sit at the grown up table, you've got to be able to back it up.

It's this easy:
Have opinions you can defend.
Have beliefs that are grounded in reality and are worthy of respect.

:heart: you all; especially those of you who disagree with me!
mjr.
© 2008 - 2021 mjranum
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altamashu's avatar
I know this is dreadfully late, but I like to backtrack journals to see what Ive missed out on.

Sometimes it's worth it.

Go visit my gallery if you can. I want your opinion on my vast expanse series. Im stuck in a rut. there are many like it, but this one is mine.
mjranum's avatar
I want your opinion on my vast expanse series. Im stuck in a rut.

Did you see my old journal entry on ruts? It may or may not help...
[link]

I like the vast expanses and they're a cool idea. Why not take the same concept in some different directions? How about a vast expanse of sky made out of cotton balls on blue paper? Or green fields of - what? Flour. Water. I dunno.

When I get stuck, I turn on some really loud music, jump around, and free-associate at the top of my lungs. OK - that's a lie. I don't jump around. :D

:hug:
altamashu's avatar
'Well thats...just..like..your opinion...man.'


9 a.m, photoshop slave.

Thank you. Your posts actually give courage to those who's opinion, even when formed based on actual thought can be shaken by those who are better speakers or have good memory recall ( my major weakness is when I get attacked with quotes ).

I've been keeping a silent eye on your work and your posts for ages now, In the beginnging, I only put you on watch because I love your lighting skills and the women you photograph ( there was one particular photo of a female body with the focus on her butt to be honest ). But you have proven yourself to me time and again to be worth my time !

Anyway, I didnt come here to shine your ballsack, I came here to forget my woes, so I shall keep reading. Thanks for everything. Keep writing, keep shooting !
mjranum's avatar
Thank you. Your posts actually give courage to those who's opinion, even when formed based on actual thought can be shaken by those who are better speakers or have good memory recall ( my major weakness is when I get attacked with quotes ).

You can always defend your position, by just explaining how you got there. And, if someone throws quotes at you just reply, "I hear your appeal to authority. So, all these quoteable people said this, that, or the other thing - what do you believe and how did you form and support those beliefs?" If that doesn't shut them up, kick them in the nuts really hard and run away laughing.

you have proven yourself to me time and again to be worth my time !

That's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me! Seriously. :hug:
depresedescapist's avatar
I take it that you enjoyed The God Delusion?

I have been a firm believer in defending my well researched opinions, but in a world filled with the "it's just my opinion type," such a view does not bode well. Oh well; I've never been afraid to step on a few (or a lot) of toes.

I am studying the origins and rise to power of the Nazis on both a large scale and for a single town--never underestimate "slave morality."
mjranum's avatar
I actually disliked "The God Delusion" - I thought it was too foofy-academic and lacked necessary punch. Tackling religion cannot be done with oxfordian donnish arguments and appeals to reason. If reason was going to work on the religious, they'd already be atheists. I think he's too enchanted by half with his "ultimate 747" argument (which is OK but could be boiled down to a sentence not a chapter) and I really don't like his characterizing "memes" as if they are actual, existing, entities. If you think about it, it sounds almost like he's talking about supernatural entities... He should have just talked about "ideas" - we understand how they work - and that would have shortened the book by another chapter.

Hitchens' "God is Not Great" is a bit more my style. Roll up the sleeves and swat 'em in the face with a cluex4.

I am studying the origins and rise to power of the Nazis on both a large scale and for a single town

Interesting!!!

I've always been amazed by how christianity's role in the rise of nazism has been whitewashed. It's a common argument that "Hitler was probably not a christian" which is, of course, completely irrelevant because Hitler had the help of a significant percentage of the German population - who lapped up his christian references and "divine purpose" messages. I guess if I were a christian I'd want to distance myself from that, and try to convince myself it was all just Naughty Adolf who did it...
depresedescapist's avatar
I always thought that "The God Delusion" was an unserious mock of religion, and not written to try and force logic upon religion in any serious light but entertain the masses with one of the currently most popular forms of humor.

Christianity played a huge role in the rize of the Nazis. Hitler and Goebbels of course did not fail to try and appeal to the Lutheran majority (and the Catholic minority), even though when speaking to his inner circle, there could be no doubt of his intent to wipe out religion. The rise of Nazism is a perfect demonstration of the "sheep" tendencies of humans--many people joined the cause because they wanted something radical, or socialist, or super-nationalist, or just anti SPD (Social Democratic), and always thought the anti-Semitism (among other doctrines) were frivolous, but just put them in the back of their minds and did not oppose them, and they eventually became the dominating ideas. Hitler became extremely popular on a platform of peace, which people gobbled up with no second thoughts, despite the fact that from its origins he insistently talked about the war he believed he was meant to bring about.

I've not read much about his "occult" beliefs--it seems to me he worshiped only himself.
mjranum's avatar
I always thought that "The God Delusion" was an unserious mock of religion, and not written to try and force logic upon religion in any serious light but entertain the masses with one of the currently most popular forms of humor.

No, it's pretty serious. Maybe you're confusing it with Hitchens' "God is not great" - which is a lot less professorial and much more pugnacious. I had to slog through "TGD" whereas I kept waving my fist and cheering and giggling while reading "GING"

I've not read much about his "occult" beliefs--it seems to me he worshiped only himself.

Hitler was a classic sociopathic personality. He was so wrapped up in himself that he was basically his own little universe. That would have been fine, except that a lot of people listened to him.

He used mysticism (all of it - neo-gothic, lutheran, whatever) to manipulate. And it worked wonderfully. :(
jacktheabyssinian's avatar
Der Fuhrer was into the Mme Blavatsky Theosophy thing. It is like L. Ron or Lobsang Rampa. Remember Lobsang Rampa? He was a "tibetan monk" who was really an English plumber named Cyril Hoskins. In the late '60s and early '70s his book The Third Eye was everywhere. One of his metaphysical tomes was a sermon form a long dead Buddhist monk channeled through Hoskins' Siamese cat Mrs. Fifi Greywhiskers. I do not lie! I seldom direct anyone to Wikipedia, but the write-up is surprisingly good. Go here for a larf [link] .
mjranum's avatar
I didn't know about der fuhrer and the theosophists. Eeeugh. What a bunch of phoneys those chumps were.

Never heard of Lobsang Rampa... oh, geeze... (reading) that's a hoot!!! He's like a woo woo version of Archibald Belaney. Ho! That's funny. And do you remember Carlos Castaneda? Sheeesh, why do people take these dipsticks seriously?
jacktheabyssinian's avatar
Castaneda was still writing...with success...right up to his death. When he wrote his last bestseller in the '90s there were so many acolytes coming out of the woodwork to defend him too. Well after the fact that the Yaqi books were deemed as fake...even by Castaneda himself!

Hitler as a phony chump...I had a Jewish girlfriend many years ago and we got onto the topic of Der Fuhrer. I told her that Hitler wasn't an anti-semite and she vehemently disagreed until I said that he was an opportunist and ANY convenient group could have taken the place of the Jews. Well, of course he was an anti-semite, no question. But as Herman Goering said about a part-Jewish business, "I will determine who is Jewish". Frightening.
The-Flying-Fairy's avatar
I saw a website that was talking about how the world was flat and that global warming was a government conspiracy. It was...interesting...
mjranum's avatar
The flat-earthers are mostly (I think) joking. But there are a lot of people who appear to believe that global warming is just a trick to raise taxes (or something like that) -- and then there are all the people who think that mankind never went to the moon... Freaky...
The-Flying-Fairy's avatar
well this website was very very well done. They had very convincing arguments as to why the earth was flat. If I didn't know it was all bullshit I might have actually believed it. They even made very professional looking graphics to show what Flat-Earth looks like. I wish I could remember the URL
mjranum's avatar
That's typical. A lot of people are accustomed to not doing any critical thinking - so you can go a huge way toward manipulating someone's viewpoint by simply asserting a view of reality that omits any contradictory evidence. That's how a lot of the conspiracy nuts operate, too... And if it's slickly produced, you'll convince 10% of the people it's true simply because they have come to associate slick production values with high cost and high cost with truth.
docsullivan's avatar
Just wanted to say thanks for giving my a new way to enjoy cocktail parties.
I do believe, however, that I can learn something from everyone, and therefore think everyone is entitled to their 'opinion'. Sometimes though, I seem to learn how *not* to approach the thought process (or lack thereof) regarding a topic.
In the interest of sportsmanship, I shall adopt a catch and release policy for those I find unable to generate an original thought, in the hopes that the experience will potentially enlighten them. I will tag them, and if I catch them again floundering in a morass of mental ineptitude, I will bludgeon, fillet, and consume them.

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day,
teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.
Teach a man to think, and he will have both of those mindless dolts working for him in no time
mjranum's avatar
In the interest of sportsmanship, I shall adopt a catch and release policy for those I find unable to generate an original thought, in the hopes that the experience will potentially enlighten them.

That's good! Because that way you're putting darwinian pressure on the ones that don't have ideas of their own. :)
frdmlong's avatar
I love you to death. You have the best, most useful and informative journals (as well as the most interesting to boot). In all honesty, I think that if you were to run for president I might just run down to register to vote immediately and then you could definitely count on at least one vote. If you won you could very well be the best pres. we have had since... well hell JFK or Roosevelt (I was not alive back then so my opinion on this may be a bit askew). :glomp:
mjranum's avatar
I could never run for president. I'm a nihilist; the US electorate could never tolerate someone who told the truth about what they see as the great "purpose" of life.

But thank you. ;)
frdmlong's avatar
ok, truthfully, I had to look nihilist up. XD I didn't realize you didn't believe in God however, religious preference should not be a reason for us to discount a perfectly reasonable and logical candidate. I still would prefer you to any of the candidates we currently have running. I believe that someday you will come around as far as God goes but am unwilling to push anyone as far as religion goes. I prefer science to religion myself too. :hug:
Bunache's avatar
Hey man, I'd love to disagree with you. However, there are reasons why I don't.
a) You got your whole argumentation neatly backed up with facts. They are surely and foremost arguments of your own belief and you have hopefully thought them through before posting them, but they are still arguments.
b) When taking a stand like this you do what few people even care to think of, i.e. think! In fact, it doesn't matter in this case if you're sure that dinosaurs are still roaming the Earth, because of the analysation of your idea.
c) I have not taken the time needed to get my facts straight. So even if I didn't agree with you, I'd still not be ready for it. I'll come back for more when I'm up for the challenge and don't like the way your thoughts are heading. =P

Take care
mjranum's avatar
Bringing facts to an argument is like bringing a gun to a knife fight.
Bunache's avatar
That's why I never leave home without my knife.. No wait... Eek! *kaboom*
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