Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Opinions and our Freedom to express them

Opinions are defined as subjective beliefs based on emotions, interpretations and are generally the fore-runners of arguments. All of us with a educated background want to express opinions. The state guarantees us the freedom to have opinions and gives us the freedom to express them with the tag "conditions attached". While we live in a free society our rights are coupled with duties. We have a duty towards our immediate families, neighborhood, nation and the world at large and if our opinions impinge on someones freedom they are not to be expressed. The question is what criteria to adopt before we express an opinion.

To my mind the answer lies in the so called three way test. Before opining it is our duty to verify the truth of an event or happening or fact on which I am about to opine. So one must never opine on a gossip or hearsay. The difficulty lies here is in the fact that often so called unimpeachable sources of information are not the real truth.   so we can qualify this statement with the prefix that I am opining on an event or happening which to the best of my knowledge is true. The second test is to decide the necessity to express an opinion. Evil prospers when the silent majority remains silent. So it is our duty to express our opinion on issues which affect us as individuals and in turn affect society. I also feel that if we have expressed such an opinion, then we must be ready to face the consequences of the back lash, such opinions might invite. The third test is to express our opinion in a manner which does not hurt anybody. So our language must be temperate, sweet and completely non abrasive. Violence in language is more hurtful than physical violence.

Having said this, I also feel that one must be reasonably qualified to give an opinion and not opine for the sake of opining. Opinion must be backed by a sound knowledge of the facts and subject on which one is opining. However, I think an exception is that even experiential knowledge entitles one to give an opinion. Opinions can lead to arguments and inevitable disagreements. We Indians have an opinion on everything and therefore we are culturally argumentative. So we all are free to opine, subject to the above self imposed restrictions. If this happens many of us will not be willing to opine much on contentious issues, but this is a small price to pay for the freedom to opine that we take for granted. I feel that the act of opining must be a careful and considered aimed at enhancing relationships. One must have the ability to accept that ones opinion can be wrong and in that case one should humbly withdraw ones opinion. I hope and pray that I can follow this in letter and spirit.

Vispi Jokhi