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Trudy Klassen: Opinions don't always matter

We are damaging our society by allowing intolerant and narrow-minded behavior by the few.
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A small but vocal number of people think that everyone must have their exact taste and that no one should be allowed to think or say anything they find offensive.

Most people live quite lives casually interacting, doing business, buying, selling, doing work for, supporting the causes of, and with, virtual strangers. Occasionally we find out these strangers may hold a few very different and even objectionable views. If it doesn’t affect the product or service, most of the time we continue to do business with them because its beneficial for us to do so.

 This is good. Most people are humble enough to not demand every person they do business with or support fit their exacting tastes.

For a small but vocal number of people who think that everyone must have their exact taste and that no one should be allowed to think or say anything they find offensive, it’s different. Everything they disagree with must not only be spoken against, a witch hunt is organized and Twitter-mobs unleashed on the unlucky person who offers an opposing viewpoint or ignores their outrage. “Silence is violence!” is the battle-cry and so terrified people and businesses are harassed into releasing statements in favour of the cause, and if the statement isn’t quite up to the standard, they find themselves at the bottom of the thrashing mob of do-gooders. In school or at work, we would call them bullies.

We are damaging our society by allowing this intolerant and narrow-minded behavior by the few.

One of the factors influencing the demand for hegemony is social media. Thinking about my own social media profile; I put up “Je suis Charlie,” but I never changed my profile for Daniel Pearl. I publicly grieved for the rediscovery of the graves of children who died at residential schools by changing my cover photo to a picture of the children’s shoes on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, but didn’t change anything to show grief for those mowed over by the guy in a van in Toronto or shot by the Nova Scotia gunman. I have marched for Ukraine, but never for “Take Back the Night.”  I like some art, but not all art. I love food, but not all food. This inconsistency is not purposeful or carefully planned, it just is.

In this world shrunken by social media, we sometimes have more information about events far away than we do about near concerns, there are a million things we could care about. However, as worthy as a cause may be, no one has time to keep up with it all. No one has energy to care about everything. No one has time to have an informed opinion about everything; there is simply too much information about all the things that are wrong with the world. Demanding that everyone must care as much as I do about a topic simply adds to the list of things that are wrong with the world.

The other danger of allowing the bullies to win this battle is that too many thoughts will remain unspoken. Without being able to speak poorly formed opinions, how will we form better ones? If we cannot speak, we cannot think! If we cannot think, our society is doomed to become very ignorant in a very short time.

The one thing that should be consistent is the decency of allowing people the dignity to their opinions on things that have nothing to do with their ability to provide great products or services. Weird or “wrong” opinions don’t mean they don’t know how to make fabulous pizza, build a great apartment, make great accountants, are good doctors, wonderful teachers, or good plumbers. People are inconsistent, unique, and sometimes even offensive. Some are a bit fruity, some nutty, some even a total fruity nut bar. And that’s okay.

Trudy Klassen is a Prince George writer.