Friday, February 11, 2011


I was having a chat about the nature of talent versus skill with Martin a couple of days ago. Less a chat, more a debate. Ok, maybe it became bickering at one point, but it was an entertaining bicker.

Until he had the gall to say,

"You're entitled to-"

I cut him off,

"Oh am I? How sweet of you!"

"...I was going to say 'You're entitled to your opinion and so am I,' before you interrupted me."

Of course you were Martin. I knew you were, but that was kind of my point. People do this all the time. It's either "we're all entitled to an opinion" or, "that's just your opinion" or something equally banal.

I backed down. It was a stressful evening for him - he was running the AstroSoc Burn's supper at the time. Also, I probably could not have replied as I wanted without raising my voice, and this was a polite occasion. If I could have spoken more freely I would have said,

"Of course we both are. That's why we're having this discussion. That's why any discussion is ever interesting. For Goodness' sake don't ruin it with empty, tired platitudes."

That is my request to anyone who does this. We all know we're entitled to an opinion, but if we can't discuss and challenge those opinions, they aren't worth anything at all. Your opinion isn't sacred, it isn't special and it may even be worth less than that of an opinion formed by someone with more information on the subject, but as long as you're willing to consider it, it isn't totally worthless.

Equally, the fact that this is "just my opinion" doesn't matter. It may not have been worth very much to begin with, but calling it what it is doesn't decrease it's value. If you'd rather no one ever voiced an opinion you're a worrying individual, and you probably have some deep-seated control issues.

Feel free to disagree, but don't think that that will make you right.

Disclaimer: Martin is one of my best friends, I'd still hang out with him if he was guilty of doing this every time I saw him.


  1. I love this post, and I entirely agree. I figure that one is, of course, entitled to one's opinion, but one is not entitled to have that opinion taken seriously.

    I have encountered this on many occasions as you may well imagine. I wonder if the feeling remains the same if the opinion happens to be of a racist or sexist nature, for example. I mean, all opinions hold equal weight, right?

  2. As always it's wise to remember what Voltaire had to say on the matter,

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

    On the other hand, the way in which an opinion is expressed is also important. Inciting hatred is never a good idea, and being too stupid can be bad for your health.