WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT OPINIONS
By Gauri Sinha
This year has been an experience in its own self, unlike any year the present inhabitants of this earth have lived through barring your general population of vampires, wizards, and witches!
A year so difficult it has unearthed many problems boiling over in our society such as the concern over human rights violation of so many minority communities in the world, problems regarding the environment, mental health, and general well-being.
This year we are almost forced to confront ourselves as participants of society and question our role, our stance, and our actions. And it has not been easy for anyone, rather, questioning one’s internalized belief systems is a painful process. It includes distancing oneself from their core belief and value systems, dismantling them and rebuilding them. It includes conflict with the society, with one’s family and friends and most of all with oneself.
It is as if to say that all your life you’ve looked at a fruit and called it green apple because that’s what you were told it was right? But upon further investigation, you realize it isn’t a green apple, in fact it isn’t a fruit altogether, but a vegetable.
You’ve been confusing Indian Squash or round melon with a green apple all your life, the same way you have been confusing discriminating and prejudiced actions as the ‘logical’ organization of the society.
But over time you have educated yourself, become aware of and kept your biases and prejudices in check making a beautiful attempt in growing as an active member of the society. Although you are extremely proud of the progress you’ve made, you still find yourself irritated, angry, and often crying in a room after a political ‘debate’ with your family or friends.
You question their views, their moral values, and their ability to say words that sound insensitive to your ears. You are left in disbelief often calling them bigoted or morally flawed in your mind. But most of all you are disappointed for you had expected something different from them.
All your feelings are valid.
You are allowed to feel so.
Here is one practice that I have adopted, it sounds extremely easy but the only thing it easily does is test your limits. I present to you- tolerance.
Tolerance is preached before it is practiced, it a glorified value only a few can hold onto. There are moments daily when I want to let go of it and lash out! But I am trying not to.
Tolerance is embedded in patience and understanding. Patience is acquired through practice and understanding is acquired through listening and empathy. While you are angered by someone’s view it is important to understand why they think so. Because it is this understanding that gives you insight into reasoning with them better.
It is important to understand one’s priority in life that influences their political views. For instance, financial security maybe a bigger priority for someone in their mid-thirties than for someone who is on the turn of adulthood. Earning a daily wage might be a bigger priority for someone that sexism, racism or even casteism.
Tolerance does not, however, teach one to not voice their opinion. It is important to treat your thoughts, voice, and self as a respected, important, and needed part of society.
Having the ability to think ideas and translate them to words is a privilege in itself, so use it. Use it to put your opinions forward, use it to amplify the voices of those who can’t. Make full use of this gift your body gives to you.
“But it is not my fight to fight.”
Sure, you may not be part of the community, sure you may not relate to their experiences. But you can always feel for the cause, you can always extend your helping hand. You can always be an ally. Allies are an important part of the movement (but not the most important part.) They usually belong to a fairly privileged community and are instrumental in imparting momentum to the movement.
But as an ally you are not supposed to speak for them, instead you are supposed to use your privilege in their favor, you are supposed to amplify their voices and present them with a platform rather than use their platform.
Moreover, is it essential to always keep in mind that learning is a constant process. Your knowledge will not only be tested but also proven inadequate so many times during the course of your life. It is on you to learn from it, to acknowledge your mistakes and to change your opinion with better informed facts. This does not mean you are a hypocrite; it actually shows you to be someone strong and intelligent who is flexible enough to listen to reason and emotion together.
Viral Altruism, it’s a new phenomenon in today’s social media driven world. It refers to converting movements into short-lived trends. Why does this anger people when it is actually gathering momentum for the movement? It is because their support often arises out of un-informed posts from sketchy sources, mass-circulated fictitious information and are ingenuine. Their anger is short-lived and often flip over when a countermovement becomes more popular. Or they simply move on with their lives forgetting all of their promised support.
Acknowledge this tendency in your actions. It is alright if you don’t have an opinion on an event you aren’t well informed on. Educate yourself and then formulate your ideas.
Be informed. Be aware. Be empowered.