Tag Archives: society

Leaving well enough alone. #BlogOff


This morning I was over at Guido Fawkes via Pat Nurse and came across this little campaign for a free and unregulated blogosphere. In the opposing corner, there are a bunch of over-hyped luvvies lobbying for regulation and censorship. So long as it isn’t their views being censored of course. Privacy, and the right of voicing opinion is something only they can have, and not for the hoi polloi. So long as it is an opinion they agree with, by their own slippery and shifting standards. These are the people laying foundations for the dystopias I write about. The “Do as I say – not as I do.” pundits. The people who wear their hypocrisies like a second skin, so much so that perhaps they may not realise what they are doing. Or perhaps they do. I can only guess.

Censorship stifles the voices of the many and puts too much power into the hands of a self-selected few. It disenfranchises and opens the way for gross evils that have dumped their ugly ink splodges on the narrative of history. Indeed, history is all the poorer for this. Like the angry Roman Soldier who murdered Archimedes in Syracuse, a voice stifled because “You can’t say that” is a conversation stillborn. Information lost until another mind dares to walk an untrodden path. Culturally, suppression impoverishes. Spam filters notwithstanding.

Free speech may mean the tinfoil hat brigade are let loose, barging into civilised discourse like an infinite number of hypothetical Bulls in an infinite number of Porcelain emporia, spraying virtual spittle on all and sundry, but for all that, they’re mostly harmless. Pat them on the head, smile politely and move on. Conversation is like mining, you have to shift a lot of overburden to get to the real ore. Process tons of Pitchblende to extract an ounce of Radium. So it is with communication. Stifling it serves no purpose apart from protecting the thin skinned and pompous. The least harm would be done if they left well enough alone. Not that my opinion counts, I’m just another voice in the crowd trying to make sense of it all.

For my own part I’ve been busy of late, breaking all my own rules about creative writing; haven’t penned a word in weeks. Mainly because domesticity has been raising its ever present head and saying things like “What about doing your taxes?”, “What about getting a new job?”, “What about buying a plot of land and building?”, “What about booking our trip to England this year?” and “You’re spending too much time researching – it’s time we went out.” What with a shifting shift pattern and everything else, I’ve dried up completely.

Life, the Universe and being opinionated. #WritersLife


Five am in the morning, and sleep is a stranger. There are thoughts buzzing around in my head, and respite will not come until I let them out. An overnight flight has ghost howled overhead. Amos, my dog, lies softly snoring at my blanket coddled feet. A diffuse reflected phantasm of Vancouvers city lights illuminates the Eastern night sky, giving the water between the islands a pale, glossy feel.

Of course that’s how I feel about it, and you have only my opinion for that. However, that’s what is going round and round in my head at the moment, keeping pleasant repose at arms length. Like a maddening earworm of a silly pop tune, it won’t leave me be. Think of this as an exorcism of sorts.

There’s an ironic old adage which goes “I know the truth – but you’re just opinionated.” Yet isn’t having opinions on subjects what makes us human? There is even mental elbow room to say that opinion underpins everything we are and do. Here’s the bare bones dictionary definition;

o·pin·ion

Noun

1. A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

2. The beliefs or views of a large number or majority of people about a particular thing.

Synonyms
view – judgement – judgment – mind – notion – idea

Back when I was but a callow youth, or as Hamlet put it; ‘in my salad days, When I was green in judgment’ I found myself thinking this particular thought. Because it is subjective, the truth can only ever be a matter of opinion. Which is true. For a given value of ‘truth’ that is. There is no absolute value. Because human knowledge is limited, we don’t have all the definitive answers. As that knowledge expands, as we find out more about the universe and our place in it, we plug the gaping abyss of fact with huge wodges of opinion as a kind of stop gap. Or Quantum or String theory. Whatever. Until the next big proof comes around.

For example, there are those who contend a given ‘holy’ book contains the ‘truth’. It’s their opinion. Others insist that Darwins theory of evolution makes all the religious schtick unnecessary. Again, that is another opinion. Bloody wars have been fought, and terrible slaughter made over opinions like these. Millions slaughtered by repressive regimes all because they hold a differing opinion. Which is, if you give it enough thought, a bloody silly way of getting people to change their minds. The threat of violence only suppresses opinions. It cannot change how people think and feel. By way of illustration I was watching a documentary on YouTube last night about Russian aviation development in the mid 20th century, and heard about all the Technicians arrested and executed during the Stalinist era. ‘What a waste of talent’ was the thought that passed through my mind. However, Stalin was obviously of another opinion.

People used to think that Phlogiston was a thing, rather than what we now understand as the process of combustion. All scientific theory is opinion until a body of fact can be garnered to back it up. Theories. being mere matters of opinion, can be overthrown. Science is never settled. Like a river, it is a continual process rather than an absolute. Prevent or suppress the flow of ideas and the river dries up, as do its benefits.

Judges, when passing sentence or judgement are expressing an opinion based on their interpretation of case and accepted law. Politicians express opinions from which those very laws are formed. They in turn are driven by public opinion (Or some would say increasingly focus groups and special advisors). Dependent of course on whether public opinion is in keeping with their own.

The Internet is the great sounding board of our age allowing all to have their say. Yet what most of it drives home one inescapable conclusion; it’s only opinions. Yet how great a part those opinions play. In my opinion, that is.