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 Nowadays everybody has an opinion on everything and everybody. “Opinologists” fill the media and pervade social life, demanding equal respect for all opinions because the established rule is that all opinions are worthy of respect. But is it really so? Are all opinions equally worthy?

At a dinner party a few weeks ago one of the guests insisted that one learns as much from pupils as from teachers. She said for example that a child’s experience was equally respectable as that of a grown-up. But it is obvious that in certain things it is preferable to learn from the experience of a teacher than from a five year old. That doesn’t mean a child can’t teach  things such as innocence or its infinite curiosity to those who have lost it with  years, but a child can’t teach much from life experience yet. Don’t you think?

 The question is, who should we pay attention to, who should inspire us when we have to make a decision? Should we respect the opinions of those who are experienced in whatever we want to  advance, or are all opinions equally valid and respectable? I’m afraid not,  if we make a decision based on an opinion that is groundless, false or biased, we’ll be in for trouble in the long term.

 If I want to know about  football, Cristiano Ronaldo’s opinion on the matter is surely more valuable and respectable than that of my local baker, but if I want a good pizza crust my baker’s  recipe  will surely outclass Ronaldo’s. Experience can’t be ignored when we choose a role model.

 What if we want to improve the world? Which would be the best opinion? Surely that of those who seek to improve it, never that of those who want to perpetuate the mistakes that keep unbalanced.  The measure of any opinion is in its aim. The higher the aim, the better we shall distinguish truth from falsehood, wisdom from ignorance, light from darkness.

An opinion is worthless if it is not based on sound, valuable  grounds such as a true fact, research, a sustained and supported experience whether material or spiritual, an observation, a sound knowledge of the matter, a well defined feeling; if we respect all opinions equally when they are not all equally based on the same level of veracity, experience, or study, we are reducing truth to the level of ignorance, deceit and justification. When we give an opinion based on incomplete or false information, often manipulated by the media, by vested interests or by third parties also ignorant of the matter, also subject to incomplete or biased information, we are at  risk of defending, and therefore attracting, what we sustain with such determination. What if it isn’t the whole truth? Or if it is false, negative, dangerous or deceitful information? What are the consequences of not verifying the information, as far as we can, received from the outside?

Ignorance of the law does not exempt from compliance. Likewise, the ignorance of the Laws of the Universe does not prevent the negative consequences of a wrong choice . What we can do is verify, question, investigate, check, make sure that the information we use is the best possible before we make any decision that could be decisive for our future.  

 What happens when a young person accepts something as truthful that is false and it becomes a pattern for him as in the case of drug addiction, or the justification of violence? Does he realize the time it will take him to experience the lie and recover his previous condition?  It will take years of his life, and in the meantime he will have destroyed the best part of it. It is impossible to overrate the importance of exercising good judgement from early stages –something difficult to achieve in our society-,  as anybody can pretend to educate, inspire, and manipulate from any media where the prevailing idea is that all opinions are equally respectable. What if those ideas attempt against other people’s rights, or against the rights of Life or of Nature? Where does justice lie? Who decides what is fair?

It is true that life eventually puts everybody and everything in its place because the truths that rule the Universe sooner or later outweigh  lies and inaccuracies, and in the long run they manifest themselves as they are. But it is equally true that in the meantime the mistakes made by creating a world based on false, ignorant or biased opinions and information can be extremely harmful.

 A young person experiencing the world for the first time, testing the limits of the human body, sometimes forces it into habits or addictions which he may consider good but are actually harmful. They only respond to pleasure, but not to the general wellbeing, respect for life, respect for others and for himself … By the time he realizes it, he may have destroyed his health or his neurons forever.

An addict for example, may argue that his addiction is good for something, like saying that drinking facilitates social interaction. It may be true in the short term as it makes people more talkative, but after a while it makes you lose conscience and control over any situation and over yourself, as well as attempting against your body and your health. Sometimes the opinion of the person suffering the experience is the worst of all.

The valuable opinion of an addict will be the one  given after quitting his addiction,  before that his opinions cannot be taken into account because  he will be dragging others to the bottom of his pit.

Ignorant people pretend that their opinions have the same worth as those who aren’t, but it shouldn’t be that way. And I am referring to people who are ignorant in a particular matter: I know from experience that everybody knows something and that everybody can give an opinion on that which they know, but on matters they don’t know about it is better not to try and influence with their opinion as they can spread evil and lies, even with the best of intentions.

 To respect the opinion of an ignorant person is to reject the opinion of the wise man that would  lead us to good, and that is not advisable. 

To respect the opinion of the wise man is to reject the opinion of the ignorant person, and that is fine.

So the question is to make sure we can tell the wise man from the ignorant person and to learn the truth from the best of the two, even when the wise man may be ignorant in some matters and the ignorant may be learned in others. The valuable opinion is that of the person who knows of the matter in hand and who also has an overall vision that helps  him reach accurate conclusions, as all matters usually have others related to them. To follow those unable to admit their ignorance in a certain matter is the first step to failure.  Respect has to be won.

 

Beatriz Fernández del Castillo

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