Monday, May 24, 2010

Everyone's Got One...

Everybody's got one.

That's what's said about opinions. Is every opinion of equal worth?

All this thought was inspired by a brief conversation I had the other day, where a friend made an off-hand anti-President-Obama remark. I replied with what I knew to be factual about the situation mentioned, and he responded by saying that was only an opinion, and you know that everybody's got one, just like they have...

Actually, upon reflection, almost all of us have a whole unruly mob scene of opinions, on a host of different things, but just about all of us have only one ... asshole. And that, to my mind, is an extremely good arrangement.

I know what everbody's got, so I just let the whole thing drop. The possibility of damaging a friendship over some casual remark wasn't worth the cost of dragging the conversation out.

The whole thing got me thinking about what an opinion is worth, though, so it was of some value.

For instance, what is an opinion worth, if everyone has one? Is it an opinion based in fact, or is it an opinion parroted brainlessly because it matches our prejudices or preconceptions? Does holding it require us to engage our critical faculties, or merely repeat the words like some idiot mantra?

Who would you go to for legal advice, a lawyer or Joe the Plumber?

Conversely, who would you go to for plumbing advice, Joe the Plumber or a lawyer?

Who would you seek out for medical advice, a doctor or the waitress at the nearest diner?

Who would be your choice for spiritual advice, a priest or Charlie Manson?

Who would you choose to prepare your income tax, a CPA or your twelve-year-old son?

In so many questions involving life and death, wealth and poverty, reputation and ignominy, we have to decide whose opinions we value. In other words, who do we trust to give us good advice?

Trust is a slippery thing, though. Sometimes we trust, and then we're betrayed. Do we trust again, or are we burned badly enough that we don't trust anyone, anymore?

I'd say that right now, in the United States, there are a lot of people who feel that they shouldn't trust anyone who's in power, in government or in business. Wall Street almost precipitated a depression because of shady deals, selfishness run rampant, and absolutely amoral "masters of the universe." Government has shown itself to be available for sale to the highest bidder, and politicians who claim the ethical high ground are found too often to have the morals of a cheap whore. Priests and ministers have been caught preying on young children. The list of scandals seems to have no end.

So -- what's an opinion worth? And who do you trust to deliver the valuable ones?

More on that coming in the next post. Stay tuned.

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