Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Israel/Hamas opinionating: Knowing when to know you don’t know

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 4:00 AM

No one should opinionate on Middle East turmoil without, say, being able to locate the region on an unlabeled map.
  • No one should opinionate on Middle East turmoil without, say, being able to locate the region on an unlabeled map.

Do you consider yourself to be an adequately informed member of your community?

Do you, perhaps, suspect you are much more well-informed than the average American?

It’s OK — I like to think I know more than everybody else, too. And you’re reading … well, something, hell, whatever this is. But you’re reading! That’s a good indicator you probably know several things that others do not. Many, many Americans don’t ever read at all. Or, worse, only read magazines, which is like not reading, but with pictures.

So. We have established that we are better informed than a lot of folks. Good for us. And it is good for us. It comforts us, gives us confidence, buoys our self-esteem. You know what’s even better, though, than knowing how well-informed we are?

That’s right: Showing other people how well-informed we are. Oh, man. Sometimes, nothing feels better than showing other people how well-informed we are. I mean, it’s not just good for us — it’s good for the people we’re showing! We impart knowledge; they receive knowledge. It’s a win-win, really.

And there’s really no better way to show people how well-informed is one, than by offering one’s opinion, right? Offering an opinion implies that one has CAREFULLY CONSIDERED THE TOPIC AT HAND, enough to COME TO AN INFORMED DECISION. An opinion means that information has been digested, that facts have been measured, that opposing arguments have been heard and weighed in the name of arriving at a fortified position of perspective on the matter.

Right?

For example: Everyone who has loudly offered their opinion on the collapse of the latest truce between Israeli forces and Hamas knows exactly what they’re talking about. At least, I can safely assume that to be the case, can’t I? I mean, people are dying. No one would speak up to offer their thoughts without first holding those thoughts up to the mirrors of historical and contemporary fact. No one would talk about this extremely important global issue without, say, being able to locate the two regions involved on an unlabeled map. No one would raise his or her voice in support of one faction killing the children of the other if he or she couldn’t state the conflict’s most visible and pivotal issue.

No one would reduce such a tragic circumstance to something as trivial as an opportunity to hear one’s own voice sounding important.

Right?

With regard to this particular example: I can do both of those things, but I am not knowledgeable enough to offer an informed opinion on the subject. I simply don’t know.

On the subject of opinions, however, I am very well-informed. Informed enough to have taken personal experience, anecdotal evidence, varied viewpoints and much, much more into careful consideration before arriving at the following opinion on the subject of opinions:

I think it’s totally OK to say, “I do not know enough about this subject to offer an opinion,” when that is, in fact, the case. I think the world would be a much better place if we tried less to appear to have an informed opinion on everything, and tried more to actually cultivate an informed opinion about something.

Or at least shut the fuck up when we know — KNOW — that we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.

scottharrell.com
@harrellscott

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