Do I have a right to my opinion? Do you?

Opinion

Are we entitled to our opinion(s)?

opinion

əˈpɪnjən/

noun

  1. 1.

  2. a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

entitled

ɪnˈtʌɪt(ə)ld/

adjective

  1. believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

An opinion about something is what you think or believe about it. We are free to have an opinion but are not entitled to it.

Examples of things we are free to have an opinion about:

  • Food

  • Fashion

  • The best way to load a dishwasher

  • Movies

  • A woman’s right make her own reproductive decisions

  • Books

  • Cats or dogs

  • Politics

  • TV Shows

  • Eye cream

Examples of what we are not entitled to have an opinion about:

  • Whether sexism exists

  • Whether racism exists

  • Who is entitled to human rights protections

  • Who deserves food, shelter and water

  • Whether trans/homophobia exists

  • Who deserves health care

  • Who deserves an education

Having a justifiable opinion is dependant on life experience.

A person must be qualified academically and experientially to be considered an authority on a subject before they can expect people to consider their opinion worthy. Moreover, being an expert on one subject does not make our opinions on any other matter valid. For example a cardiologist is entitled to her opinion on how to treat angina. She is not entitled to an opinion on gay marriage unless she’s gay, has dear friends who are gay and is up to date on all the statistics and research regarding the impact inequality has on society.

Martin Luther King Jr. referred to the tyranny of an unearned opinion as “sincere ignorance”. Meaning that just because we really really believe something does not mean it’s true.

When someone says “I’m entitled to my opinion” what they are really saying is “I can think or say whatever I want and should not be held accountable or feel the need to learn more.”  Statements like this are often made to shut down a heated argument with people who challenge them.  

Having a valid opinion on complex subjects demands years of hard work, lots of reading, critical careful thinking and a shit load of wisdom.

I have a right to my opinion” is a decidedly modern statement. Historically until very recently no one would have dreamed of saying something so silly. Where does this “entitlement” regarding opinions come from? Who has bestowed it upon us? It depends who you ask.

Some religious people may think opinions are a God given right.

Some of my fellow Americans believe that the constitution guarantees them the right to an opinion just as it does (tragically) the “right” to bear arms. Some have been raised by a parent(s) who’ve been telling them since they learned to talk that what they have to say is valid.

And some are just ignorant dicks… But I digress….

Schools used to teach students critical thinking and intellectual training. In classrooms today students are asked to form and share their opinions on complex matters too early and far too often. The “democratization” of public discourse in the form of social media has given almost everyone a forum for “expressing themselves” and offering their opinions on any number of topics without any accountability.  

So next time you hear someone declare that they’re entitled to their opinion, ask them why they think that…. and then tell me what they say ‘cause I’m curious..

 

Article by Anna Quick-Palmer