What’s the point? Why do I bother to express my opinion on political issues? I have asked myself that so many times in my life, even before the internet. And it seems it is an even more relevant question now with the ascendance of social media.
I don’t have any special expertise in politics or economics, which seem to be the topics I weigh in on the most. I read stuff, but shallowly. I haven’t studied economics to any depth; my knowledge is limited to what I learned in Economics 101 in college (if I could go back in time, I would have majored in economics). I read a lot, but about many, many things to the point where I have broad knowledge about topics that interest me, but not deep knowledge. So, why do I think I have the right to expound on economic or political topics like tariffs, tax policy, or immigration? Perhaps the word “right” isn’t the correct word. We all have a right to express our opinions – that is what the first amendment is all about. The government cannot suppress my speech or writing. Of course, the first amendment does not force a newspaper, magazine, radio station, or internet site to publish it. Nor does it force anyone to read my drivel. And, non-governmental entities can retaliate – I could be fired, for example. So, I don’t mean “right” in the legalistic sense. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is chutzpah. Dictionary.com defines chutzpah as: “unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall.” It seems as if everyone has the gall to think they are an expert, on everything, no matter how complex. Take climate science as an example. Scientists go to school for years. They study a subject to a degree of depth few of us ever approach in any area of interest. Yet, politicians and media talking-heads, who have no scientific training whatsoever, spout opinions on the issue of climate science as if they know what they’re talking about. That’s an example of chutzpah. And many of us (myself included at times) are stupid enough to listen to them and take what they have to say as valid.
If I don’t take issues seriously enough to dive really deeply into them, how can I expect anyone reading to take my ideas seriously? Why should they? Following that same logic, why should anyone take Sean Hannity, Lawrence O’Donnell or any talking-head seriously? But, we do. As a society we have given up on the concept of experts, the value of expertise and education. People, especially Trump supporters, ask “What good have the experts done?” It’s as if the technology we all use to communicate, the health care that makes us live healthier and longer, our wonderful comfortable homes, and our general amazing level of overall prosperity all just happened by magic. The idea that some people know way more than others about concepts seems like it is a bad thing now. Forget the experts, my gut is superior to the experts. What I “feel” matters more than facts or logic. This will be our downfall – the hubris of “gut feeling.”
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
– Isaac Asimov
There’s another issue related to my original question: I have never changed anyone’s mind and I’m not likely to. So, why bother? It feels good to get stuff off my chest and maybe that is good enough. Perhaps I can do it in an entertaining manner and if someone gets a chuckle, even though they still maintain their wrong, very wrong opinions, maybe that is good enough. I wrote a post recently about expectations. Lower your expectations I say, and your life will be happier. I need to practice what I preach right here and now. I should not expect to change anyone’s mind (especially given the amount and depth of the so-called research I often do – which is read one article on the web, link it and think I know about that issue). Maybe just the idea that the reader has read it, or maybe found something humorous in my scribble, will be good enough.
This post rambled all over the place. Sometimes that is how my mind works. Too much coffee perhaps. I hope you enjoyed it at least!