23 April 2021
I was told a while ago that a necklace that I was wearing was the wrong length for the neckline of the outfit I was wearing.
Obviously, contrite about the unfortunate criminal offence I had committed, I immediately turned myself in at the local police station, fully aware that I would have to face the full force of the law over the issue.
Turns out, it’s not actually a criminal offence.
Turns out, it’s just someone’s opinion.
There’s an old line I read somewhere that opinions are like arseholes (sorry, Mum). Everyone’s got one, but we don’t need to hear them.
Our lives nowadays seem to be overwhelmed by people’s opinions. Sure the media is full of them, but that’s understandable to a certain extent – that is their job. Yes we would like them to primarily distribute factual information about events that are happening in the world, but mostly what we get are opinions about events that are happening in the world. Or opinions about opinions. Or opinions about opinions about opinions, and so on.
Our friends and family have opinions too. And for generations, this has been the case. Everyone’s grandparents or uncles and aunts or next door neighbours, have always had their say about things, whether they had first hand knowledge of the subject, had spoken to someone who knew someone who read something or ‘heard something on the wireless’ on the subject, or just had a theory themselves.
Nowadays, everyone’s grandparents and aunts and uncles still have outspoken theories and opinions – but they also have access to the internet. And social media platforms to help express them, or to comment on other people’s opinions.
There’s a very bold line – not a fine line, not a line in the sand, or any other transient marking, but a very firm line between an opinion and a law. Drivers may have the opinion that driving ten kilometres above the speed limit is perfectly fine, but the legal speed limits are, in actual fact, the law. There are laws about all sorts of things – lawyers can argue the nuances until they are old and grey lawyers still arguing nuances, but a law is a law.
I should mention, however, that there is a little grey area when it comes to ‘rules’. I have just finished reading a book by one of my favourite comedians where she listed her 488 rules in life. And yes, quite a few of them I agreed with, things like using your indoor voice when using your mobile phone in public, picking up dog poo, and the ‘five minutes, be funny, get off’ rules for wedding speeches.
But they aren’t law. They are opinions, in the guise of rules by which she tries to live her life. She would most likely offer these rules up to other people to help them live their lives better, or she may even write a book of 447* of them, and sell them to people who like a laugh or who may have an extra hundred of their own to add. And while I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, if you do read this book, the final rule – number 447 – is ‘lower your expectations’.
Back to opinions. Some opinions are commonly held community-wide opinions, and as such become unwritten rules in our society. Things like middle aged men in lycra not hanging out for too long in coffee shops where people are trying to eat, for instance.
But we really have to understand that a lot of our own opinions are held, primarily, by a very cohesive group of ONE. You agree very firmly with what has just been said at the staff meeting in your brain, but some things are best kept in-house.
Let’s save our ‘outside the staff room’ opinion sharing, for times when our consumption of carrot cake is interrupted by a group of middle aged cyclists in lycra enjoying their muffins.