Yesterday was one of those days when I had just had enough. Enough of those biting facebook pre-fab pictures with the pithy sarcastic quotes, be it about a sports team, or personal politics; enough of comments from actual people who fall into the category of “it’s true because I read about it on the internet”, or “my friends brother had a cousin who did this and it worked awesome…”; enough of people who think they know everything about a health issue because they saw it on Dr Oz. Without wanting to sound judgmental ..No wait, that was the old me…in my kindest and gentlest way let me say JUST STOP IT! Having easy access to so much information isn’t always a good thing. While everyone gets to have an opinion… and having the freedom to express ideas is one of the things I love about this country, here is the proverbial but….not every opinion is weighted the same, some are more well-formed and researched than others, some are just mean, and ummm, yeah some are just mean.
We need experts, people who have taken the time and energy to study and learn about a subject and can then benefit the rest of us from what they’ve learned. Quite frankly, though, we have lost the ability to appreciate who they really are…PERIOD! I would hope that most people, when going to all that trouble to share an opinion, would like to be accurate about what comes out of their mouths. I know my teenage sons think they are experts. Much of the time they are far from accurate. I know, I know, welcome to adolescence which is my first field of expertise… I should know better. While I may understand them, I also feel responsible as a parent to teach them how to formulate a well-educated opinion. Thinking you know it all will never make it so, even if there is a legion of people behind you who think the same way. When my boys tell me how frustrated they get when I don’t listen to them, or believe them, it is because A) I have already done the painstakingly difficult work of becoming an expert in the field that they are presently choosing to dismiss with such reckless abandon, or B) or I dismiss it because they saw it on a podcast or other questionable source, and my ears just don’t do stupid anymore. Silence will always be better than stupid in my book. Yet I do hear them. I love their passion, but I won’t tolerate their ignorance, especially when it makes my ears bleed. I will never ask them to regurgitate my ideas. I want them to have their own opinions, and they do…many in opposition to mine. I just WANT THEM TO DO THE WORK TO FORMULATE A BALANCED AND WELL RESEARCHED OPINION FIRST! I want my sons to behave as reasonable people attempting to develop well thought out opinions based on factual information, from both sides of an idea, not opinions that are presented as factual information by pseudo experts who have their own agenda to pursue. And let me tell you, it is an uphill battle when they watch the behavior of some adults who should know better. Having a strong opinion is a very good thing. But it is a very bad thing to expect that everyone else should agree with you, or belittle them when they don’t, especially if you haven’t done your homework. There were plenty of examples of that kind of ignorance in any daily news cycle.
I have strong opinions…surprise, surprise. I was taught to do my research, listen to real experts and as much as possible, see an opposing viewpoint from another’s perspective, by sincerely asking them questions to try to figure out why they think the way they do. Walking in someone else’s shoes, while very difficult, is also an enlightening experience. Most importantly, for me anyway, is creating a foundation through higher education. The experts in law, public policy, theology, economics, literature etc. who I studied under, never tried to indoctrinate me, rather facilitated a necessary dismantling of my ignorance, of sorts, and challenged me to re configured a smarter and wiser version. The great thing I’ve discovered from having such a strong academic background is that the more I know, the more I realize there is to learn and understand. More importantly, I learned that no real expert is afraid of not knowing every answer, because they are enthused and challenged to find the answer.
And yet I am also aware of how many experts have betrayed the trust of the many….that will have to be for another post, and a lot more research…..