On countless occasions, when I have disagreed with an opinion or an article, I have come across at least one person who has jumped in to breathlessly exclaim how Freedom of Expression and Speech are rights, and you cannot tell someone what to feel.
Firstly, I am always amazed by the underlying assumption of novelty and originality in bringing forth this statement. The naïveté with which they tell you this breaks my heart when I have to say “I know” to them.
Secondly and most importantly, what is usually lost on this sub-species is that there can be a counter-opinion on any opinion and as long as that does not involve violence and threats and abuse, it is equally valid and as worthy a champion for Freedom of Expression. The idea of saying “I do not agree with you. In fact, what you are saying is complete nonsense.” is a brilliant idea. Disagreement fosters deeper discussion and that can do wonderful things if both parties decided to forego ego and rigidity and pettiness (haha! never happens.) This is a short list of things I compiled that should NOT matter in a case of disagreement:
- Popularity of the person holding the original opinion and/or the disagreement: How often do we see hordes of fanboys and fangirls telling you that you’re disagreeing with their Best Author EVAH, only because you’re either jealous or attention-seeking or plain simple fan of someone else. Can we please stop this juvenile behaviour where you take your own embarrassing herd mentality and wear it like a badge?
- Grammatical accuracy of both these persons (already said the thing about abuse not being acceptable): So long as the opinion brings something new to the table, one person’s typos or bad spelling should not automatically make the other person superior. I’m not sure but this sounds like taking a horrible below-the-belt cop-out by humiliating a person so that their opinion takes a backseat.
- Regional/ cultural/ religious stance taken by either person: Probably the most difficult one. Believe it or not, a religious person is actually as capable of holding forth a discussion on sports as you are and there should be nothing so astonishing about it. If I had a penny for every person claiming to be an atheist and thinking that makes them cooler on the internet in every which way, let’s just say, I’d have a gold vending machine for every commenter in the left bar of this blog 😀 Ditto for cultural high-handedness and regional superiority. Can I please say the regional one is the most surprising, specially since you did not discover that country/ state at all? To associate yourselves so deeply with a piece of land that you go around telling people to “fuck off, Punjabis/Madrasis” must be tough because you cannot carry it around in your pocket and yet the anger does absolutely nothing to move your land farther from the land of the subject of your hate speech.
- Gender/ Class based arguments: In the people I read or talk to, I see these as the most closely-held opinions. A non-feminist comment and all hell breaks loose. Point out an example of class-based hypocrisy, and guilt dresses up as outrage and comes out to play. (Example: If you have separate utensils for your house help and/or do not let them use your rest room even when they have no other options). I have thought it over for a long time and I think that some of these are evolving ideas. Again, as long as there is no abuse/ threat, why stuff your own ideology down someone’s throat? Yes, there are men on the internet who think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen making “sammiches” (and I can never tell which one is joking about this and which one means it), but ridiculing them serves no purpose at all. Then again, ridiculing them can be your form of counter-opinion, but if bringing change is the purpose of all this back-and-forth on the interwebz, I have a feeling it’s gonna be a while before a man whimpers and pleads mercy after being subjected to a monologue of nari shakti. Why not have an active dialogue where we try and change the other person’s mind by getting him/ her thinking? My experience: some of the tweets/posts that can be interpreted either way between horrifying and completely innocent, get responses and comments and rhetoric that can be considered borderline threatening to completely distasteful where groups of like-minded individuals troll the fuck out of the person while patting each other’s backs righteously. If you have no energy to spend on changing someone’s mind or if you believe they are incorrigible, at least do not tell them they cannot have that opinion. If you were brought up in a village where khap panchayats fed you bullshit every single waking second of your life, you wouldn’t know any different. Sometimes, their ignorant remarks are just pleas for reform, even if they don’t know it.
Thirdly, the form of someone’s disagreement doesn’t matter. They can be straightforward or sarcastic, and they can either write in to you about it or write on their own blog/ twitter feed. As long as it’s not abuse/ threats, can we not look at the essence of each other’s opinion?
Much wanted to say this. Phew.
Also, have you seen this disagreement yet: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/technologic/wipe-your-rear-with-tweets