Fear of Being Better, Enforcing Mediocrity
I’ve remarked recently to a friend of mine that the preposition “In my opinion” annoys me. People will often say it before, drum-roll please, stating their opinion about something. The preceding line is ridiculously redundant at best and needlessly humble at worst. Who else is talking at that moment other than you? If the opinion stated is another’s then note it accordingly, but I don’t think it’s particularly difficult to assume that when a mouth is opened and words spill out that the person is enunciating the cognitive state that is their view of the world. Whatever is the point then in this social affectation?
The phrase seems to be drawn from the, yes I’ll say it, liberal notion of relative morality or ideological multicultural flat-ism where all ideas are declared equal relative to all others in the same category. While I note that this is primarily a liberal notion, conservatives are not above using it for their own purposes. The “teach the controversy” position is a case in point, where a clearly non-scientific position of creationism or intelligent design is noted to be on equal ground with evolutionary theory (remember that a theory in science is something that has been shown accurate through repeated experiment and observation) despite the former having no experimental grounding in research, no predictive ability and utterly absent of any underlying principle that is within the realm of natural sciences. Despite the usual predilection of conservatives to dwell in hierarchical thinking (their economic ideology is built on haves and have-nots) when it comes to biological science all of a sudden success in the marketplace of ideas loses all meaning and those without a knowledge base to posit opinions are given equal footing with those who do. There is a power, however, in enforcing mediocrity, for change only ever comes from the margins not the center.
At a more personal level, the flattening inherent within relativism seems to engender an automatic declaration of humility (the “in my opinion” preposition) whenever a state of consciousness is noted, especially when said opinion may be controversial or possess the potential of being reacted to with hurt. Tact and a sense of humanity should pervade our opinions but this needless humility is just that when the opinion is politely noted and worthless when the opinion is nasty. Rather like saying “I’m not a racist, but..” Clearly whatever comes next is going to horrible, making a preposition to declare otherwise does nothing to change this, no more than stating that the next words that come out is simply your opinion is going to change the impact of them. Beyond this, the focus on all opinions being equal serves as a dampening to the acceptance of our own power. It appears easy to note that an athlete or music star or some such is quantifiably better at their particular skill than others, but these are the outliers and as such it’s safe to declare their superiority. The cult-like worship of famous people may perhaps be more about our social inability to properly and effusively laud the accomplishments and skill-sets of “ordinary” people than it is about anything the stars possess.
Flattening everything or over-emphasizing some (i.e. famous worship) ends up creating the same situation, a deadening to the realization of our own imaginative and creative capacities. Yes, human beings have a knack for the over-estimation of their personal skills, moral abilities and the like, but this should serve more as a caution to being careful in the acceptance and promotion of our strengths, not for inaccurately flattening them to the same level as everyone else. We do and should find joy in a person’s exposition of their talent, skill or well-reasoned and informed opinion. In addition, we all in some aspect of our lives have something unique to offer, if “only” in the sense that we are a particular instantiation of the imaginative power of the universe. The “mere” engagement in life is anything but that, since each act is a matter of volition and deliberate communion with the event and as such should be acknowledged as being distinct from passivity or active avoidance of life.
Noting one’s gift or particular talent or better reasoned opinion is not to necessarily make the statement that all others are unworthy of acknowledgement (anymore than having money necessarily means someone else must have less), but in the living and pursuit of understanding life there are ways and wisdom that are of a more life-giving quality than others. As Bruce Lee noted, “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” There is room for all of us to be expressions of the infinite universe and at the same time recognize that there is a constant and persistent unfolding of our greatness.