We should value non-political opinions

We should value non-political opinions

For three years I have moved in, out, and around UA’s campus. I have been one of many that make up its whole body of thought and action; I have both participated in and been affected by its news. I thought senior year might be as good a time as ever to single myself out, to speak in crimson and white for myself to you who share this time and place with me.  

I hoped an opinion column would help me explore my own mind, and provide a place to release my own raw and rough-hewn words where they could perhaps fulfill their potential by being read.  After all, do words unread or unspoken really mean anything at all?  So far, it has been a peculiar way for me to process my semester as it happens.  To read one of my columns is to read into my revelations, my reactions, and my hopes.

Yet overall the experience has not been what I thought it would be.  Instead of watching my own content flow out into the campus-wide conversation I have seen it churn alone in place, curbed by others’ parameters of things valued or things considered fit to print.  

In the current age of instant communication, there is a prodigious amount of information available to anyone today, covering every kind of topic and idea imaginable.  Within this jungle of articles, studies, fiction and beliefs, it is always vital to explore everything political so that you will be able to discuss and create informed opinions on it. Politics do have concrete effects on people within their jurisdictions, and voting gives them a way to take part in this process. However, there are other topics no less important to investigate.  

From the philosophical to the material, there are myriad polarizing and intriguing ideas to study.  They can help create or augment someone’s worldview and connect to other concepts — including politics — thus making them even more important to examine. Some of the most profound and basic opinions relate to abstract things like the meaning of life or the nature of humanity.  

Adam Smith’s treatise on capitalism, Wealth of Nations, is centered on the certainty that people are good and generous at heart. Seemingly straightforward technological tools like iPads are surrounded by opinionated controversy worth taking part in — Does the screen brightness affect your sleeping patterns? Will reading off a screen affect the way you remember what you read? Someone’s opinions on these topics will affect them in individual, critical and important ways: how they go about their day, the choices they make and both the ideological and practical fulfillment they find in life.

In their objective form, all opinions are hollow, empty things. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an opinion as “what or how one thinks about something; [a] judgment or belief.” A matter of opinion is likewise “a matter about which each may have his or her own opinion; a disputable point.” 

Here without a specified context or mode of expression, opinions are merely projections of possibility that may not correspond at all to one’s actions, or evidential reality. Any subsequent meaning they take on begins in this void and is equally individual as the person who holds it. 

 Humans instinctively seek context to find definition, express themselves to move and survive.  Our opinions give us a manner in which to map our interactions with the world. Each new thing learned, person met or situation experienced helps to create opinions or shape existing ones.  We keep them close, using them to construct certainty and preserve the past, wrapping our personalities in them like coats against the cold.  All should be approached carefully, inclusively, and discussed thoroughly in their individual voices.  

I have learned much from this foray into the realm of opinionated expression within journalism.  My own opinions have become clearer in writing though they appear more ephemeral on their own. I have realized the importance of giving voice to my opinions, however eccentric and atypical they may be.  Above all, the experience has only strengthened my resolve to keep journeying deeper into this kind of conversation. 

Join me.

Sophie Williams is a senior majoring in English. Her column runs biweekly. 

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