There are few things in life as true as this: the least interesting people in the world are those who think their opinions are shocking. You need no further proof than "Totally Biased," a TV show "starring" W. Kamau Bell, who is roughly as charismatic as an unplugged washing machine. It might not be so bad if the show was meant to be an interactive talk show — I feel like he would do a really good interview — but wow, this show isn't funny. Of course, people watch "Tosh.0" and apparently laugh.
Of course, people are biased. Chances are, you hate Obama, love Obama, or just don't care. You either like Twix or hate Twix. You either prefer Coke to Pepsi or enjoy sucking down musty sugar water.
The problem comes when people begin to think of their views as something more than the sad attempt of the human mind to navigate a world much larger than they could actually experience. There are certain people, and indeed everyone at certain times, who believe they have the right, perhaps more sophisticated, view on politics or child rearing or gun control or what have you. Ironically, the real implication of someone thinking their views are shocking is that it simply means they are shocked by the opposing views.
How anyone is shocked by opinions boggles my mind. Opinions are predictable reactions to what can best be described as the social expectation to understand the greater world without studying the many multitudes of systems and motivations for people operating within those systems — or even with extensive study; despite what we think, intelligent people have disagreements too.
Don't get me wrong — people occasionally have thoughtful opinions. The problem is that, essentially, opinions are formed for reasons that are almost totally non-logical. In fact, "logical" isn't always a compliment, or at least isn't precise language. For example, there are a plethora of opinions on either side of the gun control issue, depending upon what you are aiming for and even how you define those aims. These aims aren't dependent upon some grand logical scale of "positive" and "negative" consequences for society; what is negative and positive without opinion?
Unfortunately, we elect people who, despite their initial views or opinions, are prone to changing their opinions in order to get elected. I don't mean that we elect a certain type of people who have terrible reasons for changing their opinions; I mean that we elect people who tend to want to keep doing things to get elected.
I have been playing with the idea of what the "perfect" politician would look like. Ask almost anyone this question, and they will come up with a whole lot of qualities like "calm," "resolute," "unwavering"... and then a whole lot of what boils down to opinions. Essentially, we want a president who is like us, only better. Unfortunately, most of them have turned out like us, only different.
The perfect politician, as I see it, would admit there was a difference in their political views and their priorities; he or she would admit that there were certain things that they were willing to ignore in order to solve more central problems like budget allocation, protecting civil liberties, and other basic issues. I am not saying that those issues aren't important. It's that we've all become accustomed to follow a government of people crawling with their opinions, biases, and some power to turn those into policy. Shouldn't we be concerned with issues that have been ostensibly linked to the health of the body politic?
— Greg Bearringer is a graduate student in Medieval Studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.