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LOEWEN: Everyone's entitled to an opinion

Image Credit: Contributed/Jeffrey Loewen
May 14, 2014 - 7:10 AM


So with that, I thought I'd take a final walk
The tide of public opinion had started to abate
The neighbours, bless them, had turned out to be all talk
I could see their frightened faces
Peering at me through the gate

(Nick Cave, “Darker With The Day”)

Herpes (and other STIs), flatulence, halitosis, funky-smelling feet, and opinions have something in common. You can possess them, gentle reader; but that doesn’t mean that you should pass them along to others.

Happily, most kids have sexual-health lessons starting in pre-school to mitigate the likely occurrence of coitus-induced cankers if libidos are left unchecked and unprotected. And most non-cave-dwellers  have cottoned to the habit of regular bathing and daily dental maintenance  to avoid the conversation-stifling effects of malodorous spirits emanating from various pits and parts of the body.

But, man! People do cling to their opinions; and they routinely feel compelled to foist them upon others. Especially us reviled writers (but I’ve already warned you about us in my very first column in these virtual pages). 

In most cases, the profligately-assumed “right” to “share” one’s opinion is something that should be avoided at all cost. Because, frankly, most opinions are crap.

Opinions are commonly based on whimsy. Some randomly noticed sense data pops into the pinkly-pulsating recesses of the screen-viewer’s brain and with repetition becomes a sclerotically-hardened opinion. Voila! Just like that: an opinion is born.

And, somehow, an opinion seems to have an in-born yearning to be spread about, like so much horse manure. And out it comes, shining like the prized polished turd of that special, special personage: the Opinion-Holder.

Now don’t misunderstand me, folks. I’m not suggesting that opinions are wholly without value. Some opinions are deeply considered and the result of much personal and studied inspection. These are the ones to listen to with a sharp and critical ear to see if they hold up to examination. We need folks with these kinds of opinions because, frankly, if we’re left to the other opinions out there, well, we’re screwed.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. It’s a subject close to my heart and it has to do with the opinions of what Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper likes to call “Our Government.”

Yeah that’s right, daddio. I’m about to go political on you because, frankly, everything is political and has both intended and unintended political effects.

Allow me to admit a little something personal about our man in the nation’s highest office, Stephen Harper. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law have formed the opinion that PM Harper is an all right dude. And, of course, it’s their inalienable right to have their opinion here.

My mother-in-law in particular loves Stephen’s blue eyes, and his pudgy school-boy head. She likes it when he picks up a kitten or dons a sweater  and a seat at the piano. What she doesn’t realize (because, God bless her, she’s not a political hound like yours truly) is that PM Harper may be the most reckless Prime Minister in Canadian history. And maybe even more reprehensible than sorely-missed-from-the-political-scene Stockwell Day, whom PM Harper was able to muzzle with the rest of the braying dogs of the parliamentary backbenches once he assumed control of the Party whip.

Our Government holds many opinions. In fact they have bundled them up in more omnibus bills than you can shake a hockey stick at, and these opinions have radically altered life as we know it on planet Canada. Of course, when opinions are held politically, they form a government’s ideology; and, brother, what an ideology these cats have come up with.

For me the first signs of alarm were the counter-intuitive opinions from Our Government that our streets were full of gangsters and would-be pedophiles lurking in the bushes to whisk away our children on their way home from school. Break-ins were allegedly rampant, and somehow it was decided that we needed to introduce a more punitive carceral culture to make the streets safer for the rest of us.

Of course, it didn’t matter to Our Government that its opinion was the opposite of every criminologist, lawyer and judge in the country. No siree. Not for our PM Harper to facts get in the way. Ideology would suffice.

In fact a new concept was introduced by Our Government to justify a hardening of the heart when it came to criminality, a wondrous, remarkable concept that would be laughable if it didn’t have such far-reaching effects….

Our Government decided to speak to “the alarming rise in unreported crime” over recent decades that now necessitated the changes to laws and sentencing. (And if anyone can talk to me intelligently about the “rise in unreported crime” I will nominate that person for a Nobel Prize). Even judges, for Pete’s sake, were no longer to be counted on for their wisdom and discernment; because Our Government decided to take sentencing out of their domain for certain crimes. Some poor schmuck caught a few times with a joint would have to do time in a federal institution henceforth. In Our Government’s opinion, this would be a deterrent.

But it gets worse. Our Government has opined that science ain’t really where it’s at. Especially when it comes to minor issues like our impact on the environment through our resource extraction. Or that climate change is, after all, only an opinion from some eggheads if they caution the rest of the World about our immediate need to change course before it’s too late.

Instead, Our Government has seen fit to muzzle scientists from sharing their research results when it contradicts official policy. It has also gutted Statistics Canada’s ability to gather information about the country that we think we know and love. Believe you me, we’ll know much less about Canada after these boys are finished with us.

But then, who cares right? It’s just my opinion, you sneer. Well, tell that to the veteran who is sent to Ukraine to “lend support” to that kettle of fish. Again, decisive cuts to Foreign Affairs have guaranteed that Our Government’s policies regarding this latest imbroglio have been and are being formed in a vacuum where the region’s history and its players have not been taken into consideration. And, lamentably, the same trend is noticed in other governments’ Foreign Affairs departments as well.

And it all comes down to the silencing of opinions from those very eggheads that we really do need to listen to once in a while.

So, dear reader, do us all a favour. When it comes to voicing your opinion, don’t be like Our Government. Take to heart what wiser minds have considered before you knee-jerk-response your way to infamy. Understand that you don’t understand it All (nobody does) and understand that in some cases you need to dig deeply before you arrive at a valuable opinion. And when you do arrive at that all-too-rare, beautiful place, share your insights with us. Your country’s fate depends upon it.

But that’s just my opinion.

—  Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)

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