Having a different opinion is not a personal attack

We as humans are vastly different people We look different, we sound different we….smell different! It stands to reason then that we’ll think differently about things in our lives.

So why do some people throw a hissy fit when someone doesn’t share their view?

Meets the eye

The other day I watched Transformers: The Last Knight, the latest instalment in the Michael Bay directed Transformers film series. I’m not a fan of these films. The first one was really good and a very fun and re-watchable time. The rest, however, are screen garbage as far as I’m concerned and this one was no different.

In saying that I know people who love these films. They adore the Bayhem, the cheesy humour and all the rest of the trappings which come with this style of movie.

That’s perfectly fine!

However, the problem starts when either someone who hates them or someone who likes them just cannot accept that anyone else would have a different opinion. Then it starts to get nasty.

Tube

The YouTube comments section is generally the online equivalent of the smelly juice you find at the bottom of the bin after taking out a full and rather leaky bag. It’s not quite as rabidly focused as say the old IMDb message boards were but it’s similar. Both have something in common though in that, despite the fact that music, art and of course film are mediums which are completely open to opinion, 90% of the people who indulge in these mediums have zero grasp of the concept of subjectivity.

I get it though. When you experience a song or a film which touches your very soul it’s hard to listen to someone else trash talk about it, because by extension you now consider it a part of yourself. Then it appears to become personal.

Psyche

The geek community which includes games, films and to some extent music has always had a real problem with insecurity. Out of that is born a particular form of defensive yet aggressive behaviour which masquerades as pseudo snobbishness and usually culminates on one of the most ridiculous phrases ever uttered by a human being:

“Your opinion is wrong!”

The very nature of an opinion is never right nor wrong. That’s why it’s an opinion. Yes there is a grey area where if one says something like “I think murder is ok” but the opinion is still neutral if:

A) It is not an admission of personal desire

B) It is an admission of personal desire but is not acted upon (making it still an opinion and not an event)

C) It is not given an appropriate context which would take the same opinion and result in wildly differing views of it (e.g. the execution of rapist).

Of course, this is not what is being discussed here and the opinions at hand are standard views of harmless mediums.

Sheild

Humans have wonderful psychological defensive mechanisms, particularly those of a rather fragile ego. This can manifest itself in a couple of ways when dealing with another of a different opinion:

– The preemptive condition

This is where a person will give a gushing report on their feelings of a certain film or album but at the end will add the quasi quid-pro-quo “If you think differently then you are a fool”. It’s a remarkably simple, almost ultimatum like technique designed to raise an automatic shield over what is essentially this person bearing their soul (or becoming vulnerable). Another person can’t offer a differing view because anything then said will be privy to the aforementioned condition which is already set and so that can then be milked for all it’s worth, even if the retorting argument is more valid.

Why?

Because in the mind, being first counts for a lot.

– The technical layer

This is where a person won’t particularly gush but they will lay out all the technical accomplishment of the said medium as if they were universal rules that one had to follow. The person who is offering these absolutely believes that this is 100% proof which should always sway another’s view. Of course, it isn’t and technicality has no effect on actual opinion. It’s easy to see why this may be a good means of persuasion though. Facts are always facts and listing absolutes can seem like you are offering unequivocal evidence in regard to quality (which is still subjective). Listing the achievements of say the cinematography or sound design of a film has zero effect on the individual’s overall perceived stance on the matter. Two people could agree that a film looks or sounds gorgeous but will differ to polarising levels on the overall opinion of the content.

It’s incredibly easy to get sucked in by this method, particularly if you are quite methodically minded as the power of the fact can offer some perceived stability to an argument. In some (most) cases (particularly scientific) this is very true but when discussing art these facts are only good for talking spec sheets and mechanical techniques. It has no bearing on the emotional content of the piece which remains subjective to the individual’s reception to certain inputs.

Naked

We have a bad habit in this world where positivity is regarded as some sort of weakness. When you admit that you love or even like something it makes you feel somewhat vulnerable as you are extending a part of what you consider to be the deepest “you” out into the world. Projecting one’s self onto a medium in which a very dense emotional connection was made is a wonderful feeling but admitting that to others can be akin to exposing a raw nerve. The medium (a film, a song) is now an extension yourself and it is not safely tucked away within the barrier of your mind, rather it is out there in the world, naked and open to attack by absolutely anyone through criticism of said medium.

This is why a differing opinion can often seem like a personal attack. Sometimes the difference alone can be enough to trigger a sense of mental danger.

Of course, there are some who CAN accept another’s opinion. It’s quite refreshing to see a person absolutely lavish love on say a film then another person comes along and offers a non-aggressive and civilised view which differs from that of the original and they both are perfectly happy with each other.

Security in one’s self can offer this, or maybe just a more apathetic mind who genuinely doesn’t care about another’s view and so is happy for all opinions to be heard. This is opposed to the mad rants of a simmering defence body who will start off with “Well I don’t care what you think” before launching into a multi-paragraphed indictment which is obvious proof that they actually do care.

Punching down

If you look at geek culture you will find all manner of what would have been considered “uncool” people in school.

I know because I’m one of them.

Too fat, too short, too ugly, too smelly, too unsocial or too poor. These people were shunned by their more popular peers and it’s unsurprising that they naturally gravitate towards mediums which are akin to fantasy fulfilment (muscular superheroes and the like, games with half-naked women and basic real life role playing).

It’s sad then that these people who are the spat on, the laughed at and the bullied quite often turn out to be bullies themselves. Instead of taking the mindset to help your fellow sad-sac there is a nasty habit of finding someone who is on par with or even lesser than yourself and punching downward in order to temporarily elevate an incredibly delicate ego. Look at any comic book or film chat board and you will see countless examples of people who genuinely scour the text for the single purpose of looking for mistakes so that they can jump into correct and hence gate that warm glow of superiority.

The trouble is that superiority is like a drug. It’s addictive but also short lived and so setting off to find the next hit like some sort of validation junkie is common.

Spectrum

It would be unfair not to mention those on the autistic spectrum as well. I have a brother who has Asperger’s and to be fair I’m probably on there too so I do feel like I have a particular perspective to speak about this.

Autism boiled down is simply sensory overload. It’s an inability to deal with day to day input and the brain often cannot deal with that much going in. This is why large crowds and general outsidey things are incredibly hard to deal with because you pick up on absolutely EVERYTHING from the tiniest sound to the small patch of colour out the corner of our eye. I know myself that if out on my own I can experience some pretty nasty anxiety type reactions to the stimuli. To someone higher on the spectrum, it can be traumatic.

The flip side is that, as much as a person can suffer incredible input perception they often struggle with social etiquette at the same time. Reading facial expressions, tone of voice or crowd reactions is very hard and so constructing an appropriate response can be difficult. Sarcasm, irony and some humour can often be lost on a person and this can be incredibly frustrating as these subtle little changes in human behaviour can be swallowed up by the tidal wave of information which is flowing into the brain at any one time.

So how do most people deal with frustration? They do so with anger, defensiveness and outbursts. These are all perfectly natural responses that everyone has and they have nothing to do with the autism itself rather they are a by-product of it.

I’ve worked with many people who are autistic and deal with conditions like Asperger’s, dyspraxia and others and they are perfectly relatable people. Adjusting to perhaps speaking a little more literally can often help but at the end of the day, they’re just regular people who maybe use a metaphorical USB 4 rather than a disk drive for input.

Of course being this way, unfortunately, puts them firmly in the schoolyard category of “weirdo” along with the rest of us and so the natural gravitation towards geekery, films et al is just as strong. The previously mentioned “raw nerve” connection, just like anyone else, will be there and so when another opinion comes along it can feel like you are being attacked personally. If the opinion is said in maybe a certain way, either typed or vocal then it, of course, can be easily misinterpreted by someone on the spectrum. This, in turn, can lead to more defensive outbursts which probably makes up a certain percentage of the overall total of the “subjectivity free zone”.

World

When people don’t understand the meaning of subjectivity it can be annoying when talking about pleasure fields. However, when it spills over into things like politics or social perceptions it can become dangerous

I need not remind anyone of the tragedy that happened to Sophie Lancaster in 2007 who, along with her boyfriend, was beaten to a pulp for simply dressing like “goths”. Sophie later died from her injuries.

This is the extreme side of what happens when you cannot accept another’s opinion. The people who murdered Sophie saw two humans who’s opinion was that dressing a certain way was preferable. However the attackers saw it, they feared it, they targeted it and actively set out to destroy it. To destroy an opinion by murdering the people who held that opinion.

The mindset that everyone should follow the same set path (even if it does not affect anyone else in the slightest) is incredibly scary. The concept of “normal” is one which is still thrown around today by people who have never known any different nor have they even tried anything different. Attempting to bottleneck everyone into the same fashions, the same culture and the same lifestyle leads to these very narrow social boundaries which if crossed with instal a panic-stricken sense of fear and fear usually leads to destruction.

This is why subjectivity is important. It’s a step up in our mental evolution which separates us from our primitive ancestors who did actually believe (with good enough reason) that something…anything different was to be feared and destroyed without question. Otherwise, one would perhaps find themselves as a tasty meal for a hairy animal.

These fears are obsolete in the modern ages but are unfortunately fuelled by a divisive media and power-hungry governments. Tragedy and outrage are honey to these people. It’s an excuse for them to step in and save the day thereby garnering public favour which in turn leads to power.

Make no mistake, a bunch of spotty geeks arguing over Superman’s boots is one thing, but amplify that same mindset of intolerance to a violent and manipulative level in the hands of someone powerful and you end up with perceptions of “master races” and “cleansings”. Your opinion most certainly matters, but not so much that anyone must automatically adhere to it.

All this is, of course, just my opinion. 😉

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Author: aviewfromaskewblog

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