In the film ‘The Dead Pool’, everybody’s favourite bad cop, ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan, played by Clint Eastwood, states:
“Opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one, but they think each other’s stink.”
This week, these words have rung true. Bearing in mind that he banned eating ice cream on the streets of Carmel, California whilst mayor, during his short time in politics he caused division amongst parents and children of a privileged suburb.
This is not a piece about the death of Margaret Thatcher. This is not a piece about politics. Or class. Or legacies. Or defending the ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’. It is a piece about you and I. It is piece about education and opinion.
The last few days, since the death of the most controversial and divisive figure in Britain’s recent history, have stirred more passion and posturing than any other this writer can remember.
In these days of social media, 24 hour news feeds, and the constant desire to sell news and opinion, having an opinion on this issue was essential. It was the arsehole of the week.
Everything that needs to be said or argued has been, from all parts of the political, social and global spectrum. But the one that has ignited my need to write tonight is that of whether or not you can have one.
If you will allow me, and by reading this I am assuming that you will, I would like to highlight one particular standpoint that I have seen raging – and I mean that in the literal and actual sense – through all of our minds and screens. And it has crystalised my annoyance.
“You weren’t old enough, so how can you possibly celebrate her death?” – does this mean that when Nelson Mandela dies, nobody old enough to remember his release, the walk to freedom, and the abolishment of the universally condoned apartheid edict, is allowed to commemorate it? Does this mean that you can’t think Hitler was the devil himself in a uniform because you weren’t born in wartime?
Regardless of whether you learn it in a public school classroom, or from the stories of miners in a working men’s club, your education or opinion is equally valid.
For the record, I was born in 1973. I ‘grew up’ in the 80’s – whatever growing up actually means these days, as we’re all still growing, right? – but had little understanding or comprehension of what was ‘happening’ politically. Frankly, having a new bike for my birthday was more important than the defence of the Falklands, the free-market economic boom, the systematic deconstruction of industries and communities, or the proposed ‘managed decline’ of the entire city of Liverpool.
I didn’t understand it. I wasn’t “old enough”. I wasn’t affected by those policies in a ‘real’ or detrimental sense. But, apparently, from what I heard, She was to blame for EVERYTHING. If Rik from the Young Ones, or Billy Bragg and Morrissey said so, it had to have some truth in it, right? Or perhaps my parents, whom I respect greatly for raising me to be the man I am, who provided the environment that I enjoyed during those years in the cosseted safe-haven of Hertfordshire?
So I read. And I talked to people. And my profession has meant that I have lived in various places around these isles, from all parts of London, to Glasgow and Manchester to offer a balanced, if equally impassioned view. Hopefully, I am able to form my own opinion. But I do not feel the need to share it, as we probably won’t agree.
There is no debate to be had. There is nothing you can say that will sway me from the position I have, as I feel that my own desire to form that opinion has meant that I have been balanced enough to read and absorb all sides.
What I can share with you, is that I think you have the right to have an opinion, too. And I respect it. You have the right to express your opinion as you see fit. If you want to celebrate, protest, or download a song, then do so. If you wish to bow your head and observe a minute’s silence, you should be respected to do so.
I’d like to think we’re better than that. I would like to think that we can actually listen to each other, respect each other, and learn how to understand each other. Because that, punk, would make my day.
Either way, your opinion doesn’t make you an arsehole.
Follow me on twitter @benopause, and don’t forget to press the ‘share’ button below if you enjoyed it or have an opinion. Want to hear from you.