Amanda Waller once said it’s important to have an opinion for everything because it gives you power. For all of you who don’t know, Amanda Waller is top-ranking U.S. Government agent involved in clandestine operations who directs suicide squad, a team of criminals who do dirty jobs for government in DC Comic. It’s of course true in a democratic society when our opinion will decide who holds the power to rule us all and can direct whether a policy be implemented or not. In a company, decision making process would determine whether a company will sail or sink, thus the best decision need to be made which needs diversity of opinions in its decision makers to take as many point of view as possible. Not only opinion is important, but unique point of view made by you is also valuable. In this sense, I guess Amanda Waller is right when she said that opinion holds power.
But you know, having a stance is scary.
As a human, we are incentivized by conforming to the mainstream opinion. This is wired to our brain as our evolution process when cooperation is essential for our species’ survival. Dissenting to popular opinion, or the opinion of our ‘leader’ could result in us being kicked out of the group, minimizing our chance of survival. We as a social creature, depends on another for the sake of our survival, and we need to work on a same direction if we want to. In a modern world when our dependence doesn’t rely on whether we are able to hunt a game for dinner, this still rang true. Want to be on a good side of your superior at work? Agree with him. Want to have a good grade at your class? Don’t point out that noticeable mistake your stubborn lecturer clearly made. This is why homo sapiens has an advantage over other species, we are able to invent abstract value like solidarity, cooperativeness, loyalty to give a reason to group and find the common ground we have with others. In a society united by similarity, having a different opinion could wipe out the reason why we have people wanting to share table at lunch with us.
It’s also scary when having opinion invites disagreement directed to your opinion. You might be wrong and someone would point that out, making you seem like a stupid. I am currently writing a post about a controversial issue about anti-alcohol policy. I would take a stance that I believe would be different with most of my friend in university and I’m anxious if that post got heat, someone pointed out major error in my writing, or someone explain why I’m getting all my facts wrong. In a lesser extent, disagreement would force me to respond in order to defend my stance, which is tiring especially if that person is stubborn (like me). Even for the people who hold popular stance, their integrity and reasoning will be questioned if someday someone asked them why they hold that particular view. Inability to answer would make them judge us as shallow, even more so if the one asking question holds contradicting value with us. It’s indeed scary to have someone disagree with us.
But what’s even scarier is that it changes the established identity you have on yourself. Right now you might have a social standing and an image that you cherish as a part of your identity. People could see you as religious, open-minded, liberal, conservative, understanding, loving, etc. But when you have an opinion that contradicted that image, you are scared that people will judge you as ‘fake’ or have your previous image shatters. Like let’s say you are metalhead but you enjoy the latest popular pop song, admitting that might make people see you as ‘fake metalhead’ or even some more derogatory name. This is also true for other issue, I ever voice out, or to be precise a correction to my friends that homosexuality is not contagious (yes, people here still believe that), and I was suspected as gay instead. While being afraid to be called gay shouldn’t be seen as derogatory, I have a problem if fake rumors spread about me. Explaining our stance truly has a risk to change the image people have in us, especially if we are talking with someone unable to understand it. Having a vague stance, in this case, looks like a really tempting offer that’s much safer.
But you know, it will make betterment if we have a stance about something, either if it’s different or same. Siddharta Gautama wouldn’t be able to lead people and teach them Buddhism if he’s afraid of having differences with mainstream religion about chaste system. Emil Freireich wouldn’t know there was a more effective way to combat leukemia if he’s afraid to oppose the current belief to not cause more suffering to incurable patients. Martin Luther King. Jr. would not be able to lead us all free from racism if he can’t take a stance against race segregation. Without people who are courageous to be different, our civilization wouldn’t advance. The bias people have to follow mainstream belief made us blind to a better alternative, an alternative that can be discovered if someone is brave enough to question conventional wisdom in our society right now.
Such thing is also true even if our stance is no different than majority. Questioning it, finding the reason why you had such stance, making you understand the benefit and the value that stance has so you are able to protect the status quo when it was challenged. Reckless change, like what happened when California implemented three-strike-law, can be harming, thus understanding the harm and benefit with the current condition we have now is important.
Of course disagreement and threat to our identity would come and it’s scary. But rather than being scared of it, we can appreciate that to have different perspective and re-evaluate our stance. If we were wrong, we’d stand corrected, if we’re right, then we at least can hear out why people disagree with us. Having a different stance also can be seen as our way to grow, to be a better self by admitting some of the thing we believe in before is not absolutely right if we consider new information we learned through time. As long as you have reasons for that stance you are standing for, people would understand. Either way, those people don’t deserve your attention for not making effort in understanding you.
Of course what I said is easier said than done. Opposing your parents’ belief could result in major backlash, you could be an outcast in a social group that’s essential to your life. In some cases, having different opinion could result in death. But for many people who have a privilege to have any stance they like, whose freedom of expression is protected, I believe it is moral imperative to have a stance on important issue in our life. If we see something wrong, we need to at least voice out why it’s wrong so it will continue no more. Our stance has power and not utilizing it will be such a waste as betterment wouldn’t arise in silence.