The Art of Not Having an Opinion

Philip Ellis, writing for Man Repeller, has some thoughts regarding having an opinion about the political news of the day.

The urgency to be informed about politics and have a vocal position on everything was palpable. I would rage and rant about injustice and inequality, and half the time my anger would be directed not at those who were behind it, but the people in my life who hadn’t read up on a particular topic and formulated a stance on it. Ignorance isn’t innocence,” I would say, a hint of superiority in my voice.

But at an indistinct point along the way, I confused saying something — anything — with actually having something to say. Responding to world events began to feel like a race to have the most insightful takeaway. The impulse to formulate a hot take become more informed by a rush of endorphins than inspired by genuine activism.

Twitter, for example, is filled with hot takes.” The feeling of writing something smart and smug can be intoxicating and addicting. Personally, I wrote hot takes regarding this administration up until I couldn’t take it anymore and I had to stop. Now, I’m engaged, but not at the everything, all the time” level. Ellis goes on about finding the right balance.

Disengaging in this manner isn’t about abstaining from discourse altogether, it’s about eschewing your knee-jerk reactions in favor of something slower and more thoughtful. Of actually taking the time to figure out how you really feel about a certain issue or a series of connected issues. This deliberateness is more difficult to parlay into glib dunks on Twitter or Instagram, especially in a frantic 24-hour news cycle where the headline which piques your interest or stokes your outrage is replaced by an even wilder one before you have figured out where you stand. And that’s a good thing, because snap judgments are a trap. The situation is a lot more nuanced than that.

It’s understandable to feel numb or just downright exhausted in the face of everything that’s happening. And there’s merit, I think, to stepping back from the rapid-fire arguing to see the forest for the trees. Doing so will not halt progress or make us apathetic — but rather make us thoughtful, and even give us the space to examine our own role in where we are today, instead of always assuming we’re categorically righteous. It’s okay to conserve energy, to pursue deeper reflection and to pick our battles — there are plenty in front of us.

May 10, 2019