I decided some time ago to give up having opinions. It was tough at first. I’d formed the habit ridiculously early in life, at a time when I wasn’t even slightly ready. They have, without exception, brought me nothing but misery.
There is a wealth of scientific evidence which proves that opinions shorten your life. Who needs all these arguments? They can’t possibly be good for you. Opinions decrease your energy and age your skin. They unquestionably reduce your sexual prowess.
How many times in my youth had a promising evening been ruined by the voicing of some unwanted opinion about something? No, I don’t actually like that particular type of perfume. No, I don’t think ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’ is the greatest book ever written. In fact, I don’t even think it’s a book. Everything had been going swimmingly and suddenly there it was, my unloved opinion, steaming away happily to itself like a turd on a table.
Opinions aren’t just bad for you. They colour your idea of everyone else as well. In today’s oh so civilized tone of fake consensus debate (at least until Donald Trump came along) the very worst thing you could say about someone was that they were entitled to their opinion. It was like saying he was entitled to that giant wart on the outside of his nose, or to the wearing of underpants outside his trousers.
Opinions are like fetish parties or getting into the bath with total strangers. There may be some people over there who go in for that kind of thing, but me and my civilized ilk would never be caught dead engaging in them.
Opinions made me terribly unhappy during the so called Celtic Tiger, when Ireland got drunk and briefly convinced itself it was the richest country in the world. Please understand that I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, far from it. This piece is really a form of public confession. Opinions are bad but public confessions are all the rage.
I seeking to lather myself in layers of lovely, lovely shame, and that is why I’m telling you that I used to rail against all the voodoo economics, the businesses that everyone knew would never turn a profit, the phantom shopping centres, the gas guzzlers, the lines of infinite credit that people would be paying for decades after they died. I quickly got struck off the list of people who got invited to Celtic Tiger parties.
On one mortifying occasion, I held forth that the best way for Governments to control the behaviour of banks would be through the creation of a State Bank, an institution bound by a code of ethics to behave in a certain way, influencing the rest of the market by presenting people with a safer, more predictable alternative.
The assembled Celtic Tiger party people shuffled nervously inside their ill fitting tuxes and burped into their Prosecos. There was an embarrassed silence, something I was becoming increasingly used to, and finally someone chimed up ‘bejaysus, wha’ are ya at all, some kinda Communist?”
Our esteemed President, for example, is clearly a man of opinions. They won’t bring him any joy. It would perhaps have been better for him and us if we had elected that other guy, who didn’t have an opinion about anything, apart, obviously, from wanting to be President.
One of Ireland’s former Prime Ministers even proposed a somewhat drastic remedy for people like me. Those who were talking down the Tiger, Bertie Ahern suggested, would be better off contemplating their own future in the most lethal way possible. He was letting us know that it was time to shape up, to stop shortening the lives of others by making them breathe the second hand vapour of our opinions.
Turning out to be right, by the way, didn’t make thing any better. It is a fallacy that the greatest human pleasure you can enjoy is the feeling of saying ‘I told you so.’ Maybe you can enjoy this pleasure, but only if you don’t want any friends.
One of those gloriously spiteful Greek goddesses took revenge on a woman named Cassandra by granting her the gift of prophecy. Cassandra made prophecies, Cassandra was proved right, but nobody believed her, so all that happened was that she didn’t get invited to parties. No one returned her phone calls or visited her Facebook page.
I’m not claiming any gifts of prophecy, by the way. I thought all I was doing was using my brain. My sense of self-satisfaction lasted approximately twenty minutes into the bank guarantee. The worst thing you can do in life is turn out to be right when nearly everybody else has been wrong. Left to myself, with nothing to sustain me but my opinions, I just started getting mad again.
I started to look for ever more extreme opinionated highs. It is a curious thing, but you can actually become addicted to the horrified looks on other peoples’ faces. I began to commit the cardinal sin of denying that global warming existed. I talked about what I believe is one of the greatest ironies of this age: that we are supposed to have moved beyond religious belief, yet the number of things that people are willing to take on pure faith has increased exponentially.
Global warming, I said, is a prime example of this, where we literally deny the evidence of our own senses in favour of a truth imposed by people we have never met. I was waved away as a harmless eccentric, but then Ireland suffered its coldest winter in over 50 years, and I learned to avoid the murderous glances of others, who evidently believed – some of Bertie Ahern’s ideas take a long time to die – that I had somehow ‘talked down’ the weather.
So I’ve sought help. It was a long search. I’ve tried reiki and reflexology and herbs and yoga and yoghurt and putting crystals on bits of my body. The mere act of submitting myself to these therapies was, in itself, part of the discipline of steeling myself against having any opinions about anything.
It took time, but I’m happy to announce that I’m almost cured. I’m floating ever more serenely in my Zen like bubble of non-opinion. I haven’t quite perfected the political art of believing simultaneously in two mutually opposing things. I haven’t figured out, for example, how to be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time, but I’ll get there, and even if I don’t, I won’t get worked up about it. I won’t I won’t I won’t.
My social calendar has filled up. Everyone loves the new agreeable, opinion free me, and as for those who don’t, well, they’re entitled to their opinion. Granted, the conversations can sometimes be a bit limited, and like all addicts everywhere, I have to be vigilant against the possibility of relapse. Only the other day, I had to bite the inside of my jaw before venturing the awful opinion that shows like ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ show what sixty years of peacetime have done to Europe.
But I’m so much happier now. The abduction and murder of Irish democracy troubles me not a whit. Thinking about it was bad for my digestion. I can hear about banker’s salaries and hospital queues without breaking so much as a sweat. I have perfected the art of not vomiting whenever some Irish media chancer compares Westlife to The Beatles. I accept the right of others to consider Eurovision, The Voice and Georgia Salpa as somehow important.
I smile a lot more, often at absolutely nothing.
There are those who may think I’ve become lobotomized, hard-wired into the vacuous, googleized nothingness of everything. But these are people still cursed by their addiction to opinion. Some day they’ll see the great colourless light.
And even if they don’t, you won’t catch me expressing an opinion about them; not me, no way!