Today, Margaret Thatcher died. The internet was divided: some people making jokes, some saying “good riddance”, some claiming her to be a wonderful person who did no wrong, and finally, the category which I fall into – the people who felt no strong emotion towards her either way and now reel in astonishment at how her death has caused that potentially harmful political bandwagon to trundle back into view.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a post about Thatcher. This post is about the catalyst behind why peoples’ opinions vary so hugely.
It’s something which I think about regularly – how as young people, we are so easily influenced by what others tell us: parents, the educational system, and above all, the media. Think about how often we adopt opinions just because someone else holds these opinions. It starts at a young age – for example, playground gossip turns people against each other. Think of the classic, “X said such-and-such about Y therefore I don’t like X”. Who’s to say X isn’t actually a really nice person and what they said was misconstrued? Adapted as it was passed along corridors like a malicious game of Chinese whispers? Who’s to say Y wasn’t entirely to blame for any drama caused? We make judgements based on hearsay all the time before finding out for ourselves. It’s a really common flaw and one which I strive not to suffer from.
Now, this brings me back to Thatcher. Half the people, if not more, taking the “good riddance” tack weren’t even alive when she was in power. So what has caused this reaction? Many things, actually: the bias of national curriculum towards liberalism – despite my own liberal leanings, I must admit that often the curriculum (particularly in subjects like modern studies and history) could do with being more centrist in order to let young people decide for themselves who to support politically as opposed to forcing everyone into the same mould – and the media (namely panel shows, although I hate to say it being fond of a few myself) are the two which spring to mind.
To name another more recent example…You know that equals sign profile picture which has taken over Facebook and Twitter recently? Yes, HRC – the organisation behind it – may promote gay rights, but they also have actively silenced organisations campaigning for the rights of People of Colour and have admitted that they will not support trans* and gender-queer rights. I’m guessing there are not many people who support gay rights but would not want the same rights for these minority groups. It’s Kony 2012 all over again.
If our opinions aren’t formed by education and dialectic, rather than pressure from others (who might also not know the whole truth!), what’s the use in having an opinion at all?