I’ve become more moderate as I’ve gotten older. I don’t necessarily mean politically, although that is part of it, but just in general. I’ve become less outspoken, and actually I think that’s a problem.
Reading through old blog posts I was always on hand with a surreal joke or a scathing put-down of something I didn’t like, like the X-Factor.
Since then I’ve developed a pretty serious condition. It’s called Chronic Centrism. I am painfully centrist.
Two sides to every story
There are two sides to every story. Unless we’re talking about Michael Bay films, in which case calling them two-dimensional stories is giving them a flattering number of dimensions.
But, see, I’m already regretting that joke. Because not every film has to be an arthouse masterpiece and, let’s be honest, my taste isn’t films isn’t exactly highbrow, after all.
So what if people want to watch lots of things exploding for two-and-a-half hours with the occasional shot of…robot testicles.
Actually, having remembered the robot testicles, screw it. Those films suck.
Most opinions seem extreme these days
A byproduct of our current culture is that pretty much any opinion now is controversial. Previously we’d usually only get angry about the big things. Now, it seems, everything is treated as a life-or-death situation.
In fact, one of the striking things about the response to Covid-19 was the fact that the online debates around the various choices we had as a society to combat it were no more vicious or divisive than the debates we have around any topic.
We can’t talk about the best kind of biscuit anymore without the Hobnobs Matter movement and the Jammy Dodge Defence League holding mass marches that end up colliding, causing a biscuity Armageddon in which a police horse is seriously wounded by a rogue pink wafer.
And if you have any criticisms of the DC cinematic universe, clearly you’re a Marvel fanboy, right? The DC universe is dark and adult, while Marvel makes shiny movies for kids. It’s not possible, so the internet seems to believe, to really like Marvel films and think that, objectively, DC just hasn’t done a very good job of brining its comic book world to life (although Wonder Woman and Aquaman were great).
And if you like a particular brand it won’t be long before someone points out that there was a news story from five years ago where the friend of one of the executives said something that might have been considered offensive to a certain group, so by continuing to like the brand you’re totally supporting continued systematic oppression.
And so I hold my tongue
Because people have such incredibly exaggerated debates about things now, it’s actually become easier to wind up in the middle. The extremes of both sides have made themselves so obvious, rising up to face each other like the two sides of the Red Sea getting out of the way so Moses could take a shortcut to the Co-Op rather than wait for the next ferry.
Indeed, the centre ground is still wet and a bit slippery, and home to more than one confused octopus wondering where all the fish have gone.
For a long time now I’ve sat here and watched people overreacting and peddling the same flawed arguments time and again. In many ways I’m defined by the fear of things I don’t want to become. And I don’t want to become someone who sits on Twitter uttering opinions founded on logic so flimsy it wouldn’t even support an ant’s gazebo.
So instead I’ve become extremist in another way. Extreme silence. I keep my thoughts to myself, terrified to utter them in case I become one of the braying mass. Or, more likely, terrified the braying mass will come for me. I don’t need that kind of shit in my life.
I’ve become a social media monk, undertaking an internet vow of silence. But as someone who always used to dream of having a newspaper column, and who has dabbled in stand-up comedy and radio presenting, I want the world to hear my opinions.
Just like how I have sabotaged my life goals by turning the passions that drive them into tasks and chores, I’ve scuppered my own desires to be heard through a fear of who might be listening.
Reintroducing the opinion
I think we could do with refamiliarizing ourselves with the concept of an opinion. We tend to treat opinions we’ve heard as though they are facts. Other people’s opinions often hurt us now, because we’ve lost that immunity to them that comes through knowledge that people naturally have different perspectives on things.
And on the other hand, us social media monks have silenced ourselves because we’d forgotten that just because other people have different opinions, it doesn’t always mean that they’re right.
The whole point of being a centrist is that you can see both sides of an argument. Nowhere in the manual does it say you aren’t allowed to pick one. Seriously, the Transformers films are so bad.
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