Brendon Shields
Brendon Shields

Your opinion is stupid, but I like it

So you have an opinion and no-one will convince you otherwise? Join the club. Modern globalised society is awash with smart-arses ready and able to communicate their mighty opinions at the drop of the smallest provocation. You tell me I’m a racist? Well let me grab my smartphone out mister and I will set you — and the world — right.

Thanks to the Mail & Guardian I’ve been given a platform from which to impart my own slightly whack worldview and boy do I have a couple of things to say! It’s true that like most modern citizens of the world I know a couple of things about absolutely nothing and nothing about anything relevant — leave alone significant. I get my opinions not from any real life experience or source but rely instead on three or four media houses to feed me reality — yet here I am, armed with an opinion and someone is gonna get hurt.

Over the past two weeks I have tried to use Rene Descartes’ method of finding truth. Descartes’ is the French philosopher who famously removed himself entirely from society to erase all that he understood to be true about his life. He would repeat to himself every single “fact” during his meditations and then disarmed these facts and declared them invalid going forward. He managed to re-boot his own reality in order to find the true essence of who he is.

Now my modern mind did not get very far with this exercise. I realised I had deep issues about Africans based on one experience a lifetime ago, and that I fear the people of Parkhurst because the Afrikaans society that raised me sustained psychological damages during the war. Yet for the most part my mind simply could not progress beyond the trivial because I struggled to ask any meaningful questions about my life. To most questions the stock answer was the same: “Brendon you are just ignorant and need to get out more.” I mean c’mon — here is whitey proclaiming how shallow hip-hop music is yet cannot even define the genre. Not knowing anything about hip-hop did not stop me from having a strong opinion about it. Why should it? I am a modern human being with an education and a bag full of human rights.

There are many like me. The amount of times I have sat in a pub to watch a rugby game only to have some oke come up to me pretending to know the game yet he thinks Francois Hougaard is the best hooker in the world? We do not think to ask about the things that we do not know. Instead we will latch onto any insignificant snippet about the topic and share our opinion on it, as if to suggest we know a whole lot more, and for this we demand respect. It’s totally irrational behaviour yet somehow “having an opinion” has become a currency. God forbid you sit at a dinner party and mind your own business because you simply do not know enough about the topic to warrant an opinion?

However there could only be one thing worse than a society full of opinions, and that is a society without. My Descartian mission has yet to reveal the true essence of who I am, but I have learnt one significant thing: It is the debate that matters, not the opinions that shape it. No matter how dumb we sound or how much we argue — it is better to keep on talking. I would rather call you a racist or a moron than ignore you, and even if I think your opinion is ignorant or dumb — keep’em coming. I hope you afford me the same.

44 Responses to “Your opinion is stupid, but I like it”

  1. Richard #

    Ideologues on the Left and Right thrive on received “wisdom” and brainwashing. The Right does so through threat of force and then applicaiton of force, the Left through declaring its opinions and actions moral beyond reproach, and then using force. What is interesting about the Left – South Africa has lived through a government of the Right and I think we all know enough about it – is how it achieves its ends. The Right used name-calling, but it was a sort of alarm about a competing power taking hegemony. So, “communist” was one of their favourites. The Left will say “racist”, “fascist”, “imperialist”, not because these are competing power threats, but simply because they confer an element of moral turpitude. They set up definitions of actions according to their own interpretations, sell these to the public, and then use them as the basis of their own power. It is rather like the Hollywood publicity-machine: create demand for your products by portraying them in relentless advertising so that they become a social event, and then release them on circuit. Those members of the public who do not see your films are then “out of it” and possessing of a social deficit. Pressure is on them to see the film. So, for instance, fear of the label of “racist” (in South Africa) will mean you must only speak highly of blacks, whether deserving or not. No real judgement is allowed because that would be morally wrong. The result can only ever be totalitarianism.

    December 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm
  2. Tofolux #

    @Brendon, it really doesnt matter. The fact remains that you are a bigot. Now that you have been given the space to vent your hypocrisy (free of charge, let me add) we now have to witness this ”moral highground” you want to assume. No amount of self imposed arrogance will take away the fact that you doing yourself no favours by ”coming out” and trying to redeem your superiority complex. Get over your complex and recognise that we are all, just mere human beings.

    December 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm
  3. Sean #

    The first step towards changing for the better is the realisation that your opinions are purely that, opinions, highly influenced by what you have read, heard and experienced and how you have identified with these.

    This step makes your opinions changeable as you no longer are convinced that your opinions are the only truth which you then have to force down the throat of anyone who will listen.

    This step is the first in the evolution from opinionated dogma spewer to balanced, mature adult who listens, learns and carefully considers before they table an opinion, in the full realisation that though informed, it is still only an opinion.

    December 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm
  4. Mr. Direct #

    @Brendon

    You have every right to your opinion, but it would be foolish to think that all others are irrelevant (or “stupid”), especially if they are contrary to your own.

    Good luck on your journey of self discovery. I hope you like what you find….

    Just as a note, if ever there was a stereotypical white supremist look, it would be shaved head and fierce look (like the neo nazi skinhead movement). Thank goodness you did not select something like that on your profile picture, especially after your previous blog contents ;-)

    December 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm
  5. Zeph #

    .@Richard – just a different route taken then, wearing a different cloak? Your last two sentences are interesting and echo what I feel sometimes. You phrased it succinctly for me though.

    @Brendon – I am afraid you are damned to some and will have to live with their damnation. But I would not loose any sleep over it. You know the expression; ‘there will always be haters…’

    December 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm
  6. BillyC #

    Hi Brendon. Your initial guileless opinions on race have been shot down by the storm troopers of PC Thought Leading and I can understand your now militant FU attitude. I have to question your Afrikaans boykie persona, when you say Francois Hougaard is the best hooker in the country. Ex Blue bull, Heynecke Meyer will tell you, he is actually the best scrum half/winger utility back in the country (many disagree with that opinion, by the way!)

    To offer some insight into your obdurate full frontal attacks against the overwhelming forces of correctness, please read Ivo Vegters piece in Daily Maverick entitled “The elusive Libertarian enclave” http://dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2012-12-11-the-elusive-libertarian-enclave . It used to be cool to be a liberal. We could dis anyone’s opinions on the basis of intellectual proclivity de jour.
    Overall we stood for what was right and true without hiding behind -isms and would defend these to the death. We were sort of respected by intellectuals in pre-94 SA, except by the ANC. PAC. AZAPO,UDF,Nats and Ossewa brandwag, who insisted all stick to the dogma of their manifesto. Loose cannons are verboten. Now Libertarians are associated with US Republican Tea parties and right wing privilege. But this is a pejoritive slight, neatly unpacked by Vegter.

    We should all be free to voice our opinions on such respected forums as Thought Leader without those, like Ms Schutte, playing the man and not the ball, with her…

    December 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm
  7. BillyC #

    …..incendiary prose. Even Francios Hougaard would appreciate the lack of respect here. .

    December 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm
  8. GrahamJ #

    Richard summed it up nicely:

    “So, for instance, fear of the label of “racist” (in South Africa) will mean you must only speak highly of blacks, whether deserving or not. No real judgement is allowed because that would be morally wrong.”

    Says it all.

    December 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm
  9. Hahahahahaha, I feel like this was an “exercise in peace” for

    December 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm
  10. … For you

    December 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm
  11. Heinrich Becker #

    I like this.

    December 12, 2012 at 6:53 pm
  12. Thinker #

    If there was something valuable about this writers posts, it is they have revealed the thinking styles and arguing abilities of many commentators. Ignoring the subject completely and focusing on the arguments themselves, these have ranged from the hysterical, the emotional, the irrational, the generalisations, the absurd. Note I am referring to the construction of arguments, not the topics. Amongst all this noise there have been some very valid points, some well made. But these have tended to be a minority. Which of itself is an interesting and relevant observation.

    December 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm
  13. Momma Cyndi #

    In 1970’s speak it was called a ‘paradigm’. In the 1980’s Atwater speak it was ‘perception is reality’. I have no idea what it is called now.

    That dufus in the pub probably believes that Francoise Hougaard is the best in the world and he probably thinks you are a dufus for not seeing that he is. Maybe he is the best hooker in the world. Have you taken the time to listen to the argument for Hougaard’s brilliance and question your own beliefs?

    If your beliefs cannot stand up to question then they aren’t very good beliefs. You will be surprised at how silly some of your beliefs are when you turn them over and see the ‘Made in Hongfong’ sticker on the bottom. You can’t do it on your own though and you can’t do it with a closed mind and you certainly can’t do it by only conversing with like minded people – that just turns you into Tofolux!

    December 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm
  14. Lisa #

    Welcome and go get ‘em.

    South Africa needs more people willing to be humble about themselves and take themselves less seriously, and you are one of them.

    I like the fact that you are proving yourself to be unpredictable. The white/black racist dichotomoy in SA is finding that very uncomfortable.

    December 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm
  15. Lisa #

    Brendon, may I make a suggestion? Get another photo in there. You can’t expect us to look at that!

    December 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm
  16. Just a Thought #

    Its funny how Tofulux always arrives on a comment page to throw out judgements about other people instead of the content of their argument. Very school playground-esque. I would imagine that you are a mirror for every criticism you pass onto others. So I would suggest that you too are a bigot, hypocritical, arrogant and insecure. But i will hand out another freebie for your christmas stocking this year and label you a pseudo intellectual who manipulates fact to get the answers that you need to hear and make comment.

    So over the holiday period this year, praise your amazing government for being revolutionary, even though it is corrupt, inept, actively miseducating the kids to be continually below far and set apart from the new world they are supposed to be sewn into. But maybe having a poor, naive and disenfranchised majority is what you need to keep the ANC in power. Because I dont see eduicated people flocking to their cause. Laud the practive government for spending all its time and resources passing laws that protect politicians from scrutiny when it could amend existing laws to make it easier to build houses, schools, hospitals and resources for the people who need it.

    But why would we do all that when we can spend time stepping on anyone who is brave enough to voice their own opinion.

    @Tofulux you bore me

    December 13, 2012 at 9:06 am
  17. Pardon us poor, ignorant and uneducated mortals for living! You are definitely on the right track to making the world a better place, so keep going and good luck.

    December 13, 2012 at 9:21 am
  18. Brendon Shields

    #Richard that is a great analysis.

    #Tofolux i am disappointing that you have now downgraded me from a racist that should be prosecuted to a mere bigot. Do you have your own opinion or are you merely here to say how wrong mine is?

    #Sean that’s spot on. Not only are our opinions mere opinions but I find that mine changes very often so I would advise no-one to take them too serious.

    December 13, 2012 at 10:14 am
  19. Tofolux #

    @Brendon, there is just no value in engaging with a racist bigot and by the looks of you I certainly wouldnt want to. No wonder you have no ”black” friends.

    December 13, 2012 at 10:46 am
  20. Ms Ann Thrope #

    I do sometimes think it’s a bit of a pity that every idiot with internet access is now able to inflict their ignorant opinion on the world, but the collorary is that said idiot is now exposed to every other idiots’ opinions! (I include myself in this). Voicing an opinion on something you know nothing about is not a problem in itself as long as you are willing to listen to the opposition and open to changing your mind with more information.

    December 13, 2012 at 11:07 am
  21. virgel #

    Ha-ha, -really nice read!

    December 13, 2012 at 11:10 am
  22. Jenny #

    As a white South African the point has to be self-awareness: ie – I know I am racist in many ways and privileged beyond measure because of Apartheid. Because of that I am educated enough to recognise it in myself and try to consciously change it daily – one of those ways is to mentally chastise myself when I think or feel something racist (and not tweet or blog it!). However I too am bigoted against Afrikaans people, fat people and Capetonians – so really I should afford them the same courtesy. It’s all very tiring but because I have a brain, I also have the opportunity to start somewhere and not shrug my shoulders and go ‘Ag, I am just human.’ I do think too many times we don’t shut up and internalise our bigotry but turn it into ‘debate’ – just because it’s an opinion most certainly doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t have to be aired. Sometimes it’s better just to keep quiet and internalise and question our own motives and then try learn.

    December 13, 2012 at 11:59 am
  23. Bored Shitless. #

    Every time you add to your embarrassing drivel you reveal more and more ignorance, more and more white arrogance and entitlement. It is getting boring. *YAWN*
    Anyone who quotes Rene Descartes’ version of truth is truly one dimensional I’m afraid. Why not leave this space for those who have something authentic to offer.

    December 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm
  24. Brian B #

    Hi Brendon, You are becoming rather self-indulgent wihout saying much. I think i will skip your future blogs

    December 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm
  25. The Critical Cynic #

    @Sean – I agree with Brendon, that’s spot on!
    “This step is the first in the evolution from opinionated dogma spewer to balanced, mature adult who listens, learns and carefully considers before they table an opinion, in the full realisation that though informed, it is still only an opinion.”
    I wouldn’t dare say I am without opinion nor am I ambivalent about everything, but I like to enter most debates and discussions with an open enough mind to be prepared to change my opinion, especially if presented with a more appealing or logical one. How else can we grow?

    @Tofolux – are you completely blind as to fail to see how ” Now that you have been given the space to vent your hypocrisy (free of charge, let me add) we now have to witness this ”moral highground” you want to assume…” could be applied equally to you – not more, not less, just the same amount….?
    After all, most definitions of a bigot seem to converge on “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.” or person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”
    Please tell us how you Tofolux are NOT a bigot when your writings continuously meet these definitions? I see less tolerance in your and Dave Harris’ writings than most others seem to display, how come?

    December 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm
  26. Sean #

    Tofolux, we all have it, the need to shout down anyone with a different viewpoint to ours, but shouting it down only entrenches the viewpoint.

    When we attempt to understand the reasons behind it, we become more tolerant and more capable of expressing our viewpoint in a manner which will truly cause the person with the opposing viewpoint to question and possibly change.

    I see a country of angry people with opposing viewpoints shouting at one another in an attempt to change the ideas of the ‘opponent’, an approach which will never succeed.

    Whist I understand that you have a reason for your opinion on white people, your anger just makes you come across as unreasonable.

    I come from a family of unreasonable people, who each believed that their way is the only way. Years later, after having spent a part of my life away and having profoundly changed, I attempted to reason with my family. I failed miserably, as positive discourse to achieve a solution positive to all can only come when both parties try to understand the motivation for one anothers positions. What can then be achieved is a solution which takes into account the position of all parties, which is of course the ideal we expect our leaders to achieve, which is why we attempt to choose the best educated most intelligent and most mature leaders…..except in SA !.

    December 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm
  27. Vulpini #

    I am a white south african and therefore a racist. I suppose I’ll get used to it eventually.

    December 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm
  28. Richard #

    You may be interested in an article that appeared in the British “Daily Mail” newspaper a few years ago, that nails the type of response you have experienced very well. It is by the author of the “Flashman” novels which are quite un-PC (by modern standards of what comprises “correctness”): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-506219/The-testament-Flashmans-creator-How-Britain-destroyed-itself.html

    December 14, 2012 at 12:33 am
  29. Stuff #

    Some opinions are worth more than others.

    Many very strong believers base their opinions on baseless disinformation and propaganda, other opinion formers base their opinions on fact, sound research and good logic.

    Wisdom is the ability to distinguish between opinionated hacks, and good considered opinion formers.

    That is my considered opinion. :-)

    December 14, 2012 at 10:27 am
  30. Brendon, please don’t take this personally , but I think psychological help is needed or the services of a healer/sangoma to exorcise those inner demons. Not sure if medication can cure this malaise but others may have more creative suggestions. ;-)

    December 14, 2012 at 10:28 am
  31. Mila22 #

    Brendon, thank you for the evident tongue-in-the-cheek and self-effacing nature of this piece; I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Sean – your words are so wise. Thank you too.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:36 am
  32. Brendon Shields

    #Richard heavens that is a good article. Britain is a cesspit of political correctness, big brother and health and safety.

    Many in SA would love to see us go that way.

    I say let the kids sit on the back of the bakkie!

    December 14, 2012 at 10:44 am
  33. The Critical Cynic #

    @ Richard – thanks for the link to a most interesting article. Some parallels to SA too, as really, the whole world is sinking into this PC morass.
    to encourage others to read the article, here’s some tasters…

    We did not know the stifling tyranny of a liberal establishment, determined to impose its views, and beginning to resemble George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
    ….Not any more. I find it difficult to identify a time when the country was as badly governed as it has been in the past 50 years.

    and
    Short of assassination there is little people can do when their political masters have forgotten the true meaning of the democracy of which they are forever prating, are determined to have their own way at all costs and hold public opinion in contempt.

    Well, he’s talking about Britain, but the parallels around the world, especially here in SA are striking. It’s almost as if the whole political world is engaged in a game of synchronised mismanagement. What’s that you say, they are?

    December 14, 2012 at 11:17 am
  34. What gets my gall are those whom condemn, offering opinion using a platform such as this, that when Softly rebuked using logic and questions forget to post, only allowing that reasoning that meets with their line of thought or posting the most outragiously negative replies that in essence support their arguement / opinion.

    That said I find it refreshing that there are a few remining in this country that are willing to accept opinions for what they are without condemnation. I firmly believe that we will never learn from one another until the nation matures enough to agree to disagree.

    An interesting article today http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2247862/A-victory-free-speech-Lords-vote-axe-law-banning-insults-led-countless-arrests-ordinary-people.html

    An Instance where kids said Woof to a dog, ending up in court for using insulting language then another arrested for asking if a horse was Gay as well as other Instances where opinion is relegated to the dirt bin. Laughable to some but not to those who wish to control how we think.

    December 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm
  35. Sean #

    Richard, I currently live in the UK and agree completely with this article.

    The good news however is that things are again changing.

    We have noticed since settling her two years back after 8 years of international postings that we tend to associate with the older generation and find people of our generation to be highly uptight, very angry and unhappy and to generally be spiteful, judgemental and full of sh1t. There are however exceptions, quite a few thankfully and we tend to give the bad ones a full measure of their own medicine and appreciate the good ones.

    The good news is that there appears to be a change in attitude amongst the youth, who are now finding adults pc attitudes to be laughable. We still have to be careful as there are still many alarmists looking for any misstep to pounce on and of course we take great care to point out to our kids the lack of common sense behind many of the attitudes, perceptions and practices which have resulted from the over pc fun police.

    Having said this, I live in quite a priveledged area in the UK, voted the best place to bring up a family in the UK for quite a few years running now, where I aspire to the multi million pound properties I am surrounded by (from my modest yet comfortable home), so the story amongst the unwashed masses may be completely different.

    December 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm
  36. MaDor #

    I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it -Voltaire

    December 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm
  37. Mr. Direct #

    @Brendon

    My last post was blocked, most likely because of what the moderators determined to be an insult, although I had tried to slip a small joke into my post, although to be fair it was at your expense, and I guess it could have been taken negatively.

    I agree that everyone should be able to air their opinion, but that opinion should not be ignored. It should be considered for it’s merits, and taken as reference.

    I would not really call these opinions “stupid”, no matter what. The opinion itself may show that the author does not understand the topic, or misses the point of the column, and that in itself may be commentary enough to make a difference to your point of view.

    Anyway, I am sure you will keep posting irrespective of my opinion.

    December 14, 2012 at 4:27 pm
  38. Enough Said #

    Good thoughtful piece Brendon Shields.

    I cannot believe some of the opinions expressed here though. Could one ask for a more bigoted comment than “@Brendon, there is just no value in engaging with a racist bigot and by the looks of you I certainly wouldnt want to. No wonder you have no ”black” friends.”

    Some people have huge chips on their shoulders, worse than the most rabid Nats in the old South Africa. I know, I was there.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm
  39. Richard #

    @Sean, the UK is a funny place, and hard to understand. I have often said that the only way one can know if somebody is British is if they can truly understand the mentality behind the Labour Party! The Tories are easy as one knows exactly what they are, but Labour is ingrown and self-destructive. South Africa is different, as the ANC is not deliberately setting out to destroy; Zuma is very proud of his nationality. Their problem is incompetence rather than thought-police. The thought-police mentality is generally found among the white Lefties, who have taken it upon themselves to be arbiters of what is and is not permissable. South Africa missed the culture wars that afflicted the West in the 1960s (The Abolition of Britain by Peter Hitchens is a good read) and so people now suddenly becoming “Left” in South Africa spout anachronistic ideology that was largely left behind in the 1960s. I think as pertains the Western world, as people in the West see themselves as simply one group among many – this is so since the rise of Asia, especially – they will start to understand that power is not theirs to disburse like confetti anymore. Once there is some self-definition, PC non-thought will start to retreat. But as i say, in South Africa, the issue is not one of ideology, it is incompetence and a desire to cling to power, which is different. Whites will either acculturate themselves to black Africa, or get used to being foreigners within another cultural context.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:01 pm
  40. Suntosh Pillay

    Intersecting monologues, no real dialogues.

    It’s about egos, not thoughtfully considered opinions.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm
  41. francois williams #

    White opinion IS wholly ignorant…all about white culture is 100% based on ignorance…I am white, so I know that…hahaha…

    December 19, 2012 at 6:37 am
  42. RubinBanana #

    Having had no formal training in political science, I decided to investigate a few concepts, all very relevant to these blogs.
    Firstly, the concept of liberalism fascinates me. The word itself suggests freedom to voice one’s opinion and the willingness to listen to someone else’s with tolerance (my own summary).
    Now, unfortunately those who call themselves “liberal” are usually most intolerant. So for instance, when we were getting ready for our first “democratic” election in 1994, opposition parties were simply not allowed to hold political meetings at some of our so-called “liberal” universities. (UCT is an example). It also is the “liberals” who cannot wait for censorship to be brought in.
    When commenting on any of these blogs, the quickest way to be labeled a “racist” is to disagree with such a “liberal” author or to disagree with DH or Tofolux, our two resident trolls.
    A fatal mistake, for instance, is to suggest that (a) you have (some) black friends, or (b) you have no black friends. Either way you have labeled yourself as a racist, according to these two trolls.
    To blandly say you have difficulty finding black friends is also equally damning. Tofolux sommer wants to prosecute, or even deal with the offender herself! How’s that for “liberalism”?
    So when DH said elsewhere that he has Afrikaner friends, I could not help smiling.
    I would therefore like to ask Tofolux: Do you (a) have (best?) white friends, particularly Afrikaners, or (b) don’t you?

    December 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm
  43. Brian B #

    Good Lord, Dave Harris and I agree for once.

    December 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm
  44. Thandinkosi Sibisi #

    “It is the debate that matters not the opinions that shape it”Most philosophers (if not all) would (probably) agree.

    The reality though is that most people are not philosophers ( and sometimes even “philosophers” resort to ad hominen arguments instead of “debates)

    However, let me share my views about “racists”.(if there is such a thing that is!)
    1 Most “racists” do not see themselves as “racists” ! (Does “race” exist anyway other than the one and only “human race”?)

    2 If you think you are a “racist” you are probably not one!How can you be a “racist” when race does not exist.

    Of course some will say “apartheid was racist!(Does it still exist?)

    Others will counter “affirmative action , EE and BEE are “racist” (Really?)

    December 21, 2012 at 7:30 am

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