‘Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stink.’
It was a quote that stuck with me as I began to write opinions articles in St Andrews. Why was I writing them? Would people agree with me? Would they even care at all? While the student journalism scene in the town was as thriving as one could optimistically hope it to be, the realm of perspectives and opinions was altogether more tricky. The secure confines of correct and incorrect were absent. An opinion, something personal and usually private, was now exposed for strangers to read and criticize.
And under what authority would I or any other writer espouse their opinions? Were we to be bastions of knowledge, the keepers of profound and valuable insights? I know that I had made many mistakes as a student ranging from overestimating my bank balance to overestimating the effectiveness of my liver. So who was I to relay my perspectives to my peers who, no doubt, had much better judgement than myself?
But very soon, I learned that I was far from the only flawed and confusing person in St Andrews. We all are. The most calm and put-together person became animated when talking about the issues they cared about, the most passionate and indignant were indifferent to the issues I held closest to my heart. While we all spoke various shades of English, the reality was that we were speaking entirely different languages informed by our own perspectives. Although we could never become fluent in someone else’s language, understanding and listening could not have been more important.
And St Andrews proved to be the perfect environment to do so, a small, remote town bustling with young minds from all over the world. People from different countries, cultures and political persuasions finding common ground in their desire to escape the world they came from and embrace the strange and beautiful place they could come to call home. No-matter how different from you someone seemed, this similarity could unite the most opposing of characters.
As I came to write opinion articles, it was this paradox that struck me most. Our complete differentness coexisted with striking similarities: our common willingness to share, engage and exchange unique views and perspectives. Suddenly, the question ‘who was I to write opinion articles?’ Became irrelevant. Who was anyone to have an opinion? Weren’t we all as complicated and messed up as each other? Haven’t we all had unique viewpoints and insights on issues we cared about? Don’t we all have something to gain from sharing and conversing with one another, even if we found ourselves in complete disagreement?
Certainly, my experiences as a mixed race, gay man raised in the southeast corner of England have affected my outlook. I see the world from that perspective and always will. But aspects of our identities are far from the only factor informing our opinions. Our experiences – where we have been, what we have done, who we have known and what they have taught us – are all equally important. And this process of travelling and working, learning and growing cannot be categorised as a simple aspect of identity. It is so much more. And it’s informed by the platforms which let us express ourselves and listen to others. Platforms, dare I say it, like The Tribe.
So while I’ll admit to liking the quote, I do not believe that opinions are like assholes. They are more like miniature self-portraits, always evolving, a product of everything that has made us who we are. While we may think that some others do indeed stink, we all have something to contribute and something to learn from the unique expressions of others.
It is for this reason that I look forward to being this year’s Perspectives Editor for The Tribe and having some small part in the messy, complicated and deeply insightful world of opinion in this town that unites us all.
You can contact Dilhan with questions or submissions at firstname.lastname@example.org