“Opinions give me the heebie-jeebies, and opinions seem to be, increasingly, what people expect writers to have. And I don’t mean opinions about books, which are, after all, one’s business if one is a writer. I mean opinions about daily life, or politics, or the environment; the kind of opinions people seem compelled to share with each other on talk shows and editorial pages . . .”
Most opinions are driven not by wit, or a desire to elucidate or amuse, but by that dirty little boy on the inside who scrawls on the bathroom wall. Glickman, whose post was shared with me by a reader in Toronto, puts it nicely: “I found myself wondering why people always find it so hard to say, `I don’t know.’ Why are we more ashamed of not being able to express an opinion than of expressing a stupid one?” Because the ego, even more than nature, abhors a vacuum. A confession of ignorance is more shaming than a dignified silence. In his essay on conversation, The Rambler #188, Dr. Johnson puts it like this: “The modest man satisfies himself with peaceful silence, which all his companions are candid enough to consider as proceeding not from inability to speak, but willingness to hear.”
Johnson’s observation reminds me of a variation on an old joke: What do hemorrhoids and opinions have in common? Sooner or later, every asshole gets one.