Sharing your opinions for more than just spare change

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Another group of hipsters thinking if they share their views in a coffeeshop that makes them more interesting. linkedin-sales-solutions-unsplash

Perspective of why one of our own shares his opinion and why he continues to do so 

Despite the demands of work, school, and life in general, I make an effort to keep up with the world around me. This also means I often form opinions about the world as well that I would like to think are well-informed. If not, or if I am missing nuances that a domain expert would see more readily, sharing my opinions for public consumption seems like a good way to get some dialogue started with others. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, newspapers and magazines will often pay me to share opinions, and a little extra cash is always welcome. Since moving to Canada, I have also often had the opportunity to write on topics like moving to a new country, adjusting to life on a college campus and more – topics on which I have more than a little experience and can reasonably expect someone to benefit from having read my experiences and perspectives.

I am also, like almost everyone that is paying attention to the world around us these days, rather full of what I myself would consider righteous indignation at the state of the world. For a good part of the previous year, I had been contributing regularly to Op-Ed in both the Carillon as well as a newspaper back home. This was due partly to the fact that working from home gave me a little more flexibility with my time, partly because – again, full disclosure – it brought in some extra funds for a rainy day, and lastly in part because I care about everything that is going on in the world around me. A year ago, if someone asked me which of these reasons was the most important, I would be hard pressed to identify one. I am aware that it sounds cynical, but I am also doing my best to stay honest. We are all prone to biases. When telling our own stories, each of us is the self-effacing hero who is simply doing the right thing. Mindful of this bias, I would much rather err on the side of sounding too cynical, even about myself.

However, something changed in the span of the several months during which I continued to write for both newspapers. One morning, as I sat down to write about the plight of the farmers in India, something dawned on me. I had something concrete and specific to say about farmers in a faraway land. Farmers who were being oppressed by a government that appeared to be more interested in protecting the interests of private corporations in the capital than farmers in the small villages of Punjab and elsewhere. I remember sitting down to that piece, trying to make an argument from a purely materialistic standpoint about why we should care. I remember feeling that my words might well make a difference.

Since then, I have written on many other topics that are of paramount importance to me personally. On at least one occasion, a throwaway comment by someone on social media got me thinking about how higher education back home is not a level playing field. I bit my tongue and refrained from starting an argument online, and instead wrote about it for the newspaper back home. I like to think that this way, I was spared the frustration of a social media debate that would leave neither side better informed or in a better state of mental health. Did the person whose original comment know that they would get me thinking about this and eventually would that read what I wrote for a national newspaper? I doubt it. Even if they did, did it change their mind or make them feel a little more empathy for others? I also doubt that. Regardless, I also feel that it does not matter. I was not trying to win a debate or convince someone to change their mind and agree with me. The best explanation I can offer for what I was doing is that there were a thousand tangled webs in my head and writing them down as a coherent flow of ideas seemed therapeutic.

Well, what is that good for? I have also found that it is good for a few things, actually. This past February, I wrote about childhood in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. I poured my heart out into the piece, painting a picture of the longing, the nostalgia, and the odd sense of loss with which I think of the city I once called home. Once it was in print, I shared it with peers, school friends who had also grown up in the same city and are now spread all around the world. For the next little while, as they all read and shared their appreciation, I felt seen, understood, and empathized with in a way that does not happen very frequently. I have always considered myself a bit of a misfit, but for at least one part of one day, something I wrote brought me closer to my peers from a different time and place – all because I decided to write about a home, we all left, and none can return to ever again.

So, I continue to write about deeply personal opinions because it helps me find a calm place in my own mind. I continue to share my opinions on pretty much everything under the sun because if even one person reaches out and says what I wrote resonated with them, it makes me feel a little less invisible. William Nicholson said “We read to know we are not alone”. A personal favourite author, Neil Gaiman, once wrote that decades after he is gone, his words will survive and tell his children and their children’s’ children about this time here on earth. In a way, I understand them now.

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