The Emperor's New Clothes (14 April 2013)

Why is everybody SHOUTING their opinion? Being certain is overrated, says happy ditherer David Randall

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It has not been a very good week for the faint of voice, the ambivalent of opinion, or the seer of both sides.

Stridency has been in vogue, holding court on the public stage, as it increasingly does these days. Most of the time, we of more intellectual timidity can pick our way through (or, rather, around) the topics of the day. We pull our mental collars up, tug the hats of rationality over our eyes, and walk tentatively on. But the week which includes the death of Britain's most opinionated woman was always likely to prove a trial, and so it has been. Vehemence, SHOUTINESS, BEING CERTAIN ABOUT EVERYTHING has been all.

It used to be that the emphatic opinion and the brooking of no doubt was confined to the political hustings; the more raucous voices in the golf-club bar; people whose letters to newspapers were festivals of capital letters and vigorous underlinings; and newspaper columnists who provoked them with their ability to rustle up a forthright view on any subject at a moment's notice. For these types, there is no hope; but, more and more, the habit of righteously embracing absolutes is spreading. Agonising is out of style. What makes the grade now is bullishness, the full chin-out, in-your-face, get-over-it, read-my-big-fat-fast-moving-lips attitude. And it's getting worse. After all, make it a career necessity to think in 140 characters, and complexity and subtlety are liable to find themselves down at the JobCentre, clutching their P45s.

It may seem odd in this space, surrounded as it is by the indignant and the vociferous, the people who've already made up their minds, to tentatively make the case for remaining undecided for a bit longer, for weighing the pros and cons, but there it is. In a world of too-swift certainties, of people who have their answer ready even before the question has been asked, what we need is a little more dithering. Let's hear it for umming-and-ahing! For dithering! For chewing it over but still not really being sure! For a little more listening!

[Editor's note: at this point David Randall ran out of things he felt strongly about.]

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