Speaking Your Mind Without Following the Crowd
A contrarian will disagree for the hell of it. A freethinker will honestly express what they think and feel. There’s a difference.
The late, great James Cagney had a fantastic nickname given to him by Jack Warner, former President and co-founder of Warner Brothers: “The Professional Againster,” as he was said to be quite the contrarian at times in real life.
See here for James’ 1974 AFI Tribute speech, in which — towards the end — he mentioned the moniker to big applause:
Cagney made a difference in his field. He was a role model as far as I’m concerned, never afraid to go against the crowd and say “no,” nor express his strongly-held opinions.
High-achievers tend to do that … which sometimes drives others crazy.
Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am not a contrarian for the hell of it. I am a freethinker, and I’ve been told I hold some strange opinions of my own. I’ll share some samples, some of which I’ve disclosed, in context, in prior articles here. Some are meaningful; some are simply quirky. But this is me and I own up to them all:
- I believe “The Last Jedi” to be the finest “Star Wars” film after the original and “The Empire Strikes Back.”
- Speaking of films, one that received no love was “Cats.” I loved it, finding it to be an original vision and mostly faithful to its long-running theatrical source material. To me — and this is not a misprint — the film version of “Cats” was magical.
- I could not care less about the Super Bowl. Don’t particularly care about the commercials either.
- Ditto the World Series. There’s always been too many starts and stops in baseball for me.
- Boxing is my favorite sport.
- In politics, I believe both sides will need to coexist long after Trump is out of office. Common sense, sure, but when emotion takes over I may not come across as so solicitous. Still, I’m always willing, as anti-Trump as I am, to reach across the aisle and attempt to have real dialog. This causes issues with friends on my side of the political fence, which I believe is wrong.
- Though I’ve voted Democrat most of my life and will do so for the immediate future, I never put party first. I vote for whatever entity I believe would be best considering the time.
- I do not practice a religion. I read a great deal, and incorporate various philosophies, and sciences, into my own personal belief system.
- However, as a Jew by blood, I reach across the aisles to my Muslim brothers and sisters in an effort to do what I can to ease tensions within my own microcosmic place in the conflict. Too many friends of mine are Muslim; I never discriminate. Once again, friends of mine attempt to convince me of my wrong-headedness in the matter. That’s on them.
- I’m about as liberal as they come. That’s not always easy but I always maintain the courage of my convictions.
- I’m happy to eat spaghetti for breakfast and cereal for dinner if the mood strikes. I know. I live dangerously.
- I could not care a whit about pot. Never tried it, don’t miss it.
- I can’t stand alcohol.
Finally this, most importantly:
- I can’t stand inertia. I hardly ever rest when I should and I barely sleep. I do work out and eat healthy so I hope that helps. People say they are touched by my writing and so I’m consistently one with my tablet. If I believe in a given social issue, I will go to extremes fighting or defending it. I believe it is my obligation as a human being and as a writer to offer up my unfiltered opinions. Most of what I listed above would not alter the clock of the world, though I strongly believe in challenging perspectives and world-changing, and respect people like Greta Thunberg who show that one person can indeed make a difference.
I greatly respect this man too, who to me remains a flashpoint as to the importance of art, and doing what one must to maintain freedom of expression regardless of uproar:
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie [a] FRSL (born 19 June 1947) is a British Indian novelist and essayist. His second novel,…
To excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:
His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), was the subject of a major controversy, provoking protests from Muslims in several countries. Death threats were made against him, including a fatwā calling for his assassination issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on 14 February 1989. The British government put Rushdie under police protection.
Follow the article links for further information, or read Rushdie’s own take on the incident, “Joseph Anton,” titled after a pseudonym he used when in hiding.
The moral: Never lose your voice. Am I saying to risk your life in pursuit of it? No. That would certainly be easy for me to say from the outside looking in, wouldn’t it?
I am saying, shouting actually, that one’s opinions are akin to art. You will always face repercussions.
Are you prepared?
How far are you willing to go?
A final few cents …
- If you work a job and are afraid to express yourself at work, why do you freely do so on social media for the world to see? Couldn’t your boss(es) look you up? Is that not trouble-seeking behavior? As an example, I frequently see many dissatisfied teachers on Facebook and elsewhere who complain — with little or nothing held back — about the same kids they teach during the day. It’s a necessary release, a catharsis, but that’s not a problem? Maybe you should look into a new profession, or you just may hurt some children who find you online. Think of the possibilities if you can have your cake and eat it too … and the lessened degree of stress if you could express yourself openly and honestly both professionally and personally.
- I’ll be the first to say many non-artistic professions, of course, do have rules against speaking up as one would like. There are rules in work and social environments that must be followed, especially as it regards issues such as sexual misconduct. Thankfully, I’m a writer. My 9–5 days are past. Took years but I earned it. This is who I am, but it does not mean this is who you should be. I don’t know your personal circumstance.
- That said, there is a world of difference between being respectful, and being outspoken for the sake of it. The contrarian mode frequently crosses that line.
- I’ve been told, “You have no censor. You really should watch your mouth and be sure to never offend anyone.” Of course I have a censor. I would never scream “fire!” in a crowded movie theater … unless there was a fire. Common sense and judgement do play into this equation. Regardless, sorry, I’m always going to offend someone despite my best intentions and I don’t worry about it. Further, give people a chance. Many unafraid to express their opinions are, simply, nice. We have morals and values, and don’t seek to hurt anyone. Yes, some do. To me, though, being outspoken with my opinions is a natural need and part of being human. This privilege is also a responsibility. It has nothing to do with being cruel, stupid, or disrespectful.
- Finally, being a freethinker does not mean we’re anarchists. Can we dispose with that one once and for all?
Understand there are no rules when it comes to being a “straight shooter,” or one’s authentic self. You may be yelled at or worse, called names or even threatened.
I believe we go around once. I have no clue as to the true meaning of life nor does anyone. (I’m sure some will argue there too. To my mind, we all have our theories, myself included, but no one knows for sure.)
I prefer to be my authentic self and, once more, leave the world a better place than the one I left.
That doesn’t mean I should preach to you.
It just means I believe I’m obligated to offer food for thought.
Thank you for reading.
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