Roses are red, violets are blue, Rolling Stones is better than the Beatles, and I know more about music than you. Boardgames are lame, bicycles are cool, David Attenborough is awesome, and Donald Trump is a fool. Scientists are smart, conspiracies are dumb, QAnon is ridiculous, and gummy bears are jum. It’s only my opinion of course, which is likely to be different from yours. You might think I’m wrong, but I know I’m right. 

That we disagree mustn’t be taken too lightly. Opinions influence our thoughts, morals and behaviour, and in combination with those of others shape society. For example, most of us agree that murder is wrong, which is why jurisdiction is in place. However, not everybody approves of the death penalty. We generally believe that everyone should be allowed health care, which is why we agree to tax payment. Yet, we don’t all approve of abortion. Likewise, most of us favour freedom of speech, which is why we’ve made it a basic human right. Nonetheless, not everyone supports gay marriage. So basically, when most people agree on something, there will always be some people who disagree. What is it with all these opinions? Why can’t we just settle on things? 

Knowledge is where the first problem lies, as it is a deciding factor in the formation of opinions. Problem being is that not everyone is given the same access to information, or allowed equal education. It is most obvious that opinions will differ between a PhD student from Denmark and a sugar-cane farmer from Zimbabwe. But opinions can differ between a banker from Canada and a dentist from Canada no less. People who attend the same schools, come from the same political background, and visit the same churches, still end up disagreeing on things. It’s because even when people are exposed to the same sources of knowledge, they remain free to choose their own level of involvement. Some will read books and watch CNN, whereas others will watch YouTube and Fox News. 

Another vital reason that people differ in opinion is that they differ in character. It’s mainly the fault of neurochemicals, which aren’t produced at the same rate or function in the same way for everyone. Neurochemicals create our state of mind, consciousness and thinking, which is why there will always be different characters with conflicting opinions. It must also be kept in mind that neurochemical activity isn’t exclusively inherited, but also partly triggered by our environment. The environment will always differ slightly for each person, no matter how similar their lives, and no two people can ever stand in the exact same place or view things the exact same way. That might be the reason why we often say ‘from my point of view’ when giving our opinion. 

Another thing to remark is that we often base our opinion on those of others. We lean towards agreeing with people to win trust, spare feelings of discomfort, and build stronger relationships. It saves us mental stress as well, as it will always be easier to agree than to disagree. Sheople (people behaving like sheep) obey to social rules, conform to social order, and prefer to follow the herd. Asch conformity experiments are specifically out to show that individual opinions are influenced by those of a group. The trick is to ask people in a test group about their opinion, while secretly scientists hide amongst them who give their answer first. Test people most often conform to the opinion of the undercover scientists, against their own logics. Whether it was about counting the number of beans, pointing out similarly sized lines, or doing simple mathematics: when the majority of people seemed convinced of the wrong answer, others went along. People often stated afterwards that they knew the group was wrong, but didn’t want to risk being ridiculed. 

If you’re determined to not become one of the sheep, you could consider behaving like a lone wolf. Some people make a point out of thinking for themselves, being different, and walking their own path. Lone wolves normally disagree with others to be rebellious, defend their self-worth, or thrive for superiority. But by doing so, opinions of lone wolves are still influenced by others, just like sheople. We could ask ourselves whether ridiculing ‘regular people’, or rejecting the most commonly accepted opinion, really makes them smarter at all? 

Likewise, good people are sometimes criticized simply because they make other people look bad in comparison, referred to as the ‘do-gooder derogation’. Greta Thunberg, for example, is a young Swedish girl who raised her voice for the environment. No harm was ever done, but grown-up men started bullying her disproportionally on social media. Bill Gates and his wife started a foundation to fight diseases like malaria and polio in poor countries, and spent over $40 billion on global development and public health programmes. Yet somehow, he got accused of purposely creating the COVID-19 pandemic to gain power, or forcing unsafe vaccinations down the veins of defenceless people. 

What’s more, good intentions don’t always have good outcomes, which further triggers disagreements. A turn of events can convert socialists to communists, hippies to hunters, or Christians to atheists. For instance, the new president of Mexico wanted to combat poverty and drug cartels by a ‘hugs not bullets’ policy. He dismantled corrupt politicians, replaced the violent army with a national police force, and took down El Chapo. He also invested in social programmes, student grants, and business loans, to give poor people an alternative to crime. Good morals I would say, but crime rates have been rising since, for complicated reasons, and so did the criticism towards his policy. Some people now even suggest to stop intervening with drug lords altogether. Although failure isn’t always fair, opinions are guaranteed to change when things go wrong. 

Because opinions are often emotion driven, concrete evidence will be disregarded when “it just doesn’t feel right”. Some people simply don’t need proof of what they believe in, and won’t change their opinion when new discoveries are made. But ignorance can be as good as knowledge, and fact doesn’t always outweigh opinion. Because an opinion is nothing but a person’s view on a subject, no matter the reasoning, we are all entitled to having one. And where would we be if there wasn’t always a person who disagreed, or argued that things could be different? Although the opinions of all these people can be a burden, we ultimately need them to stay challenged and provoke social change. And if your opinion tends to be one of the less popular ones, you shouldn’t worry too much about it. No matter what you believe in and whatever reliable resources you present to back it up, there will always be people who disagree anyway. And that isn’t my opinion, that’s a fact.