Gareth Cliff on Everything

I had the opportunity to get to know Gareth Cliff, somewhat controversial 5fm radio DJ a little better as a result of my involvement with SA Idols this year, and this has most likely given me a slight bias when it comes to reading his new book, “Gareth Cliff on Everything”. I can almost hear you thinking, “why on earth would anyone want to read Gareth’s book” as I suspect people who read my blog are not the greatest ‘Cliff’ fans. Be that as it may, I did feel the need to share the introduction with you. While I don’t agree with everything in his book (which is pretty much the point), I do agree with this:

“Wow, you’re very opinionated!”, she said in a disgusted tone, walking away in a hurry I case I gave her one more. I don’t know why, but some people think it’s a very bad thing to have an opinion about anything. Blend in, don’t make much noise, just be happy with what you know and do. This seems to be their motto. I couldn’t do that. The woman in question was a conservative, middle aged mother of two who probably worked for a bank, was out of love with her husband, watched a lot of TV soap operas and drove, at best, a Volvo. People like that insider people with opinions dangerous for the common good. But that’s just my opinion.

From the bold to the beautiful: I met a really pretty girl in 2004. She was sexy, vivacious, educated and talented, and even had a great sense of humor. Everything seemed to be just about perfect. The only problem was that she had no opinion on anything. She didn’t think abortion was right, or wrong. She didn’t know or care whether there was global warming. She didn’t want to talk politics, religion, race, culture or news (you know, all the good stuff). In a situation like this, you really can’t have a conversation; she never said what she thought or how she felt. She could only really talk about herself or laugh at me. It was a pity because I might have fathered some offspring with her. Did I mention that she really was very pretty.

I suppose you might think me petty for making a big deal about something like opinions, but it’s actually a really big reason that I will either get on with you or not. Imagine how difficult it would be to have friends of a different race and another friend who’s racist. Things would get complicated because that racist holds an unacceptable opinion. You see, it IS a big deal.

If you really believe it’s important to be free (and I assume you do, since the alternative is slavery or serfdom), then you have to exercise your freedom. What would the point be of having a guitar if you never learnt to play it? Freedom needs to be put to work – you need to keep it fit. The best way to exercise your freedom is to decide how you feel about the things you care about, and let other people know. If you think the government is screwing things up, you need to tell them. If you think being overcharged for bread is wrong, and you never say anything, the people who make and sell bread will keep taking advantage of you, ripping you off. Wait a second, that actually did happen…

Throughout human history, people have been subjects, forced to fit I with someone else’s opinion on how things should work – a king, emperor, Pope or Fuhrer. Thanks to the arduous struggles of the Enlightenment, the abolition of slavery, the spread of democracy, universal suffrage, the destruction of racism and increased access to education and information, we are only now able to voice our own opinions. We should guard this right jealously, just in case the politicians decide to chip away at it again. Authority doesn’t like opinion; it likes obedience. Don’t think for a minute that those in power enjoy our being able to argue with them. The only reason we have rubbish governments is because so many ordinary people have no opinions.

So what opinions do you have? What matters to you? If I asked you how you feel about what children should be taught at school, what you think about corruption, who you think would be freakier in bed – Lady Gaga or Courtney Love – you’d surey have an answer?

You see what I mean by this? Being opinionated is not about grandstanding and shoving your thoughts down other people’s throats; it’s the whole point of being free. If you have no opinions about anything you can’t be a very thoughtful or serious person (and by this I mean a person to be taken seriously, rather than someone who is always solemn). What you think about tells the world more about you that how you look or what you have. How interested you are in the world will determine how interested the world is in you. That’s why opinion matters – because you matter. If you don’t think you matter, don’t worry, you don’t need opinions – I’ve already made up my mind about you.”

So – that’s Gareth’s opinion. Choose to read the book, or don’t. My opinion: It’s worth the read.

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