Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Visit To Opinion Addicts Anonymous

HARBESON: It’s just my opinion, but ...

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Hello, my name is Debbie and I’m an opinion addict. I’m here today at my first meeting of Opinion Addicts Anonymous because I need to re-evaluate and yes, perhaps even change my ways.

I write weekly columns for the local paper and while riding high on opinions, I occasionally run into other people. Sometimes it’s a minor fender bender, sometimes it’s a head-on collision and sometimes I drive right over them.

When I wake up the next morning after one of those binges and see what I’ve done, I sometimes regret my actions. Oh, I don’t really care if I see politicians or government officials with tire tracks on their backs. They chose to get deeply involved in an entity that depends upon the threat of violence and they must accept the consequences of playing a direct part in such a system.

However, I sometimes find myself writing opinions that also sideswipe entities and people who mostly operate in the private voluntary realm. I don’t set out to run over private entities — they get hit because they have somehow become intertwined with the government. (Although it must be said that often this is due to an explicit choice they made at some point.)

Even so, I’m here today because I’m wondering about my behavior in regards to these private entities and people. In theory we should be working together and perhaps I have been wrong to give such entities and the people involved too much grief.

Like me, they have to live within the society that exists today and are often taking actions merely to survive. Perhaps I should sympathize more and regard them as collateral damage to the real problem — society’s collective legitimization of the institution of government.

I gained this insight in part by observing Occupy Wall Street. After speaking directly with people involved and looking at the movement as a whole, I noticed that much of the anger is directed to corporations and the acts of individuals within corporations.

But corporations and the protections it provides to individuals only exist because of government. The reason we end up with crony capitalism is because government is there to create and protect the sleazy partnerships.

I realized the people inside these nationally acting corporations are behaving in regards to the federal government in the same manner as local people inside local entities are when forced to deal with local governments. Yes, it’s a problem when the federal government hands out special benefits to favored entities, just as it is when done on a local level. But all of these deals could not exist if government did not exist.

One other problem related to my opinion addiction is that sometimes people get upset when I write about individuals without making an effort to contact them first. I’m not sure why they want me to do this. I know it has nothing to do with the facts I share because these people never claim my facts were wrong and the newspaper has never had to issue a retraction for incorrect factual information. They just don’t like my conclusions.

Many people do not understand that I am not a newspaper reporter. I am a freelance opinion columnist and as such, I am under no obligation to contact anyone who may be called out by name as I share the facts I’ve used to draw those conclusions.

Readers understand this in regards to opinion columnists who write about larger national issues and people. Those writers generally do not contact the individuals they write about, they just share their opinion. I’m just a writer who does the exact same thing on a local level.

I certainly could contact the people I mention and others may prefer I do so but clearly this issue itself is a matter of opinion. I have and will continue contacting people for more information if I think I need it but in the end an opinion column’s purpose is to share individual conclusions and everyone else is free to share their conclusions in response. Without contacting me first.

That said, I’m here to re-evaluate my actions so perhaps I will attempt to contact the people I mention more often. We’ll see what happens as a result.

Wow, I feel much better now after sharing my story. As a matter of fact what the heck am I even doing at this meeting? I don’t need to work on my opinion addiction. I don’t have a problem like you people do! I’m outta here.

Oh, but before I go, can you guys pass on some information for me? Tell people operating in the private voluntary realm that if they don’t want to get sideswiped, then they might want to try their best to stay away from government. Otherwise they could be standing in the middle of the road that this opinion addict is almost always driving on.

Thanks for listening. Now, I’m off for another year of adventures in opinion sharing.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is always trying to improve the manner in which she drives her points home.

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