Much is often said about judging people by their actions and character, as opposed to any other trait. In this sense, one can come to the conclusion that words and immutable human traits do not fall under the same category, as some cannot be controlled and some are not so much a testament to a person’s character, in the most part at least. In the political landscape in which we currently live, this phenomenon has undoubtedly become a key component of how the left and the right of the political spectrum engage with one another, as people’s opinions are used as a gateway to assuming their inherent motivations, which often leads to perceiving politicians as absolute saints, or as complete devils.
Needless to say, it’s pretty careless to just assume someone’s personality based off their views on any given issue, until you’ve gotten to know them or have gotten to see the way they behave in everyday situations and the way in how they interact with people from all walks of life. Simply having an opinion on just about anything is not doing any harm to anyone, barring it being imposed forcefully or it being expressed through violent means. In order to exemplify this point, I’d like to refer to a debate which took place in 2015, which was organised by the Oxford Union and discussed the motion titled ‘Freedom of Speech and Right to Offend’. During a particular interjection, conservative newspaper columnist Peter Hitches was arguing in favour of the motion, whilst Oxford University student Kate Brooks was arguing against it. Throughout this interjection, Brooks frequently insisted that Hitches, together with right-wing commentator Brendan O’Neill, were ‘engaging in a discourse of censorship’ by merely having strongly held opinions in relation the Islam and transgenderism amongst other topics. Midway through Brooks’ speech, another Oxford student contributed to the debate by asking if ‘it is not true that having a different opinion isn’t the same as telling other people that they shouldn’t have or they can’t have that opinion?’
It is this precise point which I wish to highlight, as I feel that it is of crucial importance in relation to the phenomenon being tackled in this article, this being that someone having a different opinion as you do on any political issue is in no way an infringement on your dignity, your humanity or your right to have that opposing opinion. To think otherwise would be going as far to look down upon being able to speak, think and profess a view which just so happens to go against what the majority of people think, and as we do ultimately live in a democracy, there are times where we’ll have to agree to disagree in order to make progress. In this regard, we can also find an example of this taking place within a more local setting, as it occurred recently in the case of Nationalist Party leadership hopeful, Bernard Grech.
It was certainly no surprise that Grech’s liberal critics were gifted with a heavy amount of cannon fodder once Grech publicly declared himself to be against abortion, and to have been against divorce. With regards to the latter, it’s interesting to note that whilst Grech was involved in the anti- divorce campaign in the 2011 referendum, he stated that he since then altered his views on the matter, since the legal field which he works in as a lawyer is that of family law, and coming across broken-up marriages is not uncommon in his line of work. In terms of the former, Grech stated that he would be open to a discussion on the subject, whilst saying that he would resign as prime minister should a referendum ever take place leading to abortion, and should it result in abortion being legalised in Malta. Needless to say, Grech received little to no mercy from his liberal critics, as he was described as being a dinosaur, and there was little to attention given to the substance of his views.
Ultimately, actions do indeed speak louder than words, as the former can be more telling in exposing a person’s character, than the imprint which their words can leave one someone’s life.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.
Written by: Jacob Callus
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