About a week ago, this quote popped up on my Twitter feed. I absolutely fell in love with it.
“Let’s start with a test: Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?” –Paul Graham
It’s a little bit embarrassing how excited I got. But the thing that I liked most about this quote was that it reminded me how important it is to form your own opinions and speak what you think – even if you feel like you have an unpopular or “the wrong” ideas and opinions.
Having unpopular opinions is relatively much safer today than it was one or two or three hundred years ago. A couple hundred years ago, if you said something bad about your king or the Church, you were imprisoned or exiled at best. Today in the US, it’s pretty safe to say that you won’t be assassinated like Cicero, or exiled like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or even thrown in jail like Oscar Wilde or Bertrand Russell.
It’s not that things are perfect today. You might lose your job or be barred from certain professions for publicly holding certain beliefs (if you’re an avid creationist, most people won’t to hire you as a biology professor). Jail time is still a possibility (though usually only if you act unlawfully according to your beliefs). But I think I’d rather lose my job than face exile or an assassin in the night.