To Say or Not to Say

By Sal Haque 2021-10-21 12:02:14

Forming opinions and handling cancel culture.

Times have changed. It’s 2021. You can’t just walk around saying willy nilly and hope to come out unscathed. Political correctness reigns supreme, and having an opinion is careful work.

Saying the wrong thing can get you canceled faster than a faux-French hotpot restaurant in Jing’an. No one wants fake plastic opulence. Real talk.

However, PC’ness does have its merits. Actively tackling racism, homophobia, and gender-inequality are definitely good things, and hopefully our children will follow suit. Building a better world and all that.

That said, my kid’s only seven, so he’s not exactly on Facebook debating the nuances of the Israel-Palestine conflict. His opinions are pretty much restricted to who his current best friend is, how much homework sucks, and how Goku (from Dragonball) is definitely stronger than Ultraman. Needless to say, the pro-Ultraman party is not pleased.

So with Nesta (my kid), I’m laying the foundations for good opinions, while also helping him deal with opinions he disagrees with. I’m teaching him that good opinions are informed through research or experience, and bad opinions are not. I think that concept can start fairly young.

Like with Goku versus Ultraman. I asked my kid why he thinks Goku is stronger. When he said “Goku’s more awesome”….well that’s not really good enough, cause Ultraman is also pretty awesome. Go deeper. When he tells me that he saw “Goku on Dragonball Super, battle the strongest ten fighters from seven different dimensional universes, in a tournament to the death”….well now we’re getting somewhere. 

He’s starting to build an argument based on reason. But we still need to explore different perspectives. So now we’re sitting on the Internet “doing a Bing” on Goku versus Ultraman, and reading like twelve different fan theories (there’s a surprising amount of websites for this). But it’s cool, cause you can see him slowly begin to refine his argument and tweak it based on the different perspectives he’s hearing, how they hold up against his own experience, and incorporate the new information he’s learning. His opinion has gone from being more emotional, to more informed.


The process of building a good opinion is important, especially in children. Kids are like pack animals, when the alpha points the finger, the others tend to follow. This can sometimes result in playground politics, when the many turn against the few.

It’s easy for kids to fall into that “he said-she said” nonsense, so it’s important they understand that just because everyone is saying something, that doesn’t necessarily make it true, and just because everyone believes something, that doesn’t necessarily make it right. I try to teach Nesta to think for himself. Consider the topic. Do the research, and inform his opinion.

But even once Nesta has built his opinion, he needs to decide whether the world needs to hear it. He’s certainly happy with his newly informed idea, but do his friends really need to know that Goku is indeed stronger than Ultraman. It seems innocent enough. But some of Nesta’s friends are diehard Ultraman fans. 

These kids aren’t just gonna lay down. There’s gonna be friction. A seven year old will pretty much argue over anything, and this is the kind of stuff that ends friendships. Also, young kids don’t really have the emotional management to understand that, it’s ok to be wrong.

My kid can be very finite. It’s either “this” or it’s “that”, with very little wiggle room. It’s important for him to understand that it’s not always about being right or wrong. There’s often quite a bit of space in the middle. Maybe Goku and Ultraman are bothstrong? Perhaps their strength depends on context? 

Nesta needs to learn that it’s perfectly fine for him to have one opinion, while someone else has another. Also, maybe some opinions are better left unsaid. Could he not have been content keeping his opinion to himself? In my experience there are only three reasons to share an opinion, to teach, learn, or entertain. If neither of these is happening, maybe just keep it to yourself. And straight-up, some opinions are simply unacceptable in the public sphere.

I mean, I’m not about to walk into a grade two classroom and talk smack about Ultraman. Damn son, I know when to get real, and I know when to chill. I think Nes needs to figure that out.

The world is getting increasingly politically correct, and we, and our kids, need to watch what we say, and to an extent, watch how we think. I hope my kid can realize the importance of developing opinions based on research and knowledge, and how to handle himself with poise and respect in the face of disagreement. 

He also needs to know that saying the wrong thing could have serious consequences. It’s a bit of a touchy subject, and even writing this has me a little vexed. At what point is self censorship correct? Or perhaps, it’s a question of is your opinion worth the trouble it might cause? Either way, as we climb towards absolute political correctness, Nesta will certainly be dealing with a much more complex social landscape than I did growing up. I suppose all I can do is prepare him the best I can.