People enjoy talking about others. When they are done discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a person, the majority view becomes “public opinion.”
Public opinion may not be fair. Some people are realistic and levelheaded. They are not influenced by others’ criticisms and are not caught up by the popular outlook. Others blindly follow “public opinion” and do not bother to find out the truth. They follow the trends. Public opinion is not known for being right.
Throughout history, there have been many examples of valiant men and women who braved difficult challenges with the sole intention of saving their community. However, sometimes they acted at the wrong time and were brutally struck down for their well-intended actions. They ended up becoming criminals of their time. On the other hand, bandits and thugs might start a revolution by rallying the general public together. Villains might govern the country after overthrowing the ruling authority, receiving praise from the multitudes for their venture. What kind of public opinion is that? As we can see, public opinion sometimes labels the good as bad and the bad as good—can we say public opinion is fair and accurate?
Many people in this world crave fame and fortune. They present falsehoods and create problems, but are idolized by society. Conversely, others quietly contribute to society and benefit the world with their kindnesses, but remain unnoticed by the people. Every year, many awards are given to outstanding people for their achievements. Are they all truly deserving winners? Or is there someone better who has been overlooked? Consider even the coveted Nobel Prize—are all the prizes justly and fairly awarded?
Today, when talented writers publish books and articles, critics are certain to say, “this article lacks rationality and logic.” However, those who are good thinkers will be criticized as inarticulate. Those who are good public speakers may be criticized for not knowing foreign languages. Those who are fluent in more than one language may be deemed incapable in non-academic subjects. Likewise, those who are capable may be thought of as poor academics, so on and so forth, until in the end, it seems that no one in the world is good at anything.
The following Chinese story illustrates the fallacies of public opinion:
One day, a father and his son rode to town together on a donkey. A passerby commented, “Oh, how cruel! Two people riding together on a small donkey, you’re breaking his back!” When he heard this, the father quickly got off, but left the son on the donkey. Another person saw this and said, “Why does an elder have to walk while the young person rides so comfortably?”
The son then quickly got off the donkey and told his father, “It would be better if you get on.”
Yet another observer then offered, “The elder does not know how to care for the young properly. How can you ride so comfortably while the young boy walks?”
The father was becoming sick of what people were saying and decided to walk alongside his son. However, another onlooker then observed, “These two are fools. They would rather walk than ride on a donkey!” The father and son felt like they were left with no choice, so they ended up carrying the donkey all the way into town!
This story conveys the impact of public opinion. It is impossible to have truly comprehensive and complete public opinion. Therefore, we only need to have a clear conscience. We do not need to please everyone. We need not be bothered by what others say.