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Differ without begging

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ZIMBABWEANS are generally polite people. Too polite for their own good sometimes.

How else would you explain the popularity of the expression: “I beg to differ?” Seriously, who begs to differ? Can’t we even differ without begging? Look at our neighbours down south.

Now, that is a country of people who know how to express their differences without begging, without any hint of apology in their actions, in fact. I would be the first to admit that our neighbours have rather perfected the art of differing without apology and we cannot hope to compete — it is just not in our nature. But there must be some middle ground.

Maybe it is this fear we have of offending our fellow human beings — so we circle around each other, careful not to hurt each other’s feelings, tip-toeing around our opinion and, of course, hoping that begging to say exactly what we think of the other person will make the truth that little bit less hurtful.

Or maybe it is the fear of being labelled. Of being put in a box and a tag tied to it labelled activist, radical, opinionated or my all-time favourite — feminist. Just like journalist and literary critic Rebecca West, I have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.

But I understand when women beg to differ. Most of us were raised that way. Hands up all sisters who constantly aspire to the good-woman tag.

Yes, that woman. Super woman who juggles home, work and family without missing any of the balls. The one who, despite all this, knows her place and how to keep her opinions to herself. That ideal we are all raised to aspire to before we grow up and get disillusioned.

Maybe it is time to broke free of the box. Imagine the freedom of having your own opinion and expressing it. Just think: How different would your life be if you stopped needing the validation of others. Instead, hold on to your convictions, express who you are in your own way — no begging, no apology.

Bliss.

Or again, maybe it is the fear of being left alone. My aunt once told me that people (read men) dislike opinionated women (am beginning to think opinionated is a dirty word).

So, because we are afraid, we believe that where there is no occasion to express an opinion, it is better to remain silent and when the occasion arises, beg to differ — it makes the other person feel better and it certainly makes you more friends than enemies.

But now, here is the good thing about opinions — they are yours, they do not have to be based on truth and they do not even have to be permanent. Opinions can last from anything between two seconds and two years. Isn’t that marvellous? My opinions have certainly changed as I grow up.

Sometimes it even takes a minute for me to mature. Just a minute after I have expressed an opinion, I mature and change my opinion to reflect the older me. But well, let us all try to have informed opinions and not hold on to our right to be ignorant.

As author Ralph Waldo Emerson says: “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted,” so, it is okay we can agree to disagree.

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