Most of our opinions on other people's opinions are based on what we read about what they write. Right?

In my opinion, staying silent never changed a thing except in a Buddhist monastery where this life doesn't really matter and the next one is where all one's energy should be centred.

So, it makes sense to have an opinion if you want the world to be a better place and the broader the news net can be cast - to catch as many different opinions as possible - the better decision one can make.

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Every day there is a hot issue debated through the opinions of letter writers and columnists of our daily newspapers and I have the fortunate opportunity to be one.

From these, the public forms their own stance and they hold on to it like a little girl's cuddly cloth until it comes time to let it go, usually around election time, which happens to be this year locally and next year nationally.

The current concrete crisis around the former Phoenix carpark in the middle of the Mount is a great example of a "hot" election issue and mirrors the major objections to the Pilot Bay boardwalk back in 2013.

Thing is, that issue walked on by and never made it to the ballot box even though some pundits promised it would.

David Burnett, while not totally opposed, feared that the boardwalk would change the whole ambiance of the area and make it less attractive to families.

Fred Greenville predicted it would become an election issue.

Papamoa Progressive chairman Steve Morris said the boardwalk would overwhelm Pilot Bay.

Councillor Murray Guy warned there could be a legal challenge.

So let's see how the concrete park plays out.

Some say objectors are skating on thin ace while others are predicting a clean out of councillors sitting on the Phoenix fence and saying nothing in case it costs them votes.

The newly-opened Te Papa o Ngā Manu Porotakataka at Mount Maunganui. Photo / Andrew Warner
The newly-opened Te Papa o Ngā Manu Porotakataka at Mount Maunganui. Photo / Andrew Warner

But is it the true voice of the public flying the Phoenix flag or just the perceived one created by a consensus of like-minded letter writers?

And is this a snapshot of the same scenario we are basing our own opinions on about global issues, from building walls in Mexico to tearing down Brexit trade barriers in Europe?

Today we live in a society in which agenda-driven realities are manufactured by some media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious and political groups.

And we - Jo the reading Public - are left lost in translation, asking ourselves what is real and what is fake when it comes to news.

Increasingly, we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated, wealthy people using very sophisticated electronic media mechanisms.

None more so than in America and its associated presidential press that in my opinion is pirau (rotten) to the very core - inside and outside Te Āporo Nui (the Big Apple).

The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, is a kind of celebration of ignorance.

For the rest of the world who are hanging on to a whisper of hope, it's in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and Photoshopped world very dangerous.

As was once said: "People are sheep. TV is the shepherd."

How do we turn a whisper of hope into a crescendo of change?

I guess it starts with the pen and putting it to paper. Having the courage to express an opinion that hopefully others will tautoko (support) and add their whisper to the voice.

It doesn't really matter what opinion you have but it does matter if you keep it quiet.

You may read in tomorrow's paper that this is the Chinese Year of the Pig and prosperity will be bestowed upon whoever has been blessed to be born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019.

Believe it or not?

Perhaps it will come true and you will be "makin' bacon" until the cows come home. Maybe pigs can fly and one will come whizzing by your window en route to the Great Wall of China.

The point is, you get the chance to make up your own mind based on the opinions, letters and 10-second sound bites someone else has expressed.

So when it comes to making up your mind on matters of local importance like Pilot Bay boardwalks or parks with long-as Māori names, take time to read between the headlines and make up your own mind.

There is a lot to be liked about opinions as there are about pigs.

They both give us something to chew on.

Tommy Wilson writes under the pen name Tommy Kapai. He is a local best-selling author, writer and columnist in this paper for 18 years. He is also the executive director of Te Tuinga Whanau Social Support Services.