Politi-cillin: a Painful (but Necessary) Dose of Reality

Syringe 5 with drops.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a rule at work that we can’t discuss politics or religion. Every day, I bring the newspaper to read during my lunch break, and my coworkers ask me if there’s any good stuff in there, pointing to advertisements for half-off Swiffer Dusters and $19.99 Bed, Bath & Beyond Deluxe Juicers—all of which are sandwiched between articles about mass murders in Syria and the Sudanese border conflicts. Sadly, the conversation goes far enough for me to pull out the ads and glance at them for a second before we ponder aloud whether or not Macy’s has better deals. Then, as quickly and boringly as it began, the conversation is over.

Likewise, in our modern social lives there’s an unspoken rule to not discuss anything political or religious. After all, it might lead to hurt feelings. It’s much simpler when we can just contribute a comment about Jessica Simpson’s Weight Watcher’s deal and then keep sipping our lattés in peace. Even Congress members don’t want to ruin the day by talking about the political climate of the country. In the midst of falling off the fiscal cliff, it only took the faint smell of a Christmas turkey before they had their jet-black SUV’s lined up and waiting for them outside.

So what’s happening in modern society that no one can, or will, have friendly conversations about the world-altering movements that are shaping our lives? Certainly the issues haven’t become more pressing than they were in the past, nor the perspectives more radical, nor the people more convicted in their beliefs. Yet the dialogue has slowed, almost halting altogether. Rather than engaging in philosophical discourse, everyone avoids the subject in fear that it will turn into a whirlwind of Hatfield & McCoy finger-pointing. So many interesting truths can emerge during a discussion about the role of government, the influence of religion, and the way social programs aid society. But everyone shies away from honest discourse, something I’m sure the CEO of Lehman Brothers would agree with. So what’s the real reason for this—the reason why I have to skip over the World News section of the paper to talk about Swiffers and Juicers or the reason why it’s not polite to ask my friends who they voted for in the elections?

The reason is that people are self-serving. If someone disagrees with us, it’s a personal affront to our way of living. People connect to political and social issues as if their very opinions are going to shake the world into perfection, often by expressing these opinions on Facebook (while subsequently cowering in the corner when any real discussion is about to occur). No longer does our society feel satisfied listening to others’ beliefs and then weighing differing perspectives. Why do that when it’s easier to shout something out an open door and then slam it shut? After all, ignoring others’ responses is as easy as turning off the computer. Influencing politics through discourse and then action is too altruistic in a world where we constantly want to shout (or tweet) our own beliefs, ignore everyone else’s, and then run away from action. People are self-serving. And it’s creating a world where each man is only out for himself.

The solution, then, lies in realizing that just as we all covet our national right to vote, we should also covet our ability to have open and honest discourse with our bunk-mates on this planet.

Talk about what matters. Get heated. Have differing opinions. Observe how our government officials problem solve and interact during conferences and through various new channels; watch how they discuss the most critical issues plaguing our nation.

And then use it as a model of what not to do.

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About OneWeekToCrazy

Writer in my real life, Milton in my work life. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

Posted on January 17, 2013, in Across the Globe, Social Cues and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. As usual “Well Said” I still love you. Ha! Have a good day.

  2. Love it. I can see why we aren’t supposed to discuss those things but at the same time I think it’s a little silly that we can’t. We can’t hide from what is happening right outside our door and the opinions everyone has about it.

  3. Civil discourse? What’s THAT?! Where in our culture do we see that going on…at all? People are either on one side or the other and the only discourse that exists is snarky, antagonistic, belittling, and at times,hateful. We hear it on the radio. We see it acted out on television. We read it on Facebook, in blogs, and all throughout the Internet. You can’t present a political argument without being slammed mercilessly by the other side. You don’t dare get involved in the most innocent political discussion without wearing battle gear, and bringing an arsenal of brutal, combative dialogue. If somehow we can bring civility back to the political arena, then perhaps we can begin again to have civil discourse about EVERYTHING, not just the latest celebrity gossip and Bed, Bath, and Beyond sales.

  4. Great piece. Thanks for sharing.

  5. It’s a good subject to discuss, yet it isn’t a good one. I actually got into it with a cousin regarding the last Presidential debate, and we’re no longer talking. The problem is communication. No one communicates anymore. In a society with the most communication connections, we’re the least communicative. People lost the ability to listen. Most of the time, when we’re arguing or debating, the other person doesn’t really listen to what’s being said, only waiting to throw out a rebuttal. It’s unfortunate because in a free society, we should be discussing the problems going on with our government, our people and where it could possibly lead us–down a path that has for years now been chiseling away at our Freedoms.

    • I completely agree. I find that same phenomena happening when I talk to people about politics…you can see their eyes start to drift as they begin to think of what they will say back. Very sad 😦

      Thanks for reading!

  6. There is a lot of sensitivity about today’s so-called ‘hot topics’; so no one raises them. Yet, the only way to remove this veil is through discussion. I guess we need to show that these converstaions can be had by sharing in sensible open forums of opinion.

    • Wow, calling this communication blockade a ‘veil’ is a really good metaphor. After my recent journey to Pakistan via UAE, where I got to see plenty of veiled women on the airport, I have been thinking a lot about how free Western women really are. On the surface we have all the freedom we can ask for, but when I find myself sitting in a pub with female friends who have spent the past twenty minutes discussing make-up when there are so many more interesting things going on in the world, I really wonder how free we are. Maybe we are hiding under a burkha just like the Arab women.

  7. I couldn’t agree more that this lack of discourse prevents change. But, being a borderline paranoid conspiracy theorist, I can’t help but think that there are institutions that benefit from this lack of serious dialogue. Yes, Americans are especially complacent and “shy” about important issues and I think that the current media landscape plays a part in this. Like, wtf happened to investigative journalism??? Like you said, it’s been replaced by J. Simpson coverage. I can’t pinpoint an origin, but I def think that media can hinder/help this silence.

    Anywho, beautiful, intelligent, thought-provoking writing!

    • Yes, I completely agree! Journalism is virtually non-existent, now that we fill in in with “fluff” due to the advent of 24-hour coverage. Even on local news in the morning, they dedicate a good 5-7 minutes to showing You-Tube clips…it’s so frustrating!

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by…I hope to hear from you again!

  8. So true, so true. I suspect the reason we talk about Dancing With the Stars so much over lunch is that if my coworkers really knew what I thought they wouldn’t like me very much anymore. I also don’t tell them I’m a nerdy girl and watch Turner Classic Movies…but that’s another problem….

    • Exactly! That’s the same reason why I don’t bring up PBS with my friends :). At least the culture on that is somewhat changing, with the “nerdy” persona becoming acceptable. For the sake of us inner nerds, I certainly hope, so at least! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thought provoking article. Beginning to wonder if that is the reason why Europeans have this impressions of Americans being superficial and their friendliness insincere. Have heard so often about people moving to the US and saying that everyone around was really friendly but it took terribly long to make real friends. How would you become friends with someone who only talks about meaningless things and is basically interchangeable. Personally, I used to be quite shy because I felt I couldn’t talk about the things that I was really thinking about. I changed a few years back and I feel that since then I have a lot more real friends. There’s still people that I talk about meaningless things with, but I wouldn’t call them friends, rather acquaintances.

      • Yes, I completely agree. I noticed that phenomenon when I visited France. It’s tougher to “get in” with people or “shoot the breeze,” but from what I heard, their friendships are much deeper and more sincere. Sometimes it the US it feels like we are perpetually having elevator small-talk.

        Thanks for stopping by!

  9. My parents-in-law are born-again Christians and I’m an atheist. Religion is often discussed between us and I find it a great (and lively) subject. I listen to them and they listen to me and we agree to disagree. It’s all in the way we communicate and don’t close ourselves off to differing opinions. Other people have told me to stay away from the subject with them, but I don’t see why I should – I love it (and it gives me great writing fodder!) 😀

    Great post – it really got me thinking (and that’s always a good thing) 😉

  10. Just wanted to let you know I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award! Please go to http://annmaridal.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/ive-been-nominated/ to accept it 🙂

  11. So very true. Great article. I tend to be outspoken on social issues, but I notice that it is often met with rude criticism. I recently advocated for gun control on Facebook, and was surprised at how angry some people were in their comments. It’s a hot button issue for sure, but it’s disheartening to see that the responses can get so “personal.” Your article has given me a lot to think about – and I certainly concur with the premise of your piece.

  12. I am unsure if it is a matter of politics being taboo in the public eye, or people’s lack of knowledge on the subject matter. If it is subjected to continuous discussion it does not get properly digested and people take opinion blurbs that they read or hear on TV for truth with no intention of wanting to expand that thought. Therefore when the topics are raised, people shy away from them.

    • You are absolutely right that lack of knowledge is a key in this issue! I think it’s somewhat of a snowball effect–especially with the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, which causes people to take information from a secondary source and then skew it again. Eventually, the facts are so far removed from the original source that they are simply incorrect.

      Thanks for the great perspective!

  13. I agree with you. I have noticed that people these days don’t seem to want to debate anything. The problem with that is that if we don’t discuss and debate then apathy sets in. Once we become apathetic we give governments free reign to implement policy that reflects their own thinking and they become detached from the role of representing us.I am sure that our reluctance to debate and the decline in voter turnout are symptoms of the same malaise. Good post.

  14. The Facebook comment really struck a nerve with me. Maybe if people openly spoke about their views at work; then I would not be so shocked when I read some of the things that seemingly tolerant people at work would post.

    I am also baffled on how fervent some people are on Facebook when it pertains to certain subjects, When I press them if they have written their views to their elected officials; they normally say no. It is like what you wrote…it is like shouting your opinions out a door and then slamming it shut.

    Good read!

    • Yes, people hide behind Facebook. People use it as a personal pat on the back for “standing up” for what they believe it, because it’s easier than actually advocating for change, like writing to elected officials.

      Thanks for stopping by…I loved hearing your perspective!

  15. The real reason we cannot discuss religion, I am learning, is that almost no one knows anything about it, including me, and I know way more than most regarding Christianity, and the more I learn the less I know. I am now on a mission to study other religions so that maybe I can k n ow something about the topic. It is interesting. I Wish I had started this 40 years ago.

    I like ytour blog

    • Yes, I find it is very difficult to fully understand the whole scope of each religion, especially in the context of the culture and society. However, I think having a mindset of wanting to learn and be open minded takes care of many of the holes in knowledge of dates and facts!

      Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  16. Well said and so true! Great blog. 🙂

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