A Toronto Transformation

The Art of Talking Politics

The Art of Politics - Art Gallery of Ontario

Last weekend my mom and I popped by the AGO to check out the (awesome) Alex Colville exhibit. While we were there, we wandered into the art and politics wing of the gallery, a place where my mom could pretty much be an installation, as it was the intersection of two of her greatest passions.

We came across this quote about democracy in the write-up next to one of the paintings, and both really loved it: “”For all its faults, democratic politics is the brave, hugely important attempt of people who don’t know each other well to try to live in peace together.”

Hugely important indeed.

A lot of people, especially young whippersnappers, can’t seem to see the connections between themselves and politics, which, to me, is really bizarre. Politics is the way we determine the rules we all have to abide by and the values we want to be held sacred in our communities. Do we care about how (and how much) our families pay for healthcare? Do we care about access to education? Do we care about basic human rights? Then we have to care about the systems that govern them. Ta-daa! Connected.

Yes, in this country politics can come with a heaping side of old, caucasian gentlemen posturing or sometimes just spouting absolute unrelated nonsense in response to direct questions. But that’s no excuse to ignore the actions going on behind those (admittedly sometimes baffling) words. It can be easy to become disillusioned, but it’s what we do with that disillusionment that matters, and disengaging entirely is not the answer.

If the system is broken, talk about it, brainstorm ways to make it better and work together to make some noise until it’s fixed.

Of course, we can’t work together for change if we don’t actually talk about it.

A lot of people I know are of the mind that it’s somehow impolite to discuss political issues anywhere outside of Parliament Hill, yet have no problem discussing, say, Kim Kardashian’s various body parts. I don’t get it. It seems like some holdover from an etiquette guide that should have been thrown out somewhere around the time women in North America won the right to vote.

Is the fear that they might be exposed to a different viewpoint than their own? That some sort of friendly (gasp!) debate might take place and cause them to re-examine what they previously believed and broaden their own views? That they might start to understand the person they’re talking with better?

I suspect a lot of people are afraid of offending, or being offended on a personal level, and I will admit, discussing political issues is a good time to be extra-sensitive to the feelings of those around you and keep your sense of humour and your ability to recognize when it’s time to say “I can see where you’re coming from, but I just don’t think we’re going to agree on this” and move on, close at hand.

Perhaps people who refuse to take part in any political discourse, even among friends, simply have not made that aforementioned connection, and realized the importance of politics, of discussion and healthy debate, of engagement among citizens in creating a better world for all of us?

I don’t know.

But I do know that ignorance never bred progress. Evolution doesn’t happen when we keep our heads in the sand.

What do you guys think? Do you follow politics? Are political issues taboo in your circles?

11 Responses to The Art of Talking Politics

  • Peter DeWolf says:

    My problem with politics is that I am way too close-minded about the other side. Kind of weird for me, because I can usually see both sides of any argument.

    I was born into a VERY Liberal family, but even if I hadn’t been, I think I would have found my way there.

    I listen to Conservative/Republican arguments and just shake my head. They are like satire to me. I genuinely find it hard to believe people think like that. And I can’t be bothered to engage* because I see them all as either groin-grabbingly stupid (and just repeating shit they heard elsewhere), misguided Christians, or generally self-centered and cold-hearted.

    (*Although I work for our MLA and volunteered a metric crapload of time to his last campaign.)

    So it all leads to me adopting a debating style along the lines of, “Jesus. I’m right. You’re wrong. Now you should shut up.”

    Thankfully in all other aspects of life, I am completely delightful. But you already know that.

    • lilpolcari says:

      Talking politics is definitely not taboo in my family and inner circle of friends. Our discussions often get heated, but they always leave us more engaged and asking more questions. With today’s social media frenzy, there’s the added immediacy and connectivity of communicating with you local representatives, councillors, MPP’s and MP’s. So from these healthy debates can come action and positive outcomes.
      Looks like that was a nice exhibit too, thanks for sharing.

  • My dad and I have a “no politics” rule, which we break basically every time we get together, because he’s a former-hippie turned right-wing-selfish-conservative-Sun-reader, and I’m, uh, not.

    Thankfully, we manage to keep it friendly, even when we’re quite literally yelling at each other. I think we both know that neither of us is going to change our mind, so there’s a sort of comfort in it perhaps. There’s something cathartic about screaming at someone you love when you know you’re not really trying to convince them of anything.

    With my friends and other family? We talk politics all the time. It helps to be mostly on the same relative page of course. That’s not to say that we never have challenging conversations – there’s a lot of nuance and we all come from different places and whatnot, and I love learning new things and being challenged on my long-held beliefs, and I’m a cisgendered WASPy able-bodied woman so I have a lot to learn about privilege and oppression – but we all come at it with a similar viewpoint in general.

    • metamorphocity says:

      I’m with you. I love talking about politics and current events with my pals who don’t shy away from the conversation. I feel like I learn more or am more excited to educate myself further on topics when I get the chance to discuss/debate them respectfully.

      Also, your description of your dad cracked me right up.

  • I don’t think any conversations should be off limits. What is it, politics and religion we’re not allowed to talk about? Um, those two things have huge impacts on the lives of just about anyone. I’m not religious at all, but living in America, religion played a really big role in politics — you couldn’t get elected if you weren’t christian and then you had to institute whatever policies were supported by christians. So yeah, it stops being a matter of personal belief when those personal beliefs impact everyone else.

    But saying that, I don’t think there’s any point in engaging with people online about it — not when you’re both firmly set in your views. I delete/block anyone who has truly terribly, human-harming opinions, but I do think that it’s their right to share them. Talking about politics (or anything!) is only productive when everyone is a little open minded and when there’s a foundation of loving friendship or family, so that you respect the other person enough to really consider what they’re saying.

    • metamorphocity says:

      I’m with you, Shannon. Although I will say I’ve actually had some productive discussions online with strangers who held completely opposing views to mine. Then again, I’ve also been called an idiot whore online by a stranger with an opposing viewpoint. So, win some, lose some, I guess!

  • vdiplacido says:

    I rarely talk politics with my family, although during this year’s municipal election I was surprised to find out my Dad and I supported the same candidate. I was preparing for a debate that never happened on why I should be allowed to put a sign up on the lawn.

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