My Political Science professor gave our class a piece of solid wisdom that I like to repeat when confronted with the “can’t we all get along” mentality in myself and others:
“If you want to be friends with everyone then there are three topics to avoid at all costs: politics, religion and sex.”
Takes all the fun out of everything if you ask me, but it is a very true maxim to follow if your goal to only to have everyone be your buddy.
One of those three topics will get someone’s goat. Rest assured.
I like to let people guess what the three things are when I bring this up in conversation. Everyone always gets “politics” and “religion” but almost everyone struggles with the third topic. We all can see with even minimal life experience that politics and religion fiercely divide people into rigid battle lines, but most don’t readily think of sex as divisive.
Keep in mind it is “sex” and not “love” on our list here. Talking about love rarely irks anyone, but change that to sexual acts and the game changes with it.
Aside from simple prudishness, discussing sex openly and frankly almost always opens up a door for another person to think you are either trying to brag or trying to gross them out.
The key element to understand is that it really doesn’t matter exactly what you have to say about the ‘dangerous trio’ in order to piss someone off with your words. You can be ‘pro’ and not ‘anti’ toward any of these topics and still some people will take offense.
Which brings me to why I’ll just give people my opinion and give it to them straight. Be it on the Internet or in a far less digital context. No matter what I say, someone is pissed that I said it.
So while I could and should take ever greater care to not just beat people over the head my opinions and observations, I also realize the only way to get everyone to “get along” with me is to shut up about the majority of the topics that interest me. Which I find unacceptable.
We as a human race need to disagree, we need to be of different minds and different faiths and different attitudes. It is vital to our growth as individual people and as a larger society to come to terms with the fact that we cannot see eye to eye. Coming to understand the alternative perspective, more often than not, only enhances and strengthens our own understandings.
But much of the value of such exchanges comes from a mutual desire on both sides to understand the other. When one or both sides is only interested in confirming their beliefs all value is lost, and you have yourself a good old fashion shouting match.
Politics stands out a bit from the other two, mainly in that political positions that are not sourced in facts are always hogwash. Every time without fail. But both sex and religion one can be more loose and nonspecific while still making valid points. Religion far more than sex because it relies on “faith” which is the very definition of a lack of logical context forming a belief.
People sometimes mistake me for a fighter, someone who gets off on kicking dirt around. But that is not quite right. I’m highly attracted to polemics and controversy, but it’s not my primary focus of my daily thoughts and musings.
I take zero satisfaction out of smashing an opponent to pieces completely unchallenged on my logic in a debate. It is not even a victory in my mind. I was looking, in all such cases, for a tit-for-tat and not the debate equivalent of a bulldozer running over a daisy. Without a challenge of some sort I end up just feeling bad for having engaged in debate with a person who can’t muster an argument without falling into every single logical fallacy known to man.