2011-11-09

Politics, Religion, and Sex

Those who are different, change the world. Those who are the same, keep it that way.
The momentum of our changing world is driven by controversy and compromise. Change cannot happen without discussion and disagreement.

There are three things that society advises against discussing in polite company: Politics, Religion, and Sex.
In the spirit of investigation and progress, I am going to discuss why I question that logic. I do think there is an appropriate time and place for all things, however I think that the priorities and concerns with the discussion of these "taboos" have been so confused that there is no longer any room for the important intelligent discourse which drives discovery and change.

POLITICS
I would like to begin with the topic of Politics. By the very nature of what it is, Politics is a public matter. Your political opinion -- whether educated or ignorant -- affects us all through the magic of democracy. It is, therefore, very important that we all nurture mature and well-informed political opinions. That doesn't mean that I think that everyone should always stand atop a stump and proclaim their opinions to the world; in fact, I think that practice is part of the problem with the discussion (and practice) of politics. When did being right become more important than doing right?

Standing atop a stump or screaming in someone's face will never produce change. Remember what I said in my most recent article? "I learned years ago that you cannot change to a new system through confrontation or arrogance; you change through education in the new system while simultaneously slowly moving the old practice toward obsolescence." Education is the best way to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the idea/opinion currently held and the idea/opinion you would like to see.

I propose that political discourse is appropriate wherever a willing person or group is found. Please take note of the word "willing"; I've discussed previously that it's always important to me that a person's choices not interfere with the choices or freedoms of others. So, handing out pamphlets is acceptable, but physically stopping a person from carrying out their choices is definitely not. You should attempt to educate, not alienate.

RELIGION
With Religion, things get a bit more tricky. I think Religious preference is a personal choice and therefore should only be announced or discussed within familiar circles. I think it is fine that one would become excited about their personal choices, but it is very important that it be recognized and accepted that no one else should have to agree.

Quiet presentation is really the only appropriate method. Religion is generally something coached and conditioned throughout life, so it's deeply set. If you wish to discuss religion, I suggest that you spend more time asking questions than you do making your own statements. All-too-often a person will push a religious (or anti-religious) opinion which would not have been said without the religious pretense. Simplified, this is the "No offense, but..." approach to discussion. You hear someone say this and you already know that what they're about to say is wholly insulting, but they think a passive-aggressive statement will be less abrasive.

Recognizing my initial point that religion is a personal choice and should be mutually respected, should eliminate the desire to "change minds" and instead promote an intelligent exercise in listening and understanding.

SEX
Sex is a topic which I think American society has gotten completely backwards. The typical American family is frightened to discuss the topic, so they wish a class into schools to discuss it. The schools, in turn, have to dance around the two previous taboos (Politics and Religion) as they explain something perfectly natural to a classroom full of curious adolescents and/or teenagers.

In the home, a discussion about sexual choices should be as comfortable as a discussion about religion. Why is it that some parents can tell a child about one man murdering another (Cain and Abel), but they can't talk about eggs and sperm? What's worse is that this lack of communication is a learned behavior; sex has become an exercise in shame, instead of an exercise in relational interaction. Similar to religion, I think that sexual interaction is a personal choice. As long as that interaction does not hinder the freedoms or choices of another person, it is not something to be hidden or shamed.

So, how do people learn? If they don't already understand something, such as the example of a room full of students in a high school class, where do people turn when they want to learn? By building this wall of shame and taboo, we've prevented a healthy investigative process. It's important that this type of discourse happens first among friends and family (a place of already-known safety). Not only do you strengthen the feeling of trust for the individuals involved, but you have also possibly introduced new questions to a place where ideas and opinions have a tendency to stagnate.

The fascinating fact about discourse is that ideas and opinions change. The discussion of these topics through considerate exchange is the only way to truly evaluate the strength and logic of our ideas and opinions. However, one must recognize that these topics are tied closely with personal identification and security, so it is a horrible violation if you do not first ASK if you may talk about the topic of choice.

Furthermore, if someones decides they're done with the conversation, then it's over. Thank them for their willingness to participate in whatever fashion they already have (e.g. taking a paper, a few minutes of questions, sharing their opposing opinion). It's time to show some respect in discussion, maybe that'll change our mood about beginning them.
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