Saturday, June 26, 2010

Not up for discussion

Growing up I always heard the "very wise" saying - "Soccer, politics and religion are not up for discussion."
The idea is that those things are very personal and no one has the right to tell someone else what to think about it, no one has the right to tell someone else they are wrong, no one has the right to tell someone else they should consider changing their mind. Those three areas of a person's life are holy sanctuaries that must remain individual and untouched by the rest of the world - alienated if you will forgive me the Marxist word. Each person has their own opinions and no one should tell him/her that they are wrong. Because after all there is no right or wrong on these three areas. There are only opinions. And in the end they affect no one else for good or for worse.
I beg to differ. Yes, you can argue that most of the beliefs we hold are personal, but you can not argue that they must remain untouched by the rest of the world. You can not argue that they affect no one else. You can not say that there are no consequences to my opinions.
So can we really throw politics, religion and soccer in the same bag of sanctuary fields that must remain untouched by the world? Are these 3 things the same thing?
Let me start with soccer.
Soccer - as sacred to any Brazilian as the superbowl is to any American. Can we tell people that they should change teams? Does the fact that your team wins or loses has an ever lasting effect on your well-being? Not really, not to any mentally healthy human. The nature of sports is to be a win-lose event. The side you choose to take is completely arbitrary, and it really does not matter in the end, because teams will win and teams will lose at any given time for any given reason. Soccer is about passion - rational or irrational. And it is about recreation and fun. Sides in soccer, as in any sport, are necessary.
You can maybe convince a person who hates losing that he should consider choosing a stronger team. But in the end - what's the point? No team is ever invincible.
You can however argue of the fairness of a game; over whether or not new rules should be added. These will have long lasting consequences to how the game is to be played so that things get done right. Oops, I guess I am not in the politics field.
So ok, let's go to the next word:
Politics - Can I tell people that their political views are wrong and that they should change them? Does the fact that a political move or trend gets put into place make any long lasting difference in people's lives? Oh, yes it does. The world is made up of politics. It might not be easy to tell best practices from bad practices. It might be hard to tell which moves will have better or worse consequences. But since when difficulty of interpretation is a reason for anyone to quit trying to understand things that will affect their lives? Since when difficulty of interpretation is a reason to say we should stop trying to figure this out and let it be - when what happens because of that will affect the way we live? The fate of those who don't care if to be controlled by those who do. It's your choice to make - you can choose not to argue - but decisions will be made and you will have to live with its consequences.
So yes, politics can and should be up for discussion. It's normal to have differing points of view, and they must all be legitimate - but choosing such points of view is not arbitrary. They have reasons that back them up, ideologies, historical backgrounds, and projections for the future. All of these are things that can be measured and evaluated. Politics must be up for discussion, because politics influences our lives in very real ways.

Religion is one area that people who don't have will say it's just like soccer. Some people who have a religion will also say it really does not matter. You can't tell people which one is right or wrong, better or worse. The major issue here is that choosing are religion seems like an arbitrary decision, just like choosing a soccer team. Not so much like choosing a political side, in which one must ponder ideologies, history and projections for the future. The reason why this confusion happens is that religion is based on faith. And faith is often confused with irrational preference. However anyone who takes religion seriously knows that what you believe about the spiritual world affects the way you live in the material world. religion is not so much about how its consequences affect the world, but more about how it affects the individual who holds that faith. But it still deals with serious long lasting, I dare say ever lasting consequences. To me a Christian, being told I can't talk to another person about my religion is like being told not to tell anyone about the map to El Dorado I just found. It will change your life! I must tell you about it! You may choose not to believe it, but you will be passing on the chance of a lifetime. No, it's more than that. To me a Christian, being told religion is not something that must be up for discussion is like being told not tell people that they are in jail, but that I have found a way to escape. Yes, I can escape alone. But why would I want to do that? I do know that every religion deals with getting man back in touch with the spiritual world. Religion is about the spiritual world, a world we don't see our touch or smell, but that is very real. You can choose to ignore it, but it still is a reality. You can choose not to make decisions, but that means someone else will make them for you. You might not harm anyone with your decisions but yourself, but you must be willing to take that chance. So religion must be discussed.

Out of all three fields, only soccer is really irrelevant enough to fit the category of things that are not up to discussion, and only when it has to do with personal preference for a team. So much for popular wisdom.
Let's bring politics and religion back to the place the deserve - subjects that matter, and that must be "up for discussion", regardless of whether or not we all get to a consensus on them.

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