Though politics may be an uncomfortable topic for many, having the potential to rend relationships irreparably in two, or turn a happy Thanksgiving gathering into a screaming hell, knowing someone’s politics can and often is immeasurably important.
This is because it necessarily speaks to one’s interpretation of reality, one’s core ethics and values. And since most people are not prepared to define their metaphysical, epistemological, and moral primaries (they have them, they just can’t articulate them) qua metaphysics, epistemology, and morality, talking politics is, I would argue, a great vehicle for learning them. Because , let’s face it, everyone has has an opinion–an articulated, and generally well thought-out opinion–on politics. Everyone. Even those who insist they don’t almost certainly do.
Political opinions are more than just a window to the soul…to the rocky depths of a person’s entire belief system. They are a giant glass dome which offers a view into the foundational character of a person–a character based upon the philosophical assumptions by which they interpret all of reality, including and especially how they value other people, of which I am one. And how and when I expose myself to philosophical assumptions from which either positive or destructive behaviors will flow towards me is something over which I prefer to have control. Because this is the key to happiness. That is, the key to happiness is avoiding abuse. And abuse is always applied as an extension of the most basic ideas about the nature of reality, and especially the value of others. And one’s politics quickly and easily illuminate these ideas.
Add to that, you and I are not superheroes. We have a very limited amount of emotional and intellectual capital to spend, not to mention time. I’d rather spend it on people who do not hold drastically different assumptions, as those relationships are almost certain to fail, and with that failure will cost me the requisite amount of psychological and emotional fallout.
In 44 years of life never had a good–well, a close–relationship with a leftist–a collectivist: Marxist, socialist, Statist, a communist, or mystic (a religious person whose beliefs are rationally inconsistent…which is most of them). The reason is simple: these people concede something about human nature–at the most basic level; at the level of metaphysics and ontology–that is the categorical antipode of what I believe. This root assumption about humanity–about me–gives meaning and purpose to all they think and do. And because the core beliefs are so utterly different, there is no real compatibility in the relationship, and this must become evident sooner or later. In other words, if your fundamental beliefs are utterly opposed to mine, so must your behavior be also. And that’s behavior which I must, due to the value I place upon myself and truth, avoid to the greatest degree possible.
In other words, it’s hard to play checkers with you if you bring a racket to the table and proceed to swing at the pieces. If we have completely different fundamental ideas, we are playing at completely different games.
So…that’s why politics.