Bread & Butter Politics

2014-07-21 06:34

Politics and Religion- two subjects (among others) that people are warned from bringing into social conversations, especially when in the company of acquaintances or potential business networks. Lest we forget, sport could also form part of the list, especially after Brazil’s recent butchering at the hands of the Germans. Some, I would imagine are still quite sensitive.

Still, no other topic is as hotly contested as politics or religion. One need not look further than the Middle East for a practical example of the extent to which politics and religion can impact on people’s livelihoods; how divisive they can be.

Sex talk, on the other hand will probably get people gushing uncomfortably or chuckling hysterically. Although people will possibly call you a pervert once you’re out of earshot, it’ll not be a deal-breaker.

Things almost got out of hand one day on the Twitter-verse as a handful of us discussed Number One’s health-reaching the broad consensus that perhaps it was time he took time off to look after his brood. One gentleman joined the conversation accusing some of us of playing the man and not the ball. “Are we now NOT allowed to discuss the President’s health?” I quizzed. When did something as seemingly harmless as discussing someone’s health become such a sensitive issue? I suppose we touched someone on his studio then!

Some like to say they have no interest in politics; hence they don’t vote or even watch the news. Some understand that there is no way one can speak of e-tolls, for instance, without referring to the policies that created them and therefore, politics. There is no way to speak of the socio-economic milieu or the price of bread and fuel without making covert references to internal or external politics.

There is an understanding that politics is more than witnessing someone being kicked out of parliament or canvassing during election season. It’s more than someone getting angry because the other does not speak favourably about their cadre. See, those are just the tip of the iceberg-things that are probably meant to serve as a distraction from bigger and more pertinent issues.

Heywood defines Politics, in its broadest sense as, “the activity through which people make, preserve, and amend the general rules under which they live”. Therefore, politics are etched in every facet of our lives, whether we choose to acknowledge this or not. It determines our limitations in acquiring and accessing opportunities to employment, tenders, et cetera. The patronage system is a construct formed in the realm of politics that opens up channels of privilege and advancement to those who are connected.

There are many reasons people wouldn’t want to discuss politics. For some it pays the bills: As one commentator wrote, “in many careers, it is wise to keep [one’s] political views private to avoid possible repercussions”. For others it is an uncomfortable issue that reveals more than anything how politically intolerant others can be.

So, yes, perhaps to avoid stepping on each other’s toes we ought to only discuss safe topics like how Kim Kardashian twerks in the bedroom; how one guy blew R 40 000 on drinks in one night at a Sandton night-club…or how about 10 signs that your (wo)man is cheating on you?

…What do you think?

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