The Dichotomy of Political Discourse

22 January 2021

Jeff McCarty

Liberal versus Conservative. Right-wing versus Left-wing. Republicans versus Democrats. Us versus them is one of the oldest dichotomies that we have used as human beings. It should come as no surprise then that we have found ourselves in a world full of dichotomies, such as the ones listed above. There is another that I have noticed though. One that has broad implications in the way our society is conducted. This is the dichotomy of politically interested people and those who are not.

Though this is not a new dichotomy in society, it is one that has seemed to become more apparent in society. This year has started in a way that is politically charged from the start. With the events of the January 6th siege upon the Capitol and all the aftermath that has followed, any conscious observer would say that things are more political than ever. More and more events are becoming politicized, and organizations of all types are tending to make public and internal memo’s regarding their stance on the politicized event of the day. COVID-19 has brought a certain air of politicization that is displayed on every signal that one can send. Whether you are wearing a mask or not, or even whether you are wearing your mask properly or not is a political statement. With things like this, and so much more, signaling your political stance, it is hard to think that there is such a thing as people who are uninterested in politics or making political stances.

On the flip side of all this politicization in society are a mass of people who are uninterested in politics. People of this nature do not want to know or take any time to know the current events in the political realm. There can be a variety of reasons that they are uninterested in politics. For some, it is too depressing due to the nature of the ‘swamp’, for others, it can be hard to keep up with the events that shape the political realm. Some just find it plain boring and believe that the decisions made in the political realm are just not of any interest or real importance to their lives. Though this is not the case, and any observer who begins to contemplate what weaves the fabric of society together will conclude where the dots between how politics are conducted and how our lives are lived are undoubtedly connected.

What is apparent though, is it does seem that political discourse is diminishing in certain regards. If you need proof of this, try talking politics at a family dinner or around the water cooler at the workplace (which is even less likely now with more and more people moving to a work from home model, where the water cooler exists in the digital space). For as long as I have been alive, and for much longer I am sure, it has always been conversational taboo to discuss politics with family, friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. The ability to have a discussion rooted in the topic of politics is frowned upon in both personal and professional settings.

The interesting thing that I am observing even as I write this, is that these two dichotomies have reinforced each other. As things have become more political in the public sphere (most predominantly in the realm of the internet and social media), individuals want to find an escape from politics while interacting with those that they are close to, and while politics are shunned from the conversations between individuals, those individuals who do want to discuss politics retreat to the public sphere to have the political discussions they desire.

Breaking the cycle that is created by these dichotomies can only be done in one manner, by realizing the fallacy that is dichotomies. People can be both interested and uninterested in political discourse, as well as that interest can vary at different times, in different places, and in different circumstances. So, whichever side of the dichotomy you think you are on, we must all recognize that it's ok for the other side of the dichotomy to exist, as it exists within us all.

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