Sunday, December 25, 2005

Reason #752 why I should just keep my mouth shut

I've learned a harsh lesson in the last year, mostly because of our most recent presidential election. I never understood the notion that something silly like politics could divide family members, but now I know from personal experience how this is possible.

I've had a lot of wine this evening...

I just got back from an otherwise pleasant Christmas evening with my brother and his family. My brother has become a rather surly individual as he's gotten older. I'm sure this stems from having his own business, and his constant dealings with the Philadelphia gentry and their constant demands for lower prices when they need landscaping work done on their summer homes at the shore. I can see how he's become a hard man from all of those dealings. Tonight, I made the mistake of bringing up politics. It was a complete accident. My brother tends to think of such things on a more local level, where my focus tends more the more national and international side. What I learned this evening is that I should never, EVER launch into a discussion of politics. Not even with my own brother, who I normally categorize (only half in jest) as the family redneck.

I'm less frustrated at the fact that he and I are on somewhat different sides of the political debate (although less so than I had originally thought) than I am about the fact that I just don't know shit about articulating my own opinions. I read a lot of books, and a lot of websites, and I am very clearn internally about how I feel. Yet when it comes to defending my position, or even suggesting that someone else should really reconsider, I become this unintelligible and boneless mass of flesh. This really pisses me off. I suddenly feel yet another level of envy about people who are able to succinctly state their opinion, and back it up with quantifiable data. All that happened tonight was that I said some things not very well, realzed it, and then sat there closed-mouthed while my brother listed the reasons why he decides the way he does.

What I do, is just read all the quantifiable data, and then forget the ability to think when confronted with the opposite side of the debate. In this case, what little chance I had to make the attempt at opening my brother's eyes probably did little more than cement the notion in his head that I'm still only 12 years old. What an idiot. This time, I mean me.

I caught myself thinking of how Andy Armstrong would respond in a similar situation. Andy is one of the best debaters I've ever had the privilege to meet and listen to. I know he would have been able to listen to my brother, and addressed each and every point in a way that would have been clear and consise. 'I agree with you on points 1, 4, and 5, but on 2 and three you are wrong, and here's why...'.

I couldn't do that. It's hitting me pretty hard. I'm sitting here wondering what the point of all my reading is. Why do I even bother trying to educate myself about something like this when all that happens is that rather than me demostrating my intellectual capacity, I just make myself look like even more of an idiot. Then, I beat myself up for being stupid in the first place.

I fucking hate politics. If there's any sort of moral to be had here, it's that my idea of just burying my head in the sand is one I should have stuck to a long time ago. I think it's high time I did that now, and leave the discussion to people who are much smarter than I am. This country is going into the shitter really quickly, and we're trying to bring everyone else down with us. I've become so cynical about the end result. I really don't think the people that give a damn will every be in a position to do anything about it. Instead, people like Bush and his friends will always run the show and do whatever the hell they want. I think I should just focus on being one of the people that doesn't get in their way, rather than someone who actually expresses any discontent.

Merry 'effing Christmas.


steve said...

Interesting one that Chris, as long as you are sure you are right (and I'm sure you are) then just because you have difficulty articulating yourself in these situations doesnt mean you are stupid or in fact that you should keep your mouth shut.

Having an opinion is the important thing, make change by your actions and not just by talking.

Andy is a great debater but not always right, and that goes for everyone, being able to articulate your opinions means just that, not much else really, its actions that count ;-)

I've found out to my cost that talking politics with your relations can be divisive, and at times its beyond belief what some people think and believe :(

and I guess you didnt get my text then ?, no worries you can guess the content

Bill said...

Hi Chris,

Sorry your family chat turned sour.
2 things on the banned list for me are politics and religion.
I find people like yourself with reasonable open minded attitudes to the ways of the world never come out well discussing the above with die hards who won't listen during reasonable discussion.
For years I used to have almost stand up rows with my sister in law about politics and stuff, she wouldn't listen to what i had to say. In the end after many years i told her recently that if she wasn't interested in what i had to say i wouldn't bother talking about it anymore and wandered off.
She was really upset, i wasn't sure at the time whether it was because she realised she couldn't bully over her point of view any more or that she thought I was just as rude as she. It turned out that when she tallked to her sister about it, it was because everyone else at her work(school)had started doing the same to her. So at least I found out it wasn't just me had got pissed off with her attitude!

Personally, there isn't much I give a toss about anymore. Politicians are (i hope for the time being anyway) too busy trying to fuck each other over to worry about the small guy(me) and I have too much shit in my life to worry about those guys as well.

The other thing I've found is that you get used to the easy going friends you have. It comes as quite a shock if you meet up with a very opinionated person.
Unfortunately I tend to take the piss out of them now.

It's their loss, not yours, I know you're ok.

Robin Fisk said...

Hi Chris - Happy Holidays - much as I share such a lot of views with my biking buddies, I also realise there are many, many issues I see differently to them. It's not a problem - I just don't go there or walk away.

Different with relatives - you don't choose them....

I have brother-in-law who irritates me constantly - I just switch off for the sake of family harmony...Weak, I know, but I need to consider Chris' feelings.

Its how you live your life, not how well you can debate - that's just a game. Life is real.

Chin up!

Sideways Tim said...

G, you're far too concerned with what you think other people will think of you. State your views, listen to theirs and come away from the discussion with more knowledge than you entered. That's as much as you need.

Don't get so hung up on being like Andy either. I once witnessed him having a mass debate - it wasn't pretty, I can tell you.

Fergie said...

Just express yourself, and do your best to let a caustic response roll off your back. It gets easier the more you do it, but that small felling never goes away completely. (especially with an older brother)

PS Next time you are going to be in NJ, drop me a line, I'm near NYC, and would love to get together for a ride or a pint.

matt said...


Hope you've been having a nice 'holiday season'

Nick said...

Politics Schmolitics. That's for sheep.

Bikearn said...

Was thst wine or whine?

Anonymous said...

you can be right or wrong about adding up a bill, everything else is opinion, shaped by your feelings and life events. Just because someone is very sure of their argument or good at articulating doesn't make them right. I too am crap at arguing, I want to pull someone up about point 2 but by point 4 I have lost the thread of what I wanted to say about point 2, and I get flustered and use a wrong word which I get pulled up on and it all goes pear shaped.

Unfortunately, being a reasonable person means you lose a lot of arguments. But maybe in the long run that makes you a more comfortable person to have as a friend?

(who has forgotten all his passwords)

Kelvin said...

you can be right or wrong about adding up a bill, everything else is opinion
Don't know any accountants then Gary!?

Chris, one of things I don't like about visiting my family is how much my tongue hurts from biting it! Xmas is always the worst for that, thanks to everyone else being pro-hunting and myself having 'normal' views.

As for arguing your case, do you really want to be like Andy and be able to argue so coherently that you can talk to yourself all day and never agree with yourself ;^)

Mike D said...

I find that thinking myself informed is enough. I can't particularly be bothered informing anyone else, if they're not interested in things going on in the world then that's their problem ;-)