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Taboo Topics

Posted May 25 2009 10:33pm

Ideas of politeness can stifle interesting and productive action. So many rules demark unacceptable conversation. Don't talk about religion. Don't talk about politics. Don't talk about topics that make people uncomfortable. Whatever you say, don't don't talk about sex. Even worse, don't talk about money. That pretty much covers public policy and structures that impact us in daily life. 

Dreams, opinions, and goals are extremely important for the future of our communities and our lives. Because they are important and weighty topics, they often come with taboos. My great-grandfather has been quoted to me on multiple occasions: "Don't talk to a man about religion, politics, or his wife." He was charming, persuasive, well-loved, and an excellent rose gardener; however, he also thought women were immoral if they wore pants.

My beef is with taboo topics. Undeniably they are potential sources of discomfort. They should be handled with care, but they should not be brushed under the carpet. Disclaimer: please do not march into your boss's office and layout a manifesto that is the opposite of her abortion beliefs. That is divisive and counter productive, and a different beef of mine. However, taboo topics can be teased into conversation if both parties acknowledge an interest and a willingness to explore ideas.

Disagreement on those topics can lead to more thoughtful discussion, and possibly, a middle ground. Discomfort comes with the territory. Those who have participated in sweeping social change will be sure to remember the end of segregation and war protests. Those who participated can also see that the world has changed and be proud of their part in the change. I encourage everyone to err on the side of being interesting and constructive instead of falling prey to being bland and vapid.
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