Polarized!

The big news of the week is of course the passing of the healthcare reform bill in Washington DC. So now I will spend this blog post telling you why I am not going to talk about it.

It would be stating the obvious to say that this is a highly divided nation. Half of us love the president and half hate him. Half of us think the way forward is one way and the rest think the opposite. Now I have my opinions on the matter, but there are times and places to share them and in this blog is not one. For that matter, neither is the workplace. For while everyone has an opinion and will state it quite forcibly, it is rare for anyone to actually change their mind in these debates. I consider In the Pipeline my primary work-related blog, so the post on the healthcare bill this past Monday I think reflects how a work place discussion might go. It is still getting frequent comments today (very unusual for that blog) and as far as I can tell from my cursory inspection, no one has changed anyone else’s mind. So why bother trying?

I know, a defeatist attitude. At work (let’s put aside the futility of persuading anyone via the internet for the moment), you might have a shot at persuading someone, you are both reasonable people, you have thought about the issue long and hard and have good arguments to present. So why not?

Well because people tend not to be reasonable about certain subjects. Politics is one of those subjects, along with others – religion, race, sex. So you might persuade a colleague of your point of view, or you might end up alienating someone you need to help you move a project forward. In a risk against benefit analysis, I think it is clear where the best conversation move lies.

Strangely, one of the subjects in which people are entirely unreasonable but is safe enough for work chit-chat is sport. The passions people have for their favorite team are still present, the delight they take in a rival’s fall is there, but it seems that it comes across as banter rather than invective. A loss is painful, but does not cause anger. Plus, there is no attempting to convert someone that their team is the one to support – the lines are more clearly and permanently drawn. Even stranger, it can make you closer to that person, due to a rivalry, a passion you share, albeit from a different side.

So if you ask me about healthcare reform, I’ll give a neutral answer. We can keep the more heated discussions to matters of science.

3 comments on “Polarized!

  1. Chemjobber says:

    “A loss is painful, but does not cause anger.”

    Boy, you must not have seen me during the Superbowl. :-)

  2. Hrvat says:

    You mean I can’t convert you from the 3 Lions to the Vatreni? Come on, you would look great in a red-white checkered jersey!

    Best wishes in South Africa.

    • David Perrey says:

      Chemjobber: I didn’t say sports fans aren’t passionate about their teams and are not upset when they lose. It just doesn’t seem as vitriolic as the political debates.

      Hrvat: I like red and white, but come to think of it, I will stick with mostly white. (though how you can suggest I just change my national team I don’t know – I should at least meet some kind of residency requirement).

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