Once upon a time, back in the early 20th century, there were three topics of conversation that were considered ‘bad form’ – money, religion and politics. Polite society deemed them too contentious for the dinner table, club or pub.
You might think times have changed. Everywhere and anyone now discusses money. How much will the bankers bonuses be this year? How little tax exactly have Google, Amazon and Starbucks paid? How big is the government deficit? How high will the Big Six raise energy bills this year? How excessive were your MP’s expenses? How much were the banks bailed out?
But in fact, we’re still not talking money, the conversation is all about the financial situation. Since Bush winningly stated ‘it’s the economy stupid’ the economic agenda has dominated the media landscape. We don’t talk about our salaries, and the pay freezes we’ve had, or how we’re coping on the one salary since our partner got made redundant, or how we’re wondering how to pay for food and fuel now we pay the bedroom tax, or how to feed our children since our housing benefit’s been cut. Those topics are still too personal to be aired by the great British public.
As for religion, well maybe your mates are happy to demonstrate their obeisance at the cult of celebrity, or the fervour of football fanaticism, but actual religion, a belief in a god, or how religion informs their moral framework, again not so much. And that’s not to say that people aren’t reaching out for the guidance, community and questing for meaning that religion has often provided, given the popularity Sunday Assembly and philosophical lectures.
Which leaves politics. Does anyone you know talk about politics ie about their MP, policy that’s being passed into law or debates in parliament? That’ll be a big fat no then. But why not? Politics affects the economy. We have a coalition government that lives and dies by its economic performance – as all Tory governments have done – and every decision they make has a direct impact on our pockets. From lowering the tax threshold for the highest rate taxpayers, to encouraging the Bank of England’s quantative easing, otherwise known as printing money, to supporting banks to lend for mortgages and allowing payday lenders to charge exorbitant interest rates, all of these policies and more has made a difference to your life.
So, I think it’s time to start having these conversations with your family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours. So what if you disagree, or maybe you won’t. It might lead you into a discussion about a community issue you feel strongly about, or inform you about an issue of the day. At least you won’t be discussing the weather, the footie or Katie Price’s latest divorce (although you can as well, if you must!).