Opinion

What Happens When Politics Becomes a Bit Too Personal ?

If politics is starting to ruin your relationships, then you might want to seriously consider any of the following solutions.

By Eve Willis

In case you forgot, it is (unfortunately) 2019 and the divisive rhetoric generated by the decade’s heavyweights, Brexit and Trump, have come crashing into the harmony of private lives across the country. Political frictions have been frequently cited as the guilty party responsible for splitting up relationships, souring friendships and bringing debates from the TV screen to the family dinner table. 

But what should you do when political disagreement disturbs your social serenity? Should you just accept that your grandad is low-key a fascist ? Should you ruthlessly block anyone who posts an alternative political viewpoint to your own (even if it’s your hairdresser and she is the only person who can cut your fringe right)? Should you incite a Leave/Remain duel with everyone at anytime… even if it means you don’t speak to your family for a month, because you apparently  “ruined” your aunt’s birthday ? Or should you just shut up about your personal opinions to maintain social tranquility?

It can be difficult. Political views are derived from strong beliefs on morality, what is right and wrong, how people in society should be treated and which issues governments should prioritize, alongside the type of people that we want to represent us. If someone in your family or friendship circle supports a person who is openly racist or sexist – or who doesn’t champion the same issues that you yourself care passionately about  – how easy is it to set aside your principles to avoid conflict? 

Well there is no easy answer. Even Bojo’s own family has been split by Brexit, with Johnson’s brother Jo quitting politics due to “unresolvable tension” between family loyalty and national interest. However, here are some ideas…

Avoid it 

A favourite British pastime anyway? As my mum told me before I came home after a semester at uni, I was absolutely not allowed to bring up politics, football or my brother’s exes at dinner time, due to all these topics’ catalytic potential for family war. Admittedly, ignoring it is not the best or easiest solution, but there are definitely some occasions when evading conversations about the viability of Corbyn’s manifesto promises or the Tories’ lack of compassion in their immigration policy is your best best. For example, once a year family gatherings, funerals and your sister’s graduation (or generally occasions that are ‘happy’)  are not the best times to get stuck into election-fueled squabbles.  

Score: 8/10 effectiveness.

If you can’t beat ‘em… join ‘em?

It could be that your boyfriend, girlfriends, siblings, parents have a point? Have a conversation with them about why they think the way they do. Maybe if you give your friend or family member the chance to explain their viewpoint, you will better understand the reasoning behind their political convictions.

Score: 5/10 effectiveness (could go either way).

Cancel everyone who doesn’t share your opinion

For some, if your political views are deeply personal – which for many they are – removing the people who hold beliefs that completely go against yours may be the only option. Deleting old school friends for their “Make Britain White Again” Facebook status is totally understandable… but blacklisting your own father for voting for Brexit is slightly more problematic. It is easy to curate your social media and friendship groups to be in alignment with your views, but arguably this creates harmful echo chambers, where no one actually reaches out to or understands people who have a different opinion. Cancelling your family may also be a step too far. After all, don’t we all vote conservative when we turn 34?

Score: 3/10 effectiveness. 

Agree to Disagree 

What a wise idea I hear you say. Well, in theory great but in practice, challenging. When a close friend tells you they voted for Brexit because they “fancied a change up” and now have subsequently changed their mind, remaining calm and collected is difficult. However, if you are of a relaxed temperament and are not easily wound up, then this can be an ideal method. 

Score: 7/10 effectiveness (depending on how much you can channel your inner zen). 

Book a flight to a very far away country  

Preferably a place that doesn’t speak your language or has internet. Retreat from western politics and ply your problematic partner/ family member/ friend with Piña Coladas. Problem solved right?

Score: 10/10 effectiveness.

Eve Willis is a final year Liberal Arts student at the University of Surrey.

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