Some years ago, the OWL accompanied a local friend to a dinner party in Chicago. It was Christmas time and freezing cold, but the hosts received us with warmth and served us pre-dinner cheese and crackers around the fire place, and the OWL felt welcome and relaxed in the company of strangers. This lovely atmosphere lasted until the roast had arrived on the table and the dinner conversation turned to the upcoming general election. Within a short time, the kind and loving dinner guests morphed into angry, embittered, chippy and small-minded bigots (it was roughly fifty per cent Democrats and fifty percent Republicans and the only thing they all had in common was their complete refusal to listen to any argument put forward by the other side). It ended with silent coffee in embarrassed silence.
At the current time, the Brexit debate is doing something similar to UK dinner parties.
Now – this is the dilemma blog, not the Political MS blog – so let’s leave aside the fact that our democracies will suffer if we all become permanently unable to accept that other people may not agree with our political view. The question here is this: What do we do at dinner parties? Do we chicken out and talk about the weather? It’s comfortable and safe and we’ll be able to sleep at night without shaking. Or do we engage in debate at the risk of helping to create a bad atmosphere? In some circles, talking politics at the dinner table has always been considered bad manners, and the OWL has recently reverted to this position. But is this really the way forward?
Let us know what you think. The OWL is interested in other people’s opinions. So leave us a thought!