A couple days ago, while having a conversation with a group of older and relatively drunk Bath rugby fans, I mentioned how I studied politics. I was met with an expected grunt, a heightened sense of frustration.
The term ‘politics’ has come to signify polarization. The majority of the population seems to be at a point where politics can’t be discussed because our opinions are too distinct to reach any form of consensus. This is demonstrated not just in the partisanship at the legislative level, but perhaps even more dangerous, in the quotidian.
After the initial irritation to the question of ‘what do you study?’, the father of one of the Bath supporters, and one of the more sober figures in the room, approached me. He was a retired shipbuilder from a small village an hour outside of Bath. He explained to me that if I truly wanted to learn about ‘politics’, I should travel around England, and just casually converse with ‘normal’ people. That I should sit in a pub, grab a pint, and listen to what people are talking about. And I will realize, when disregarding the voting and party labels that have come to define people, that at a fundamental level, people just want to survive. They want to support their family, provide food for their children, and maintain a secure livelihood.
He ended the conversation, with a lesson that he learned a long time ago from one his fellow shipbuilders – there is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. The wise man listens twice as much as he speaks.