“Never Talk Politics”

You might have heard someone say it, you might have even thought it or said it yourself. To me, this is the worst saying ever created, I still can’t believe so many people believe it to be true. Contrary to popular belief, we as people, in fact, should always be thinking about and talking with each other about politics, at every moment, at all times.

The saying may have been attributed to Mark Twain who is quoted as saying “I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”

But first, what exactly is “politics” and why is it so awful?

Merriam-Webster defines politics as “the art or science of government”, and Wikipedia defines politics as “the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.”

These definitions, just like the saying, are equally terrible.

Politics is not complicated, and therefore the definition should be very simple. To me, the definition of politics is “how we as people treat other people“.

Yes, it’s that short and sweet.

Now, when I say “how we as people treat other people,” you can certainly see how that saying can also become more complicated. For instance, when I say “people”, does that mean only human beings, but what about the other things in our society like our companies and property, aren’t they also included? What is the definition of “treat”, do we need provide 5-star service or just the basics? When I say “other people”, who is included in that, and do we define things differently for different types of human beings?

Unfortunately, the way that our politics work is that we try to find divisions, rather than connections, between we as people. Further, when someone doesn’t agree with someone else, they don’t want to listen to what they have to say, and they would rather try to overpower them with their words, arguments, and advertisements. To me, that is actually how “we as people are treating other people”, and therefore our politics reflective of that. And this method of treating people like this is filtered down to all of us, and we do the same thing, and therefore we are as guilty as the country’s top politicians. If we continue to elect people who act like this and expect them to behave differently this, then it’s our fault, not theirs. We should be blaming ourselves, and not the politicians, for how we as people are acting against each other. Politicians are there to represent us, the people, and they are elected based on our behavior, and their behavior is just a representation of ours.

Another reason why politics is such a cesspool, something not to talk about and to stay away from, is because most people don’t know how to actually to talk about politics. But at the same time, it’s okay that we don’t know how to talk about politics. No one’s childhood education starts with talking about politics. On the contrast, everyone’s childhood education starts with other subjects like math, reading, and writing, but there was no class on how to effectively communicate with other human beings who might have different points of view than you, so we have to go alone and hopefully teach it to ourselves. But like math, reading, and writing, politics has structure and rules, and you can’t do math, reading, and writing without knowing about or following the rules. Many people don’t want to learn or follow the rules of politics, and therefore they will fail in obtaining all the glories that proper politics has in store for all of us.

But, at the same time, even though we never learned about politics as a kid, we always learned about politics as a kid.  Even back in elementary school we learned “sharing is caring” as a way of learning how to sacrifice and allocate scarce resources across a society, we learned “do unto others as you want others to do to you” as a way of learning how to treat other people in ways that you would like to be treated, and “honesty is the best policy” as a way to learn not to lie, steal, or cheat others.  During recess we learned to “be a team player” as the key to victory is always through collaboration, sacrifice, and group effort, we learned to “shake hands after a game” as your opponent is not actually an opponent in life, but more likely someone who is exactly like you that also loves the same game you do and allows you the ability to play that game and get better at it, and we learned to “play your position” as you can’t play all positions at the same time as there needs to be order and structure in how to be most effective in playing the game. 

So you see, we always were learning politics from our earliest days, it just wasn’t branded such, and over time, we started to forget what we all learned back in elementary school.

Here is a picture of my 6th grade class. DuFief Elementary School in North Potomac, Maryland.

Speaking politics is simple, but politics is also has a structure and a process you need to follow. In order to do politics correctly, you need to first #1) speak the same language, #2) listen, #3) respond with an open ended question, and finally #4) repeat the steps #1 to #3 again.

#1) Start with speaking the same language. If I’m speaking English, and you’re speaking Urdu, we can’t communicate. The same is true with politics. We have to start with common ground, get to a language where we are both saying the same things, and then realize we are connecting and then we can further expand our thoughts and ideas where things may be different.

#2) You also can’t effectively communicate if you’re not listening, so basically talking about politics can’t be done if you can’t even communicate. Be sure to listen to what the other person has to say, you might want to respond back, but don’t. Just listen.

#3) You are in the business of obtaining information, and information is power, so continue to ask another question that gets the person to share more and more about what he or she is actually thinking. You might want to respond back at this moment, but do not, just continue to have that other person speak.

#4) Repeat steps #1 to #3 again. Make sure you’re always speaking the same language, listen to what the person has to say, and continue to ask them more questions. Don’t do any talking, just do more and more listening, and instead of creating divisions, create more and more connections.

That’s how you talk politics, and the more you follow steps #1 to #4, the more you will win at every conversation you will ever get yourself into in regards to politics. And, because politics is “how we as people treat other people,” we constantly need to talk about it, analyze it, and make sure we are always moving forward and improving.

The more someone speaks, the more they are revealing their thoughts and ideas, but at the same time, the more they speak, the more they are also concealing their thoughts and ideas because we are limited and defined by these words. We have this dilemma as human beings, as we are limited by the words we use to communicate the thoughts and ideas we have in our brains, and then others interoperate impressions of the thoughts and ideas in our brains based on those words. Speech is the most powerful thing we have as humans to both connect or divide us, and if we are not using words to positively change the world, we are not using the purpose of our words correctly.

No one should beat someone over the head, that’s not how it works. We are no longer cavemen, armed with bone clubs, who are extremely primitive, unintelligent, and aggressive. We always have to win with words, not swords. The key is effective communication.

But why do we even need to do politics ourselves when we have our two main political parties who can do it for us?

Because we as Americans are neither political party.

The biggest political party in the USA is the party of no one, as the majority of Americans are Independents, neither Republican, Democrat, or any other political party. The independent voter has no allegiance and no agenda, the independent voter just wants to make the best decision based on the best available options, like a true American capitalist. Republican and Democrat parties are for themselves, and are created for the differences between them, and not for Americans at large.

A proof of this is voter turnout, and we in America tend to not have good voter turnout is because we have these major political parties in America. Don’t blame the low voter turnout on Americans, just blame it on the political parties that create our candidates. Americans will vote when there is someone they are excited to vote for. When there’s no good options, the independent voter will not spend their time and resources for something not exciting. Just like a true American capitalist, the independent voter doesn’t to spend their resources buying something they’re not excited about. It’s very understandable, but don’t blame the independent voter, blame the Republican and Democratic party for being part of a system that doesn’t create and provide the right incentives for the best people in our nation to stand up and serve their country. Also, unfortunately, in this election, there will be millions of voters who will be very excited and motivated to vote for someone not by who they think is a good candidate, but rather who they think is a bad or even evil candidate, which is further sad to our politics and to our major political parties.

So how do we motivate the right people to get involved in politics to change it for good?

In my opinion, the most important thing is to stop vilifying leaders who want to run for office or who are currently in office. Everyone has some form of skeletons in their closets, and we have to stop making people afraid to serve because they have to go through an x-ray machine and publicly displaying and attacking everything about themselves and their families just because they want to present themselves as an option for people to vote for. This system is not allowing the smartest, most passionate people to run for office, they would all rather work in the private sector where they can be heroes and make much more money than putting themselves out there in full public display and risk everything they have established from their careers without any recourse if they lose. At the same time, we all agree there are certain skeletons that should preclude someone from running and holding office, but as of right now, to be eligible to be President of the United States of America, the highest office of the world, all you have to be is at least 35 years old, lived in the U.S. for 14 years, and be a “natural born citizen”. So no one should vilify anyone who does not meet these requirements. Now I do understand there should be more things we don’t want a Presidential candidate to be, so let’s all define it and make it a law so we are all on the same page, but if that’s not going to happen, then there’s no need for anyone to complain about it, especially if you won’t do anything about it yourself.

I would like to introduce other sayings about politics that are more inspiring and words we should all live by.

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” In order to win arguments, instead of attacking, always give sweetness.

“No pain no gain.” That’s also very true, if there’s no pain in politics, there’s no gains. Politics is like the gym, it’s something you gotta do all the time, and it takes lots of time, and the results are not instant and to achieve results you need to go through a lot of pain.

“Practice makes perfect.” You can’t learn how to speak politics if you don’t practice it. And, the more you do it, the better you become at it.

Talk politics at all times, with everyone. 

The more you iterate something the better it gets, and the more ideas and inputs, the better it gets. Remember, politics and conflict is good, when we have politics and conflict, we have different ideas and opinions, and conflict in politics should always be celebrated.  And the more we do it the better it gets. 

The only way it will ever get worse if someone tries to overthrow our politics with unilateral dictatorship and / or group think, which is terrible.  Group think is what led to the global financial crash of 2008 when I was working at Lehman Brothers. We also do not want to solve our disagreements with war or terror, which is unfortunately what happens in our world’s history when politics breaks down.  The most repressive countries in the world repress politics and talking politics and challenging the status quo might be very dangerous, so let us all agree we live in a time and place where we have the ability to challenge leadership, share our voice, and openly express our thoughts about how we as people treat other people. 

Also, because politics is “how we as people treat other people”, there are also some things that should not be included in politics. For instance, there are many issues that are currently in political discussions, but politics isn’t necessarily about every single issue that you personally care about, it’s more about “how we as people treat other people”.

Stop using Facebook for political discussions.

There is nothing in politics that can be reduced down to a simple social media post. Everything is a proper, in-person conversation, and requires lots of time and analysis of history, different points of view, opportunities for change, and actual long-term solutions.

Facebook gets lots of money for political advertisements by political parties, so the more you comment on politics on social media, the more they can target you with advertisements, and the more you lose and the more they gain. Instead, have an actual conversation with someone you might share a different view than you, and try to listen to what they have to say, and create common ground. Remember, you won’t be able to change their views instantly, but instead of changing, try focusing on connecting. And when your focus is about connecting with someone vs. changing someone, you will always win.

It’s very sad what has happened to Facebook.

I was one of the first people to get on Facebook, in June 2004, only four months after they launched.  I was the first person to bring Facebook to Indiana University after I did my internship at Lehman Brothers in Menlo Park, CA.  Some of my friends went to Stanford University and back then Facebook was launched at Harvard University and limited to only students at Ivy League universities, before expanding to more Universities and then broadening to all users worldwide.

What started off with playful conversation with friends on Facebook in 2004 has now evolved into political arguments in 2020.  Kind of like when kids like to play, but then all the old adults are in the living room, everyone has a different point of view and no one is listening to anyone and everyone is always bickering.  As a kid you just want to go outside and play with your friends, as inside you know all the old adults are arguing and being miserable.  That’s the digital equivalent of anyone who posts politically charged posts or comments on Facebook, you might have a point, you might be saying something true, but at the same time, you are also old and miserable.  All the kids who want to have fun are on Tik Tok, where they don’t have to be exposed to you.

Talk politics at all times, with everyone, just do it in the right way.

We are all in the search for truth. Once you find truth, it spreads. That’s the special quality about truth. You don’t need to pay money to advertise truth. Once you share truth, others will share it, and it will instantly go viral. That’s how truth works. The truth is what we’re all searching for, and the truth is out there. It’s not easy to find the truth, and it’s not easy, but we all know when the truth is there, and we’ll all vote for the truth when we know it’s true.

Let us all talk about politics more often, and at all times, it’s the only way we will solve our issues and better treat each other in the same way we want to be treated. 

Tuesday is Election Day in the USA

Go vote! It’s the simplest and more powerful way to practice our political voice.  If you’ll be casting your vote in New York City in Murray Hill, say hi to me, as I’ll be working all day at the polling station at the River School PS 281, from 5am to 10pm.

The River School is an elementary school, which is very ironic. Because the place where we best conduct our politics happens to physically be at an elementary school, the source of where we first learned our education as children. I’m glad every adult has to go to an elementary school to vote, maybe adults can actually learn something about politics that is also being taught at this elementary school to kids.

To me, that is very ironic 🙂