Do not misunderstand me. The following are not things one should not talk about. These are things that should be talked about in their time and place, yet can monopolise our conversations like a party-goer finishing other people’s jokes.
1. Israel/Palestine – How has a distant land dispute become the focus of so much of our political discourse? Tribalism, naturally, but it remains ludicrous that we spend so much of our time debating a faraway conflict which barely affects us – a faraway conflict, indeed, which we can barely affect. Englishmen do not have the excuse of lobbyists keeping it left, right and centre as BICOM are amateurs next to AIPAC. The argument for staying the hell out of the situation appears overwhelming. As an idea, it should be called Zzzzionism.
2. Creationism – What does it matter if Hank Burns from St. George, Utah thinks that men walked with the dinosaurs? Leave Hank alone. Not everyone has to be right about everything.
3. Feminism – Feminism, as a concept, is used more to rhetorical than dialectical effect. One hopes, be one a feminist or an anti-feminist, that people who support elements of one’s agenda will be drawn into embracing it all. Rhetoric has its place, of course. Culture wars are never clean. But the problem with these slanging matches over the f-word is that they can dumb down the arguments around such various and complicated questions as sex differences, sexual relationships, abortion, gender in the workplace, prostitution and pornography. Smart people should duck out of signalling sprees now and then to talk about actual issues in more detail.
4. Jeremy Corbyn – Look. I get it. The man is as out of touch as your year ten music teacher. He has no more chance of winning the election than Callaghan’s corpse. Yet I have grown tired of hearing about his latest antics, partly as he seems like a nice chap and I feel bad for him and partly as he is almost entirely insignificant and there are more important questions to be discussed. What will happen to the Labour party after his departure? What will preeminence do to the Conservatives? Perhaps I will be proved spectacularly wrong and that much fantasised about meeting between Prime Minister Corbyn and President Trump will come to exist but I think we should let him slip inelegantly towards his retirement.
5. The EU – A doomed request, of course, as we will hear about little else for the next couple of years except immigration, dead celebs and The Great British Bake Off. My beef is not with people who think is important, as it is, but people who over-emphasise its importance: dragging arguments that transcend it down to its level. Take immigration. Immigrants from within the EU bring fewer problems and more benefits to Great Britain than their non-EU equivalents. Take foreign policy. Our disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya had nothing to do with the European Union. The EU debate deserves prominence in our discourse but it should not act as if it runs the only show in town. Our leaders may still be globalists without supranationalism – just globalists with a different set of friends.
6. Twitter – Just because one has little more in one’s life than arguing with strangers on the Internet does not mean there is little more to life than arguing with strangers on the Internet.
Right? Okay. Excellent. What shall we talk about now?