Your Political Opinion is Like Pineapple Pizza
The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. These words have been attributed to many notable people throughout history, from Einstein to Aristotle, to George Bernard Shaw.
But why is this simple quote so powerful? Because it is one of the most challenging lessons to learn about life — one which even the most highly educated and illustrious thinkers consistently overlook. It essentially makes the point that wisdom and knowledge are not necessarily correlated with each other, and that an unlimited amount of knowledge still cannot bring a person to the understanding of the nature of knowledge, unless they are willing to except that there is more they don’t know that what they do (🤯). The fact that it is so hard for a person to truly internalize this wisdom in their lifetime not only proves it, but also makes it, in my opinion, one of the most prized ideals of epistemological pursuit for any given individual in their lifetime.
But enough with the pretentious philosophical blabbering. Let’s get to the pizza.
Principle One: It is impossible for any individual to experience 100% of reality.
Reality is different for every individual. Why is it that we cannot have civilized conversations about politics or religion as we do about bands or TV shows. This is a universal thing. Civilized debates are on these two subjects are only possible when they are highly restricted to a very narrow statement, like “higher taxes are good for the lower class”. This statement can be argue with facts and people can learn from it. But debates with the question: “which is better, capitalism and socialism?” are bound to result in frustration, anger, and maybe even the breaking of relationships if both parties do not exercise high self restraint. Why?
Reality is different for every individual.
Why can we make simple arguments like “pizza is the best food”, and no one will get angry? Because it’s clear that a love for pizza is a matter of personal preference. But politics is so much more than a preference! Stay with me, I’m getting there.
Principle Two: It’s easy to accept people taste in things that are simple (Pizza → mouth → brain → feeling → pineapple pizza = good/bad)
There is an interface in each of our experiences where the physical reality gets converted into perception. Where the taste of the food hits the brain and results in an emotional reaction towards that pizza.
Everybody understands that this is only a matter of taste. And everyone has different taste. So disagreeing with somebody’s evaluation of pizza is a perfectly acceptable thing. I won’t break up with you if you don’t like pizza as much as I do.
But when it comes to things like politics and religion, many of us are convinced that there is a right answer (and only one), and that somebody’s preference regarding one of them influences our opinion of that person as a whole.
For example, I have been told by two different people that socialism and anarchy are the only righteous form of government (or lack thereof), respectively, and all others are unjust and exploitative.
So to one person, anarchy is the only way, indisputably, no questions asked. If you disagree, you’re ignorant, uneducated or missing some key facts. And to another person, socialism is the only indisputable right way.
How can these two worldviews exist in the same world, if one is so clearly correct? If one form of government were so blatantly correct with knowledge of a few key facts, then I’m sure those facts would go viral and the entire world would adopt socialism at once.
But that’s clearly not the case. There is no universally perfect ideology just as there is no universally perfect meal.
Ideologies are an outcome of our synthesis of broad and complex systems that exist in the world based on our experiences and observations.
Principle Three: It’s hard to accept people’s taste in things that are complex (Experience → eyes/ears → brain → feeling, multiplied by a billion, one for each instant of life we have lived → socialism = good/bad)
Because our understanding of reality is limited by our perception as an individual, we cannot fathom what we have never experienced.
A person who has never tasted pineapple pizza and been happy about it, cannot fathom the experience of being happy while eating pineapple pizza. Therefore pineapple pizza is bad… for that person.
To the person who has after years of compounded and multitudinous influences from family, friends, media, and schooling, determined that socialism is good, the concept of socialism not being good does not compute, therefore it is bad… for that person.
Arguing about something you’ve determined based on your own reality which was in turn based on your observations and experiences is reasonable, but that doesn’t mean someone who believes the opposite of what you’ve determined is unjust in doing so.
Principle Four: Just because you haven’t met me, doesn’t mean I don’t exist.
Let’s say you know me (for all intents and purpose, you do, since if you’re reading this, I must have written it), and you went up to your friend Bob who has never met, seen, or heard about me, and told him that I exist. Then let’s say Bob started arguing with you, saying that I do not (exist). How would you respond?
You’d probably think he was insane!
But actually, Bob’s opinion is perfectly valid. After all, according to all the evidence he has from his years of life experience, there’s has been no hint of me being a person that exists. But because we know there there are so many more people in the world than the people we’ve met, we can readily accept than there exist people we do not know of. Bob will not argue with you about my existence.
But instead of my existence, what if you went up to Bob and told him that you believe in socialism and only socialism as the correct form of government? He might say he does not think so, because in his reality, it is not. Then you would start arguing with him. This is because we have been conditioned to believe that ideologies are worth arguing about.
But arguing with him is just the same as trying to argue that I exist to somebody who has never met me. It’s futile. Obviously I can exist and there can be people who do not know of my existence. These two concepts can co-exist in the world without conflicting. Me existing is your political opinion, your friend’s unawareness of my existence is his political opinion. Arguing that one is valid and therefore the other is not is equally foolish in both cases.
If you argue I don’t exist, and tell me that you’re absolutely indisputably correct and I’m wrong because I’m missing some key information, I might get justifiably angry at you. That’s when most people would probably lose some respect for the person who made that argument and vow never to broach the subject of the validity of their own existence with this particular person ever again. (*pause and take a breath*)
Now let’s find some middle ground. My existence is not something worth disputing because it can be imagined without being experienced. We argue about politics because we cannot imagine it and therefore it must be wrong. But is there anything we cannot imagine, but just as well accept?
Yes. Other people’s preference of pizza toppings.
So if we out for pizza and you ordered a slice with pineapple, I might disapprove, but I won’t cause a fuss. But if you interrupt my order of pepperoni and start to argue that pineapple is the only right and just topping for a slice of pizza, I might rightly get frustrated.
Later, as we’re eating (I’ve managed to convince the kid behind the counter to give me my pepperoni slice) and you tell me your political opinion, I’ll tell you mine, for the sake of conversation — just so we can get to know each other better — and then go on eating my meal. But if you insist on arguing, I’d simply say: your opinion means just as much to me as your taste in pizza. What’s right for you might not be right for me, and I accept that you like pineapple as a topping. But even thought I personally can’t imagine liking it, I won’t fault you if you do.
Does this mean it’s wrong to have a strong political views. No. But it is wrong to force it on others and tell them they are indisputably wrong to argue otherwise? Yes. By arguing, we are only making people frustrated, not saving the world. And the purpose of conversation is to build and maintain relationships, not save the world.
Order your slice, not mine. We can still eat at the same table.
P.S. — The scenarios above were for rhetorical purposes only. I am, in reality, a proponent of pineapple on top of pizza. ✌️