Is there such a thing as a taboo topic anymore? I, alongside many other people, was raised to believe that there are certain subjects that are simply verboten to discuss, namely the trifecta of taboos: sex, politics, and religion. Even money is considered to be a dirty topic of conversation to dive into. However, we live in a world where these themes are headline news on a daily basis, exist in almost every form of advertising whether it be for a juice product or lingerie, and pervade popular culture. Not a single day goes by when I've not read some article or heard some talking head discussing all of these matters, and sometimes in the same 60 second sound bite.
Why are sex, politics, and religion taboo matters, not suitable for public discourse in the first place? Is it due to people's inability to hold civil and rational discussions, or even debate, on said matters? Do we have concerns over souring relationships if these issues are discussed? Are legal dictates dissuading people from discussing the delicacies surrounding sex, politics, and religion? Or quite simply, are these impolite matters to raise in mixed company?
My parents and teachers always told me to use my head in all walks of life. Look both ways before crossing the street; Show people respect; Do unto others, and, so on. At the core of each of these lessons is to always use common sense. Makes sense, right? So then, shouldn't common sense simply prevail in discussing any subject matter? Can't one determine through logical reasoning and judgment what topic works for a particular audience? Surely, we all know that you shouldn't discuss anything at work that could get you fired. Nor, should you say something in a bar that could result in getting your teeth knocked out. Even in one's own family, don't bring up matters if it's only going to start a war.
For example, if you know that Aunt Sally is a right-wing puritanical born again Christian conservative, it wouldn't be a great idea to engage her in a political and philosophical debate about gay rights as a neo-left wing Buddhist liberal. Common sense would tell you not to bother because you won't change Aunt Sally's mind. However, if you enjoyed a heated debate and it wouldn't tear your family apart, have at it. Freedom of speech allows us to speak our minds, save and except for promulgating hate speech or inciting hatred. In that vein, any person can discuss whatever they please and should feel free to do so free from punitive reprisal anywhere, including at work, in a shopping mall, at a party, or even within one's own family. At the same time, people should also know their audience. Unless of course a person wants to receive a severance package, never speak to their aunt again, or be fitted for dentures.
I walk the path of performing due diligence on my audience before I delve into the deep, dark waters of expressing my opinion one-on-one about an issue that could make a person go "hmmm." Since I've become a writer, moreover a satirist, I've come to learn that no subject is off limits. This was great advice given to me by the incomparable godfather of modern satire, writer Gary Shteyngart. Hence, nothing is taboo. As a writer and blogger, I put my ideas, opinions, and thoughts out into the ether of the Interweb not knowing who is going to read my musings or how they will react. Frankly, if a writer cared about how people would react to what they wrote, they'd be paralyzed by that concern and never write again.
I'm not restrained by that concern simply because my friends, family and coworkers know who I am and what I really think based on having a personal relationship with me. For example, I don't publicly tell anyone how I vote, although people assume that they know based on things I write or say. On election night a few weeks ago, I tweeted about the Liberal win in Ontario and everyone assumed that I voted for anyone but the Liberals. I never disclosed for whom I voted. That secret is held in confidence between the ballot box and myself. I like to throw curve balls into the mix to keep things fun, but I'll never tell anyone who actually got my vote except for a few confessors with whom I share my life and confide in.
In a world where geographic lines and borders have been blurred by disruptive technologies that have brought us closer together, where we live under a constant threat of terrorism rooted in one religion wanting to eradicate another, where politics is mired in theocracy, where sex sells, how can we still say that sex, politics, and religion are taboo? I argue that there's nothing we can't talk about. In fact, by saying that nothing is off limits, the taboo boogeyman is destroyed and people are free to discuss what they want. But, take heed, before you open the floodgates wide letting the mad waters rush out, listen to that little common sense birdie on your shoulder telling you to pause before speaking, otherwise that birdie won't be the only one to crap all over you.