Why isn’t politics germane to good conversation? Why is it a dangerous topic to discuss in public? The answer lies with what conversation is for and what distinguishes harmless, approving subjects from the more important and yet contentious ones.
Conversation makes up a large percentage of communication, and remains the source we seek approval of the others. But what has changed is the nature of conversation itself. It used to be solely between family members, whereas nowadays it is done between competitive peers in society.
Today the objects of value (what we seek approval about) are no longer about being a good family member, but about a fickle and competitive identity market that’s based on consumption of commercial products and entertainment. Our identity no longer comes from our family or some old system, but from consumption (i.e., the type of entertainment or appropriate products). Thus, our conversation has shifted to a negotiation about cultural identity between social/economic equals. That explains why it’s easier to talk about superficial stuff like sports, movies, fashion or other cultural products, as opposed to the more serious (i.e., fundamental) stuff like religion or politics. They lack commercial value, and therefore are inimical to conversation. The only time it’s profitable to to mention the serious topics is for the sake of harmonious approval among members of the same worldview.
Because the motivation of conversation is to gain social approval, we pay attention to the stories, to personal anecdotes, sarcasm as opposed to accurate objective reasons. We exchange product preferences based on subjective tastes that are validated by accepted commercial values (cool, hip) which aren’t themselves available for careful scrutiny.