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The use of paper straws is one of a number of deeply felt issues dragged into contemporary culture wars.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Meal kits are great for keeping yourself fed while saving time and energy. An insulated box arrives at your door with exactly the type and quantity of ingredients you need to cook a few preselected recipes – no waste, no grocery shopping, no need to work out the meal-planning logistics.

But also, no à la carte flexibility. As we sometimes tell recalcitrant toddlers: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” What you gain in convenience, you lose in choice.

That trade-off might be worth it when it comes to easy weekday meals. But that’s an absurd and destructive way to think about the world, and it’s not the way any mature and thoughtful person forms opinions.

As politics become increasingly tribal in Canada, the corrosive effects of social media more present in real life and cheap call-out culture exerts more influence on public life, there are too many people who insist you select your worldview from a set menu of “correct” takes.

Do you see multiple shades of grey in something complex? Maybe you agree with one camp on these three points of a given issue but the opposing camp on two others. Ever had a friend or someone within your tribe lambaste some terrible opinion, and by the time they made clear how hateful/stupid/just plain wrong it was, it didn’t seem worth explaining that you think the same thing?

This is happening with weighty, deeply felt issues like the Israel-Hamas war but also in the smaller proxy fights of the culture wars, like paper straws, J.K. Rowling or the updated Canadian passport pages.

You run into this even if you happen to agree with a certain opinion, but maybe the 4/10 version of it seems reasonable to you, not the 10/10 extreme. Too bad: either you’re Team Good or Team Evil, and to utter or even think the words “Yes, but maybe …” marks you as a thought traitor. When it comes to the menu of accepted orthodoxy, no substitutions or deletions are allowed.

That’s what the loudest voices would have us believe, anyway, and their stridency gives them outsized influence on our collective conversations. Their way of thinking treats nuance as a gotcha moment to be dunked on, rather than what it usually is: a sign of thoughtfulness, uncertainty or humility.

Which is of course ridiculous. And more to the point, that complex, uneven – even outright conflicting – territory is exactly where most people live in their view of the world.

Last October, the Angus Reid Institute released a suite of opinion research entitled “Canada and the culture wars.” They segmented people into five groups based on how they see the current cultural conversation, as measured by their opinions on a range of controversial topics, including climate change, inequality, gender identity and racism. Roughly 20 per cent of people fell into each category – which means those very certain screamers at the extremes are outnumbered by the people who think something more subtle sounds right.

For example, most people would be supportive if their child came out as transgender, but most also want to be informed if their child changed their pronouns at school. And while the majority of Canadians agree that climate change is a big problem, many see the cost of living as a higher priority or question the value of carbon pricing.

“What’s being reflected back to us is if you are not all-in or all-out on a whole range of issues, then what Canadians are coming away with feeling is that there is no place for them in public, political or societal discourse,” says Shachi Kurl, president of the polling foundation. “Whereas actually the majority of Canadians sit on the inside of that spectrum.”

So let’s stop playing those roles, or shoving others into them. Enough with the tyranny of orthodoxy and treating any disagreement as instant evidence of bad faith.

Your brain and your window on the world aren’t a no-substitutions-allowed meal kit. It’s a grocery store where you can pick up and discard what works for you. If someone doesn’t like the looks of what’s in your shopping cart, that doesn’t make you an awful cook – or a terrible human being. It just means they want something different for dinner tonight.

The underlying irony is that most of us don’t even want to play this game.

When Angus Reid asked people to pick the word they most associate with the culture wars, a clear majority of Canadians picked two words: “divisive” and “exhausting.”

Now there’s something all of us can agree on.

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