The CBC has been on a fact-finding mission; they want to know why so many people, and young people in particular, are uninvolved in politics. They have asked ‘experts’ (self-proclaimed, no less) to chime in, they have brought forth their own opinions, they have even tried to compare politics to sporting events. None of it has brought them any closer to the truth.
There are many legitimate reasons for the lack of interest, but none of these have been considered. Young people are not uninterested in politics; young people are uninterested in politicians. If anyone doubts this, they need only try to tell a young person what to do (or what not to do.) The youth are fiercely independant and do not easily subject themselves to the trappings of authority, to their credit. The youth have always been an energetic and enthousiastic voice for change when it was needed (do you remember the ‘Printemps Érable’?) They just don’t like the system as it stands, and they are simply not hypocritical enough to use it for the obtention of their objectives. After all, politics is full of old people, and old people don’t listen to the young.
This is not about apathy. If the youth understood to what extent politics affects their lives, they would say so aggressively. Futility is probably a better word. No matter how hard we push, some things never get done, some promises are never kept, and some people can never be trusted. In essence, trust in the government is a more important consideration. Dissatisfaction with the results of misplaced trust is another leading factor. Politicians tend to promise many things which they cannot deliver, whether or not they know this when making those promises speaks to the trust issue once again. Is it ignorance or deception? If we do not know, we will assume the worst. Neither do we seem surprised if it is deception. For once, we might say, expectations were met. If the above reasons are true (or can be shown to have some merit,) the only conclusion we can come to is that there is a tremendous waste of time and money involved.
With apathy not being the case, and futility, dissatisfaction, and mis-trust being the key issues, how can we re-engage the populace to take more action when it comes to picking a leader? Given that most leaders tend to act in similar fashion when elected, and that most of them are not particularily charismatic to begin with, perhaps, as was positied by one of the CBC’s guest analysts, all which needs be done is to jazz up the look of advertising. Saying that the young are so superficial that an improved ad campaign would change everything is naive and insulting. The truth is that the ads reflect the state of politics: black and white and boring, the way it should be. We certainly don’t need to put lipstick on this pig; we need to explain that this is where bacon comes from.
A question to consider is that of participation rates. Why is it that if 60% of the population doesn’t vote, their voices are ignored? Since there is no opt out of elections, people who don’t vote often are voting by doing just that. As in the Richard Pryor movie “Brewsters Millions” ‘none of the above’ could be one way to measure the votes which are never returned. Another solution might be to have a more direct form of democracy by holding referendae over the internet for every major decision which needs to be made. Of course this would put many politicians out of work, and so we can expect some pushback over this hands-on level of voting. The Swiss have a limited form of this system, and they are the only ones who do. Ironically enough, none other than Muammar Gaddafi was relentless in his tirade against the western idea of democracy and how within it, the dissaffected were voiceless. He wasn’t wrong. There can be ways to do this efficiently and safely (voting from your home is a better alternative than voting on a weekend) as David Bismark clearly demonstrates here.
There is also the notion that the most important election issue is always the economy. The consequence of this is that the focus on all other issues melt away more and more as the election date nears. For many, the economy is not and will never be the most important thing to vote on because nobody really understands anything about it. People generally make enough money that any ‘pressing’ economic issues do not significantly affect their bottom line, no matter who is elected.
It is true that people are generally un-involved in the local and national politics of their regions (unless there is a severe crisis) because it doesn’t really make any difference either way. If the policies are seen to lead the country down the wrong path, they can always correct the problem within a matter of a few short years. People have become reactionary not proactive, and perhaps that is the problem with voter turn-out. The population is constantly distracted with sports, celebrity, fashion, work, family, and health, so when it comes time to decide which old coot we elect to continue the work of the bureacrats who actually make policy in the long-run, the difference between them is seen as moot. Politics has come to be something of a ‘flavour du jour.’ Besides, as everybody can clearly see, it is now the corporations that decide on policy for the majority of us anyhow, no matter whom we elect. The fact that most could not offer up the definition of fascism if asked, probably doesn’t help our lot, in the end.
A final word on voting: if one is just voting for the sake of voting and doesn’t understand the issues at stake, they probably shouldn’t be voting at all; at least not just to get the percentages of voters up.