By Verity Johnson
This generation of young people are apathetic. (Meh. Whatever.) Apathetic young people are a constant of life, like tax and Keith Richards.
We young things are approaching election year at the pace of a nervous 13-year-old going for the first kiss. It’s happening, someone old, grey and in need of new suit will get in to power. Yeah yeah.
And until last week, I was happy to ride the trickle of antipathy.
Then the National Front got into the EU Parliament. Their leader compared Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation of France. And they’re not just in, they’re 24 seats in. UKIP got 24 too. Sinn Fein got three seats as did fascists Golden Dawn. Oh and you know the Neo Nazi German National Democratic Party? They now have an MEP. Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Hungary; they all won seats with far right parties.
All they need is Simon Cowell and they could form a hideous global entity to rival One Direction.
But it’s not just me and the fellow leftie knit-your-own-tofu types who are getting uppity about this. The global press are having kittens. BBC’s losing its legendary cool. Facebook‘s getting hysterical. There have been protests in France where people are apologising to Europe for the result.
I was incredibly scared. Not only because the French apologised to the British — things must be serious. But primarily because I don’t believe that most people really want Neo Nazis in power.
Most people just couldn’t be arsed to vote.
Only 14 per cent of people in Slovakia voted, England managed in the mid-30s in each region, and the European average was 43.1 per cent. The majority of people who would have resisted such extreme parties went for a drink. They left the polls to be dominated by hard core supporters of the parties.
It may be cool to talk about how all politicians are spineless, irrelevant jellyfish. But Europe is an example of what happens when people can’t be bothered to vote.
Kiwis my age are apathetic because Labour and National feel basically the same. The leaders aren’t drawing mass scandal or praise. They’re not interesting, sexy or disgusting. They get angry about things we don’t understand or care about.
When people my age think about John Key, it’s probably because of his daughter’s, um, “art”. It’s fine — if we have benign leaders who don’t do anything horrific. So, basically, as long as we don’t end up like Australia (uncapped uni fees!). But if there’s anything that Europe, and recent moves in Australia (uncapped uni fees!!) can show us, is that we literally can’t afford to get complacent — uncapped uni fees!!!
Why are we apathetic?
Well, of course, we need more political parties that appeal to young people. The Internet Party is certainly trying — and telling everyone that it’s trying.
It’s doing okay. I was reading National’s website and comparing it to the Internet Party’s. The Internet Party certainly comes across as more youth orientated, relevant and clever. It wants increased internet speed, internet privacy and investment in green technology. But they’re still not really taken seriously; we need reforms in the heavyweight parties.
We don’t need change just at that level either. We need to work at an individual level. Right now we’re not raised in an environment that overly cares about discussing politics, the economy or history.
We’re told to go outside and throw something.
Take tertiary education. We’re far more interested in churning out commerce degrees than funding rigorous politics or history courses. What about with literature? If we even read non-fiction it’ll be by a middle-aged English man talking about the Nazis. And what about TV? Our TV shows like Q&A or The Nation don’t have the following among us young things that their overseas counterparts do.
We have to build a culture of showing how interesting the world can be.
Finally we need to demystify politics. ‘Politics’ is a serious, intimidating word. “Politics” seems reserved for people who wave newspapers and can slip a “well, parenthetically … ” into any small talk. It feels like something we couldn’t possibly understand, and so shouldn’t bother. But politics can be as simple as whether you think we should have more buses.
If people grew up understanding politics as how we run everyday life, then it would be relevant. We would care. We would get passionate. And we would minimise the risk of ending up like Aussie and Europe with a leadership that make Attila the Hun look like a compassionate man.