I know this is a little late, but circumstances as they current are do not allow me to write as much as I would like. Anyway, about a week ago, Liberal minister Sophie Mirabella wrote the article Politics of the “meh” generation just won’t cut it.
Using a recent Lowly Institute poll that found a little over a third of Australian young adults (18-25) don’t seem to care too much about politics, Sophie goes on a wild attack – which I can basically sum up as, “children these days!”
Personally, I think; can you blame them?
About a fortnight before Sophie’s article, I had my own little rant about the state of Australian politics and certain attitudes among groups of Australians. I’ll largely save the reader from repetition, however I have to say that if the young people are less concerned about politics than their social media and technology, it is the fault of Australian politics and nothing more.
I share much of this growing apathy and the minority government we’ve endured in recent years is also, in my opinion, Australia at large expressing the same feelings.
From the outside, the Australian political arena looks more like war for popularity among cola brands. The leaders of the two dominant brands are personally ambitious and apparently paranoid mostly about their brand. I suspect that brand association with real world cola products share a similar result; in that the market is fairly equal overall, with minority buyers dabbling in other brands.
If one’s choice does not bare much difference in the result, why should the selection matter?
Likewise young people (and arguably, most voters) are telling the government that they do not see much variation in result for voting in favour of one leader over the other. In either case, it’s another three years of petty squabbling, successful / unsuccessful challengers to the leadership, Abbott complaining ad nauseum about “the boats”, whichever pollie has now been caught out doing something (another reason in itself to lose interest – of course, if it is someone from his own party he insists we let the investigation be completed before casting stones) and the “great big tax on everyone” or Gillard going gladiator on Rudd and boring the rest of us stupid all the while.
If young people are disinterested in democracy, it’s only because they have grown up in an age where it has barely been expressed within Australia. Their living memory consists almost entirely of the Howard years and the petty war since his demise. All they know of mass demonstrations is the sedate and ill-defined “Occupy” movements: if people sleeping in some square are enough to set the police off, could you imagine the result of anti-war protests like those of the 60’s and 70’s?
How could you be anything but apathetic if that constitutes your experience of democracy?
It’s the age old question of nature verses nurture. Clearly we are not witnessing a genetic shift with the next generation and so we are left with environmental factors. I think it is mistaken – if not an intentional scapegoat – to blame this apathy entirely on modern relativism and an over-attachment to newfangled technology and facebook.
No, the blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of the Australian political arena. If young people say, “meh”, it is only because they couldn’t imagine being paid a similar wage to act in a way that should have been left in the playground. If young people do not understand democracy, it is only because they haven’t witnessed it.
It has been a long time since we have had strong leadership, unafraid to make the hard decisions and debate down opposition. It has been decades since the two major parties really polarised and spoke for a distinctive group of Australians in a way that gave true democratic debate meaning. It has been outside of the life time of most young people that politics were about running the country more than marketing a brand.
Sophie has it entirely wrong in my opinion. Maybe she has misinterpreted the meaning of “meh”. It is not simply, “I don’t care”, but rather, “why should I care?”
To this question the Australian government has yet to give a convincing answer.