Young people hold the power of Brexit in their hands. And they shouldn't ignore this power.
As Plato once said, 'the price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men'. Now by no means am I calling David Cameron and his merry band of feuding Tory's 'evil men' but rather highlighting the dangers of political apathy. We live in a rather different age to those Plato endured. The threat of oligarchy and authoritarianism, if democracy is not embraced by the populous, is not a likely one, and thus we have become comfortable, complacent and no longer participate to the extent we used to in our democracy. This has resulted in us, not being ruled by 'evil men' as much as it has seen our wants and needs being sacrificed and not sufficiently protected. The values and beliefs citizens have about their own political system and their role in it are crucial to the effectiveness of democratic politics, and in Britain, those values and beliefs have been corrupted. But why should we care, and why am I writing this article?
Well for one, the media have polarised opinion on politics to the extent that there is a strong perception that politicians only serve themselves and not the people. Constant media reporting and critiquing of government, and institutions policy demonstrated a severe lack of confidence in public officials across the EU. The fact that this phenomenon is so widespread across open and accountable liberal democracies, evidences how frivolous and incessant media coverage alters perceptions negatively to foster the necessary conditions for apathy. The fact that the rise of the media correlates with declining confidence in public offices, gives further clout to this idea. And it is the young people who have grown up, being told that the government is failing, and that politicians are only out for themselves, that become almost vociferously apathetic. It is this apathy that we must tackle.
Interest of young people in politics is of critical importance. Not only are the young the future generation, but also they often hold the balance of the election in the numbers they turn out in. Reports indicate that the UK may leave the EU if not enough young people turn up to the polls to vote. 53% of young people wish to stay in the EU, with 29% wishing to leave according to polls. However only 52% of young people have said they will definitely vote, compared to 81% of over 55's definitely voting. This evidences a serious problem of apathy amongst young people in Britain today.
How do we remedy the historically disengagement of young people in politics? With an increasing number of issues affecting this age bracket, such as tuition fees and the abolition of student grants, it is only right the young people of today should be educated on the issues and should participate actively to secure the best deal for their future. It is websites such as Just Debate that provide the formula we need to follow. A unique blend of summarising controversial and current political issues with bullet-pointed views of in-the-know experts to eliminate political bias by clearly offering both sides of any given argument.
Should a young person, not entirely engaged with current affairs wish to learn about the debate for staying in the EU or to leave, their first port of call is often their parents who often hold a tainted view of the issue. Whether intended or not, this view is often passed down through to younger people, who haven't been able to examine a balanced, unbiased characterisation of the issue and thus will often be regurgitating the views of their elders, which in turn often come from whichever media outlets they tune into. This results in a continuation of common ideas and understandings leading to apathetic viewpoints, thwarting individual thinking and the fostering of new ideas and beliefs in the system.
Apathy is rife in Britain today, and in young people especially. Young people contributed the smallest turnout in the 2015 General Election and continue to be negatively influenced by the media both new and old. It is through education that we can alleviate this apathy and start the next political revolution and, websites such as Just Debate and others that provide comprehensive, yet easily digestible analysis of issues, are the catalyst. We are so fortunate to live in a democracy and a transparent one at that; the least we can do is understand what is going on in the country, and to participate in voice and at the polls in issues that affect us. If we don't want 'evil men' to take away our rights and needs we need to participate in a new political revolution, we need to be educated, we need to understand the complexities that face our nation and we need to be vocal. The EU referendum could mark a serious epoch in the course of British politics and life, and we need to be engaged and participate. It is a wave of new media that can allow us do this, and we all should subscribe.
HuffPost UK Young Voices is running a fortnight-long focus on the EU Referendum, examining what is at stake for Britain's young people on 23 June and why it's imperative you register to vote and have your say. If you want to have your say and blog on our platform around this topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Register to vote here.
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