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We're Not Apathetic: Telling Us We Are Is Undermining Democracy

Posted: 15/11/2013 16:50

We keep getting told that we're not interested in "politics", the reality is we're just doing it better.

Apparently I don't give a shit. Or at least my generation doesn't. The story is we hate "politics". Or, to use the most popular parlance, we've "lost faith" in it. We think "all politicians are the same" so we don't vote.

Our elders are turning to Ukip in droves. Apparently because Nigel Farage will say things that ordinary politicians, hamstrung by their own bland, focus grouped platitudes, simply can't.

Well yes, he does. It's called nonsense.

My generation's collective decision to go home and watch The Inbetweeners again rather than vote for Ukip is possibly the strongest argument there is for putting us in charge of the country as soon as possible.

More importantly though, to say we don't care about politics is just wrong. My generation may just be the most political in history. With Twitter, Facebook and blogs we're analysing and commenting on the world around us on a far greater scale than our parents. We have marched in our thousands against the war in Iraq, tuition fees and for fairer alternatives to the coalition's economic masochism. Student activism and politics is a growing, not a declining phenomenon. No More Page 3, possibly the most important socio-political movement of the decade, is the brainchild of 20-somethings spread through social media and receiving it's most decisive support through student unions. Even outside those activities more overtly labelled "political", my generation are churning out videos, songs, stories, plays, flashmobs and slutwalks which challenge every cultural dictum, from gender norms to post modernist theory.

So why does the prevailing opinion seem to be that we're apathetic? Perhaps because people keep telling us we are. This is a story that's being pedaled primarily by print media, TV and, somewhat paradoxically, politicians themselves.

Why do those most obviously involved in politics seem so desperate to convince us "millenials" that they're irrelevant to us? That we are not interested in listening to them, debating their ideas or voting for them?

They're scared.

In twenty years time Michael Gove's school "reforms" will have ensured a generation of automatons; all wonderfully proficient at factoring quadratics, but less adept at more seditious activities like thinking for themselves. We millennials, on the other hand, were educated in the namby-pamby Labour system and thus spent our formative years immersed in interpretive dance and Marxism. Along the way we picked up a taste for asking questions and (what really makes us a problem) we now have so many ways to ask them. One of myriad effects of social media is that we now have a plethora of means with which to question, dissect and challenge authority. Most terrifying of all social media is a phenomenon which our elders have yet to truly understand. They don't know how to engage with us, so they try to convince us that we don't want to listen.

But this is a perilous discourse. To fail to engage in politics is to fail to engage with democracy. Individual politicians, even ruling elites, come and go, but democracy is the beating heart of our nation. Ironically the best way to dispose of those politicians, whom we are so often told we hate, is to vote them out.

The anti politics discourse contributes to an insidious stealth war against our democracy. Unions (essentially groups of workers who have got together and elected spokespeople in order to more effectively influence the democratic process) are derided as holding the country to ransom. At the same time we are constantly told that our public utilities, prisons, health service, education and even our armed forces, are better controlled by private companies with absolutely no democratic accountability to those who are taxed to pay for them.

I'm not trying to speak for a generation here. At most I represent myself and the three people I just chatted to in Starbucks. But better writers than me are setting a new agenda.

We're not interested in winding back the clock. We don't see the world as an epic struggle between capital and labour. And we don't have all the answers. Yet.

What we do see is people being disempowered. And not just by the government. What marks out the political discourse of my generation is that we have organised against any power which negatively impacts our lives. From The Sun to G4S. Our politics isn't about state versus individual any more, it's about us versus the world.

That's why they don't want us. Those peddling the apathy story are a fading elite and Russell Brand is a 21st Century scab. Their time has come and gone. They are waging a public policy war on millennials; charging us some of the highest tuition fees in europe, denying us housing, expecting us to spend years working for free if we ever hope to have a shot at a fulfilling career and trying to blame us for the mess.

But none of this is going to stop us. It may not be this election, it may not even be the next, but we've got a hell of a lot of ideas of our own and we've a hell of a lot of ways to point out the hypocrisy in yours. So we're coming for you. We're coming for you with smart phones, e-petitions, occupations and twitter. But most of all, some time soon, we're coming for you with ballot papers.

 

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