Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Post-Adolescent Apathy

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, I ain't been boogin' much during the election campaign on accounta I been helpin' out with tryin' to harvest up some Green votes here in Haldimand-Norfolk. I been doin' a lotta office work an' helpin' hand out propaganda. I even wrote an' printed up some o' that political panderin' stuff.

I spent some time this weekend handin' out pamphlets at the Norfolk County Fair over in Simcoe. Over the course of a few days, I reckon I spoke to about 4000 folks and handed out about 1800 pieces of Green Party stuff.

Since the Green Party's often listed as a favourite among the young folks, I approached a lotta 18-25's walkin' by the Green Party booth. I know the statistics also say the 18-25's are the least likely to get out an' mark their X one way or another.

My carnival barker pitch to flag down the passersby was to ask 'em if they were gonna be votin'. Some folks said they'd already voted. Some said they was gonna and they'd be glad to look at our GPC dead tree material. Some played deaf. Some said they'd made up their minds an' didn't want any dang literature. Some said they was already votin' Green so we could save our dang literature.

With the young folks, some was keen on Green. A few I asked was only 17. But, dang-it-all, I betcha well over half of the young folks said they wasn't gonna vote. I didn't get all preachy with 'em. Mostly, I just muttered under my breath that they was a buncha ignorant whelps; dumbasses who didn't pay the least attention to polyticks. Quite a few of the non-votin' 20-somethings were pushing strollers and/or had young kids in tow.

I ain't sure who I oughta blame fer the sorryass state of youth voter turnout. I reckon there's plenty of blame to go around. Judging by the stroller pushing non-voters, the parents are partly to blame. Then, there's the schools. Schools is always a good whipping boy since we expect them to turn out perfect specimens every time. Then there's the TV telling us that the only politicians worth mentioning are the crooks and perverts. Internet, video games, sports culture, discrimination by old farts, ballot-spoiling cynics... there's no end to the blameworthy.

I did have a few real bright moments at the fair, though. I had a young feller name o' Frank (17 and too young to vote) spend a lotta time askin' a lotta questions on stuff like Afghanistan and Caledonia. I found out he'd been over to the Lib's and Con's booths askin' them, too. He wasn't doin' a school project. Just keen. Young fellers an' gals like young Frank is who's gonna run the show in 25 years or so. I just hope there's enough of 'em.



RossK said...

I, too, hope there are lots a Franks and Frannies JB....

(and that somebody keeps 'em away from the likes of The Operative whose name I will no longer say).

Great post by the way - inspiring really.....and good work!

Just one question - did you use that thar JimBobby speak on them young'ins?



Anonymous said...

Why not look at whether or not the youth think their vote counts for anything JB?

I spoke to a few myself over the last week and they didn't figure that anything they did would make any difference what-so-ever so why bother.

JimBobby said...

Why not look at whether or not the youth think their vote counts for anything JB?

When people I spoke to, young and old, expressed their frustration with the system, we gave them information sheets from Fair Vote Canada concerning electoral reform. Our local candidate was a big campaigner for the Yes side in last year's Ontario referendum on electoral reform.

Something that raised a lot of eyebrows at the TV debate was when Steve Paikin asked each leader what they'd do first, if they were PM. Lizzie May said she'd get busy on electoral reform. The fact that she was more eager to fix our electoral system than to fix the planet was surprising to many observers.


Scott in Montreal said...

I think that the over-development of the consumer society has implanted a strong conceit in the minds of the people brought up in the 90s and 20-oughts that their every whim can (and should) be catered to. They will fight for their right to get a choice between 31 flavours of ice cream, 16 choices of imported beers (and assume 6 types of Sleeman's are available as well), etc. etc. They look at politics, and can't see anything that fits them perfectly. So they tune it out and instead concern themselves with finding just the right coffee to fit their personality, just the right shoes for just the right social occasion, et al. It's the Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket" effect.

I'm all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer
A guaranteed personality

Blame corporate culture, marketing and the false assumption that hedonism and greed is good. Oh wait, that's why the global financial system is crumbling.

Give it time, JB. The Vision Green is the right one, it's just ahead of its time. There will be pain and suffering and the false assumptions of the youth will be dashed. And suddenly they will find themselves making new equations about their world and they will be looking for answers and a new vision and wondering what can be done. And when they hear words like "sustainable development" their ears will perk up and they will start to realize they were fools to feign deafness when the old man with the pamphlets was trying to get their attention on that blissful Autumn day in 2008.

Anonymous said...

There's some absolutely typical "the party is good, the party is right, hip hip hooray for the party" trivialization of non-voters as spoiled latte sipping yuppies not able to get their own way if I ever saw it Scott.

-- and it's total B/S.

If you're happy with this little pretend democracy we live in then you just go have a ball with it, but do not presume to tell me that I, or other non-participants, do not have valid concerns for not participating.

Scott in Montreal said...

my goodness, stageleft, did I hit a nerve? Relax, we're just having a discourse and there's no need to take things personally.

I'm not pretending to have all the answers, nor making any claims to speak for all non-participants. I come at this partly as a student of communication theory and it's something that interests me greatly.

I'm a bit of a spoiled latte-drinking yuppie who likes to get his own way (when possible) myself, as it turns out. I'm just musing here.

JimBobby said...

It's not possible to know why so many don't vote. For SL, the system is so imperfect that voting would be hypocrisy. I respect that level of conviction.

I reckon I'm less idealistic. I realize the system is imperfect but I accept that it's the only system we have at the moment, so I work with it the best way I can.

Even though I've never even seen a latte, I also agree with Scott that a certain number of those non-voting young folks will start voting someday. I think statistics bear it out.

Do they become grey flannel partisan tweedle-dees and tweedle-dums? Some of 'em, sure.

I been a treehugger most o' my life. Before that, I was a Boy Scout. I only joined up with the Greenies a few years ago and I'm pushin' 60. I just started voting in my 40's. I'm a reformed cynic when it comes to voting, I guess.

I used to have a very similar disdain for party politics as SL. I had the attitude that the whole business was pointless on accounta the big money boys ran everything and we're only being tricked into voting so's we'll think we've got a voice. Bureaucrats, big business, banks and the military run things.

I still believe a lot of that but I also see some merit in working for change from within the system. I quit waiting for the revolution back around 1970. 20 or 30 years later, I decided to start voting so's I could at least have more authority when I'm kvetching.

Schmaltzy and self-serving as it sounds, I really do get some satisfaction out of giving back to the community. I do a fair bit of volunteer work on a local level and I see working for electoral change and for environmental action through the Green party as a type of public service. Canada has been good to me.

Wow. I rambled.


Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact you did hit a nerve, I find I have less and less patience for people who make statements like the one you made.

A good number of the youth I spoke to over the course of this campaign are simply disgusted with what they see as a pointless and undemocratic exercise - they saw no point in participating.

One discussion with a university student over the week-end saw me acting as a sounding board while he tried to identify the lesser of the evils in this election that he could actually vote for - he didn't find one.

I actually got a hug from one young street activist who asked me who I was voting for - when I said "none of them, it's a pointless and undemocratic exercise I refuse to participate in" she gave me a big 'ole smile, said "right on", and hugged me.

I have no doubt that there are some selfish and apathetic youth out there, but generalizations about why any wide demographic does, or does not, engage in any particular activity is fairly unproductive don't you think?

When MPs are sent to Ottawa based on the opinion of the greatest minority, and then sit in the House to be told how, when, and even if, to vote by the party leader what sort of democracy, representative or otherwise, do we really live in Scott?

Scott in Montreal said...

Short answer to your question SL: I see democracy as an exercise in excruciatingly patient compromise. There are 30+ million individuals with their own voices and opinions and no hindrance (at least yet), from voicing them in public forums such as this one. Ideas can flow freely and good ones have a life of their own that can only be thwarted for so long before they eventually either win the day, or become irrelevant or disproved.

You're not gonna' get everything you want in public policy. In fact you're not gonna get very much of what you want, unless you happen to agree with a whole lot of others, and that agreement is both understood and important enough to be acted upon. It is slow, cumbersome, imperfect and frustrating; but finally, better than pure dictatorships like you see elsewhere in the world and in history. That's my thinking anyway.

It's too damn bad we don't have time to waste on the climate change front while this process plays itself out, because it's not always linear. You just have to trust that you don't have all the answers, and even when you're right, it might take a shitstorm for it to be seen by enough other folks before they come onside. It's better than Fascism, which isn't saying much, but if you have some better answers, please share.

If you see no point in participating in the society around you, are you building your own? Are you undermining what you see as a waste of time using civil disobedience or some other means? Does it go beyond simply being a crank (and hey, every society needs its cranks, surely). What are your ideas exactly?

BTW - I hear you in regards to the danger of making generalizations. Again, I was only throwing something out for discussion - not trying to be the definitive pundit or anything.

jeff cliff said...

Young fellers an' gals like young Frank is who's gonna run the show in 25 years or so. I just hope there's enough of 'em.

I don't think it will be. It'll be business cronies who think of the general population as a consumable resource, just like it is today...

jeff cliff said...

Young fellers an' gals like young Frank is who's gonna run the show in 25 years or so. I just hope there's enough of 'em.

I don't think it will be. It'll be business cronies who think of the general population as a consumable resource, just like it is today...

edit: lost the italics tag due to blogger engine

Jennifer Smith said...

I spoke to a 30 year-old friend of mine today who has a lot of 20-something friends. She said that a lot of them weren't voting because they were appalled by how ugly the campaign had been. I'm not sure if they were talking generally, or about the specific race here in Halton, but it's worth consideration.

I found it particularly interesting comparing turnout figures in my riding compared to surrounding districts. Halton was a tick above the national average at about 60%. Just to the south, Burlington and Oakville were closer to 65%, as were Wellington-Halton Hills and Guelph. But to the east, most Mississauga ridings were at or lower than 60%.

I don't know what it means. I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean that the larger ethic communities in Halton and Mississauga are apathetic, because by all accounts the opposite is true. I think it's more likely that new Canadian voters were having a harder time with the new voter identification regulations, but I don't know.

I do know that we had a huge number of young people volunteering for the Turner campaign, including a 17 year-old girl who scrutineered for us. I ran into another one of them today running a cash register at the Loblaws - a south-Asian kid who said, "Hey, Liberal - what happens now? When do we get to go again?"

He cheered me up immensely.