Thus Spake the Millennials
We are having a National election on November 26. But you wouldn’t know it because the politicians have declared a temporary truce during the Rugby World Cup and there has been no campaigning.
The official reason is because we have a lot of overseas guests and we should be focusing on showing New Zealand at its best rather than airing dirty laundry. But the real reason is probably that the politicians don’t want to take time away
from rugby watching by having to campaign.
In any event, no one is complaining.
It will be a fairly important election for three reasons. First, in my opinion, all
elections are important. Second, with everything going on in the world from a political and economic perspective, political leadership is more important than ever. Lastly, the incumbent prime minister is up for re-election. He is tremendously popular and polls indicate that he may get enough votes to form a government without a coalition. With that in mind he has been very forthright in saying exactly what he will do if elected. So voters are theoretically better informed than ever and should either support the guy if they agree with him or go out and vote for an opponent so their voice can be heard.
Call me old fashioned, but it’s kind of refreshing to see a reasonably vibrant democracy in action and especially one that is civil enough to suspend politics while the country is partying.
But that didn’t stop the media from springing a nasty surprise on us. In New Zealand voting isn’t mandatory, but registering to vote is. You can be fined $100 if you don’t register. The news report was that even after a blitz registration campaign by Elections New Zealand, about 25% of young adults between the ages of 18-29 have yet to enrol to vote.
When a sample of non-registering Millennials were asked why, they didn’t say, “I forgot.” Or, “I’m going to do it, I just haven’t gotten around to it.” No. They said things like, “It’s uncool.” And, “Voting is something adults do.”
Some used the “my vote doesn’t count anyway,” excuse. But most terrifying was the fairly widespread claim of “I’m politically aware but choose to express my
views using other avenues such as social networking.”
If I understand that utterance correctly, there has been a failure on someone’s part in explaining the concept of voting to these people. News flash: Expressing your opinion on MySpace is not the same thing as voting.
What worries me about this phenomenon, aside from the fact that there are 18-29 year olds who do not consider themselves adults, is that it is probably is not limited to New Zealand. It shows a shocking lack of engagement with the real world and a generation gap that is just the opposite of the one in the 1960s.
Back then, young people were making noise and listening to good music while adults were telling them not to rock the boat and listening to bad music. Today adults are listening to good music and asking why the world is in the condition is and young people are saying don’t bother us while listening to bad music.
As 18th century French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu said, “The tyranny of a prince in a monarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” Too bad de Montesquieu is not on Facebook.