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Thus Spake the Millennials

September 29, 2011

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.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2011 2:36 pm

    I suppose if a person could vote using Facebook all our problems would be solved….

    I’ve yet to be on Facebook or understand it’s necessity but I guess that just proves I don’t get it.

    It does worry me that 18-29 don’t consider themselves adults and feel the need to get involved in the real world. Around here it seems that neither the Democrats or Republicans want to fix what needs fixing but just stick strictly to their party lines thinking that anyone from the opposite party couldn’t possibly have an original or good idea.

    No one is willing to cross the aisle to compromise. Very frustrating to be caught in the middle without solutions to many big issues and problems just being pushed onto the next administration trying to keep the current administration looking it’s best through the next election.

    I don’t feel like being a responsible adult most days either but at my age I at least know the importance of partaking in the political process and the differences between it and a social network.

  2. September 29, 2011 5:30 pm

    I couldn’t wait to vote when I was a kid. We were such a part of the real world. This summer we had a 19-year-old BABY staying with us. When I said, “that’s so cool you’ll be able to vote in the presidential election next year!” his exact reply was “I don’t care about that voting shit.” After two months of video games, Facebook, texting, and his Dumbphone, I blew up.

    The kid actually referred to LIFE as “RL” as opposed to cyber-life. Our future.

  3. September 30, 2011 1:17 am

    In Canada we’re a week away from a provincial election – the stage where I wish there was a rugby match to distract me from the signage and constant phone calls from party volunteers. How many times do I have to tell them they have my vote before they trust me and stop phoning? I told them I wasn’t going to early polls and I don’t need a ride. But they keep phoning and asking anyway. On the flip side, I don’t think I’ve ever missed voting, even when I was young and full of useless solutions that washed over eye-rolling faces and deaf ears.

    Young non-voters today are jaded. Politics is slow and cumbersome in their view. They want instant results. Our educators need to do a better job of teaching the process and its value. Lives were lost gaining the right to vote. Youth today have the right, but because they didn’t struggle for it, it has no value. If every young woman knew the consequences for women in countries where their vote is denied, they would rush to the ballot box. But it’s probably politically incorrect, or some such rubbish, to center out a country who does not respect all their citizens.

    • September 30, 2011 4:59 am

      Too bad if it’s PC, it’s the truth. And it’s not just a country who doesn’t respect all citizens, it’s an empire. And one more reason to vote while we can.

  4. September 30, 2011 1:58 am

    I can see why you like living in New Zealand. NZ youth seem to need to wake-up and realize what they got and not take it for granted.

  5. Len Skuta permalink
    September 30, 2011 2:24 am

    Sometimes some people not voting is a blessing. If you were able to access TV from the U.S. ,”Jaywalking” would prove my point.. People don’t have a clue on what is going on around them. Their heads appear to be in one of two places . Either up in the clouds or right up their rear ends. They don’t even recognize people that are constantly in the news, on TV and in the newspapers.
    Our Republican leaders are hell bent on getting rid of our president even if it means putting the country in default.
    That is what happens when the politicians are in the pockets of big busuness.

  6. September 30, 2011 2:43 am

    What was on that cover of Time Magazine about 5 or so years ago?
    The face of a person approximately 25 years old.
    The Caption:

    We know many young people who hang on to their teen years far into their twenties. The worse part is that their parents condone it.

  7. Snoring Dog Studio permalink
    September 30, 2011 11:47 am

    Well, I’m shocked as hell. What the heck happened to: It will be our world after you all are gone, so please don’t mess it up. Where did this disengagement come from? But I guarantee you, these same loafers will be complaining the loudest when they have to pay a tax they didn’t want or are subject to a regulation they think doesn’t apply to them. Ugh. It’s pathetic.

  8. September 30, 2011 4:34 pm

    Yes well said Thomas. There is an absolute dearth of election signs around here in Wellington. I do hope that John Keys (and his supporters) doesn’t think he has it all sewn up.

  9. raymond pfahl permalink
    October 1, 2011 2:57 pm

    Tom, you have know me from visits to your parents and meeting me in person with your family back in Ohio. well I am the 1960 give a poop
    guy. I felt voting was a the way to go. The mess we have in the good old
    U.S.A is still greed. Can it be fixed I am not sure. I do support voting
    by computer to get the max of voters out. However with hackers out there
    maybe not the way to go. If all voters were to vote by mail maybe just maybe we could correct the system. 24 Roses to your people who stop
    to celebrate in your country. Both Republicans and Democrats have their
    heads up their Butt in U.S.A. Why can the elected representatives
    approve bridges to no where, and attach their vote to stupid ideas.
    I cannot meet my needs on a budget that is costing more then I make.
    Its time to bring the troops home and use them to repair our
    bridges and roads instead of getting killed. U.S.A has the means to
    protect us with out killing our children. So use it. When Ike was elected
    he saw how important it was to have a freeway system that could move
    Troops across American in a fast fashion, after all my relatives walked
    across Europe and won a war. What else can I say. If anyone has a
    problem with this RANT, contact me at
    thanks, Tom

  10. October 1, 2011 3:38 pm

    “In New Zealand voting isn’t mandatory, but registering to vote is. You can be fined $100 if you don’t register.”

    I am not sure I understand that. I understand the importance of voting, and I encourage it, but to force a populace to register to vote but allow them to not vote? If the purpose is to get out the vote (to steal a phrase) this seems like a half-way measure. And I am not sure how much I value a vote that is more forced than felt. Or is the registration info used for other purposes, like census data, etc?

  11. October 3, 2011 4:30 pm

    Hey, I didn’t know you don’t have compulsory voting like us. Is the compulsory registration the remnant of it, or the attempt to introduce it, or neither?

    • October 4, 2011 8:30 am

      I don’t know and as bmj2k says it doesn’t make a lot of sense to require registration but not require voting. I think the main reason is that here they also have Maori electorates and they use the registration process to determine who is in which electorate.

  12. October 7, 2011 1:46 am

    I’m envious that you live someplace where politicians willingly take a break from campaigning. That wouldn’t happen in the States. Our presidential election is still 13 months away, and people have been campaigning for at least a year already. We had a governor the other day call a news conference to announce that he ISN’T running for president. He’d already announced that he wasn’t running for president, time and again, but pundits kept saying, “Sure would be nice if he’d run,” so, he went to the trouble of holding a news conference to say, basically, “No, seriously, guys, I’m not running.”

  13. October 8, 2011 10:08 am

    Rugby gets them to stop? We need rugby badly in the US.
    Sad that young people will hand their futures over without a thought. Hard to help them when they wont do it for themselves.

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