Addressing the Not-so “Apathetic” Generation

40% of UK residents didn’t vote in the 2010 election, and the numbers haven’t gotten any lower for the amount of people registering to vote for this year’s General Election on May 7th. This general election is one of the most unpredictable elections we’ve had in decades, with the registration deadline coming to a close; nobody really knows what could happen.

My generation; that is those affected by the tripled tuition fees, need to vote, I urge you to. If we don’t start to vote now, in 20 years, we will still have no idea how to interact with the electoral system. There is a reason why a lot of people my age aren’t lining up outside village halls and primary schools on May 7th.

It’s not because we’re stupid, or naïve, or “apathetic.” Nor are we inspired by Russel Brand’s “Don’t Vote/Revolution.” It is simple. We are confused, ill-informed, but most of all – we are ignored.

“I always thought your generation was a bit apathetic about politics in general; since 9/11, the world has changed and the way we see people, you don’t trust anyone. You are the future generation, you have the right to shape your future and make that change. Your generation is distracting themselves with iPhones, social media, celebrities, and a long list of irrelevant things, from the harsh reality pf the world you choose not to face.”

My mother said that to me, when I was debating whether to register to vote or not. She pointed out that I sign plenty of online petitions, to save the bees, or addressing feminist issues; but I ignore the Westminster boys fighting over my vote. “You are political, you know what you want. You want change, right? Go and read something,” as she slammed down Labour and the Green Party’s manifestos in front of me.

“People all over the world, in eastern countries such as Iran, they fight for their right to vote. They could get killed. Women died so you could have your right to vote. Stop underappreciating your rights.”

After researching and educating myself in a short amount of time about UK politics, it is obvious to me, that things need to change. I am tired of hearing the word apathetic to describe people my age. The story is that we hate politics; or to use the most popular phrase; ‘we’ve lost faith in it, we think all politicians are the same’ so we don’t vote.

I want to prove these theories wrong. To tell young people that they do not care about politics is simply wrong. Our generation may just be the most political in history, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and blogs, we as a generation are analysing and commenting on the world around us on a far greater scale than our parents. We are a much more welcoming generation; we accept different walks of life, cultures, sexualities. We embrace these differences.

We marched in our 1000s against the war in Iraq, the fight against tuition fees, and for fairer alternatives to the economic masochism of the coalition government. We do care. Student activism and politics is a phenomenon that is growing and will always continue to.

“There was nothing at my university that would give us information on politics, literally bare to nothing. I wanted to change that,” said Laura Peberday, creator of Scratch Politics at Birmingham City University.

“There’s an attached stigma to politics; that you must be smart to understand it. WRONG. I wanted to talk politics in plain English, so young people could understand, and take an interest, and hopefully make a difference.”

An example of student activism is the No More Page 3 Campaign, possibly one of the most important socio-political movements of the decade. It was the brainchild of 20 somethings spread through social media, receiving most of its support through student unions.

The young generation is constantly churning out videos, songs, stories, plays, flashmobs, and slutwalks, challenging every societies’ gender norms, to post-modernist theories. In a sense, we are doing politics better. So why is it that the public and politicians opinions seem to be that we’re apathetic? It’s probably because we keep getting told we are. This story is paraded by print media, TV, and somewhat contradictory, politicians themselves.

Politicians are waging a public policy on us ‘millenials’. We’ve been charged the highest tuition fees in Europe, denied housing, and expecting us to spend an indefinite amount of time working for free, trying to get a foot in the door.

None of this will stop me, nor should it stop you. Change needs to happen. It may not happen this election, and may not even be the next one. Change is slowly happening, and the cracks are beginning to show in society. We are a much more connected society, with smart phones, and e-petitions and a more accepting collected mind set, we are a much more switched on generation.

Do not let the untrustworthy faces of Clegg and Cameron deter you from taking an interest in politics. We all need to grow up and do grown up things; like taking control on what happens to our future.

Register to vote at gov.uk

Take a quiz to see which political party you side with at uk.isidewith.com/political-quiz

Take a listen to this documentary addressing the issue, guaranteed to make you wake up, and have a giggle at the same time.

https://soundcloud.com/lisavioletwilliams/the-student-vote-documentary