July 22, 2014

OK I Admit it: I Should Know More About Politics, But Also Something’s Got To Change

Political-Pundits-Thriving-Online-Via-Mobile-and-Across-Social-MediaThere is definitely a problem here. There’s a clear issue with the accessibility of the political sphere at the moment, and in particular how it speaks to Gen Y. Everything about it reeks of sepia, or a dusty old attic. It needs a shake, or a fresh coat of paint.

Today’s “generation” is everyone’s generation. I’m not trying to wage a war between young versus old here. And I don’t think the “youth” should rule the land. Far from it. And don’t worry; I’m not being a stubborn millennial asking everyone to TALK TO ME IN EMOJIS with a 3-second Snapchat attention span. I just feel as far away as Pluto right now from the goings on in those four-walls of parliament.

The communication around politics hasn’t evolved to fit with the way our modern society works. It’s remained in a frightened bubble of “the way things have always been”. It’s not that we can’t be arsed to vote, it’s that we don’t care enough about it. There’s a subtle but important difference. On top of that: it’s difficult for us to vote, because it requires us travelling back in time to buy a piece of parchment and feather quill.

Today’s politicians are trying their hardest to be down with the kids, but they think that things will be solved by simply joining the Internet and sending out a few strange tweets here and there. So that we can have the option to virtually #AskBoris why TFL still gives us a nervous breakdown. They get an A for effort, but I don’t think they have fundamentally taken the time to understand where the real problems lie, especially within social minorities. It’s like they’re all the old-fashioned teachers at school that we try and avoid. WE NEED A COOL TEACHER. That’s what we need.

Look, I’m sure our MP’s are nice guys. But sadly, it’s not enough. “Nice” doesn’t start revolutions. We don’t feel anything for them. We care more about favouriting Caitlin Moran’s tweets because at least she’s not being stuffy and not trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We need real inspiration. Maybe we need more variety. We need personality. We need less Eton, more Wolverhampton.

The same rule applies to politics as it does to feminism. It should be for everyone. If the answer to “can EVERYONE get involved with this?” is no, then there is a problem. And no, not everyone finds it easy to get involved with politics. It’s elitist. It hasn’t modernised. It hasn’t got a cool new logo. It still wants you to GO INTO A VILLAGE HALL AND TICK A PIECE OF PAPER.

In the last few decades we have undergone significant change. CRAZY changes. The Internet, wireless technology, Steve Jobs, Lena Dunham, gay marriage, Bitcoin, contact-less payment, WIFI ON PLANES, fourth-wave feminism, Google Glass, Netflix. You get the idea. We live in a very fast-moving world with instant gratification. We can’t even pay with COINS on a bus anymore. This shit is getting real.

So POLITICS. Grey suits. Houses of Parliament. Cabinets. Reshuffles. Posh accents. Expenses.

I have never been brave enough to admit this, but I don’t have a clue about who to vote for half the time. I’ve rarely voted. I did once, because my uni friend forced me and I just voted for what she voted for. I didn’t have an interest. I didn’t get it. I didn’t LIKE any of the politicians. I didn’t have a choice. I was (and hopefully still am) a pretty all-rounded enthusiastic person who enjoys reading up on the news. I’m a journalist for god’s sake. I am passionate about the world, and yet, when it comes to how the country is actually run, I couldn’t feel more distanced and out of the loop. Plus, for a high-tech modern society who LIVES online (even David Cameron finds the time to tweet all the time) there is no online voting button. We can bank our life savings on an app, but yet, we can’t say who we vote for. We are a nation of over-sharers, I’m sure no one actually cares if people were to discover who we all voted for anyway.. And yet, they say we can’t have an online voting system because, heaven forbid, it might be “unsecure”. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. Actually, I’m a bit angry.

So three people recently actually spoke to me. And when I say “spoke” to me, I mean genuinely connected with me not in a weird ouija board type of way. Three people that actually made me think, care, understand, feel better, feel something. Which, I guess is the job of the politicians, no?

So first up, 1) Katie Glass, columnist at The Sunday Times who wrote a piece called “The reason I don’t vote? It’s nothing to do with apathy, cynicism or Big Brother” and starts it off her bravely admitting she has never voted. This gave me the confidence to also admit I haven’t either; and I don’t like to count “that one time I did” because I didn’t even know what I was doing I just ticked whatever was near the top of the page. This, below, is what Katie wrote, and I totally agree: we aren’t lazy generation or unintelligent, we just haven’t yet been inspired in the right way. We campaign every day. But still feel disconnected from “the system”:

“We’ve been campaigning our whole lives. I was marching at Pride and attending fringe political meetings even before I left school. My friends work for charities, run political magazines, societies, blogs, organise debates and sit-ins. Right now my flatmate is sitting across the room writing a proposal to save the skateboarders at Southbank.”

2) Russell Brand also, during his interview with Jeremy Paxman made sense to me. He doesn’t vote either. He doesn’t believe in it. But he is impassioned and enthusiastic. He also feels like there’s no “other” choice. It’s a democracy yes, but everything feels very much bundled up together:

“You don’t have to listen to my political point of view. But it’s not that I’m not voting out of apathy. I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and which has now reached fever pitch where you have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system and that’s not something I’m offering up.”

And finally 3) the legendary Rick Edwards, who literally did the best Ted Talk EVER called “How To Get Young People to Vote”. He makes some jokes about the fact that youngsters would rather watch X factor than vote. But seriously, we do. Then he doesn’t laugh anymore and gets his serious face on: he explains where we’re all coming from here, without us making seem deranged. We’re not lazy, we just DON’T GET IT. Why did we listen to Rick? Because he actually gets young people. And people get him. He’s an example of someone who speaks the political language but breaks through that barrier between the new-age media people and the traditional politians. Watch this Ted Talk immediately, you won’t regret it. I feel slightly more positive after watching this – I think we’re onto something.

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