Friday, March 20, 2009

In praise of apathetic youth

Commenting on the undoubtedly cringe-inducing1 video interviewing Future Leaders of the Labour Party (produced by The Guardian) Alix from The People's Republic of Mortimer makes a rather interesting comment:

Actually, I always feel slightly sorry for youngish politicians when journalists ask them - as they invariably will - about political apathy amongst the young, because their responses are so hopelessly inadequate. And no wonder, because they (charmingly uncognisant of this as they may be) are the weirdos who did get interested. You might as well ask a zebra why it thinks more of the horse family don’t have stripes.

As I've commented before I think there are three rather distinct uses of the word "politics" in common usage. Two of these, one concerning political traditions, and the other concerning how things actually work I am fascinated by.

But the tedious, tribalistic, mudslinging nonsense that might well be fun if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing-but-I-don't that is reported on the news on a daily basis is not something I or any other non-nerd would ever be remotely interested in.

The problem is that whenever da yoof are exhorted to "engage in politics" it is this tedious bottom layer we are expected to "engage" with. No discussion of Adam Smith or Plato or Marx. No discussion of the global balance of power or how computer chips are made.

And not even anything useful, like giving everyone under 25 a free bus pass.

Just tedious distracting talking shops like the Youth Parliament2.

Y'see I'd say the reason otherwise quite engaged and well-informed young people such as myself (no really) aren't interested in this kind of politics is because it is boring. And also has very little relevance to how many of us live our lives.

Take, for example, the "90 day without charge" Terrorism Act later rehashed as the "42 days without charge" Counter-Terrorism Act. From an ideological standpoint it was an obvious attack on some fairly solid principles of freedom: namely you should not be imprisoned by the state without being told why you've been imprisoned ASAP and then given the opportunity to defend yourself.

But what did it actually accomplish? Sweet Fanny Adams is what. The chances of me dying in a terrorist attack are ridiculously minute in any case, but they haven't grown substantially smaller because the police can now hold suspects for a whole two weeks longer.

And even if that weren't the case what the hell is the point of being a liberal democracy if you let the bastards win by caving in to their terror tactics like this?

I keep an eye on what goes on in parliament. And if I see some way of making the world a better place by taking political action I will certainly do so. But I do not want to engage with this bunch of egotistical navel-gazing pishers3.

Political apathy amongst the young is probably a good thing as it will keep those with genuine talent out of career politics and place them in the real world where they might be able to do something useful.

1: Of course I haven't watched it and I have no intention of doing so. Partly for the reasons described above and partly because Alix does a wonderful job of summarising the Horror.

2: I suspect the Youth Parliament is a clever way of distracting and then proceeding to grind down anyone with even the remotest genuine interest in helping their fellow man. That or ensuring all the trouble-makers are kept in one place for easier observation /paranoia.

3: I can get enough of that online and in a more entertaining package.

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