Young people are not apolitical, we just can’t relate to the current system.
The ‘baby boomer’ generation after the Second World War and into the 1960s generated a mass movement of protest culture and anti-establishment feeling amongst the young, who were growing in numbers far quicker than ever before. Even to this day we associate the 1960s with the beginning of new music and the spirit of youth rebellion.
Our own generation is greater in numbers than the baby boomers and so we possess enormous power to change the way things are. But instead of learning about our potential we are sedated with junk television and junk music and junk celebrities until we are left doing nothing except scouring the internet looking for funny pictures of cats and dreaming that we might one day be famous enough for reality television.
I think this problem is partly due to an education system which doesn’t nurture the individual. I can remember when Higher Maths was suddenly made compulsory at my school at the expense of more artistic and literary subjects, and I thought it was a terrible injustice so I spent most of my time at the back of the Art Department drawing maps and building miniature tree houses from sticks and cardboard instead of going to class. My teachers would find me and call me into their offices and say they were seriously concerned and confused with my poor behaviour, especially since I was “an otherwise well behaved pupil”. But they didn’t understand. It wasn’t misbehaviour, it was my spiritual duty to the Art Messiah and I didn’t want to be processed into something I wasn’t. In English lessons I used to ask if we could do some creative writing and I was told: “You aren’t in primary school anymore.”
If we want the next generation to be politically engaged we have to let them develop and think for themselves, not just process them through the education system whilst hoping they’ll one day get a job and go to work without ever questioning the way things are. We are not simply disengaged from the world on our own accord but we are made to be disengaged. We are taught to write essays and pass exams and remember other people’s analysis and opinions whilst rarely being able to express our own.
We are forever reminded by the media that we are untrustworthy or lazy or drunk or have an attitude problem. They say we are disengaged and don’t care about politics. Actually a lot of us do care. We are very much political but we have no way of relating to the current system where we are governed by very wealthy, privileged, white old men. Politics is run by ‘other people’. Politics is happening ‘somewhere else’. My advice to the older generations would be to not underestimate the young, and my advice to the young would be to not underestimate your own potential to change the way things are.
If you care about free education, or getting into university, or getting a job, then you’re political. If you think there aren’t enough opportunities for you, or that your area is a bit shit, you’re political. We maintain this idea that politics is somewhat upper-class because of the system we see at Westminster constantly aired on our televisions. Actually the Scottish Parliament is much better in terms of representing ordinary people, we just don’t see it on television as often as we should.
The old phrase ‘stick it to the Man’ was once the defining message of the youth movements of the twentieth century. That sentiment has disappeared, but the Man certainly hasn’t. Maybe it’s time to go back and give the Man a good kick up the arse and establish ourselves a whole new way of doing things with a Yes vote in 2014.
Andrew Redmond Barr