On Oct. 17, Brock University’s newest Chancellor, Shirley Cheecho, gave an inspirational address to graduates at the Fall Convocation. Cheecho was installed as Chancellor at the ceremony on Saturday that saw graduates from six faculties cross the stage.
Cheecho said in her address to the grads, “[You are] the most powerful generation yet. You have an amazing new technology at your fingerprints, use it for outstanding purposes… do not waste it.”
The question I want to raise in this editorial is: have we ‘wasted’ the potential to make real change in our society and our country. As this edition of The Brock Press goes to print, the results of the 42nd Canadian Federal election are still unknown. For all we know, Elizabeth May might very well be the Prime Minister of Canada right now. Hey, it could happen, right? (Check out BrockPress.com for full election result coverage).
More importantly than who is elected is whether or not young people have actually followed through and voted. If you look at social media and all the hashtags, it seems as if many young people, despite whether they plan to vote for Green Party, NDP or Liberals, had declared war on our current P.M, Stephen Harper (that was essentially NDP leader Tom Mulclair’s core slogan, after all). #HeaveSteve, #StopHarper, #AnythingButHarper are a few hashtags that come to mind that’ve shown a clear dissent by young people towards the current government. But when it comes to actual turnout on voting day, the polls may tell a different story.
This type of viral campaigning is essentially “political slacktivism”: sharing posts, using hashtags — but only time will tell if this actually made a difference in the election. Ultimately, while the flash and rhetoric of social media campaigns and pithy tweets and posts may make a lot of buzz, but they don’t do much more than produce a lot of synergy-powered ignorance.
Rick Mercer once said, “If you’re between the age of 18 and 25 and you want to scare the hell out of the people that run this country, this time around do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes out of your day and do what young people all around the world are dying to do. Vote.” This statement is true, and should be listened to. But, is simply having your voice represented as an official number meaningful? Surely, they can ask more of us than to just show up — they should expect that we will own up to the responsibility placed on every voter to understand who and what they’re putting into power.
Why is it that it seems as if the only directive is to get as many voters voting as possible? Does it really matter, does it really add anything if no one is informed? Over the past several weeks, I seized the opportunity of the buzz around the election to ask a few fellow classmates and friends who they were voting for and why — the responses that I received shocked me.
“I always vote _____”
“_____ seems like a really nice guy”
“I would vote ____, but I don’t want to throw my vote away”
To make things worse, I had to explain how federal elections worse to a Political Science major. Is this the state of political discourse in our country? Are these the people we want to get voting? I understand that maybe if you manage to get youth into the polls now, they might continue to do so in the future (thus sustaining our democracy), but I also wouldn’t be opposed to pollsters forcing potential voters to a skill testing question before they get their ballot either. If you don’t believe me that this might be beneficial, just watch French comedian Guy Nantel ask Torontonians the most basic questions about Canadian politics (search on YouTube for: “Vox Pop : Guy Nantel sonde Toronto sur les élections fédérales”).
I don’t consider myself perfectly fluent in politics by any means, and I’m not saying that not everyone’s vote should count, I’m merely pointing out that flash, pizazz and slogans don’t engage youth — or anyone for that matter — in politics in any meaningful way.
Cheecho’s words are almost haunting me as I scroll through posts of jargon and rhetoric and slogans. We have the power of social media — the power to create real change. The power to, with a single tweet or post, to bring so much awareness. Why waste this on pointing out partisan stereotypes or personal attacks against politicians, when we could be using these platforms to bring awareness to issues, platforms and the actual people, one of whom, will be our Prime Minister for the next four years.
That being said, the BUSU elections are coming up (voting from Oct. 27-29) and literally, all you have to do is log on to your Brock e-mail. Do more than just check a box at random, check out the spread on page 14/15, talk to candidates and representatives in the hallways around Brock and get informed.