Every year, regardless of the election underway, I find myself in the situation of advocacy. No matter what demographic I am speaking to there always seems to be people who have no interest in voting. To me this is a real shame. I recognize that our model of democracy is not the best, not by a long shot. For some it might not even be a true democracy, but that is a relatively moot point in the context of the discussion.
The real issue, however, remains one in which people have become disenfranchised and disillusioned from the very thing that is supposed to represent them and listen to their concerns. When you think about it that way, can you really blame someone for choosing to pretend like they are in the middle of a phone conversation when a candidate frantically tries to give them their elevator pitch?
The short answer, even as a serious advocate of voting, is no. However, the long answer is more worthwhile, because even though answer remains no, the question we need to ask is “how did we as a society get to this point?” Is there a reason for this drive that has pushed so many persons away from bothering to click on a link in an email? When you really think about it, it is the easiest voting you could do, and yet, voter turnout lags far behind municipal, provincial and federal levels. So what are we doing wrong?
Buzzwords, buzzwords, BUZZWORDS. In all honesty, these have killed interest in voting and candidates. Everyone uses them, everyone has experience and leadership, everyone preaches the importance of accountability and transparency, everyone talks about increasing communication and advocacy to the student population.
These words are great. If they weren’t, nobody would use them. The problem here is that each has a definition so vague that they are difficult to define. They mean very different things to each person that uses them, so much so that if you are talking about your experience to someone else, without any specifics, that person will have a very different interpretation of what you mean.
These words are meaningless without associated specifics, and even then, they are already so negatively associated with the notion of ‘buzzwords’ that we become disinterested before someone even has a chance to explain themselves. While the issue with buzzwords is not new, and certainly is evolving, taking new words slowly and adding them to the conglomerate this year seems to have added another, mental health.
This buzzword strikes a particular chord; not only for me but for other individuals I know who are suffering. My health and my illness are not a buzzword for you to throw around, to capitalize on for the sake of a student election campaign. I have no doubt that some of the proposals are legitimate and sincere, and the students that are preaching them believe in what they are talking about. However, for everyone else who has just mentioned ‘mental health’ in their platform without a specific plan of action or consultation with specialists in the field, all you have done is turn another person’s suffering into a buzzword in order to capitalize on an emerging issue at a critical time. This is beyond deplorable and frankly disgusting behavior for anyone vying for office to represent students.
If indeed you are sincere in your plan to ‘raise awareness’ for the issues faced by persons suffering with mental illness then reach out and consult with the groups already focused on advocacy and support so that you can learn the specific issues that need to be addressed, and plan strategies to address these issues head on. This is true of all of the buzzwords mentioned above, not just mental health. The way back from disengagement is to address what has been turning people away. Make things meaningful again, don’t be vague with proposals to address issues and ultimately do not use the labels of others as a buzzword in an election platform.