A Toxic Environment for Hope: the Problem of Youth Voter Apathy
As inane as Facebook can be, something my friend posted on the site got me thinking. My friend Faber Neifer was musing about how we in North America, in this day and age, live in an era of opportunity, freedom, and equality on a level unprecedented in history. Yet we seem to feel that something is unchangeably wrong with the world. He realized, when asked about the tangible possibility of a utopia, that he had “prevailing pessimism in the back of [his] mind” about it being possible. It was at that point that he had a realization.
He quite simply could not muster enough optimism to genuinely think about a positive outcome for the world. In his words, it “was not apathy…Nor was it ignorance of the gravity of our situation. It was compassion fatigue.”
As a person in the age range with the worst voter turnout, (18-24) I began to think about what has sapped our collective ability to think positively about the world in which we live. What I realized is that the problem is three-fold.
The Globalization of Tragedy
The world we live in is very much a globalized world. There has been a compression of time and space as instantaneous communication, cheap air travel, and the internet allow us to be elsewhere in the world quicker, and talk to each other around the globe instantly. We are constantly connected across platforms to social technologies, news outlets, movies, or sports scores.
Yet certain things remain the same as before the advent of online news and instant communication: negative news sells best. Due to the interconnectedness of world media, we are bombarded not only with domestic, but international news about riots, torture, and government cover-ups. As part of the push for instantaneous, up-to-the second coverage of events in the world through twitter-like updates, bad news pushes itself into our lives. We open up our phones to find a push notification telling us about the latest political scandal next to text messages from our family.
We find ourselves in the darkly humorous situation of getting up in the morning and finding updates on the Rob Ford crack cocaine scandal and the story of the rape and brutalization of a five year old in India interspersed with our friend’s annoying pictures of food, inane reaction videos to the latest Game of Thrones episode, and ever present videos of cats. Let alone the looming apocalyptic possibilities of global warming, and the assertion by the scientific community that we are near to passing the point at which we can no longer stop the temperature of the world from increasing.
Is it any wonder that we turn ourselves off from caring about the horrible things that happen in the world, when not only do they seem ever-present, and inescapable, but too big and too pervasive to do anything about? It is any wonder that our ability to care about anything is fatigued?
We have the badness of the world pushed at us every day. Of late domestically, we are confronted with a government that seems loathe to follow democratic process, that pushes through free trade deals with little if any debate, and a Prime Minister that seems to want first and foremost for us to know how much he loves his cat and that the economic action plan is working for Canada.