A Toxic Environment for Hope: the Problem of Youth Voter Apathy

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Why do we, upon hearing about these things, decide that our response is to pretend they aren’t happening? Forget voting, why is protest not upfront and center in our minds? Why do we think we have no voice?

The Devaluation of Action

Lets say we decide that instead of not dealing with the negativity we have pushed at us daily, we decide to do something about it. What are we to do when the nature of what creating change means, being counter cultural or "alternative" is devalued?

Old and young people alike are bombarded with advertising daily, so much so that it becomes part an unconcious part of our daily landscape. Good advertising seeks to co-opt into the super cultural values of the day to sell products. Think then about the kind of language we find in our advertising: we hear the word “revolution” constantly. “The professional hair colour revolution,” or a product simply being named “Nike Revolution 2.”

Of late, products and advertising have focused on trying to sell themselves by being part of counter or alternative culture. Products like Green Works cleaners, or ads by companies from the Alberta Oil Sands attempt to sell themselves to the eco-conscious masses by promoting how they minimize their impact on the environment.

But this trend in advertising is not restricted to the green movement. Take for example the following ad.

While it is sexual attraction that brings people together, the apocalyptic feeling and sense civil disobedience is significant: Axe thinks it can portray its product as “hip and in vogue” if it portrays itself as counter cultural. It thinks that we think riots and revolution are cool.

But why then are we not having them in Canada? Because in selling what we think is cool back to us, advertising inherently devalues the alternative practice it is using as a selling tool.

Consider the Hudson’s Bay company’s recent purchase promotion of UK brand Topman, which promotes an alternate, euro-hipster style. The other day I entered to find this shirt.

When a shirt with the word “geek” on it is promoted as fashionable, the alternative begins to ask questions about what it really means to be a “geek” or a "nerd". My favorite example of this is the fallout in the nerd community around the TV show The Big Bang Theory, which promotes and glamorizes nerd culture, and the rise of the “nerd” as cool. You would think that a general acceptance for a term that was once a label of derision would be something people in the community would be happy about. Yet nerds hate The Big Bang Theory. Why?

Because if a socially adept, athletic male or female can identify as a “nerd” because he or she reads comic books occasionally, what is left for those who actually embodied the alternate culture in the first place? Ultimately, the validity and authenticity of the original members of the alternate is stolen away as others claim authenticity and participation in the same group with a minimum of the effort and none of the practice.

The same stands with the idea of social action appropriated by advertising companies. If everything is “a revolution in ____” is it any wonder we aren’t having them? If we buy “green”, is it any wonder we aren’t as motivated to start doing things that more directly benefit the environment, like buying local or minimizing energy consumption? We are lured into complacency by a promotion of an ease of action to further our once-alternative goals, and in the process have the very idea of taking action trivialized.

Click-tivism

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