Recently I was reading a post on David Eaves’ blog about how involved (or uninvolved) today’s youth are in politics. Eaves makes the point that many of the younger generation are not uninvolved, they are simply involved in what he terms “extra political engagement:”
But because the efforts are often invisible, herein lies the real dangers: not to young people — they are going to be just fine — but for the institutions Lawrence Martin and Alison Loat worry about. To many of my friends, today’s newspapers, political parties and public service look a lot more like General Motors than they do Google, Facebook, or better still, Mozilla, ForestEthics, or Teach For America. As they look at the institutions Martin assumes they should engage, they’re still evaluating: should we bail them out or should we just let them go bankrupt and start from scratch?
Now I am “young,” a member of the generation that grew to maturity in the Internet age. I also completely understand the urge to walk away from the existing political structures and concentrate energies elsewhere.
There is, however, a danger in this. Mainstream, traditional political paths are very real. If the majority of the younger generation refuses to participate in them, those political positions will still be filled by someone. That someone may not represent the younger generation’s interest, and may have only been elected by a tiny minority of the populace, but they will still have real power. To refuse to participate is to deny the ability of ones perspective to shape political power.
Some of my recent experiences have lead me to question my own participation, to question the value of staying involved. I have come to the conclusion, however, that we are obliged to try and change the system in some way. To walk away without at least trying to change the system is to be complicit in it’s downward spiral. Pick your battles, sure, but fight some, somewhere, somehow, within the existing power establishment. Don’t cede the ground.