It has become a nearly incessant complaint to bemoan the disillusionment and lack of participation of young people in politics. It is certainly a statistical reality that voter turnout is at an all-time low. Aside from a small number of people who are involved in the skeptic movement, most of my friends are relatively apathetic when it comes to politics (although I no longer really qualify as ‘youth’). Most disturbing is the fact that uninvolved youth grow up and turn into uninvolved adults. Apathy is a poison pill for democracy, since only zealots remain to show up on election day.
Many hypotheses are thrown around – from cynicism borne by the state of the media, lack of knowledge about how the political system works, distrust in government altogether. It’s certainly a disturbing thought. Which is why I am happy when I read stuff like this:
Duncan Malkinson wasn’t sure what he was going to do with himself after he finished high school in June this year. The 18-year-old was working at a crane elevator and planning to resume his education in a year’s time. But now he’s got plenty to focus on — he’s just become the youngest person to win a seat on Dawson Creek council.
Now I know what you’re thinking. No, not that Dawson’s Creek.
Dawson Creek is a real place, and it’s really in British Columbia. And it really has an 18 year-old on the city council.
It’s particularly interesting to note the way in which he campaigned. He used his immediate social network and focused on face-to-face campaigning rather than simply putting up lawn signs. It’s the kind of approach that could probably only work in a place like Dawson Creek (population 12,000), but it’s still a fantastic illustration of what young people can achieve if they bother to show up.
Yesterday I made reference to the likelihood that the Occupy movement might spark increased political involvement in young people who don’t trust the system to represent their needs adequately. In no way should the above story be interpreted as having anything to do with Occupy – the decision to campaign would have happened well in advance of October 15th. However, we may see more stories like this popping up, especially in major cities as young people begin to see politics as something to take part in, rather than to simply complain about.
Not much more to say about this story, just kind of a cool thing that happened. Here’s the video that goes with the music that’s been running through your head as you’ve been reading this.
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Huh. Never saw the beginning of that show, just a few minutes from here and there. Never knew they used that song as their theme. My all time favorite use of that song is, coincidental to your topic, from a show dealing with young people getting involved in politics: http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/153863/official-messenger-boy
And I had no idea Michelle Williams was on Dawson’s Creek either. That’s amazing.
In the last year, there have been several gentlemen competing for the title of “Youngest Elected Official In New Jersey,” to the point where the paper has to count their ages in months. I think we have three or four representatives and council members (and maybe a mayor?) under 25.