01 April 2011 Ideas Politics

Our generation will reform politics

This is a message to Generation Y. The Millenials. The Echo Boomers. This is a message to all of us who grew up listening to the Backstreet Boys on cassette tapes. This is a message to all of us who spent our childhood playing with Crazy Bones and Pokémon cards.

We are the generation that will slowly dismantle and rebuild politics in Canada. We are the ones who will rescue the public service from its big-tent, populist, homogenous, polarizing culture.

Let me explain.

In 1990, I was born into a brand new world order; one where the divisive and polarizing decades of the Cold War had come to an abrupt end. In my infancy, world leaders came together in Rio to discuss how humanity should care for our precious Earth. When I was old enough to have an awareness of the world around me, I was flooded with the rhetoric of inclusion, tolerance, and the celebration of diversity. I remember learning sign language from Sesame Street in preschool, and realising that deaf people were people too. I remember the talks about racism and bullying in school. I remember the narrative of the global village, and the need for all of us - all of humanity - to stand together in solidarity.

My generation hasn’t had to fight for our rights. That groundwork had already been laid down by the passionate, dedicated activists of the sixties and seventies. From civil rights to environmental activism, the time was right to enjoy the benefits of our predecessors’ labour.

What does this have to do with politics? Well, our generation hasn’t grown up with a cultural scapegoat. We didn’t have that narrative of the “other” - slaves, Jews, whalers, commies, “the Man” - that permeated previous generations. We didn’t grow up with a system to rebel against or a group of people to victimise. We don’t buy the “us against them” argument that so often crops up in political debate. We’ve been bred to welcome diverse opinions and build consensus. We’ve been indoctrinated on the power of the individual and the importance of subjectivity. Everyone is special.

Generation Y has eschewed the rigid labels of our parents and grandparents’ generations. We see this in religion: despite a general acceptance of personal spirituality, Canadians aged 15-29 are the least likely to have a religious affiliation. In politics, young adults’ voting intentions are pretty evenly split across all parties.

We have grown up in a culture that celebrates our differences. This is our social narrative. And we know that this is the way things should be.

So here’s the problem: our elected representatives are stuck in the old social narrative of political dualism. Our voting system favours the two big parties, squeezing out other political views from the debate. It’s our job to change that.

This election season, grill your candidates on electoral reform. Send them emails and attend debates, demanding that they support a fair voting system (like the Single Transferable Vote).

Gen Y has had a pretty easy life so far. Now it’s our turn to shape the system.

Sam Nabi

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