I was getting my daily dose of news the other day when I came across a piece written by one of their younger occasional contributors who writes from the perspective of a young Gen-Y twenty-something navigating his way through life. His column argues that, of our generation, no one in their right minds would ever want to live a life of service to their country and become a politician in this day and age; and I couldn’t agree more with him.
It’s not that Generation-Y (those born in the late 70′s to the 1990) is devoid of political activism and is not engaged in public life. In fact, the columnist argues, we are arguably the most involved generation in decades. Look at the Obama election, the recent Iranian election, Gay Marriage rallies, anti-war rallies, and more where youth have played a leading role in these political movements. We are definitely an opinionated bunch and have shown that we are not afraid to get behind issues and organize ourselves to fight for what we believe in order to bring about political change. The problem is that when you talk to most people our age, most have an opinion about what they want changed and how they want it done, but no one wants to step forward and enter the political three-ring circus to do it.
This may just be my opinion, but it seems like politics really only ends up drawing people that are power hungry control freaks and live to wield it. It is a dirty game and the nice guy never wins. During a heated political discussion one day, one of my former workmates told me that George Bush and Hugo Chavez (hard-core socialist leader of Venezuela) likely have more in common than you or I, and after thinking about it for a minute, I believed it. The fact that the two men have some of the most opposing worldviews in existence and that they absolutely despise one another may seem like they are polar opposites. But, the way they interact with people, choose to inhabit (and survive) in their respective political sphere managing their political identities, and rise to the top like they have, you have to have a lot of determination and an organized well-oiled and tightly managed movement on your side. It really says a lot about the type of person that becomes successful in politics. Selfish, power-hungry, would step-over-their own-friends-for-the-prize ego-maniacs are the successful people we see in politics these days. Pragmatism and consensus-based decision making where different perspectives are taken into account to reach the best outcome for all is dead. You must follow the party line and when one party supports something, the other must oppose it, even if it makes sense. How ridiculous is that?
The media doesn’t help either and feeds our collective insatiable thirst for drama whereby the most absurd comments in question period are the clips we end up seeing on the news; the more polarizing, aggressive and outrageous the better it seems. So, to get the air time for their issues and a cheap shot against the opposition, they reduce themselves to petty fights that become fiercely partisan. No one stands for anything or cares what is right or wrong for the betterment of our country anymore. It’s all about who can frame an issue in the best light with the best wordsmiths and PR shills on staff. And no one will apologize for anything because that would admit they were wrong and instigate a barrage of personal and partisan attacks from the other side of the House.
(left to right: Ray Lam- Former NDP Candidate, Gordon Campbell- British Colubmia Premier)
Personal attacks are no longer a rarity either. The dirt politicians and media will dig up on other politicians is ridiculous. No one is allowed to have a past. Look at Ray Lam, a young candidate in a recent local election. He was publicly chastised for a photo of himself and some friends at a party on Facebook. The opposition was relentless, the media wouldn’t stop in its criticism of him either. He eventually stepped down over the controversy. Have I been to a few parties before? Have I had some fun and maybe drunk a few glasses too many once or twice? Absolutely. I definitely have a few skeletons in my closet, as I’m sure most people do, and would I want them shown to the world? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t survive the witch-hunt-like tactics of other parties. What does that have to do with one’s ability to govern? In my opinion, not much. In fact, I think I would prefer it if my political representative was well-rounded, knows how to let loose and have a good time, has made a few mistakes and hopefully has taken responsibility for their actions and learned from them.
Maybe I’m being harsh and dismissive. Maybe this is how politics has always been but is just exacerbated by our hyperactive media-saturated 15 second bit-clip culture. It’s not that I don’t have an idealistic vision of a just and harmonious future for my city and country and the world as a whole, but politics is a brutal game made even more difficult by the media and political culture that permeates the capital cities of the world. I value my privacy. I value my dignity. I value my friends and family. I value my integrity.
I, like most of you young people with great ideas and a vision for a fair and just country, will never be a politician. And I think that’s sad.