Don’t blame the young for feeling politically disillusioned

So, I’m sure I need to tell precisely no one that Brexit happened this weekend; it’s all over the world news, and I’m almost certain it’s the first time in history that the whole world is laughing except the British. But I’m not going to go into the ins and outs (no pun intended) of that result or the aftermath. What I want to address is a far older complaint.

One thing that those within the UK know that perhaps those outside don’t know is that the UK’s young overwhelmingly supported remaining within the EU, but were outvoted by gran and grandad, much to the anger and disappointment of the voting youth. I can see why they’re angry – whilst I’m not suggesting that the older vote is in any way diminished or even unanimous, it’s a bit odd that the young people that voted to remain will be the ones living with the decision for so long and yet can do nothing to affect the change they wanted to see. It’s kinda sad.

But almost as soon as they were published, the voices of the young people who did vote were dismissed entirely because “if they really cared, why did so few young people vote?”.

Untitled
“Sorry guys, we’d take you seriously but you couldn’t even get Kevin down the road to vote. I mean sure, you didn’t even know he existed, but as a part of your demographic you are somehow magically responsible for him and his ilk.”

I would like to point out that the survey was conducted on young people who did actually vote, so it’s unfair to dismiss their opinion for something so totally out of their control. As someone who voted and is under 24, I’d like to say that I don’t appreciate that. I’d also like to point out that I share the frustration of the whole nation that so few young people in this country engage with politics of any kind – not just this referendum but all of the previous general elections in my lifetime in which the youth vote has continually declined.

But, perhaps more importantly, as a young person I TOTALLY understand why they don’t engage with politics. In fact I openly admit that I feel that pull towards not voting at each point that it’s offered to me. My main motivator for voting, if I’m honest, is the knowledge that so many died to give me the chance to do it.

The motivation not to vote is something I picked up on before I was even eligible. When I was 16, still doing my GCSEs and totally unable to have a say in the country, the 2010 General Election was a popular a talking point for me and my friends than that shitty movie Twilight and it’s never ending sequels. We quickly found that when the country goes to the polls, politicians come out in force to tell the young how much their vote matters, and to make sexy promises like the one Nick Clegg made. You remember, don’t you? The one he immediately backtracked on, issued a non-apology for two years later, and effectively ruined his career over. But I guess we at least got a cool song from it… Not much of a silver lining when I look at my £46,500+ of student debt but it’s something I suppose.

But there you go – I’d learned already not to trust the promises that politicians make when we go to the polls. Over the years that followed, as I passed into voting eligibility, I quickly learned other things too. Mainly that politicians only care about the young voters when we’re at the polls – the rest of the time they honestly couldn’t give a shit what we think, even if we are disproportionately affected by their policies. Take for example the proposed policy to cut various benefits for under 25s in order to save money. Sure, they work shit jobs in a shit economy where they aren’t guaranteed any hours at all, but that just means they don’t pay enough in as far as we’re concerned so fuck ’em. They should go back to living with mum and dad, even if there aren’t any jobs with mum and dad and mum and dad both live in a cemetary or something. What about the so-called-but-not-actually-accurate ‘Living Wage’? I personally thought the idea of a Living Wage was fabulous, signing numerous petitions to see it. I don’t recall having ever said “WOW, this is so fab, please keep me out of it!” Sure, I appreciate that maybe they can’t otherwise afford to do it (and I know they certainly can’t now the economy is up shit creek), but voting it in anyway is basically a declaration that MPs are more than willing to sacrifice living standards for under 25s to suit basically everyone else. Cheers, guys.

None of this was stuff I’d voted for, but I believed in democracy and I’d naively hoped that politicians would spare a thought for us before plowing ahead with their various policies. But every policy that was announced since I became eligible to vote seemed to have a small print that excluded us as a demographic. It’s hard not to wonder what the point is in voting when you sort of know that’s going to be the case.

The point is, politicians can’t ignore the young and throw them under the bus continually and then turn around and ask them to trust them or even help them when it’s time to make a decision about running the country. If you want young people to get involved, involve them or at least acknowledge they exist more than once every 5 years. And when you want to know why under 25s didn’t vote en masse to stop Brexit, remind yourself that they’d been taught from before they could even vote that their opinion didn’t really matter anyway.

 

Don’t blame the young for feeling politically disillusioned

On childhood romances

I happened to notice the daily prompt today, on what attracted people to their significant other. It got me thinking – not about what attracted me to Joe so much (because I don’t have a billion years to talk about how awesome that guy is!), but actually about something I was discussing with my siblings the other day.

We were talking about childhood romances (well, more teenage for me), specifically about how those shape who we end up being, romantically, and why we entered into them. It was an interesting debate, especially since I am renowned for just having the worst relationships in adolescence. Yet, in a messed up way, I wouldn’t undo a single one of those.

But I digress!

My first relationship – at least the first that I remember – was when I was 13, with a guy called John. We’d been friends for a while, and eventually he asked me out. At first my reaction was oh hell no, boys are SO icky! 

Eventually though, I took him up on the offer – because even though I wasn’t really into him that way, I was certain I probably would be, if I gave it a go. I felt pressured into having a boyfriend, in part by my friends, and mostly by the homophobic bullying I’d been receiving. What better way to prove to everyone, even myself, that I was actually heterosexual? (Which you want to be when you’re 13 and being bullied. Trust me!)

Months went past, and the bullying didn’t stop. Neither did my feelings towards my same-sex friend, who I’d developed the hugest crush on. But I did care about John, I did have a soft spot for him. He was my defense against the bullying, for starters; I could tell myself they were wrong while ever I was with him. Plus it was nice to have someone around, for a bit of a cuddle and a chat when things were rough – which was every single day at school. He was a bit of an arse, in retrospect, and he wasn’t ‘me’ at all, but he was at least around when I needed him.

Except that time he cheated on me and we broke up. Then he was on their side, telling the whole school I was totally a lesbian. Thanks, John.

After a while, ‘Ben’ came to fill the friend-shaped hole left by John. We weren’t a couple, we were just good friends – he was there for me at the onset of all my mental health problems, and he did make an effort to understand. That didn’t really work out either, as I’m sure you read in the last post! But at least when he asked me to marry him, I knew two very distinct things: he wasn’t my type, and I wasn’t into marriage. That’s valuable information right there.

I had another boyfriend – we got together just as ‘Ben’ and I had our bust-up – and he was a total jerk. He physically pushed me to get his own way (often into things, which hurt like hell), and put enormous emotional pressure on me. He didn’t last long. I built up the courage and ended it as soon as possible – which taught me that I can be courageous and strong when I want to be, and that I’m not the kind of person to put up with other people’s shit. It also taught me that just about anyone can end up in a bad relationship. Guys like him seem wonderful, but under the surface they are actually abusive. I think that made me a bit more compassionate and understanding with other people.

So then I finally plucked up the courage, and dated the girl I’d liked forever. It was actually pretty amazing! I was completely infatuated, at the time; perhaps we weren’t so infatuated with each other as we were with knowing and accepting who we were. While in the end we were too incompatible to make it, I learnt yet another valuable lesson from the experience. I liked girls, and there was nothing wrong with that.

After *quite* a long time, I met Joe and loved him instantly, and we’ve been together since then. He’s so cool. He’s changed me too – in lots of little awesome ways!

But the point is, I took away some important messages from these life experiences – about who I find romantically attractive, and who I don’t; about what I want out of life, and what I don’t; about who I am and what I’m capable of. The people I dated sucked at the time (can’t really blame some of them, they were young and stupid), but they taught me some valuable stuff about me, and shaped the kind of person I am today to an extent. For that you kind of have to thank them.

On childhood romances