Disempowered, Disengaged and Disconnected

Words by: Sarah Arturi
Art by: Madison Marshall

In an era where society is expected to be more connected than ever before, there is no doubt that many young people have switched off from politics. And I don’t blame us.

While young people are portrayed as being at the forefront of major political movements, they are simultaneously overlooked for their ‘immature minds’. The relationship between youth and politics remains problematised, digging modern society deeper into the hole of ingrained political disengagement. The result: donkey votes and young adults choosing to stick with their outdated family views. Yet with numerous disappointing political outcomes over the last few years, I believe Millennials and Generation Z are a force to be reckoned with.

A post-pandemic world has seen the youth of today experience first-hand the eruption of a political extravaganza. From the get-go, a hard-hitting reality shoved its way into our lives when conventional politics was no longer a passing thought observed on the nightly 6pm news during election time. Instead, it crept its way into heated household discussions during Dan’s daily press conferences and led to subtle disagreements in the girl’s group chat about whether boyfriends or girlfriends counted as ‘intimate partners’ (triggered). The events that unfolded during the pandemic quickly transformed from a place of genuine health precautions to a political game. Unfortunately, this forced the line between real life and politics to blur, prompting young people in particular to fall into a heap of disconnectedness and disempowerment with the political world. Perhaps it can be said that the widespread deflation due to months-long lockdowns has plagued any remaining political interests held by young people — but maybe this battle was a long time coming. 

If the pandemic wasn’t enough, the hostile trend of deception and mistrust by politicians has put the faith of voters to the test, prompting many to question their association with politics. In the past few years and months, we have observed those in a position of power repeat the downfalls of history to gain political points at the expense of individuals’ rights and wellbeing. With our world leaders failing to uphold their duty of care for their citizens — in particular, women — this has placed an immense impact on the future of our youth. 

Or perhaps the culprit to all of this is the entrenched belief that the fire has always been burning (since the world’s been turning — thanks, Billy Joel). So I pose the question: why spend time engaging in the political sphere if nothing ever seems to move forward? 

After giving my answer some thought (and going around in circles trying to provide a good enough reason as to why young people should still show an interest in modern politics), I came to a realisation. That in itself, my question demonstrates the exact reason most of us are checked out of politics, and why we must choose to check back in for the sake of our futures. It is time to move forward. 

It’s time for institutions to stop undermining the minds of young people and instead provide them with a platform to be heard. The likes of the Black Lives Matter movement, ongoing climate change protests, refugee crisis outrage, and women’s rights activism have not only revealed the immense anger and disappointment felt by young people, but also how passionate in our beliefs we are. 

Now more than ever, kids and teenagers are being made aware of current real-world issues, yet political parties are still figuring out how to fuel young people’s engagement with real-world change. In fact, it’s no surprise that the power of technological advancements, like social media, is being overlooked (*insert overused statement about our phones turning our brains to mush*). Instead, social media should be regarded as a tool for fervent political engagement amongst our youth and a weapon for much-needed social progression. It will take shifting the focus from mainstream politics to social movements, rallies and boycotts about relevant issues to truly capture the imaginations of young people — just like we’ve already observed in recent times. By enhancing youth representation at diplomatic events and discussions, young citizens will be drawn closer to the frontline of genuine political revolution. 

Politics is very disempowering when it feels like a lost cause. Whilst the light of our youth is currently dimmer than ever, I have hope that we can still find some reasons to relight the candle.

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