How Politically Inclined are You?
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
We live in the age of Social Media. Today, it is just so easy to get out your phone and with a few taps open up a world of posts from celebrities and influencers talking about the hottest new restaurants or showcasing the latest trends in fashion or lifestyle. Arguably, it is just as easy to pull up a news app and take a look at the highlights of everything that’s happening around the world.
However, it may be far more enticing to open up TikTok or Instagram and have a quick scroll. In fact, if you asked the average teenager which actor was dating whom, they’re probably be able to tell you the answer, right off the bat. Ask the same teenager who their local representative is, and they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you without a quick glance at a Google search. This is not entirely the teen’s fault.
For most millennial and Gen-Z youth, the platform of preference for information-sharing is digital. With the myriad of webpages and accounts available for viewing, it’s not easy to weed out accurate and timely news from the rest. Couple that with the escapism that social media tends to provide, and it’s pretty easy to avoid the ‘real life’ issues like politics. However, we also live in a time where it is more important than ever to be aware of local and international politics.
It may be easy to simply dismiss this as something that does not affect you because you’re not of voting age or because you do not participate in the formal politics of your country, but that does not make your reasoning true. The politics and political actors have a direct impact on your life whether you realise it or not. Every decision that is made at a government level affects the citizens of that country either directly or indirectly. Let’s look at taxation, for example.
If the government were to increase taxes on imports, you may not feel the effects of it right away, but the next time you want to order a new outfit online or buy that imported chocolate you love so much, you may find yourself paying a lot more than you usually would. Perhaps you may no longer be able to afford this item. While it is generally a good practice to shop local whenever you can, sometimes local alternatives are not readily available, and in this way you may miss out on something you really need, like textbooks for example.
Sometimes, the decision may not affect you directly, but may affect communities around you. This does not mean that you will not feel the effects of such a decision. Government practices, laws and policies that discriminate or affect certain groups of society tend to cause tensions between groups and lead to disharmony. This can create problems for every citizen,
regardless of whether you belong to those group or not. That being said, aside from what we discussed above, having at least a general knowledge of your country’s politics is important. Though you may not be interested or plan to become actively involved in politics, as a young person, you are part of the future of the nation. You should know about the people who represent you in Parliament, and make decisions on your behalf.
Living in a democratic country means that you elect people who you think are competent to make high level decisions with your best interests at heart. So you should keep yourself informed of the decisions these people make, and decide for yourself whether they are the best possible people for the job. If you feel that they are not, you may be able to cast your vote for someone else in the future. Better yet, you could find ways in your local government to contribute towards policy decisions, if you feel so inclined.
Today, around the world, young people are divided in their political awareness. In some countries, younger generations are standing up to government decisions they disagree with, campaigning on social media, protesting on the streets, and fighting for injustices they see. In others, teenagers turn away from politics and often feel like they don’t need to know anything about politics just because it does not concern them. I must admit, it is quite easy to tune out the news and focus instead on entertainment or pop culture.
However, the longer you remain unaware of the politics around you, the more you miss out on serious issues and injustices that take place around you. Remember just a few months ago, when everyone was taking to their social media to post an image that was just completely blacked out? This was a form of protest that took place in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Unfortunately, not everyone who posted the picture knew what it was about. Many posted it just because they saw it trending or because they read the cliff notes and new it was a buzzworthy topic. These same people wouldn’t post a thing about racism, sexism or any other social issue taking place in Sri Lanka, because it just isn’t trending.
And because it isn’t trending, it’s not worth knowing about. This way, these very real, very important issues go underreported on digital platforms, where most young people get their information from.
Thus begins a vicious cycle. Hence, it is so important for us to stay educated and up to date on politics and political issues. If we are to stand with our fellow human beings in solidarity and protest the injustices that take place all around us, we must be well informed, aware and politically conscious.