Why Don’t We Want to Know?

Image by Mark Sardella via Flickr

Meghan MacLaren | Staff Writer

opinion@fiusm.com


 

With the campaigning for the FIU Student Elections few weeks ago and the recent presidential candidates popping up, people’s disinterest in politics in general is probably more heightened than usual.

But I write this as a student from England, where the General Election is just over a month away – a pretty major event in the shaping of the country.

Since I came to the US for college three years ago, my interest in politics has grown, and so I am desperately trying to keep up with the campaigning going on at home, as my country attempts to pick a leader to drag us through the never ending economic mess most of the Western world finds itself in.

Trying to keep up with one political system is difficult enough. Trying to keep up with two is sometimes impossible. But trying to keep up with them both, while also getting to grips with their very fundamental concepts and origins, is too often causing me to wonder why I am even bothering to try.

When speaking to my dad on the phone about the televised debate between the leaders of the six main parties, we talked briefly about how I should get registered to vote, seeing as this is the first time I am old enough to do so. He laughed when I said I thought I had been old enough in the last election (I thought perhaps I had done what many people do and just chosen not to vote).

But it was then he informed me of a fact I was ashamed I didn’t know: that the general elections only happen every five years in the U.K. So back in 2010 my 15-year-old self definitely wasn’t able, or anywhere near ready, to vote for anybody.

But of all the complexities and intricacies of political processes, knowing that a general election occurs every five years seems to me something very basic that I should have known. Yet I didn’t. What is the point in me trying to get to grips with which candidate is the best option to take our country forward – or at the very least, which candidate’s lies are the least destructive – when I don’t even know such elementary information?

I know the U.K. general election has little relevance to students not from the U.K. But with the next presidential election in the US only a year and a half away, now is the perfect time for students to start figuring out which way they might pledge their allegiance when it comes around.

Very few people – in the U.K. or the U.S. or anywhere at all – are particularly happy with the state of things in their respective country. But if we sit here and use not understanding as an excuse not to vote, what right do we have to complain about the state of things? How can we complain about the people who make all of those big decisions if we don’t make the effort to choose who those people are?

I know it’s easy to say one person not voting isn’t going to change the outcome of anything. But if 90 percent of the student population uses that logic, suddenly things could be very different. The voting system, whatever its flaws may be, is supposed to give us the chance to have a say over what happens to us. If we want change, don’t we need to be a part of its foundation?

Something in the system needs to change, I think, to help make young people more aware of how the processes that control their country operate. We shouldn’t have to go out our way to find these things out; we shouldn’t have to spend hours trawling through internet pages just to find out the core principles of each party, or the background of the candidate or the ideals being put up for debate.

It shouldn’t require a dramatic extra output of energy to get that knowledge. But we also shouldn’t use that as an excuse not to know. It’s something we should want to know, regardless.

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