Are We Apathetic?

Here in Canada we just had a Federal Election. And only about 59.1% of us showed up to the polls. Apparently, that is a record low in the history of Confederation. We have elected a minority (under 50% of the seats) government. Which is kind of code for: nothing can get done. Unlike the folks in the US, we have more than two major parties… but the two “biggies”(my word, haha) are the Conservatives (more right) and the Liberals (more left). The other major parties are the Bloc Quebecois (French Canada), NDP (left/socialist), and Green. 37% of Canadians voted in another minority Conservative government.

Why am I sharing this? Well… some media is calling the low voter turnout “apathy”. That Canadians are apathetic. And I heard some chatter on CBC Radio (Canadian public radio), about the concept of making it a law to vote. Australia, Brazil, and Iraq (under Saddam) all enforce/d voting.

So I am curious… Is there any other reason why one would not vote that is not apathy? What is apathy? Where does it come from? What causes apathy?

AND

Is it Democratic to make choosing not to vote a punishable crime? Is it good?

AND

Is there anything youth, and female youth can do to change the way our countries run?

heehee… Excited to hear all your thoughts!!

Love,

Kristin

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44 Responses to “Are We Apathetic?”

  1. Cecilia Says:

    I don’t like the voting process in the US. I feel as though it doesn’t really make a huge difference. We are the popular votes and in the end its the electoral colleges vote that counts. Living in tx a very republican state I don’t think my democrat vote would matter.
    maybe I’m not fully informed but as long as there’s an electoral college I don’t think ONE vote makes a difference.

  2. vale Says:

    (You’ve got to excuse my english, I’m from ChiIe)
    I read about this yesterday, I thought canadians were more into voting than America, I guess I was wrong. Maybe because, or at least that’s my impression and what I see on tv, is that canadians seem to have a better “quality of life” than americans, and they’re not urge to vote. In my country, you can get registered when you turn 17, and if you’re registered you’re obligated to vote. I can’t imagine being a person over 18 and not vote, it’s like not having an opinion at all. I’ve seen through youtube and cnn all this american websites and campaings that encourages young people to vote, I think it’s great, I wish we had this in Chile. I know I could do something about it, It’s just that no matter how much you try to convince someone to vote(I’m 22 and always try to convince my friends) they never seem to understand how important is to speak your mind about issues that concern us all. I hope that in a future election, canadians will realize how important this is, specially to countries like mine, you guys set the example to us, cause we’re allways looking up north.

  3. Chris Says:

    I think apathy is caused by us being comfortable with the way things are. If we were living under different situations, where there is no democracy, no freedom to write or draw anything you want to….more people might just realize how important it is to have the right to vote. It took a lot for all Americans to be able to get their right to vote no matter what race or gender they are.

    I know a few who aren’t voting for either Obama or McCain and they are well-informed too. They just don’t agree with either of the candidates, especially with their plans to save the economy. I don’t think there should be a law saying everyone should be punished if they don’t vote as this would defy the very democratic freedom we have. The choice to do or not to do should be there when it comes to voting.

  4. Emily Says:

    Truthfully… I hate politics. Anyone who WANTS to be president is an idiot. Soo, knowing that about me…
    I don’t think they should make it a law to vote. Some people really are apathetic, and they should not have to vote. If they had to, they would just vote for who their friends were voting for and be done with it. I know I probably would, if I were old enough. So let the people who actually care decide and vote, don’t make it a law.

    -Em

  5. Robby Says:

    I don’t think it’s apathy. I think it’s a lack of faith in the government to do the job and to do the job right. We simply don’t believe in our leaders anymore and they’re doing nothing in their power to change our minds.

    You guys are more well off than us though, because the 2 party system is definitely flawed and if an Independent had a shot at winning the US election I think all of us would be better for it.

    Sounds like both countries need to take steps to either tear down and start over their governing structure, or use their power as citizens to bring it back closer to their own Constitutions.

    People aren’t angry enough yet. Which is what they count on.

  6. Binks Says:

    U.S has a democratic-republic, sooo everything concerning the states is direct democracy while most concerning national gov. is republic (representatives) So Cecilia is right, one vote doesn’t count in anything national but it does state-wise.

    To answer the mini questionnaire *cough cough* A reason that would not be a apathetic is the fact that neither candidate suits your interests and you would prefer to not vote. =/ possibly. Apathy means you don’t really care, you are indifferent. Comes from…laziness? It can be caused by many things: No belief in your representatives, or no trust in your form of government, etc.

    Well…in a way I can see why your CBC can say voting should be enforced. It would keep everyone on their toes as to who they are going to elect. I don’t think it should be a severe crime to not vote, maybe a mini-fine? Or something. Iono. I don’t think Canadians are the only apathetic towards government. The U.S was even more indifferent before and such lack of focus on who’s ruling our way of life has now caused us to be in a very serious dilemma. So now everyone is in a frenzy of who they are going to vote for. We don’t want a repeat. >_> Basically if you don’t vote you get sucky representatives who aren’t doing much for your well-being, so if you do vote you’ll be at least trying to make your government better and your society better as a whole.

    We could probably get more ppl interested, talk about the bigger issues and who has what stance on certain topics to ensure you are voting for someone you WANT and not someone who looks good in a tux or has a way with words, but who’s opinions and policies you agree with and trust. There’s a video going around of huge stars talking about voting and it’s a pretty nifty thing. We are based on celebrities and gossip so one huge way to attract the attention of the public is through them, which I thought was a brilliant plan to get people to vote. Maybe we could have talks in classes about voting also, debates, participate/volunteer for politicians in their campaigns or help out at the poles. If you are in an interest group you can push people to look at that specific topic and thus support a politician who is helping the cause you are fighting for.
    There’s ultimately a lot of things we can do, it’s just up to us to show that we care, instead of not doing anything about it.
    I’m babbling again, aren’t I? 😛

  7. Hammad Says:

    Apathy is indifference. It comes from a sense of not mattering. People choose not to vote because they see their single vote among millions having little effect. Not voting is also a way of stating that they really have no belief in the candidates, and possibly the system itself. The latter is especially true in the US with special interest groups donating millions upon millions of dollars for their own benefit. The average person sees government policy determined by those who have the most money, not by the will of the majority. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, except when the policy tends to favor the few over the majority (for example the $700 billion dollar bailout which was recently passed in the US for essentially the “friends of the rich” at tax payer expense no matter the excuses given from high on up as something necessary to save the economy), which is in stark contradiction to the intent of a democratic government.

    I don’t really find anything wrong with requiring people to vote in certain elections and having punishments for not voting. We are forced to obey other laws, such as following the speed limit, or stopping for a stop sign, etc., and get punished when we don’t obey those laws and are caught. But, I think the people should vote on the notion that they should be required to vote. 😉

  8. Michel - Sorocaba Says:

    Sorry, if not all understand my English ….
    I think the problem in Canada may be the same in Brazil, but with a difference: while the North you are not obliged to vote, in Brazil (think across South America) voting is compulsory. But I believe that the disinterest is due to 2 reasons: not the radical change of policy, even with an exchange of groups of power and difficulty within the policy, which is not supported powerful (big business) will not have the slightest chance of win. Indeed, they are almost 1 reason. In Brazil, in 2002, when Lula was elected for the first time, had a chance to change the policy because it was the first time that the PT (Lula’s party) was in power. The time has passed, and the policy remained the same as predecessor, the PSDB, with encandalos of corruption involving people the government ….
    Today there is the idea of left versus right; is simnplesmente situation versus opposition.

    I see no prospect of a change of scene so quickly, unfortunately …….

  9. Jim Says:

    I live in Oklahoma in the US and I have found the process of choosing a presidential candidate to be extremely frustrating. The best I have been able to do, as far as actual issues go, is to determine that one of the candidates makes more misleading statements than the other. Both sides describe their positions in glittering generalities that are so completely unconvincing that I am force to make my decision based on a very few vague issues. Both candidates have done more to misrepresent their opponent’s motives

  10. MarilyneL Says:

    Well, this year, I HAD THE CHANCE to vote for the first time (I’m 18 yay!). I was trying to convince all my friends to do so but the main reason why they wouldn’t, was because they didn’t know much about politics, so they were like, “what’s the point to vote for somebody I don’t know”. Most of my friends don’t even know who is the Prime Minister of Canada…:S Harper?? I think that just like in school, most of the students won’t study if there is no exam…so people don’t vote if they’re not obliged to. I would like people to care and to be interested in politics, so that they would know who to vote for. I think it’s very sad that Canadians don’t care this much about politics. At least, if you don’t know who to vote for, just go and put an X in each blank, meaning that you used your right to vote, but you decided to not wrongly influence the results.
    About interests, I would like to know how many citizens watched the last debates…About debates, I watched both, in French and then another one in English. Because, there are 2 official languages in Canada, and the majority barely understands few words in the other language. The leaders of the partys or not all at the same level, when they have 40 seconds to refute…the words don’t come up as easily as they would in their first language, so they look not as confident, and not as convincing of course…

    Another thing about this year’s election: the very small election campaign time. I think we did not have the right time to make up our minds on a candidate. I love this year’s American elections because we get to learn more about their values, their goals, and the way they want to lead the country. Here in Canada, they seem to personally attack the other candidates, spending much less time on real issues.
    Here in Quebec, the Bloc québécois is very popular…but I don’t agree. I think about all the other Canadians out there, who I guess are like…why do they have to be more represented in Ottawa than us? Just because they speak French?…The Bloc was first created to seperate Quebec from the rest of Canada!…NOoooo! There were 2 referendums (the Quebecois voted for yes or no about wheter or not they should separate) and the result was “no” the 2 times… so the Bloc québécois, now?..no, time to move on…I love my Canada! Canada as a whole 😀

    As for the apathy part. In my culture class, we compared Canadian culture to American culture, and we came to conclusion that Canadians were indeed, more passive, more of a “vivre et laisser vivre”. We are known to be peaceful, mainly for that…(or WERE we?…)
    I agree with the comments of some of you about the fact that we don’t have quite big issues to face. “We have everything we need”.

    About the weak percentage of voters, I find it really sad that we get to be lead by someone that not even the majority has voted for. If everyone eligible to vote would use their right and duty, the results would be different. Women obtained their right to vote in Canada in 1917 because of the suffragettes. They wanted so badly to vote too. Why are we now so disconnected with this need to express our opinion?

    Finally, when a government is minoritary, it is indeed really hard to see a project getting approved and achieved, which is really sad. On the other and, it can avoid bad moves because all the opposition partys study the cons and pros, as they should…but right now, it seems like they automatically vote against it… The other thing wrong in our politics, is that when they have to vote, ministers do so by raising their hands….so of course, the members of the party in charge of the project will approve it…even if the minister himself/HERSELF does not agree…Real democracy should allow a confidential voting.

    well, after all those lines….I wish that every American registered to vote will vote! and for all the other democratic countries, we can change things and not be lead by someone that was imposed to us…so VOTE to use your human right, and to exerce your citizen duty.

    peace

  11. Jim Says:

    I would suggest that frustration, rather than apathy, is cause of low voter turout.
    I live in Oklahoma in the U.S. and I have found the process of choosing a presidential candidate to be extremely frustrating. The best I have been able to do, as far as actual issues go, is to determine that one of the candidates makes more misleading statements than the other. Both sides describe their positions in glittering generalities that are so completely unconvincing that I am force to make my decision based on a very few vague issues. Both candidates have spent more time misrepresenting their opponent’s record and motives this year than they have spent genuinely talking about the specifics of their own policies. I have spent many hours just to determine if the various attacks have any merit at all (most do not). It angers me to realize that I spent nearly 8 hours watching the debates and another 6 or so of fact checking to determine that both sides were almost constantly trying to mislead me about their opponent but still said virtually nothing of substance regarding their own policies. I knew immediately during/after the debates that nothing of substance had been said, it just took me another 6 hours to check all the bogus claims. And that was just for the debates.

    The election process is supposed to work like this:
    1) Each candidate tells me what they will do if elected
    2) I read a little and talk with friends/family to decide which candidate I think will be best for the country
    3) I vote for that candiadte

    Currently, it seems to work more like this:
    1) Each candidate makes extremely vague statements about their position on the cruicial issues
    2) Each candidate makes and enormous number of wildly misleading statements about their opponent that are easily disputed with some work, but will take a lot of time to dispute
    3) Since each candidate has been less than honest with me, I now have to check the veracity of their statements about themselves against their voting records (yay fun)
    4) I decide which candidate I think will be best for the country, based on a partially formed opinion of who they say they might be and what they say they might do in the realm of a few secondary topics that they did actually address
    5) I vote for that candiadte and hope he/she doesn’t have a well-hidden bonehead agenda (like invading Canada to “secure” its actors and comedians)

    My state has voted for the Republican candidate in all but one presidential election since I was born. In 50% of those elections, the vote was a landslide of 60-65%. Nearly everyone I know voted Republican in the last presidential election. Faced with those statistics, frustration and disgust with my choices give me good reason to skip this one. I will vote because I can. I sure as heck wouldn’t blame someone for skipping it though. At least until they started compaining.

  12. Audrey Says:

    Ah.. apathy is a word that is thrown around very often in Singapore, where I live. Voting here is mandatory for adults, but the fact that everybody votes is clearly not the solution to apathy because people just vote because they are required to by law, not because they care about the issues at hand. In my opinion, the apathy in Singapore comes about because people are just too comfortable where they are. The country has become very used to being spoonfed by the government. Not sure if you guys know anything about Singapore or even where it is on the map (it’s a tiny dot below Malaysia!), but we’ve experienced progress from third world country to first in a few short decades. No easy feat, and all thanks to prudent government policies. I think that is what paved the way for political apathy in my country though – when the government seems to be doing a good job overall, we get over-reliance on the government and complacency.

    So maybe people only start to really care when things start going downhill? I’m not sure about other democracies like Canada but what I feel from looking at politics in the US is that citizens’ participation in the process is driven by dissatisfaction and a very strong sense of the need for change in one way or another. We don’t really have that sense that we need to change a lot of things in Singapore. The government is obviously not perfect, but from an economic standpoint it is doing its job. On top of that, we don’t have any strong opposition to the ruling party which has been in power since forever. So in some ways, the system set up by the ruling party has served to perpetuate apathy among citizens. I’d like to think that if serious political issues come to be at stake in future elections, citizens will rise to the occasion, but until there is a viable opposition, the apathy will most probably continue.

    In the US they have campaigns to try and get young people to vote. I think this is an admirable cause but I also worry that while voting is the most fundamental form of direct participation in the democratic process, FORCING someone to vote does not necessarily aid the aims of democracy. In principle, the citizens’ votes are what gives the elected government the mandate to exercise power over the people. But if there are people who are genuinely and completely disinterested in the whole concept, and on top of that are ill-informed of the facts, it might be more harmful than helpful to force them to vote. Their vote might not indicate an actual informed choice that represents support for one side or the other. It could end up being a random choice or the person could unknowingly vote for principles which he disagrees with! So it would be counter-productive to the aims of the democratic elections process because it would not be genuine participation in the process even though technically the person “made a choice”.

    So instead of making voting mandatory like many democracies have done, I think a better approach to getting people (especially the younger generation) interested in issues is to make them more accessible to everyone. We need to get the important ideas that are being hotly debated in parliament (or whichever branch of the government) out to the layman. I think the televised debates in the US are a good way of doing this. We don’t really have that in Singapore. It would be good for students to get interested by having class discussions on some of the issues too. In my opinion we need to foster a whole culture of being interested.. We can’t do it overnight, nor can we do it just by telling people to vote – we have to start with basics and teach people about how the issues affect them directly. Apathy comes about for several reasons but the common underlying assumption that apathetic citizens make is that none of it concerns them directly. So we have to get the word out there that the issues affect everyone, and we have to explain how people will be affected.

    I think schools are a good place to start in fostering such a culture, because they are a good platform for active discussions and debates. I also think that televised debates by candidates and good news coverage of the issues are helpful – I got interested in US politics by watching the CNN podcast by Anderson Cooper (it’s free!) even though I live halfway across the world! So getting the issues and news onto platforms that young people have access to – school, TV, the internet – I think that helps. 🙂

  13. superkurre Says:

    We’re having our parliamentary elections here in Finland in a few weeks, and I voted yesterday at the early voting thingy, I don’t know what you call it in English. Anyway, Finnish people, especially younger people, are a little apathetic as well when it comes to voting. I think that we seem to view voting as a priviledge, but we haven’t actually seen much change as a result. We have a multi-party system with as many as 9 parties (with over 50 members, more parties have fewer memebers) being serious contenders for seats in parliament. Right now, we have a somewhat conservative government and people seem to be happy with that. Coming from a long line of social democrats (which is NOT the same as socialists, thank you!!!), there are things I disagree on with the party, but they are not as bad as they could be.

    I don’t know if it’s the same in Canada, I mean I’ve only been there once, but perhaps the lack of enthusiasm in voting has to do with the fact that no major (I mean MAJOR) changes are needed. Finland is a welfare state and we have been one for decades. Could it be better? Sure, but there’s been no evidence in the past few years that it will be. We are generally happy with the way things are and if there is something we have qualms about, then we demand change. One of the issues that will come up in the next presidential elections (in 2012) is the question of NATO. But that’s another day and another cup of coffee 🙂

    It’s true that kids today don’t know much about politics and show little interest in it. I only got interested in it when I went to university and did my first politics course. I must have found it interesting as I am now doing a Masters degree in politics 😛 My point is, if we want the next generation to be more active, to demand change and to raise the number of people voting, it has to start in schools. I don’t remember anyone teaching us about these things in school and I doubt they do so now. Here, not many people under 20 vote. It’s a shame, since they are the ones who will be living longer with any changes that our new government makes.

    I don’t know if this made any sense, it’s VERY early in the morning…

  14. superkurre Says:

    Oh, and about mandatory voting. There are dangers in it. Forcing someone to vote is taking away their right not to express an opinion. The upside is people might get more interested in politics and more involved, but the whole point of a democratic state is to allow people to have a choice. Some people don’t vote simply because they don’t want to, even if they were interested in current affairs.

    That is all.

  15. Marie Q. Says:

    I think that it wouldn´t be democracy if you are forced to do something that is called: “free expression” that is not being free anymore ! and defenetly not a true expression from you or idea from you..
    but you are still 59%1
    in guatemala just 30% vote..! that´s truly sad HUH?
    but still what happens if there´s no one of your election..HMM well,still there´s going to be one elected.. we should do something to stop that “guy” from being elected by chossing someone more likely to be doing something good for your country..still,we can find something positive or good in every people including them..!
    :)* gbU!
    XO
    marie Q.

  16. Ashley Says:

    Ha ha…very interesting considering here in the States, we had just previously had out presidential debate. Which I watched because I’m very hip on voting and picking a president, in a geeky crazy freaky way. But apathy to me is all about not having an interest in something that you’re friends have an interest in.

    If someone is apathy, I don’t believe in pushing them to vote. Voting is a choose, we chose who we want as our government or president or whatever you have. I am Republican, but for a first time in my life, I’ll be voting Democratic, so I guess Im Democratic and not Republican. Just a thought.

    Heck yeah, we can do something…hello we are women, hear us roar. No but women are changing this world and the way people see us and men. We sophisticated women known as Girls by Design can let every other lady out there know don’t be afraid to go after what you think is right, even if its wrong. Don’t be afraid, ladies, to say I’m voting for such and such (and I so sound like a school teacher) because to me they show like they can really make a difference and change our planet and our government and all the other good stuff.

    If they are seriously making voting a law to where people have to vote, I don’t wanna be a part of it. I think if they really want you to pick the person whose best their let you decide and not force you or tell you who to pick because it’s your decision in the first place. You rock the vote!!
    I so could be Paris Hilton right now, you guys with the Paris Hilton rock the vote stuff. HeHe.

  17. David B Says:

    Well I am Canadian… I live in Quebec…

    I voted 😉

    But a reason beside apathy for not voting… I have one right here… the anticipated vote was held a few days before the actual election day… and my uncle lives in another region of Quebec but during the week he lives here with us since he is working near… so he couldn’t go to the anticipated vote and neither could he go for the official vote because of his work…

    that is not apathy… but still he couldn’t vote…

    Also… here I heard it was 58% of the population that voted.. so hmm… yeah…

  18. Gina Says:

    Apathy? Wow, that speaks very true for me. I’ll leave a short answer. I’m not exactly what causes my apathy. I had a lot of apathy in the 2004 US elections because I couldn’t vote. I just didn’t care. Now I care because I actually CAN vote this election.

  19. G Says:

    Being Canadian, but not quite of age to vote yet, I think the numbers were a record low this past election, because none of the candidates were really fit for the job. With the Conservatives attacking the Liberals and the NDP attacking the Conservatives and the Liberals trying to split the NDP vote so they get more and everyone’s economy doing a downward spiral, or heading that way, everyone just figured Canada was in a lose/lose situation. IMO, that was the biggest factor in Canadians being viewed as apathetic. How are people supposed to be enthusiastic about something if they have the idea that the situation is going to go from bad to worse no matter what the outcome? Which brings me to my next point, I believe that apathy is a direct result from the every-growing pessimistic feelings that seem to be out-numbering the positive ones.

    Now, as for it being democratic to make it a law that people must vote, I do not believe that it is very democratic, but I do tend to lean more towards Hobbes’ ideals of how govern a society. Sometimes a more commanding approach needs to be taken by the government, because the majority of people can be lazy, selfish beings that, if given free-will over certain things such as voting and going green, will not and will eventually drive said society into chaos.

    Is there anything girls can do? Of course. We can be more vocal, positive and pass this on to those around us, who can pass it on to others around them. Youth and girls can either follow this pattern and worsen it, or turn it around and change everything. Girls can also continue to get involved in politics and become the kind of person people would want to be their leader, therefore vote for her, etc

  20. skahahoo Says:

    With regards to apathy…someone once said that the people get the kind of democracy they deserve. So if you don’t care about the government, don’t be surprised if the government doesn’t care about you.

    What causes apathy? If I may be frank, as an American citizen, I am quite apathetic about those who are apathetic. I am sure there are many reasons, but at the end of the day, we live in a country that gives us a wide berth when it comes to freedom. There are many problems, of course, but relatively speaking, compared to what is going on in countries like Zimbabwe, for example, where citizens are intimidated and the opposition is beaten and jailed, all American citizens have to do is care enough to pay attention, to vocalize your concerns to your representatives, and to make an informed vote. That is all. And as a woman, I am so grateful, SO grateful, to those brave and persistent women who came before me who fought so hard, SO hard, so that today I too can have that power. So if you don’t care enough about our country to pay attention and be an active participant, no matter the reason, that is fine. Just get out of the way while the rest of us try to improve things, and if you don’t like the way things turn out, don’t complain.

    I’ve heard many argue…what’s the point of voting? The politicians just listen to the lobbyists and the money anyway. This is no excuse, because when it comes down to it, on Election Day, the people will always outnumber the lobbyists, and last time I checked, dollar bills don’t walk to the polls and pull the lever, people do. So if elected officials listen to the lobbyists and the money, it is because the people they represent have not made it abundantly clear that they are in office to answer to them, not to anything or anyone else.

    And on principle, I don’t think it’s democratic to force someone to vote. I think an uninformed vote is more dangerous than a no vote.

    And may I say one last thing…I know in the U.S., the 2 big, sexy parties are the Democrats and the Republicans. But they’re not the only parties with candidates on the ballot. If you don’t like either McCain or Obama, then vote for someone else. He or she won’t win this election, but your vote does matter. The funding that these smaller parties get depend on the voter turnout for that party. So if nothing else, your vote helps to ensure that they stay in the running in future elections.

  21. dom froggy Says:

    If in our Western country we do not take part or little, it can be that we live for certain too comfortably, or that in our politicians nobody seems to correspond has our aspirations, also let us take of hand.
    Thanks to the vote, each citizen can express his ideas, give his opinion on the system and assert a future in conformity with his aspirations.
    The vote is thus the first weapon of which each one lays out to make change the things.
    Our future depends partly, not only, on the political decisions.
    It is necessary, I think of being an actor and not spectator of the world in which we live

    So that it becomes our world . Go to Vote

  22. Danny the Only Bloke Says:

    It’s the same state of affairs in England. Except for the hung government (out term for what’s happening in Canada) Our Election isn’t for another year tho.

    My dad says, quite rightly –

    Q./ What’s the 1st question you should ask yourself when you hear a politician speak.

    A./ Why’s this man (or woman) lieing to me.

    That’s the polite version of that gag/truism by the way.

    Oh, we don’t have a party for French Canadians, we do have the BNP (British National Party) which is VERY right wing, not quite Nazi, but heading that way. They thankfully are small.

    Maybe you could have some kind of ‘Youth Election’ to try and get kids involved.

    Our last Prime Minister even went on kids tv shows to answer questions from some kids.

    That might help to.

    The main problem is that politics is very boring.

    TTFN

    Danny The Only Bloke

  23. Randy Says:

    Well, after reading everyone else’s thoughts….I thought that I would throw in my two cents…..

    Do I believe that voters (either Canadians or voters elsewhere) are apathetic? Honestly, I don’t believe that most people are uninterested or unconcerned…..but most people just don’t feel as if they can make a difference. That is not apathy……this is more in the way of frustration and perhaps a bit of despair….. This in no way means that a person does not care. On the contrary, I believe many people care a great deal…..they just don’t feel like their voice counts. (Just think of how your voice gets drowned out while talking to someone else when you are in the middle of a large crowd.) It can be very frustrating and quite aggravating. I think this is how most people feel about it. (Quite sad, isn’t it…..)

    As for the particular situation in Canada….I must admit that I am not very familiar with the whole party system and setup with the Canadian government. (I know, I sound like an arrogant American…..but I assure you that is not the case. In fact, after reading the discussions, I am planning on reading up a bit more so that I am better informed in the future.) However, I must admit…..the one thing that I do like that is different than what we have here in the US….is the fact that you have more than two major parties. This is yet another factor which frustrates people. Since there are only two candidates that have any chance of being president…..for many people it comes down to not which candidate do you like the best…..BUT which candidate do you dislike the least! This may sound a bit pessimistic…..but that is what I have found when I talk to most people about it. The sad fact is, between the Democrats and the Republicans…..they are spending over $ 1 Billion for this election. (Yes, that is a BILLION with a capital B….) With that kind of money being thrown around….how could your everyday kind of man or woman have a chance of being elected president? (Thereby giving the public more options.)

    Again, this is not meant to say that people don’t care…..it just shows why so many feel frustrated…. Our first president had it right when he said that it was best for the country if we stay away from forming political parties….. (Sorry if I am incorrect in this, I believe that it was George Washington that warned against this….I am trying to go back and remember a few things from American History class. However, I may be remembering incorrectly.) But whoever did say it…..man, they knew what they were talking about……huh?

    One last thought and I will get off of the American voting system….I believe that a few people brought up the whole popular vote VS the electoral college…..You have to realize, that when the system was made there were MANY fewer voters….and the political awareness of the general public was not anywhere near what it is now. So even though it may not be the best now….it did have its place back when it was originally designed. That being said….I do believe that it should be completely overhauled. With modern technology, we should be able to setup a system in which EVERY vote is counted….and EVERY vote has the same importance. Now of course there would be MANY technical issues to work out and it would have to be designed to prevent tampering of the votes. (Much easier said than done.) But I do believe that it is possible…..and if enough people started to demand it…..we would probably be able to do this within a decent amount of time. Also, if people felt that their vote was actually counted directly….it would probably help to increase voter turnout as well.

    As for whether or not voting should be mandatory………….No…….I don’t believe it should. To try to force people to vote is not the answer…..People should not be forced….merely encouraged. (Including informing students in schools about the issues and the importance of their participation in the political system. Once they are able to vote, of course…..)

    As for myself….I did not vote the first chance I had after I became old enough….and I regret it. But I have voted ever since…..and I will continue to for as long as I am able.

    The way I see it is this…..Voting should be a RIGHT and a PRIVILEGE not something you have to do by law. BUT, if you DON’T vote…..then you really don’t have a right to complain if things don’t go the way you want…..Now do you?????

    So I encourage everyone here that can vote……. to vote in your own government’s elections…..I know I will…..And remember…….the right to vote is something that MANY people around the world have sacrificed for…..been imprisoned for ……have even given their lives for….. So when you are thinking about whether or not you WANT to vote….just remember that……(FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!!!!)…….

    But at the end of the day….no matter what you decide to do……Just thank God Almighty that you at least have the right to make that choice…… (Many people still don’t…..)

  24. taylor nikole Says:

    not apathetic….
    maybe the voting it just left to people that really care and really have a sense of what they are talking about…
    or maybe not

    well in the US it seems like everyone votes
    just for the sake of doing so…
    Or for the sake of having someone win, and in this case its the minority that they want to win.
    I was listening to a recording…
    and they were talking about people not knowing the views, just voting for the person themselves…
    maybe its better to have 50 or so % or people voting who know what they are talking about, opposed to 90 % or so of people voting who have no idea what they are voting for…. just the who…
    in a sense :-/

  25. Stephen K Says:

    Kristin,
    I have never voted. The main reason is that I do not agree with government. “That government is best which governs least”. (Like Gandhi? His inspiration came from Thoreau, read Civil Disobedience. Want rad, read Lysander Spooner.)

    So my (non)vote is essentially, I disagree, none of the above. A vote of no confidence. Up in beautiful Canada I see that my people made up the largest block of voters, 40.9%. Yay.

    They can pass a law forcing me to vote. But they will also have to tell me who to vote for.
    I can do Orwell as good as they can.
    Steve K

  26. Ver0nik21 Says:

    I think Politics are very significant in our lives whether we like it or not, but how much people, in general, think is important doesn’t necessarily has to do with apathy.

    I think that people, it doesn’t matter whether they are from Canada, USA or England, don’t vote because they don’t feel identified with the politicians they feel completely unrepresentative of the people who are supposed to serve us so as a consequence no one believes in them as they feel they are deceived by them. What I think we need is a new party that suits the new circumstances or two new parties that properly represent us.

    To answer the other questions I think apathy the state of indifference, or perhaps the lack or suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation and passion so if the person is apathetic has no interest or very little interest in an emotional, social life.

    I’m ok with compulsory voting, for the simple fact that it makes a vote far more representative of the will of the whole population. Unfortunately, as those countries without compulsory voting show, a vast proportion – if not the majority – of people can’t get themselves motivated enough to vote, unless they have a particular issue to push – e.g, the gun lobby, the religious right, etc. Compulsory voting means that the ‘moderates’ have their say, too, so that their government is not dominated by lobby groups. For those who have argued above that not voting is a right, and that not voting can be a political statement – you can still do that with compulsory voting. You simply submit an invalid vote – for example, turn up, have your name ticked off, and drop in an empty ballot, or one in which you do not clearly indicate a preference.

    I think us, youth, can help by setting an example and get up and vote! And spread the message that our vote can make the difference! 😉 And it really can!
    😉

  27. Daylan Says:

    I’m neutral. I don’t vote.

  28. Soffy Says:

    I’m French, but we have the same problem here. I heard in sociology class once that some countries – I don’t know which ones – count blank votes as actual votes. Which means that if the people showing up and stating that they can’t or don’t wanna choose are the majority, no one’s elected and there has to be another election. Of course, this takes time and a lot of extra organisation, but it’s an alternative to be considered.

  29. Maxima Says:

    Politicians are all crooks, some more than others. I’m not going to support someone that does not put honesty and integrity first.
    I think the world has come to a point where it needs to reset itself to its original settings.
    That change will occur, in my opinion, only with
    more and more people which minds give birth
    to ideas and initiatives like GBD…for the good of human kind and not for the money, fame and power.

  30. Rysa Says:

    Hi Kristin!

    You know, it’s very interesting what you posted. Last week, we was discussing that in our Law School, cause last week was the election here in Brazil and we have/must (to) vote. The discussion was exactly that. If we live in a Democratic country, why we don’t have the choice to not vote (faculty vote)? That was the question. In Brazil the things are very different about the vision you, who don’t live here, have. And the other question was that brazilians don’t have the political conscience stabilized like you have. Here, If we don’t vote we have some administrative punishiment.

    BUT things are so complicated here that the discussion didn’t solved anything and We’re come back to the point we started.

    Politics is very difficult to talk in Brazil.

  31. Julianne Says:

    Hi everybody,

    I think the lack of turnout this year had something to do with the fact that the election was called so quickly and during a time that Harper felt he had the best chance of being elected. Many people felt like they were set up and resented being put in that position. I voted but there was still that sense of being manipulated. Feelings of powerless often lead to apathetic behavior and the “what’s the point?” mentality that prevents young people from going out and voting.

    I didn’t see many campaigns out there targeted to youth voters. To be honest I see more excitement generated by the US elections, specifically the Obama campaign which has managed to make the younger voters feel like they can make a difference – resulting in what should be the biggest youth voter turn-out in history. Canadian politicians should take notes.

    What can help? Blogs and forums like these that bring issues to the table in a way teens can understand and gives them an opportunity to actually debate the issues that are important to them in a fun, casual and friendly format.

    Thanks for making this an issue. As a teen leader for literature (fancy word for bookclubs) it’s great to see this site and teens getting the opportunity to express themselves in a positive way.

    🙂

    Julianne

  32. shawna Says:

    I think the reason we Canadians don’t vote is b/c we simply don’t care. Honestly the government system doesn’t effect the ppls life as it used to. None of the parties have strong leadership commitments toward the country. The rules are set up for them to carry on their legacy with few exceptions…that all. It doesn’t change the regular ppls life. ex- I am a Uvi student…none of the parties have any saying abt reducing the tuition fees which seem to have skyrocketed, and i hear something abt privatization of our health-care system the list will go on with countless things this country can’t afford or need but as this world taught us; they will soon make a law and everyone has to do as told…again it doesn’t change anything. One more thing we are lacking is encouraging ppl to vote. In Canada immigrants are not allowed to vote and there‘s a huge population of ppl that are immigrants…which is pathetic b/c everyone should have a saying. None of the party leaders will ever make the mistake of visiting the local University or Collages where most of the youths are, or the shelters or old-folks homes or a mosque/temple simply b/c they think they (above mentioned groups) are minority…and doesn’t count in the long run. Who knows where this country will be in 20 yrs from now but I voted in 2008’s election hoping for a better future.
    xoxo shawna

  33. Emma-Lu Says:

    Interesting debate Kristin! Glad you raised awareness around this issue. I think alot of members here have expressed interesting points here. Firstly that ‘Apathy’ may spring from feelings of powerlessness perhaps, rather than indifference. I think indifference encompasses a level of anger, right?
    Secondly, I tend to agree with Skahahoo, who has encouraged voters; especially in US who currently don’t favour either of the candidates, to vote instead for a Minority party. It’s obvious that it won’t swing the government in your favour, as least not in this election, but it WILL keep the ‘big guys’ on their tippy toes and this is what is so great and fair about a Democracy! Freedom of speech. Perhaps people should also be reminded again that the Right to Vote, is a privilege! People fought for MANY MANY years for that right.

  34. Danielle Sousa Pacheco Says:

    Hi Kristin, first ” i love you with all my heart”. I´m from Brasil where the vote is forced like you said and we have a lot of problems because that. Here is usual people sell yours votes to things like promises for a job or sympathy of soccer team the candidate likes. Is a shame! I believe we need instruction before vote, is a big deal! I´m 28 years old and I vow since 16(is binding 18, but we can vote after 16). I don´t understand a lot of policy, but I try to do my best knowing promises of candidates, his history and the history of party( we have a lot of parties). Until now, I´m very pride of my choices. Two great presidents and despite some problems my country grew in the last 10 years like never before. I ask to myself whereabouts we could be with more knowledge. I don´t think we are apathetic but
    selfish and lazy. Is pretty sad to be forced to do one thing so valuable like vote, we can change the course of history and make the world a place where everybody could have pride. Please forgive my english, too many time without write in english. Xoxo(Beijos) Danielle

  35. BC Says:

    Among young people there isn’t a push to learn about politics and why it matters not only to vote, but to actually be aware of what’s going on. I have to admit that I don’t pay attention all the time and only when election time comes do I really care about what’s going on. There’s a cycle that a person goes through; when they’re younger they don’t vote as much because they don’t have the worries that “grown ups” do (besides maybe tuition fees). As people grow older, voting increases because things start to become more important (ie money for childcare, tax (returns), pensions, etc.). In the States, celebrities are urging people to vote, perhaps Canada should employ the same thing. I was watching TSN one evening about a week before the election and the news reporter asked Sidney Crosby if he was going to vote. He said he wasn’t. Granted, he plays in the States and has the weight of the hockey world on his shoulders, but it’s a person like Crosby (21 years old) whom many young people look up to, and if he shows that he puts the effort into voting, it shows people that you can’t be too young, rich, or far away to NOT vote. I have a friend teaching in China and she cast an absentee vote. My mom is the one who instilled in me the duty to vote. One year, I wasn’t going to vote until she basically said – “You better vote. I had to wait four years before I could vote (because she was an immigrant). You better not waste your privilege.” It’s a shame not many people hold the belief that being able to vote is an honour.

    I also think people expect politicians to have black and white ideals. They make promises and sometimes, they don’t follow through. I just think it’s a fact of life that things will alter a politicians promises. I think there’s an unfair stereotype that politicians are liars, when really, it’s the world that has become so complicated that no one can guarantee anything anymore. The good politicians try and stay as true to their promises and values as possible, but even they break promises sometimes. It’s like when we’re small and have all these dreams, but rarely, do they come true…because life hands us different things. We can only hope that at the end of the day, we do achieve some, if not most of our dreams – the same can be said for politicians.

  36. taylor nikole Says:

    @BC

    actually there is a push
    everyone at my school is required to take a political behavior class to graduate…
    and take part in little debates to fully understand…
    it was a good year to have the class too..
    because you could better understand the debates, views etc… and about voting…
    its kinda nice 🙂
    personally i LOVE politics…
    they are great conversation and i think an very important aspect of a society.

    and ofcourse promises are made… that is politics.
    US is in debt right now… how many of the promises that the candidates made… do you think are actually going to happen?
    how are they going to be able to pull through?
    we are paying with ‘paper money’ right now…
    and it doesn’t exist, technically.

    Man is the political animal 🙂
    and its true… we love the sound of promises…
    its gives us hope
    we want a leader so we let people make promises they can’t keep….

  37. Nakisa Says:

    Well, I know why I’m a little apathetic to Canadian politics. Their stupid and child-like, all they ever do is squabble over the slightest topics (wtf!!?? A pooping puffin?) and avoid answering any questions whatsoever. It pisses the hell out of me, so I’m just going to remove myself from the voting system entirely, well at least until they smarten up and realize that students aren’t as stupid as they thought. I think it was Jack Laton that said “The reason why students aren’t voting is because they’re being ignored”. I’d say that’s pretty true in my case.

  38. O.T Says:

    Okay so this makes me think of a really great movie. “Iron Jawed Angels.” With Hilary Swank. It’s all about womens rights. Excellent movie. We should watch it.

  39. Ver0nik21 Says:

    @ O.T:

    Mate!
    I was just thinking that!!
    I actually just saw that movie!
    It’s pretty cool!
    I really think we should watch it! actually make our monday movie thing after Imagine You & me!

    😉

  40. withlovebyLi Says:

    I voted! And so did my sister and father. My mother, unfortunately, was at work & school all day and couldn’t get to the polls (they closed so early in the west!). We all voted for the same party on election day and weren’t surprised the party we voted for lost. We knew it was an uphill battle but we voted anyway. Why?

    Well, my parents originated from a country where voting for or supporting a party could cost you your life by the opposition. People “disappeared” and were outright killed for voicing their political opinions too loudly. Luckily there isn’t any retaliation if you voted for an unpopular party. My family earned it’s citizenship and we feel it’s our duty, our privilege, our right as Canadians to vote.

    As to why 41% of eligible Canadians didn’t vote in this election…I’m guessing perhaps: 1) unappealing/limited options on parties or 2) the public not believing voting will effect them or 3) there isn’t anything gained or lost by voting.

    In the kind of society we live in today a lot of people ask when told to do something, “what’s in it for me?” There aren’t any consequences for not voting, which is why I think a fine should be introduced. To make not voting a crime is a little extreme, but it should be a violation, like parking tickets or speeding tickets. People should be handed out “not voting fees”. If paying taxes and filling income tax are mandatory responsibilities as a Canadian citizen, then I believe voting should be too.

  41. Catherine Says:

    I disagree with what withlovebyli says… Deciding against voting should not become a violation. It would be against the principles of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. What if you don’t agree with the ideals or focuses of the running parties? Should you just vote for the party that you can identify with most? Or vote for whomever your friends/family are voting for, just to say that you DID vote? Making non-voting a violation would be akin to voicing an ‘opinion’ that isn’t really yours, as you had none in the first place. Let those who truly have an opinion/party for which they support vote. Even if the votes are fewer, they will at least be sincere.

  42. Catherine Says:

    I disagree with what withlovebyli says… Deciding against voting should not become a violation. It would be against the principles of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. What if you don’t agree with the ideals or focuses of the running parties? Should you just vote for the party that you can identify with most? Or vote for whomever your friends/family are voting for, just to say that you DID vote? Making non-voting a violation would be akin to forcing you into voicing an ‘opinion’ that isn’t really yours, as you had none in the first place. Let those who truly have an opinion/party for which they support vote. Even if the votes are fewer, they will at least be sincere.

  43. Leelarai Says:

    I’ll have to admit, I don’t know anything about Canadian politics though I know a bit about the US. I am however from Thailand and if you’ve heard any news about what’s been going on here for the past couple of years all the way to now you’ll know that politics here has been messy and disillusioning at best with the military coup in 2006 and new constitution (again… there’s been a lot of rewrites, it’s not like the US constitution that’s treated almost as sacred) and then mass protests again that never seems to end and the government just being so damn shameless like they all have faces of concrete, remaining so long even though the country’s erupted in protest and then again… just never seems to end and at this point I’m not even sure what’s going on anymore and I’m not sure I want to… Prior to this when we were trying to get Thaksin out of office, i was there during the protests and I cared more back then but now it’s just… Crazy as it sounds i feel like i’m getting used to it, the instability and it’s like… it doesn’t feel like it even effects my life so much anymore and deep down I’m glad for that, means I’m safe, that my immediate family is safe, even if that’s selfish to say. So yes, I am definitely growing apathetic, for me it comes from a place of hopelessness, a disbelief in the system, even if my heart still goes out to all the people, still fighting for what they believe in and protesting the injustice.

    I can’t say much for other’s reasons for not voting though, and not that much about situations in other places, but i do think that with apathy it probably has to do with feeling like you can’t change things…

    As for choosing not to vote, I’m not sure if you mean actually just not going or going to vote and just crossing the whole piece and pretty much saying, “I don’t think anyone here is good enough”… because some people do that, and the point is that though you’re not voting, no one can cheat and use your vote to vote for someone they’re paid to or whatever… there’s a lot of cheating here, and vote buying so you never know…

    I don’t think people should be forced to vote though, it’s violating their rights… but if there is a decision to force people to vote, then they should at least make it easier for people… I heard that in Germany they mail you the ballots on a sunday, makes it a lot easier. In the US i heard you have to register to vote and you need your driver’s license and residential whatever papers which I’m sure adds to making the voter turns out lower… if you just make the process of voting more conveniant for people, I’m sure that will bring the number of voters up and it’s a lot better than forcing them to vote, especially if you’re forcing them all to vote and it’s still a complicated and annoying process.

    Besides, with the US and the Electoral College system of voting still around (despite being SO out of date), well… it’s not exactly supporting the whole, your one single vote matters idea.

  44. Nadia Says:

    In my opinion apathy is indifference, lack of faith in the government to do the job and to do the job right.
    I’m Brazilian and yeah we’re forced to vote I really admire those who aren’t obligated to .. I think it’s a very democratic decision, it’s up to you, go there and do it. On the other hand, our governments aren’t doing a great job – in so many aspects – and if we’re not going there and do our thing as a citizen our country is gonna be lost.
    So i think if in Brazil we didn’t have this law we wouldn’t vote for any politician. We wouldn’t waste our time leaving our homes on a Sunday just to vote. I think a country is what its people want it to be. If you don’t vote, you don’t have to complain when things don’t go to the right direction. If you vote you can go there and ask the politicians what they’ve promised during the race. I think we have to do our thing as a citizen for better or for worse. Just that way the country and the world can change.

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