Monthly Archives: September 2014

Fellow ‘Millennials’: why we vote

IMG_2255

I’d like to start off my discussion on the voting patterns of ‘millennials’ with an anecdote.  I went into the pub this Friday past to celebrate a productive week with friends.  Immediately I had people coming up to me to talk politics and my run for Sechelt Council.  A discussion circle formed and people began sharing their points of view on our current situation, locally.

Once I’d had a chance to make a few points, one of the listeners spoke up:

“Noel: I’ve never voted in my life, but I’m going to vote for you.  How do I do it?”

It’s a common question I hear, and it’s a common situation.  Many ‘millennials’ have never voted in their ENTIRE lives.  The achievement of getting a millennial out to vote often bucks a life-long pattern of non-involvement and must be considered a major milestone.

I felt compelled to simplify the message and see if more can be done to explain not only how to vote, but most importantly, why.

Why does anybody vote?

The most basic answer is to avoid violent conflict.

Politics are the process by which competing interests agree upon rules aimed at avoiding the outbreak of hostilities.

The history of legal development is long and storied, so I’ll give only a brief summary, and how it relates to our current political situation.

The very first laws were ‘cessation of hostility agreements’ between warring parties: within villages, between principalities, and kingdoms.  The parties would agree upon conditions to stop the fighting, usually a ‘victor’s peace’.  Should either side break the agreement, a state of war would resume as a normal course of action.

By writing down an agreement, a period of peace could exist.  Without it, warfare was the norm, and generations of humans built difficult lives in constant conflict.

These peace agreements grew to encompass other parts of society.  As parts of peace treaties, different agreements on tribute (tax), military support, designation of authority etc, became standard, and the complexity of written agreements multiplied.

Today, it may seem that we are far removed from the dire necessity of politics to avoid warfare, but the truth is, it’s everywhere in our legal system, and continues to form the foundation of why we make political agreements at all levels of society today.

Voting in today’s society

In Canada we currently live in the longest period of peace known in the history of the Western World.  In fact, I may be the first generation in my family tree to live without direct experience of warfare.  It’s easy for us ‘millennials’ to forget how we got here, so let’s remind ourselves.

Everybody seems to know that our ‘greatest generation’ (aged ~80 today) takes democracy very seriously.  This was the generation that was slaughtered in the millions, fighting fascism on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific in WW2.  They know the value of a vote is more than a game of X’s and O’s: they paid with their lives to ensure we have basic democracy.

It should not be lost on anyone today that the current propensity for warfare has not diminished since the dark days of WW2.  War is more common today, and more deadly, than it has ever been.  We need to hear the lessons of the ‘greatest generation’ and protect our current standard of living by committing to political engagement.

The ‘baby boomers’ and voting

The ‘baby boomers’ had their own political awakening in the Vietnam and Cold War, and are the drivers of our current political reality.  They grew up under the threat of ‘mutually assured destruction’ in the context of a nuclear arms race between the worlds’ superpowers.

The ‘boomers’ also grew up in the ‘golden age’ of modernity, the most productive period of economic growth in world history.  GDP per capita rose at a steady rate for nearly 25 years without recession.

The economy was how this generation triumphed in the Cold War over communism (so the official narrative goes).  The boomers inherited large sums of money from their parents, started businesses, and prospered in a favorable economic environment.  Consequently, most decisions driven by ‘boomer voting’; are aimed towards protecting economic growth, personal wealth and the building of retirement incomes.

‘Millenials’ and voting

‘Millennials’ are by far the least frequent voters of any generation; their absence helps drive voter participation below 50% in most districts, and in most elections.  This pattern currently leaves us at the mercy of ‘boomer’ political interests.  No political parties will take us seriously, and likewise, will not craft policy to serve us.

Our lack of involvement is made worse because we’re at such a pivotal time in our lives.  We’re raising families, starting careers and businesses, buying homes: all without a voice in government.  This pattern is certain to continue until we find our way to the ballot boxes in large numbers.

We’re taxed more heavily with less entry level positions than the ‘boomers’ saw in their youth.  The economy has now largely been outsourced, de-regulated, financialized, privatized and globalized.  Taxation has been shifted from businesses to the individuals, and environmental protections have been stripped bare.

Who did this serve?  Answer: capital holders.

Decades of policies have now been crafted to improve the position of capital holders (by coincidence, mostly boomers).

As a consequence, the ‘millennials’ have been crowded out of the marketplace, and are facing a difficult time getting established in both careers and businesses.

What will change look like?

For ‘millennials’, our politics have (so far) been constrained to the ‘boomer pattern’ due to our lack of numbers at the ballot boxes.  It’s a pattern of decision making that does not serve us, and consequently, we’re not interested in it.

We have lived our lives without a clear and present existential threat, and we have not yet begun to elucidate our own political reality.  My sense is, all that is about to change with the onset of the global climate crisis.

The initial movement towards greater millennial influence in politics will be seen when our generation begins to produce leaders capable of inspiring all generations.

More ground will be gained when we decide to vote, donate, lead and join political parties in large numbers.

The full flood of transition will occur when we readily accept and react to the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis.

All these changes are occurring in 2014, so in my humble opinion, we have plenty to be hopeful for!

-Noel Muller

Advertisements

What do we need young people in government for?

I’m running in 2014, first and foremost, because I recognize the pivotal position played by governments in producing the ‘general welfare’ we all enjoy today.  In 2014, that ‘general welfare’ is under many ominous threats.

Since 2013 I have travelled the Sunshine Coast many times attending political events, and canvassing public opinion in the street.

I’ve had an amazing chance to get to know what the public is thinking.  A few key responses are repeated again and again, which tell a compelling story unfolding across BC, Canada, and in every little town along the way.10574247_506521412812293_9122867515667756040_n

I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned, and what people are saying when we discuss the current state of our political system.

Politics?! You must be crazy!

Without a doubt, the single most common opinion regarding our politics in the streets is a general feeling of mistrust bordering on open hostility.

I’ve heard this enough times along the road, it’s made me wonder why people have grown such an honest disdain for their elected officials.  It is real, and it must be asked, how did we get here?

After all, we DO need our politics to work for us.

Imagining a world without politics is like imagining a world without law, but additionally, remove roads, schools, public sanitation, courts, hospitals, human rights and policing, and you will start to get a picture of the vast importance ‘good government’ is to our daily lives.

General disdain towards politics, I contend, is a symptom of the world having rapidly changed, while politics, more or less, remained the same.

People want more from their elected officials, but they aren’t getting it.  What do they want?

General concern for the state of the planet

The short answer is better management of our natural capital.

Whether you believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change or not, ecological systems everywhere on the globe, from pole-to-pole, are showing signs of stress and decline.

On a person to person basis, this one perception reaches near unanimity among today’s population.  It is the source of real anxiety among all generations, and will continue to grow in importance over time.

When I have canvassed the public, I commonly hear among older residents the sentiment “I’m glad I won’t have to see the world in 30 years”.  The feeling is that our future has already been lost.  In a sense, it’s a capitulation to the challenges we collectively face in Canada, BC, Sechelt, and planet earth.

For the ‘millenial generation’ (~aged 21-36), many of us currently raising young children, we’re not able to make excuses about what our world might be, or why.

We don’t have the simple choice of waving the ‘white flag’ and making it someone else’s problem.  We need a livable future.

It has now been left up to the ‘millenials’ to discover what a sustainable future will look like, and implement it with urgency.

We need young people to get engaged in politics

The truth today is, our current ‘millenial generation’, though large in numbers, are not yet politically engaged.  We don’t vote, we don’t join parties or donate, and we certainly don’t run for office.   But that is all about to change…

The onset of the ‘climate crisis’ has spurred to action a network of emerging leaders across the globe who are young, politically savvy, educated and Green.  As a society, we’re on the verge, not only of the involvement of the ‘millenials’, but the era in which ‘millenials’ drive the debate towards dealing with our climate crisis.

We are the ‘U-turn’ generation.

We’re here and we are seeking to learn the business of government.

By voting for us at the ballots, and supporting us in the streets, you are giving us a chance to produce the types of changes necessary in the next 30 years.

Is there are a bright side of the road? 

In spite of the many challenges ahead, I’m very hopeful that we’ll find the solutions we need to sort this all out.

Right now we’re all caught in ‘no man’s land’: and that’s not where we want to stay for long.  We need to advance to a new position that is tenable, and in a basic sense sustainable.

We’re going to have to work together, stop the political infighting, and empower the ‘millenials’ to find their way forward.

Relying on the same old tricks will not get it done.

On November 15th I’m ready to begin to discover and walk this path forward with you.

-Noel Muller