New Ways of Making Us Listen ; Young People May Not Want to Join Political Parties Any More. They Might Not Even Bother to Vote in the General Election. but That's Not Because They're Apathetic

By Newsome, Rachel | The Independent (London, England), April 1, 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

New Ways of Making Us Listen ; Young People May Not Want to Join Political Parties Any More. They Might Not Even Bother to Vote in the General Election. but That's Not Because They're Apathetic


Newsome, Rachel, The Independent (London, England)


Today's teens are trouble. They take too many drugs, drink too much, smoke too much and couldn't care less about politics. They are pill- popping hedonists, whose biggest vote goes to the bleached- blond nihilism of Eminem while the only party they're interested in joining is a 24-hour one. If they're the future, then the future's looking bleak.

Or is it? It's easy to demonise today's young people as apathetic self-seekers on a one-way mission to escapist oblivion. But, if anything, this reflects a culture of fear expressed by the media, politicians and parents alike, in which young people represent the unknown in terms of political change.

Contrary to a tabloid mythology which states that young people are the "wildest teens ever", they are no more or less apathetic than generations before them. Indeed, most young people aspire to exactly the same things as their parents: a secure job and stable relationship, an affirmation of their sense of freedom and preservation of the status quo.

In reality, it's not young people who have changed but the world around them - traditional ideas about political radicalism are simply out of date. Young people are indeed the future of politics, but not as we know it. Theirs is a world where they have more money to spend and more choices about to how to spend it than ever before. For them, there is no Vietnam or Cold War, no Margaret Thatcher to polarise their political beliefs into "for and against".

This is a generation that has grown up after the fall of the Berlin Wall, at a moment in history when the relevance of political absolutes is on trial. Albert Camus noted in The Rebel that the 20th century was the century of rebellion. For this generation, however, the new century represents an era of relearning the rules of political engagement from an entirely different perspective. The view from here sees Che Guevara reconfigured from political icon to T-shirt fashion statement, and former political radicals who are now in the German government as part of the establishment.

In this brave new world, politicians are cast as the villains. Far from solving the country's problems they are perceived as contributing to them. A recent survey in the NME placed Tony Blair's government in the top 10 list of young people's fears for the future of the country.

Against this backdrop, ideology is replaced by a more pragmatic idealism; leadership, by the cult of the personality; and citizenship by consumerism. Sound familiar? That's because young people mirror the mechanisms of Millbank rather more accurately than is often recognised. If Thatcher's children embraced the cult of the individual and the new spirit of entrepreneurship in the form of DIY club culture, then Blair's kids have devised their own alternative Third Way. Except that their Third Way exists outside the conventional political system.

This has less to do with political apathy and more to do with the fact that the majority of young people's lives are lived outside the law. For them, club culture and drug-taking are considered the norm. Identity has little to do with Blair's "new moral purpose" and everything to do with which trainers are on their feet and what music is on their stereos.

Free from the baggage that goes with traditional political allegiances, young people are shaping the future of politics based on an understanding of how little party politics counts in a commercial world.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

New Ways of Making Us Listen ; Young People May Not Want to Join Political Parties Any More. They Might Not Even Bother to Vote in the General Election. but That's Not Because They're Apathetic
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?