Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vote mobs

From the Ottawa Citizen: 
[Emphasis and Rick Mercer link SM]

In his April 22 column, “Vote Mob Mentality”, Michael Taube has insulted Canadian youth, and in my view as a participant, he has mischaracterized the nature and goals of campus Vote Mobs.
First of all, let’s lay one thing to rest: Comedian Rick Mercer was only the indirect inspiration for Vote Mobs.

The only thing Rick did was look us in the eye (us being the 18-25-year-old crowd) and appeal to us directly. “Vote,” he said, and that was all. The Vote Mob was conceived by students at the University of Guelph, and is, as Mercer himself said, “a perfect example of young people doing things in a brand new way.” They are not merely “a fun, easy and cheap way to get our youth interested in politics,” as Taube would have it.

They are also not an excuse to “put on some music, dress in matching costumes, paint [our] face[es], and make pointless YouTube videos.” Honestly Mr. Taube, do you think I need an excuse to do that? Because I could do that in my living room. I certainly didn’t go out into the cold in the middle of exam week because I had nothing better to do. In fact, let’s pause on that last note. All Vote Mob videos were filmed and edited during April, which is exam month for students.

This did lead to lower turnouts at the mobs, but the students who came out and participated in these videos represent the diehards, the enthusiasts, the political-junkies. They will not, I guarantee you, be staying home on May 2. Furthermore, the lack of partisan support in the Vote Mobs is not an indication of our lack of knowledge. It’s simply that non-partisanship was our rule. And to Taube’s question: “Do you really think any of the major leaders honestly cares that some 18-25-year-olds who wouldn’t ordinarily vote have suddenly been convinced by a comedian’s rant on TV?”

In a word, sir, No. The vote mobs, Mr. Taube, Mr. Harper, Mr./Ms. Member of Parliament, are not for you. They’re for me. For us. For the 18-25-year-old crowd. We’re not convincing you, we’re convincing ourselves. We’re convincing ourselves that we really do matter and that we really do have potential political clout. We also mob to remind ourselves, and to tell other youth, that we are the problem. The fact that our political power goes unrealized is a problem only we created and only we can solve. Politicians don’t listen because we don’t vote. When we dance, scream, and yell “VOTE!” we’re not talking to you, Sir, we’re talking to each other.

I don’t really care whether or not the party leaders see our video. What I want is for youth across Canada to see it. They’re the reason I left my books in the library to go out in the cold and jump around, not you, not the adults, not the political leaders.

I find it incredibly sad that some see Vote Mobs as an indication of something wrong with either youth or Canada. If we were protesting anything, it was apathy. If we were celebrating anything, it was Canada and democracy. In light of events across the world, for example, the protests in Egypt, 300 young Canadians rallying in front of their school, singing O Canada and waving signs that say “Vote” is an indication of all that’s right in Canada.

Finally, Mr. Taube, let me address your statement that, “while no one is expecting all young people to have PhD-level understanding of the Canadian political system, a decent amount of knowledge would be nice.” What a blatant insult to the intelligence of Canadian youth everywhere.

Until my peers vote en masse, I don’t expect attention. But I do expect — from both my politicians and my newspapers — common courtesy. You have failed in this simplest of tasks, proving that youth are not as dumb as you make them out to be. We at least know when we’re being insulted.

Michelle Reddick is a third-year student at McGill University and a vote-mob participant.

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