It’s pathetic to label young people apathetic

Any young person worth their salt should seek to change the system

Young people aren’t apathetic , “they’re dismissive of the recycled establishment bull, just as much as all ages are” – 2010 protest by  Dublin Focus on Youth, a coalition of youth projects/services   to warn the Government against making any further cut to youth services. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Young people aren’t apathetic , “they’re dismissive of the recycled establishment bull, just as much as all ages are” – 2010 protest by Dublin Focus on Youth, a coalition of youth projects/services to warn the Government against making any further cut to youth services. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 18:22

Generation Apathy was the title of a talk about youngsters at the MacGill Summer School last week. Bearing in mind that few people outside the spheres of politics and journalism actually pay attention to these summer schools (which doesn’t negate the value of their existence of course – talking is important), it’s a punchable title. That said, the subsequent reports from the talk were a little more enlightening than the circular hypothetical questions the rest of the topics asked.

Councillor Kate Feeney said politicians were dealing with a new electorate, and it didn’t make sense to sell them “old politics”. That’s a smart statement. Good luck to her in Fianna Fáil.

Gary Gannon, an Independent councillor in Dublin’s north inner city, said he was “absolutely convinced that we, as a generation, are not ethically, socially or civically apathetic . . . but we have a political culture in this country that is morally bankrupt and we are uncomfortable in propping up a system that is unsuited to the purpose intended”. Bravo.

James Dean’s shrug

But why the label? Young people are not apathetic any more than older people are. There is no such thing as Generation Apathy, any more than there is such a thing as Generation Perfect, although in modern times the label of apathy has been tagged on teenagers and yoof since James Dean shrugged. Each generation is always at a loss. Each generation always feels screwed over.

Each generation blames those above them for not understanding, and each generation blames those below them for being less engaged, more privileged, less deserving and more entitled. But there is a monumental generation gap in Ireland. There was no talk titled Generation it’s Our Fault.

The labelling of young people as apathetic is really about creating the conditions where an older generation who participated in bringing down the country can blame the youngsters for not saving the oldies from themselves.

I’ll tell you what apathy is. Apathy is languishing generation after generation under a theocracy and refusing to challenge it. Apathy is voting for Fianna Fáil time and time again because greed is good. Apathy is voting for Fine Gael and thinking it’s an alternative.

Apathy is propping up a social structure where there remains the implicit pressure to christen your kid so they can get into the right school, the implicit pressure to consume, the implicit pressure to discredit the value of protest, the implicit decision not to take personal responsibility for stupid individual choices on how money was spent, the implicit brutalisation of women, the implicit embrace of conservatism as a default mode, the implicit rejection of diversity or difference.

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