What happens when we don’t speak up? Do you think a person has the right to complain after the fact if they did not take an action at the time that could have changed the outcome? This is a question that I and my friends have been pondering over for the past week.
With the appalling low turnout from the electoral for the Children’s Right referendum, I think it is clear that not all people are great at going out and ensuring their voice is heard. Young people notoriously have a low turnout on polling day yet we are often the ones who complain the loudest when we don’t get the results we want. So what are we to do? Yes there are often drives on campus, encouraging people to get registered to vote. Yes there is the option of changing your voting address. Yet we still do not go out en masse and vote. Why? I argue that there is a huge political apathy amongst young people today. Of course not all young people are politically apathetic and I am not for one moment suggesting every student is. But for a large part, young people do not get terribly het up about voting and the like. And why is there such a political apathy out there? Well we for the most part, we are not educated in the ways of politics in schools. Now I am not suggesting we go all American on this and have pledge of allegiances and the like at the beginning of the day. But I certainly think there is a space for a more politically inclusive education in Ireland. It has been a long time since I was in secondary school, so I am not entirely au fait with the current system of political education, But from what I can gather it is still not great. Students are taught by rote about Irish history and our Easter Rising and our political forefathers. But we do not often go much further than that. We need to encourage students to be politically active and politically savvy. We need not turn everyone into an ardent campaigner but I certainly think a little bit more in the ways of learning about how our country runs and who runs it might go a long way.
In my Junior Cert, for the C.S.P.E. exam we were shown a picture of three politicians: Bertie Ahern, Mary MacAleese and some other sod I cannot remember. And underneath the three pictures were three names. And we had to match them up. That was it. That is literally the closest thing I ever got to an education about politics in Ireland. Match the pictures (of which there was only one woman so I was definitely going to get at least one out of the three right).
It was only when I came to college that I began to garnish an interest in politics and the ways of Ireland (admittedly I only learned about it to impress someone but that is neither here nor now- ends justifying the means and all that jazz!). I go to protests. I am quite good at it actually. I bring my dog. I have ready-made waterproof placards that I need just add my slogan of the day on to. And yes, other students have often come out to these protests too. But when one considers the fact that we have a population of over 18,000 here in UCC, it is quite sobering to think that about 1,000 students went out and marched in protest of the potential of fee increases in the next budget. Why are students not angrier about things? Where is our passion and drive? Because I can assure you, there will be plenty of passion and drive on Facebook the day after the Budget should there be fee increases. But where were these students on the day? Sure, some people might think that protests don’t work. Fine. Write letters. Go and meet your T.D.s. Do something other than vehemently complaining online and b*tching in Coffee Dock.
Saturday proved that people can have passion and drive. Gardaí estimates of about 20,000 people went out on to the streets in Dublin demanding for legislation on X, and standing up in protest against the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar. And I am glad that people went out. But it saddens me that we had to wait until someone dies before we did it. Maybe if we take action and speak up earlier then tragic events like her death will not happen. If we want change we have to do more than sit around and complain bitterly.
So I urge you to speak up. Speak up about whatever it is that you feel is wrong or an injustice. Don’t just sit by and allow others to for it for you. For if you try to bother me with complaints and I know you haven’t done a tap about it, let me assure you that I will not be providing a sympathetic ear to your woes. Just sayin’