Mark Donne: A new generation needs new ways to communicate

They care about issues but distrust the arenas set up to accommodate them

Share
Related Topics

During the recent upheaval in Iran, I sleepily opened my email inbox to the delivery of a flurry of messages from young senders, imploring me to set my "Twitter" location to Tehran and time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian security forces, they explained, were hunting for bloggers using location/time-zone searches. The greater the number of tweeters at this newly set location, the greater the log jam it would create for forces trying to shut down access to the internet. Redundantly, I contemplated not yet having a Twitter account, and no petitions or sit-ins were, it seems, required.

This experience recalled to mind a particularly heart-charging passage of his victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago last November, when President Obama explained to spellbound supporters that his campaign "grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy". Yet we in the West are informed with monotonous regularity that young people are apathetic and disinterested in politics.

In fairness, now more than ever, the 16-25 generation could easily be forgiven assuming the inherited sensation of plus ça change: With the ink on the charge sheet of financial institutions barely dry, the new head of the Royal Bank of Scotland is set to coin in £10m a year from a bank that is 70 per cent state owned; the Government continues to overlook the importance to younger voters of climate change, with Heathrow expansion and Kingsnorth coal-fire development looking like done deals; and the Chilcot inquiry into the most unpopular policy decision of a generation – the very act that galvanised many young people into political activity in the first place – is to be conducted largely in private by an establishment fiefdom.

But notwithstanding these factors, evidence suggests that it is not the disinclination and disinterest of youth that leaves such a gaping hole in our democratic process; it is the almost total absence of the leadership of age. Vast numbers of young people remain interested in issues and the world they live in, yet profoundly distrust the prevailing arenas which have been constructed to accommodate them.

Many who came of age to Radiohead's OK Computer and were inspired to pick up economic texts such as No Logo, who watched Fahrenheit 9/11 and observed the tissue of lies around Western foreign policy unravelling, who were saddled with student debt or trapped by petrified social mobility, and who now contemplate low-paid work or unemployment and rising levels of domestic debt, see little or no hope in what can appear to be an identikit political system.

Statistics demonstrate that while membership of the three main political parties haemorrhages and local parties become moribund, membership and activism within Amnesty International, Greenpeace and other NGO's maintain healthy growth. And a smaller, more freely formed organisation that I co-founded with a collective of musicians to stimulate political interest – Instigate Debate – has been overwhelmed with interest from young people all over the UK; with many entering into political dialogue for the very first time.

The two most instructive lessons from this fascinating process for all political parties (Green included) would be: firstly, disregard the repeated assertions of stale, studio-based media voices that claim this generation is apathetic and selfish; secondly, do not believe that because much existing participation is online it will not eventually take the form of physical activity including serious voter influence.

These committed, informed and increasingly organised young people now form an unpredictable, but articulate vanguard against the folly of their powerful elders in Fleet Street and Whitehall. From Heathrow expansion, to violations of international law and the suppression of human rights, this generation is growing into decent national guardians, understanding the power of online technology and the importance to multi-national companies of voting with their wallets.

It is not youthful folly to predict that at some point, just as the Americans did, the generation that has most to lose will find or produce a candidate of its own who can consolidate their convictions and find the emotional language to fully unlock their energies.

Read Mark Donne's politics blog at independent.co.uk/the-agitator

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bahrainis on an anti-government protest in May  

Hussain Jawad's detainment and torture highlights Britain's shameless stance on Bahraini rights

Emanuel Stoakes
August 1923: Immigrants in a dining hall on Ellis Island, New York.  

This election demonises the weakest

Stefano Hatfield
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003