It’s funny how some words just stick.
In one of Rick Mercer’s — the well-known CBC political satirist — latest rants, he said the following:
“It’s conventional wisdom of all political parties that young people will not vote. And the parties, they like it that way…so please, if you are between 18 and 25 and you want to scare the heck out of the people who run this country, this time around, do the unexpected. Take twenty minutes out of your day and do what young people all over the world are dying to do: vote.”
Mercer’s rant felt like a kick in the gut when I first heard it. I’ve been mulling over his words all week.
I think it was partly out of personal embarrassment as a young Canadian; sorry, Rick, for being in this seemingly apathetic age bracket and sorry that you have to lecture us like we’re a bunch of kids who won’t go outside and play on a sunny day.
On the other hand, I felt proud to be in the small percentage of this demographic that is informed and will vote — even though it’s kind of inevitable with a job in journalism and a father who’s running in the election. Still, I wanted to sit Rick down and tell him not to worry: I’ll be at the polls on voting day.
I wasn’t the only one affected by Rick’s rant. According to The Globe and Mail, young people across the country have since started “vote mobs”— videos posted to the internet of crowds of students running around a campus or down city streets with signs saying they plan to vote. And their message to Rick?
Surprise, surprise: we’re voting.
At last count, there were 35 vote mobs organized across Canada and many more gatherings are scheduled for this week.
But Rick was right in trying to raise the blood pressure in us young Canadians. Statistics Canada says just 37 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the last election.
“At the same time, young people would seem to have more at stake in the democratic process than any other age group. Not only will they have longer to live with the political decisions of today, they remain disproportionately disadvantaged by the recent economic downtown,” it read in the Globe article.
We’ve all heard it: politicians, the media and even our own parents urging us to be politically informed and get ourselves to the polling stations on election day.
It’s funny, then, that it takes one, goofy, CBC personality with a a 60 second speech to hit the emotional core of young Canadians.
What is it about Rick Mercer and what he said that day?
I think it comes down to the right balance of inspiration, humour and guilt; Rick hand-picked just the right words and delivered them in just the right way that left us with that kicked-in-the-gut feeling we usually only get from a tear-jerking movie soundtrack or bite of tender steak — political poetry, of sorts.
But when talking to a friend last night about the vote mobs, he asked a good a question: how many of these youth are actually going to vote on election day?
“Half of them were probably just in it for the hype,” he said.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I got so excited by the energy from these mobs I forgot to look at the reality of the situation. I got excited when a young Golden local at last week’s All-Candidates Forum asked “I’m a first time voter. If you were to tweet to me, what would you say?”
Even my younger brother, who just turned 18, is talking politics and the reasons for apathy amongst young voters.
So whether or not more youth will vote in this election, I think a big thanks goes out to Mr. Rick Mercer for being the guy who got our blood boiling in this election.
Something tells me his words are going to do more than that.