Mon | May 29, 2017

Our apathy will be our demise

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2015 | 9:00 AMJaevion Nelson, Contributor

It is no secret that many of us, young people or professionals in particular, are utterly frustrated with the way in which successive governments and political parties conduct themselves and the affairs of the country. We have lost hope. We have given up and decided to let the status quo have its way with our future. The levels of transparency and accountability, and the slow pace of growth, among other things, have left us resigned in a state of hopelessness; totally oblivious to our agency and power as an electorate. We are now deafeningly silent and uninterested in anything to do with politics and governance. We view politics with much scepticism.

On Monday, financial adviser Marlon Campbell, who is the lead convener of Vote Jamaica - a social-media campaign which encourages enumeration and voting, asked a question on Twitter - "When you hear the word 'politics', what comes to mind?" The responses, which were mostly negative, gave, as Campbell pointed out, "a glimpse of what people think about politics" in our country. They included words like 'corruption', 'politricks', 'trickery', and 'selfishness'.

Of course, these responses aren't in any way surprising. These are things we say every day as we ventilate about the state of our nation. Consequently, it's an uphill task to convince many young people and young professionals of the critical role democratic participation plays in the country's human, social and economic development. We have given up. We see the need to, but no point in taking action because very little, if anything, will happen when we speak up about the issues. Truthfully, many of us want change - we want to live in a safe, cohesive, just, and prosperous country. We want the best for ourselves and our country. We want to know that our leaders are competent, desire to see all of us 'empowered to achieve our full potential' (Vision 2030) and will work assiduously to make this a reality.

 

SURVEY RESULTS

The National Youth Values and Attitudes Survey (2014), conducted by the Centre for Leadership and Governance, at the University of the West Indies, found that as many as 62 per cent of our young people think our leaders are inept at doing their jobs. Six in every 10 young persons surveyed believe the country is not being managed properly. On top of that, only 35 per cent of young people see politicians as important.

One would think that young people would be protesting in a multiplicity of ways - writing more letters, and commentaries, launching petitions and social-media campaigns, and doing grass-roots organising to demand more and better leadership. Additionally, why is this not a cause for concern among our leaders and the impetus for better governance, better policies, and better practices while in office?

Our collective silence guarantees impunity. Sadly, too, few of us are willing to demand and hold our duty bearers accountable where good governance is concerned. How many of us are willing to take action to demand good governance and better for the majority of our people? Isn't it frightening that the most some of us will allow ourselves to so do is make a tweet, while some of us castigate our peers for bothering too much? Why are we so apathetic? As former Miss Jamaica Festival Queen, Krystal Tomlinson, said: "If more of us who demand more chose to resist the drudgery and use our power, then it would show our leaders that the same old can't keep doing the same old."

Time come. We have to start caring. We cannot afford to be disillusioned yet so powerful. Let us channel our frustration constructively for our advancement.

We are at a critical time in our history. Ultimately, as young people we are often more affected by our socio-economic problems - crime and violence, and unemployment are perfect examples. It's up to us to take ownership of our future. This means that we must get enumerated, vote on issues, and demand that our leaders execute their duties and responsibilities with integrity. There has been lots of progress over the years but that is being stymied by the permanent statement of apathy among far too many of us.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.