I’ve been watching the whole youth vote phenomenon with great fascination and getting a little disturbed.
For those of you just logging on, here’s a brief history. On March 29, Rick Mercer ranted on his season finale, calling on young people aged 18 to 25, to ‘take 20 minutes out of your day and do what what young people around the world are dying to do, vote.’
Days later, students at University of Guelph organized a vote mob. Here is how the Globe and Mail described it:
“It looked like a scene from Braveheart, with more than 250 University of Guelph students standing on a hill overlooking Stephen Harper’s campaign stop in the southwestern Ontario city Monday.
Instead of blue face paint like the storied Scots, their faces were striped red and white. Along the line, a lone bagpiper played an uplifting reel.”
Look at these videos of Vote Mobs that have taken place across the country since. Hundreds of people, mostly white, waving Canadian flags, singing praise for Canadian values and generally regurgitating patriotic hysteria that forgets Canada’s ongoing genocide of Indigenous people, the arbitrary and violent nature of its borders, the illegitimacy of its very existence as a settler-state. Hidden under all this is the belief that many people my age seem to have: ‘We didn’t cause this, We aren’t benefiting from it.’
Sure, people involved in any political process is great. But too many people are just happy that young people are voting, and if that means they do so by drumming up Canada’s greatness without question, so be it. There must be another way.
So, like I often do when I am unsure about something, I turn to someone much wiser then me for perspective. My nine-year-old housemate.
“Liam,” I ask, after explaining what’s been bothering me, “Do you love Canada?”
“No,” he replies, from under the sleeping bag where he is curled up.
“Hmm, do you love Toronto?”
“Okay, do you love your house?”
“Do you love the world?” I ask.
“Depends on what you mean by love,” he asks.
I ponder this one for a while. “Like, you know, like you love your house.”
“In that case, yes, except … Libya.”
“Why not Libya?” I probe.
“I think if I was living in Libya with all those rockets and planes, I would not love the world.”
“Right, so why don’t you love Canada?”
“Because of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney and all the other things,” he responds.
“Hmm, so if it was someone else, you might love Canada?”
“Well, depends on who he says,” now engrossed in a Lego set.
“If not them, then it can only be Ignattieff,” I tell him.
“Then no,” he says quite firmly.
“Then what to do?”
“Have a revolution, like Egypt,” he says.
“But that’s not going too well now is it?”
“Yes, they are trying to get rid of the Generals now. Revolutions can’t stop.”
Love community, love the world, tear down the borders, remember our histories, revolutions can’t stop. Enough said. Someone call Rick Mercer.
Disagree? Have a thought? Comment.
On elections: Canada is a settler state on Indigenous land and has no moral authority to impose a government. Elections are the means by which this colonial project claims legitimacy for its aggressive policies of cultural and material appropriation and murder. Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people on this land refuse to vote as an assertion of sovereignty. 1 in 25 residents of Canada, undocumented migrants, temporary workers, permanent residents and others without full immigration status cannot vote. Electoral democracy is a sham where certain people make decisions without building consensus or gaining a mandate from their so-called constituents. The transformative change that most people desire will not come from the ballot box. Neither voting nor avoiding the vote are sufficient to create the kinds of worlds we wish to live in.