Political greed fosters youth apathy
With almost half of Africa's countries undergoing presidential
elections during the 2010/2011 period, issues of voter education,
enthusiasm and investment become vital for a stable and fully
reflective political process. The voting system represents not only
the right of a citizen to choose, inherently a foundation of their
freedom, but also the investment citizens have in their own social
conduct, morals and value structures.
It is not just a political leader that voters elect; instead it is
the person who best reflects the core values a citizenry want to have
communicated to the country and to the international community at
large. It is the person the citizenry most want to have stand up as a
role model to the youth.
So then, what becomes of a country's psychological well-being, and
their ultimate belief in the power of choice and freedom as reflected
in their vote, when their politicians are unapologetically corrupt.
How much can citizens reinvest in the political process when the same
judicial and legislative systems that are meant to curb or penalise
transgressors, ultimately pardon, condone or dismiss the behaviour,
often without convincing justification?
For many, Africa has become synonymous with corruption, conflict and
entitlement of the victors. Freedom fighters who succeed, often
against an obviously oppressive and torturous regime, themselves
become power-seeking leaders who eventually fall from grace through
their own misadventures, greed, corruptibility and paranoid
Throughout Africa, presidents have been justifiably accused of a
multitude of crimes from rape, mass murder, censorship and
intimidation, the theft of millions of dollars, bribery and
corruption, and of running democratic dictatorships.
In all instances, it is not the legalities or truth behind the
allegations that matter most. In the end, the truth is lost in the
translations and the translators often have a clear bias. We, as
citizen observers are ultimately left with confusion, misinformation
and dissent. No, it is not the truth that matters but instead the
moral grey areas that leave a country, and the youth, most wounded.
Our presidents and politicians, as the moral barometer and directors
of our behaviour, should be beyond reproach. This is the key - their
behaviours should never come close to providing their critics even
the slightest excuse for accusation. Their failures should be slight
and understandable to their positions, just as we should be able to
see our own strengths, desires and faith in the goodness of human
behaviour reflected in their work.
We elect our officials, not because of their power and popularity,
but because we believe that they are the best of us... and that the
international community will see the best of our national identity
when they see our elected leaders. Is that ultimately not what we are
saying when we vote?
When our leaders fail us through their corruptibility and inability
to remember they serve us, they undermine our faith in the entire
political process. What is the point of being a committed voter when
you have already elected a leader who has undermined your confidence
in the choice you have made?
We will never know the true heart of our leadership, their true
desires and compulsions but the more they fail us, the more we begin
to realise that they serve their own interests to the detriment of
our combined social development needs.
The biggest concern, however, is not that our leaders are capable of
such things... instead it is that their moral ambiguity leaves a deep
scar in the development of a youth identity that little can soothe.
The youth learn from their leaders... model their behaviour and
identity on those people who are identified and entrusted with the
positions we most respect and admire. For African youth, politics
often means little more than a game of wrangling, corruption,
infighting and unethical struggles for power... and it leaves little
option for youth than to either develop a sense of irony or retreat
to the safety of apathy.
Apathy is defined as a general absence of emotion, motivation or
interest and it is an accusation largely levelled at the youth.
Theorists look to the influence of western export culture, youth
lassitude, or a corruption of youth value structures as the reason
but ultimately the answer is simple.
When you do not know who you can trust, when the people you have
believed in, trusted and admired, fail you... you protect yourself by
losing faith, trust and belief in those who you want to be able to
choose. It hurts us when someone we believed in fails us, and often
that hurt scars our core ability to have faith again.
As with other international non-profit organisations, the Africa
Alliance of YMCAs, through its Subject to Citizen (S2C) programme,
spent years conceptualising a way to undo the damage the political
corruption has done to youth faith in the political processes.
Initial results from the baseline survey conducted indicate that
civic apathy and pessimism in their testing areas is largest amongst
the more educated urban youth. This indicates that the most educated
and capable of analysing and evaluating legal and judicial process
have less faith in a government than the poorest and most illiterate.
Similarly, youth understand that they have a greater influence in the
lower levels of government and consequently care more about the
spheres they can influence. With the result that the highest echelons
of power are left without a powerful youth influence and are often
ignorant (at best) or dismissive (at worst) of youth issues. What the
powerful forget is that dismissing youth issues does more than just
undermine the social development and capacity of a generation; it
also serves to further entrench youth apathy and ultimately
undermines the entire political process and health of the political
Rider: This article is part of the Africa Alliance of YMCA News. For
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