I’m (Dis)interested in Apathy

Generally speaking, there are two main responses to disillusionment: the first – anger – can be destructive, imploring us to lash out at scapegoats and soft targets, but it can also be productive, culminating in collective action and change, or even just a conversation.

The second response is apathy, and that leaves us undeniably poorer.

It can be easy to become apathetic. If you consume news – be it on television, in print or on social media – you are subscribing to a system which feeds on your internalised fears and emphasises disgraces over triumphs, fear of the unknown over acceptance of difference. Instead of moderating our consumption habits and questioning what we see and hear, the majority of us will slowly become more angry or more apathetic. We are growing disillusioned, but only some of us seem to care.

This isn’t to blame anyone for being apathetic. It’s a valid coping mechanism when you fall into an echo chamber of pessimism. For instance, why feel panicked by the likelihood of anywhere up to a 5°C rise in surface temperatures by the end of the century? Some of us won’t live that long, and the rest of us won’t feel the full effects of our lifestyle choices. But what about the issues that affect us in the moment? The apathetic children of tomorrow won’t be able to solve today’s youth unemployment, nor should they have to resolve the systematic injustices of yesterday.

Fortunately, now is a good opportunity to gain – and then maintain – the rage.

Step 1: Do the paperwork.

The 2019 Australian federal election will be held on May 18, 2019. It’s your chance to decide on your preferred representatives in federal parliament – both for your local MP, who represents your electorate in the House of Representatives; and for six senators who represent your state in the Senate, the house of review.

To vote in this election, you have to enrol with the Australian Electoral Commission by 8pm this Thursday. Some 357,000 18 and 19 year olds are currently enrolled to vote in state and federal elections, but there’s almost 588,000 Australians missing from the electoral roll as of March 31. A good number of these are disillusioned young people like you, and while one vote may not make a difference, 588,000 votes could change political history.

To enrol, visit https://www.aec.gov.au/enrol/.
To check your enrolment or update your details, visit https://check.aec.gov.au/.

Step 2: Get angry.

Think about how you consume media. What makes you want to tag your friends in a news article on Facebook? Which political leaders leave you scrambling for the remote control? This can help you understand what you feel passionate about – both positively and negatively.

The ABC’s Vote Compass is a useful resource to understanding where you fit in the Australian political landscape – what issues you find most important, how you view political parties and rate their leadership. If you’re interested in gaining a deeper ideological understanding of how you perceive the world, then the Political Compass is the tool for you.

Step 3: Rage against the machine.

Depending on what issues you’re passionate about, there are a number of methods you can use to get your voice heard. Petitions can be tabled in parliament, requiring ministers or government departments to directly acknowledge your concerns; an online petition on a contentious issue may allow you to reach millions of Australians. Joining campaigns and protests are a fundamental right in our democracy, and can be a powerful visual representation of collective action.

In the lead up to the election, keep an eye on the candidates that nominate for your local electorate and for the Senate. As this list is not finalised at the time of publication, and won’t be until later in April, you may also opt to contact political parties directly and seek clarification on the policies that impact you. They Vote For You is a useful resource to get an overview on what your MPs are voting for and against, whether they’re dissenting from the party line or turning up to parliament in the first place.

And on May 18, go and vote! If you’re more interested in the catering than the ballot papers (I don’t blame you), Democracy Sausage is the inside word on whether there’s a good feed at your local polling place.

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We often look at Australian politics with contempt, and we have every reason to feel like we’re treated with contempt. Political apathy is now considered normal, but this only feeds a vicious cycle that disillusions more of us. If Australians in the 19th and 20th centuries were just as apathetic, we may not even have the vote in the first place.