Frequently on our blog we post about geographic bubbles. We encourage you guys to check out our favourite places around Hamilton, and post about events we or others are hosting off McMaster’s campus. But I’m going to take a step back from that to really reflect on what civic engagement is all about.
If you went to high school in Ontario, you probably took a course in Civics, breezed through it, and walked away with very little inspiring knowledge about our government. And while that’s OK for kids, it’s time we talked more openly about political issues. Politics cannot become a dirty word; debating platform points cannot become taboo. Politics, whether we like it or not are driving our school, city, province, and country forward. It’s due time we paid attention.
So what do I mean? No, I don’t encourage that we take a refresher in high school civics… If you’re anything like me, then you’d fall asleep in those classes, just like we did first time around! But I do think we stay informed and considerate of how our government is or is not serving your needs: talk to your family, your friends, your enemies, and your pets about what social services are important to you. By reflecting on how our current system meets your needs, or how it does not, you are already better equipped to hold your own in political discussions.
Political discussions are useful for more than just trying to sound smart. Yes, they rock at making you seem impressive, but they’re also a good way for you to make an influence in your circle of friends. Talking to your peers about how you feel the government isn’t meeting your needs will likely have them thinking about how the government isn’t meeting their needs… It’s this whole chain reaction. A movement, if you will.
It’s that easy to be informed about Civics. All you have to do is talk to people, and be selfish (kind of, at least!). But now is the fun part: engagement. Civic engagement is nothing without getting out there, and having your voice be heard. Civic engagement can manifest as volunteering with a political candidate, joining a political club on campus, writing letters to the newspaper or your MP, voting, and more. In whatever you do, if you translate your political goals and interests to the work, then you are engaged: you will be making a difference.
So what’s inspired my rant about political awareness? Sure, I’m always ready to talk politics, but there’s an important process happening at our Federal level of government, that I think young people should be paying attention to. The Liberal Party of Canada (currently the 3rd most represented party, following the Conservatives and the NDP), are preparing for a leadership election. The candidates are campaigning and preparing for the vote in April. Whether or not you vote Liberal, this is an important event to keep an eye on. The winner of this vote could make a significant impact on the face of our country.
Through politics, anyone can make an impact on our country. All you have to do is take a second and reflect on what it means to be Canadian. In the weeks to come, I’d encourage each of you to pop the bubble around your comfort zone: embrace politics, and make a change.