IT'S TIME TO SPEAK!
JAMIE FLATTERS, 16, LONDON
When I was younger, I always wanted to be older. So I could buy loads of sweets, stay up late, watch cartoons - have more freedom. Now I can join the armed forces, pay tax and get married. But I can’t vote. I can’t vote for who leads this country, but I can still be interested. Well there’s the danger. Politics seems to be viewed as an interest and not a must. It has never been a must for schools to teach it, so we go searching for opinions in the comfort of our own homes, our own views, and our own space, which limits the political knowledge that we engage with.
The current voting age leaves a time gap whereby we can be engaged, and yet we’re still too young to act. This creates a norm to be interested but voiceless. This creates a norm for us to be invested in our futures but powerless in the hands of government. And worst of all it leaves time to lose interest, because we are left feeling like spectators.
But you aren’t a spectator when you’re the one speaking.
Some of the best voices haven’t had a vote; from Martin Luther King to Emmeline Pankhurst. They proved that being silenced only makes you shout louder; they brought massive international coverage to their campaigns. This should that using your vocal chords to pluck at the heart strings is the best weapon in any battle. They proved that suppressing a passion could only increase the likelihood of it bursting into blossom.
Voices change with time, and so do votes. For example, under 25s leaned towards staying in the EU. Once we do leave, 2 million of the older voters will have died, being replaced by a similar number of 18-20 year olds. This means that during the negotiating process we shall acquire a majority wanting to remain. This means this decision is out of date, before it’s even been put in place. This system has failed to the hands of time. Our future isn’t our decision.
When I say ‘our futures’ I don’t mean our personal dreams and ambitions, but our shared future. Even if we never meet or interact we are all influenced by the politics and leaders of our time, so how dare they leave us in the dark. Because, these same leaders are beginning to sink the boat, and when it begins to plunge we should be there, ready to fill in the holes. But this can’t be done without filling in our ballot papers first.
So why do some young people not vote? Facts and figures show that Millennials still hold the same amount of political interest as previous generations, but instead of voting they are more likely to protest. If young people choice to take a different path this should show that these leaders aren’t inspiring a generation to follow in their footsteps, but instead take to the streets to object to these policies. These strategies and conditions. Well who leads a protest? We do. We can all have personal leadership to take action. But if we aren’t listened to then we simply go back home and turn on the TV. Because a voice outside of this political system is powerless in making an impacted without a vote. But that never stopped Pankhurst. Maybe because she didn’t have a TV to go back to.
This system denies me a voice. This system has denied you a voice. We have all been denied taking action because we were all young once. We are left warming up, with our feet on the starting blocks. Fired up. Ready to go. But we are left waiting for the starting gun.
So we begin to cool down, and sit back on the side lines. But we can use this time effectively by sharing ideas and opinions. However, this only seems to exist online, and in the comfort of our own homes, our own views, and our own space. A tweet is no longer loud enough. A ‘like’ that comes with a ‘thumbs up’ is no longer good enough. ‘My space’ is a thing of the past because our space is way more important.
By lowering the voting age we can create a new trend. We can increase the diversity in this ‘political social network’, which currently seems to be lacking connection. To better this service we need to find a new provider. In a world that seems to be going backwards, surely it is time for a new perspective to push forwards. Because we all have a say. So let’s say it into the eyes of the people that we want to influence instead of typing it into a phone. Let’s speak globally into the hearts and minds everywhere, instead of making current affairs only current if we live in the same time zone. Let’s break down barriers instead of building walls. Let us not be ‘trumped’, let’s triumph. Let’s shake hands with everyone, because if our boat sinks we can be reassured that other boats from overseas will come to our rescue. One human being can’t change politics. But we can change the system by influencing the people inside it, the people that are running that race already, to keep it moving forward.
The day I stop wanting to be older, will be the day I get the vote. We will make our voices heard... because you aren’t the spectator when you’re the one speaking.
Jamie is a member of our Young Leaders programme. The Almeida Young Leaders is a scheme giving young people with something vital to say, the tools and platform to do so. Each young leader has been mentored by a writer and director to develop their ideas, structuring a speech and skills in public speaking.