Friday, December 30, 2011

ZenTiger Green is another word for immature

If you can Vote When You're Senile...

That was the title of a recent Green Blog post about the need to grant the vote to 16 year olds.

I have explored the general arguments made about  lowering the vote in a previous post - "Emancipating Youth". As I said then, this can be seen as a push by parties of the left to perform gerrymandering by demographics rather than geography.  I also said this issue would continue to be pushed by the left every few years until it finally takes hold.  Thus, time to fisk this recent Green Vote post to say much the same things in a different way.

If I wanted to suggest that maybe a lack of maturity was one of the reasons for denying the vote to 16 year olds, then I'd have to look no further than the title of the post: "If you can vote when you're senile...".

It also gives me permission to be equally as flippant in my response post. Yes, totally uncalled for, but it is meant in the spirit of "talking at the same level" and making a blog post slightly more interesting than this topic might otherwise be.

So, here we go:
Our communities tell young people that they need to "take responsibility", that they need to "get involved", that they have unfulfilled civic responsibilities towards their schools, their cities and their country. Those same communities then go on to insist that youth cannot be trusted to vote, that such a right can only be afforded to "full members" of society - that us young people just aren't up to the task. Clearly, something is messed up.

What if the communities are not telling, but "inviting" young people to get involved? And do those communities really go on to insist youth cannot be trusted? It's overly emotive to make this an issue of trust. It might simply be that the age of majority is considered to be 18, just like it is 18 to borrow money from a bank, buy a lottery ticket, own an airgun and be appointed a company director. But 18 isn't a one-stop shop age. The age of consensual sex is 16, as is leaving school and applying for a name change. But at 10 you can take out insurance in your own name. Driving a tractor on a farm can happen at 12 and you need to be 14 to legally babysit others. Age 14 also gets you into youth court for most crimes. It's not really about trust.

The Young Greens believe that the current disenfranchisement of 16 and 17 year old young adults is wrong: we see a society that irrationally discriminates against its most vulnerable as fundamentally flawed. The current system insults the legitimacy of our democracy, marginalises young people, and leads to a systematic political bias against youth. That's why, since 2010, we've consistently advocated to lower the voting age to 16.

Irrationally discriminates against it's most vulnerable? Cry me a river. The most irrational discrimination we face in this society is over the unborn. The most vulnerable after that would have to be babies and toddlers. The so-called discrimination is not irrational, it's based on the premise of maturity. If you are going to claim this is irrational, explain why it is rational to discriminate against 15 year olds? Or 14 year olds? Or 9 year olds? Or 3 year olds? We'll soon find a line that you will rationalize, but that would only prove my point - the 18 year old line in the sand is not irrational. Please, come up with a stronger argument.

Let's face it - the current ban on youth voting is a little bit odd. It just doesn't seem to be consistent with the way we approach democracy: if someone wants to air their opinion in a ballot box, we normally say 'good on 'em' - whether you're intellectually disabled or a PhD, current law considers your right to the vote as equal. And that's great: we recognise that previous attempts to dictate a class' capacity to vote - such as restricting the franchise to people of a certain wealth, ethnicity of gender - were discriminatory, a biased shambles of democracy. In that light, though, there seems no reason to ban 16 and 17 year olds from voting; it's clear that the status quo is blatantly discriminatory. As someone who is proud of New Zealand's history of democracy - someone who is proud of our giving women the vote, of proportional representation and of our fundamentally accountable government - I find this aberration upon our democracy humiliating.

Well, the ban on drinking for 16 year olds must be a little bit odd too. The ban on joining the police force at 16 must also be a case worthy of the Human Rights Tribunal. "Come back in a few years" must be humiliating in the extreme. I'm left wondering if the current ban on letting 18 year olds have sex with 14 year olds is considered odd? This rampant agism must not have boundaries, surely? But perhaps I'm being too harsh here. I actually agree that having to wait until 18 for the vote is discriminatory. But you use the word "discriminatory" as if its mere pronouncement makes such an act evil. Here's the thing: discrimination is sometimes a good thing. The next time some-one offers you a plate of rotten fruit or a plate of fresh fruit, I'll leave it up to you to discriminate without fear of punishment.  

We're telling young people that we do not consider their opinion worthy, and they're listening. Currently, of those young people who are allowed to vote, only three in four are even enrolled to be able to do so. When we encourage the myth that voting is a vital duty only to those who have reached a certain age, we discourage youth from engaging in democracy. Young people don't feel that the political system is a forum in which their grievances have any legitimacy, youth often see politics as solely something that old people do. By dropping the voting age, we'd be opening our arms to young people, insisting to them that their opinions are valuable.

Whose this "we" white man? Again, the overly emotive argument without any real basis of fact or the offering of any evidence. The only facts you can summon point to a low enrollment rate of eligible young voters. And you seem to blame that on active discouragement from older people! Your attitude reveals your politics. Blame others, winge about the apathy of your co-revolutionaries, cry a little and vote Green.

If the opinions and input of youth weren't welcome, there wouldn't be youth factions in political parties; The Inconvenient Truth wouldn't be mass distributed to schools and the left wouldn't assume they could manipulate youthful passion and convert them to votes. Come on, the signs are there that others are keen to exploit the youth vote is there if only you care to look.
The missed opportunity here is even more tragic given the opportunity high school provides to involve and educate young people about the democratic process. Lowering the voting age would allow 6th and 7th formers to vote when they're in school, providing an exceptional chance to make democracy real. The start of a life-long triennial habit would begin accompanied by education, encouragement, and an understanding of politics elsewhere unprovided. If we care about the long-term health of our political culture, then lowering the voting age is clearly a good thing.

Tragic is a car crash where people die. Not voting whilst in school is not a tragedy. Vote for the class leader or something.  Things can be real without having to directly experience them.  Are you going to arrange elections every two years to make sure that every 6th and 7th former gets to experience an election? Are you going to ban people from leaving school before they have voted? And habits are not formed by doing something once every three years. Weak. (come back in three years and I'll say it again)
So, a voting age of 18 is wrong, in that it insults both us, young people, and our democracy as a whole. But the current voting age has a more pernicious harm - it systematically biases our government, and so our society, in such a way that young people's welfare is ignored. It's obviously the case that young people have been continually disregarded by subsequent Governments; almost every area of policy - from climate change, to superannuation, to abortion law, to transport - bears semblance of this embarrassing truth. It's not hard to see why this is the case: when politicians know that they risk no electoral punishment in disregarding young adults' needs, yet know that a bias towards older voters would win electoral support, they cannot be trusted to do the right thing; government discrimination away from those with the greatest need and towards those with votes is inevitable. Lowering the voting age would be a step towards a more sustainable political system, one in which politicians must confront those who are suffering the burden from their policies, one in which politicians are empowered by a regard for the long-term.

This is a convoluted piece of thinking that again relies on emotive statements without any factual or logical supporting arguments. That governments "risk no electoral punishment" when they ignore the vote of 16 year olds?? I've often wondered about 16 and 17 year old's turning 18 and forget everything they know and care about and vote differently - but I've never met any, and of course, I've always been the age I am now. This really clears up the confusion I had about this point.

And the political system becomes sustainable by franchising 16 year olds? Are we at "peak democracy" then? In 2020 do we need to allow 14 year olds the vote to keep things stable? Obviously, one day we'll just run out of young people. But I blamed abortion - seems it was the vote.  

The Young Greens' support for a drop to the voting age is inspired by a vision: Aotearoa New Zealand can be a country in which young people are respected and listened to; our society can be one in which the needs of us youth are taken into account. Our current tangent - a future in which young people continue to be side-lined by those currently with votes - is not a predetermined thing: New Zealand's voting age has been lowered before and it can been lowered again. Working to lower the voting age, the Young Greens are making progress towards a more equitable future.

Is respect only gained by having the vote? Your title argues the opposite. The elderly have the vote and your write them off as senile. Maybe everything you say is true, and therefore, letting the youth vote on euthanasia policies could be fatal to anyone over 50!  And yes, the voting age has been lowered twice before - once from age 21 to 20, and then from 20 to 18.  It doesn't therefore follow though that we are obliged to lower it every 40 years.  Maybe it's time to raise it again.  People live longer, and therefore vote more.  Let's keep it sustainable, don't want to use up all your votes by age 60 and then find you live another 20 years. /same logic (none)

Listen, if you really care about democracy, hold John Key accountable for ignoring the anti-smacking referendum results. That piece of legislation the Greens pushed through the parliament was soundly rejected by 88% of the voters in a referendum organised in response to parliament ignoring the voice of the (voting) people and is a good example of  an insult to democracy.

In general, please get involved, but don't expect rights before you also accept the responsibilities. Value your vote by preparing well before you exercise it.  Don't write pieces like above where you articulate only your entitlements without speaking more of duties. Stop speaking as if your voice can only be heard if you have a vote, and don't imply older people don't vote broadly for more than just their self-interest, that they don't vote in consideration of their children and in general for the benefit of NZ. But most of all, put forward better arguments. They can be made, and people do listen.

Ages of Consent for various things in NZ

Emancipating Youth - A more serious discussion

1 comment(s):

KG said...

It's simply a way for Greens to give their brainwashed little socialist followers the vote--your expression "gerrymandering by demographics" sums it up nicely.
Even then, the clowns can't make a coherent, convincing argument for it.

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