The not-so-obvious antidote to the wave of populism in some older democracies is a genuine 'youthquake'.
Predicted for the last two elections, the influence of under-25s has been more of a tremor. However, action by youth-led demonstrations in this past year has shown older generations not only that they are a force to be reckoned with, but also that it is youth who will be most influenced by inaction.
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Translation of protests into a political force requires something more. What exactly? And how can it be actioned?
The short answer is massive youth turnout in general elections.
Turnouts in key democracies have been woeful for some time, partly as a result of two-party strangleholds that dominate centre-spectrums and deny genuine third-party influence.
So what could convince under 25s to enable their own engagement in policy-driven politics?
Findings that democracy is the system best able both to self-correct and deliver equity, always come with the proviso: 'if enough citizens engage in it'. This is the heart of the problem.
Sure leaders are necessary, as the Occupy Movements and present climate protests have proven. And parties are still the most effective way of transforming ideas into policy and action. So what exactly is missing?
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The longer answer is education. Also, parties that do not become mere 'shell parties' that gear up only for elections, but are ones that generate creative remits from grass-roots groups and think-tanks using evidence-based research.
What sort of education? This present reformist government, a rarity internationally, has announced it will roll out compulsory New Zealand history in 2022. It has also said compulsory civics or citizenship is in the pipeline.
Evidence from research by our universities over the past six years shows that young people who have voted once are more likely to vote thereafter. Other relevant findings reveal that classroom democracy practices, such as voting for student leaders, forge life-long patterns of participation and analytic skills.
Also that on-line Q&As helping align values with parties are formative in establishing political awareness.
In their 2014 book The Political Classroom , US authors Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy argue that well-structured 'political classrooms' are not partisan but where students learn how to discuss topics that have multiple, competing views, and practice listening and questioning.
But the biggest change needed is a revolution in what voter-citizenship at age 18 entails. Perhaps the now almost-quaint 21st party could be preceded by some form of coming-of-age-18 ritual that can inculcate awareness of the responsibilities of citizenship – with presentations of some 'key' to voting rights?
This could be more easily achieved by making our election day not in November but in our autumn. Why not rejuvenate our public holiday of Anzac Day into our usual election day? This could celebrate both our independence and the reasons Anzacs forces fought against fascism.
Being a public holiday, this day could therefore be both a sombre and joyful occasion, looking back and forward. Pre-voting/mail voting would be regarded as exceptional with street parties encouraging people to join communities to celebrate democracy for the hard-won achievement it is.
If responsibility makes the person, we do need interesting education in the practice of democracy – and to institute home-grown rituals aimed at upskilling youth and recent immigrants alike.
• Steve Liddle is a teacher and independent researcher based in Napier.