Back in school and sixth-form college, our group of friends were the political nerds. It wasn’t really necessary for the average young person to be socially or politically engaged, as times were (admittedly) a little easier. As easy as they can be for a sixteen year-old at least. So, not very easy at all.
It was 2010 and the far-right hadn’t yet rebranded themselves as the “alt-right” in an attempt to digitally recruit a new generation of fascists. Extremist views belonged to old people who were afraid of immigration, and that one kid who would yell racial slurs as he set fire to various parts of the school. Although we’re pretty sure that’s because his Dad beat the hell out of him, and he’d been failed by the system.
Now, in the Brexit of our Trump, 2018 — Young people don’t have a choice. Politics is everywhere because society has become pretty crazy for the first time in a while. I mean, if their schools are being shot-up because people don’t have access to universal mental healthcare AND it’s really easy to buy the weapon that results in the death of their classmates, then these kids are going to get politically engaged pretty fast.
Social media is filled with political “debates”, as people hurl insults at each other in two-hundred and eighty characters or less. Fake news is spread across Facebook, meaning their older family members believe things that just aren’t in-line with the world they’re seeing around them. Then, they go on YouTube to watch gaming videos, only for an “alt-right” recruiter to pop-up as a recommended channel.
Back in school, in college, all I wanted was for more people to be politically involved. I didn’t want us to be the only ones asking people to register to vote, or learning the ins and outs of voter systems. I wanted everyone to have an opinion that would be listened to, because then maybe we’d have a stronger democracy. Idealistic, I know, but not everyone was on social media, even eight years ago.
We had the benefit of being able to switch-off from politics whenever it wasn’t election season, or if nothing big was happening in the political world. Now, thanks to a reality TV President, politics is everywhere, all of the time. What I thought I wanted for young people, isn’t actually what I really wanted. I was wrong.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time, but I’m still here, typing away. I don’t want to think about putting my mind in the kind of environment children have to grow-up in today.
Imagine the pressures and anxieties of modern social media, but also you’re in high school and also, people are sometimes trying to kill you. The posh kid in the button-up invites you to a meeting with free cookies, but it turns out it’s so you can discuss how best to deal with the “Mexican problem”. You go visit your grandparents and they’re talking about how finally America is Great Again, and that you should be lucky to live in a world where you can be shot-at, cyber-bullied and self-harm, because they had it so much harder.
No thank you. I’m not sure I would’ve made it through high school were I born at a later time, especially in America.
The reason why I’m thinking about young people in regards to politics is because Taylor Swift has political opinions now. The reality is that high-school kids probably won’t be listening to Taylor Swift, as she’s an artist closer to my own school years than theirs. She still emits a youthful brand however, and so I assume she still holds an influence over people in her original target demographic.
You know times are trying when Taylor Swift gets involved. She was the vapid, rich girl from school. The one who wouldn’t dare be seen with a political opinion in case it decreased her popularity, which ironically is a rather shrewd and overtly political standpoint to hold. Bravo.
I once tried asking the Taylor Swift of our school who she would vote for if she could, and her response was, “You know, if you talked less about this sort of thing, you might actually be able to get a girlfriend.”
Except this is 2018 and Taylor Swift, the daughter of financiers, who lives in deep-red Tennessee, has come out in support of the Democratic Party. I figure it’s because the left was owed an A-Lister after whatever the hell happened with Kanye.
In a lengthy Instagram post, T-Swift outed herself as a liberal. She showed support for an equal and fair society (yes white people, that includes us), as well as specifically highlighting a lot of issues regarding women’s rights — Including domestic violence and sexual assault. I’m sure recent events helped her to speak out, which is one of the positives we can take away from the last two weeks.
I’m in two-minds about people with Taylor Swift’s level of influence becoming involved in politics. On one hand she is showing young people that it’s okay to have a voice, especially one that goes against the current establishment — This is a great thing. On the other hand, I’m concerned that she’s riding a wave of whatever opinion is popular with her demographic, because if she truly was a “filthy leftie”, she’d seriously consider doing something with all that wealth she has.
I guess when the President is a celebrity, it feels normal and natural when A-Listers like Taylor and Kanye become outspoken on political issues. And as I’ve said, this isn’t 2010 anymore, this is a time where it’s impossible not to have an opinion on a social issue.
I just hope they don’t run for office in the future. I’ve already seen people joking on social media about West vs Swift in 2028, and that’s not a joke to me, that’s the next logical step after Trump vs Clinton.
We don’t need celebrities or career politicians to run for office — We need doctors, teachers, scientists and charity workers. We need people who’ve worked a vocation that’s in the business of helping those around them, because those are the people who will genuinely look out for the interests of others.
I’ve been saying all this since I was a fifteen year-old political nerd, and nothing changed. In fact, it got worse. So maybe politics is just an eternal depressant, one that shouldn’t involve our young people so heavily. Or maybe, just maybe, after we’ve ironed out the kinks of this modern, digital world — Young people will be better-off by having a voice, and Taylor Swift can go back to making her signature brand of mediocre pop music.
Today is Monday, October 8th and I’m hoping that one month from now, a sliver of moral light shines through the darkness.
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