The world is your responsibility
// Alyssa Kostello

Voter turnout in federal elections has been steadily decreasing for the last twenty years: in 1988 it sat at 75 per cent, and by 2008 it had dropped to 59 per cent. In 2008, 5.9 per cent of Canadians reported that they were involved in a political party or group. Also in 2008, 13 per cent said they had contacted a newspaper or politician to express their views, 24 per cent signed a petition, 19 per cent attended a public meeting, and 3 per cent participated in a protest or march. Although these numbers decreased from 2003, the number of Canadians who said they had searched for information on a political issue in the 12 months prior to the survey did increase from 24 per cent in 2003 to 27 per cent in 2008.

These things are all related, and they speak volumes about the present state of our society. Although being an active participant in society cannot be reduced to your involvement in politics, they certainly play an important role in painting a picture of what we as citizens of society are likely to do. Most importantly, these statistics tell us that Canadians are headed down a dangerous path when we increasingly ignore the world around us.

When I was younger, I wasn’t aware of current events. I didn’t know anything about politics, world issues, didn’t care for history classes; until one day, I started taking classes like Civil Studies and Law with Mr. Adair. Sometimes, all it takes is one good experience with current events to change your opinion about their importance.

In the first class of Civic Studies, he told us, “If there’s one thing you can do for homework, I want you to watch the news every night.” He wanted his students to be critical thinkers, not passively unaware members of society.

Although I learned this lesson in high school, it is difficult to ensure we remain informed members of society as we progress into adulthood. Despite the fact that it is not easy, we must work to educate each other and encourage dialogue about what we are reading and seeing every single day. It cannot be emphasized enough how important this is.

Imagine if we ignored current events altogether. What would happen? We would become a very suppressed and ignorant society. It would be so much easier for corporations and governments to control our lives, we wouldn’t be helping others when disaster hits and we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves. Life would be very grim and chaotic. It is in this situation that I now understand the phrase “knowledge is power” and I am ready to be powerful.

We can start off with conversation. I don’t know about you, but sometimes you need a conversation starter and it feels good to talk about something other than the show you watched last night on TV, or the latest gossip about people’s relationships. It feels good to exercise your brain and feel smart; to share ideas, thoughts and opinions on what will one day be part of history. I always want to talk about something interesting I’ve read in the news. Too often we overlook how fascinating real life can really be.

Not everyone is like me, but I did become more active and motivated when I knew more about the world. Imagine how much we all could accomplish if this was the case. If everyone knew what was going on, everyone could develop opinions and potentially get involved and we could truly initiate change.

It’s like what people say at election time: “If you didn’t vote, you have no right to complain about who got elected.” Everyone who’s part of a proper conversation or debate should be able to back up or explain what they’re saying. How did you develop your opinion and where did it come from? If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you have no right to complain. We must do our research before we start spouting off about how much we hate our Member of Parliament. We saw a very important example of people coming together, finding information, and beginning conversations about it with the American legislation pertaining to the Internet.

Everyone uses the Internet and everyone shares information and entertainment with each other online. It’s accessible, but we may lose the right to share information openly and freely. Although the American SOPA and PIPA have been put on hold, Canada’s Bill C-11 is on the horizon and we need to speak out just as loudly against it. If everyone makes themselves aware about these pieces of legislation, we can form an opinion, get involved, take action, and make a difference.

An even bigger and more relevant issue, for students especially, are the high tuition fees and insane amounts of debt that go along with it. In B.C. over the past ten years, tuition fees have more than doubled, and the average student debt is $27,000. My Ontario student loan has interest of $4 a day. We are entering a generation of debt and there are ways we can stop this from happening if we educate ourselves and get involved.

As Mr. Adair said, the best thing you can do is start by watching the news. If you are reading up on current events, make sure you are also checking your sources and find a variety of stories to compare with in order to get a balanced point of view. Biases are always present, and unbalanced information can also be misleading. Inform yourself about everything, so that you’ll be able to participate fully as a citizen of the world.

Alyssa is a recent graduate from the Acting for Stage and Screen Program here at Cap and is excited to be trying her hand at writing articles. She is currently writing a few plays, hosting a monthly variety night, and is the new President of The NOW! Organization.

//Alyssa Kostello, columnist

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