We speak of ‘generations’ as if they are homogenous groupings of like-minded people who see the world in more or less the same way. I don’t know about this. I think there are as many intra-generational differences as there are inter-generational differences. I think that what may be distinct is how the young and the old differ in respect to time. The young have a lot more of it to look forward to than we do. The patterns of youthful enthusiasm, idealism and energy seem to be pretty much the same from one generation to the next. Whether their ideals are liberal or conservative doesn’t seem to matter. On the other hand, my generation is busy planning for retirement, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives and taking stock of what we’ve accomplished or neglected over the past four decades or so. As a body politic, I’d say we’ve got a fairly even distribution of interests and views across the generational divide.
I am in favor, however, of building ways to facilitate and promote what I would call an ‘intergenerational dialogue’…conversations that might open new possibilities for society as a whole and empower people, regardless of their age, to participate more fully in the political process. In the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, only 78.5% of the voting age population went to the polls (down from 78.9% in 2000)1. In Canada, only 64.9% voted in the 2006 federal election (a modest improvement over the 60.9% witnessed two years earlier)2.
Do we just not care?
Judging from the amount of political noise on the internet, a lot of people care a lot. And yet, I wonder if these people voted on election day or if they were sitting in front of their computers at home complaining to whoever would listen online about the state of the world?
1 The Impact of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 on the Administration of Elections for Federal Office 2003-2004. June 30th 2005. Report to Congress from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (PDF, 1.4Mb)
2 Voter Turnout Up. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News. January 24, 2006.