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October 16, 2003
 Student View


Politics of youth
Katie Norman
Katie Norman

Junior high, high school and even university are places where self-expression and acceptance are highly valued. Attempts to assimilate into the crowd and be accepted by a certain group can be seen everywhere. A quick look around would reveal attempts by young people to define themselves and gain acceptance and approval through their physical appearance. Due to the beginning of the school year, autumn is the true season of change. And it is only fitting that as teenagers remake their appearances once again, provincial politicians do the same.

What a paralleled world we live in.

In fact the whole idea of an election has an adolescent theme running right through it. This is not to say that the policies being presented to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are immature or undeveloped, rather all I am suggesting is that the idea of an election is all about acceptance and moving forward with change.

The party inspired ties, massive DRL buses and smiling leaflets listing candidates children’s names and favourite extracurricular activities remind me all to well of the attempts to boost ones own popularity. In fact the attempts to win over our province are similar to the idea of getting your license first to impress your friends, only now it is about devising the most popular policy booklet. Looking at the actions of politicians and political parties can reveal a lot about the younger generations.

The idea of an election as a chance to reinvent a party or candidate’s image is nothing new. In fact this is the popular card to be played by many players during election time. Consider the Progressive Conservative slogan of “Real Leadership: A New Approach.” It suggests a flaw in the past leadership and an ability to make strength with what was once weakness. The play on charisma and personal success is not only used in the public realm but also privately in schoolyards everywhere. People use their own strengths to contrast the weaknesses of others, although doing so blatantly will get you cited as a person who puts others down to improve your own self image.

In similar regards the teenagers who wronged in the past – perhaps got a failing grade in the past year – use the summer to remake themselves, to wipe the slate clean. They want to focus on the future and encourage us to “take a closer look” to see that in fact their past actions are forgivable and that their future plans make up for their mis-doings. The Liberal party is using this notion to try and win back the government they could potentially lose.

New Democrats on the other hand suggest that it is time for “real change.” After all if you want something different from the right or the center the natural place to look is the left. This is the tactic used by kids who don’t try to create head on competition, so they push the individuality envelope. They may be different, but you want different. Or so they want you to believe.

Each of these slogans is effective, in that they minimize the weaknesses of each party and attempt to play up the more favourable aspects. Despite the fact that they are all playing a slightly different angle they are each using their public relations to try and paint the most effective picture.

These parties are not immature or adolescent. In fact their marketing campaigns are often very complex. It is simply interesting to look at how the parties’ actions are similar to the tactics used by young adults in the ‘rat race’ of adolescence. The intense pressure of high school and the pressure to succeed in what is becoming a more competitive job market lead many people to become very competitive when necessary. The climate of an election does the same.

This comparison explains more about human nature than it does about the individual character of young adults or politicians. People simply resort to extreme tactics when faced with stressful situations. Everyone wants to be accepted and the best way to be accepted is to appeal to the masses. The problem is each party sees the masses a little differently.

Politicians were once adolescents and some of the candidates are not that much older than I am. This allows me to feel confident in my notion that competition leads people to seek positive public relations whether it’s in the government or in the cafeteria.


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Next issue: October 30, 2003

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