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Why Being Apolitical is a Major Threat to Democracies Around the World

Edited by Jasmine Ryu Won Kang

Challenging; traumatic; unpredictable; turbulent. All these words quite aptly describe the rollercoaster of a year that 2020 has been. Beginning with one of the most devastating wildfires in Australia, to the tragic death of our favourite basketball player Kobe Bryant, the catastrophic Beirut explosion, the brutal homicide of George Floyd that sparked worldwide protests, and finally the pandemic that we’re all currently witnessing. 

It goes without saying that 2020 will be the year that goes down in history books for many generations to come. In times like these, civic engagement and participation in every sphere of life are of utmost importance. A community can only grow and advance when individuals actively interact and take a pragmatic stand on political decisions. To be apolitical in this day and age is, in my opinion, unwise and imprudent, and should therefore not be the norm. 

It deeply disturbs me how being a political person today has become such a taboo. No one wants to be labelled as “that guy” who openly discusses politics and is strongly opinionated. This encourages apoliticism, which causes many to lack basic knowledge and concern about governments and world affairs in general. Being apolitical should not be the accepted norm, since it breeds apathy and is, in fact, detrimental to the country’s democratic process as a whole. Claiming to be apolitical in the climate in which we currently reside seems to be a way to circumvent the harshities that come along with it. It is problematic because it consciously encourages one to avoid political responsibility, and further highlights the realm of privilege that allows one to avoid politics.

With the overtly dystopic Trump presidency, many younger citizens took it upon themselves to be actively involved in politics; however, it was appalling to see that many adults still chose to turn a blind eye to issues at hand. Judging from personal experiences, I believe that many people also feel severely disillusioned with the idea that their opinion may actually make a difference. This kind of mentality makes it easy to manipulate an average person and discourage them from participating in democratic processes entirely. When such a large proportion of people choose to refrain from casting their votes, this can have a monumental impact on a country's state of democracy.

Common comebacks for not being involved in politics include the following: “I don’t care about politics,” “Politics stress me out,” and something along the lines of “It doesn’t matter if I vote or not.” What’s important to understand is that being apolitical stems from - even depends on - one's background and class standing, demonstrating one's level of privilege as someone who isn’t immediately impacted by political decisions. Having the ability to be disengaged only works as long as you are able to keep your social blinders stable. If there is an issue at hand that does not directly affect you — that you do not have to think about on a daily basis — that is a privilege. “Checking your privilege” is a phrase that may seem worn out to those who have it, but its importance is not diluted because of its seeming overuse.

It is usually partisan politics that intimidates the masses; however, being political does not only mean showing allegiance to a particular party or group. Having an opinion about issues such as divorce and marriage, abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and employment all require you to have a political stance. Your choices as an individual don’t just singularly impact you; they affect the larger system that you are part of. Therefore, claiming to be apolitical is more so a mindset rather than a legitimate political standing. Passively or actively, you are promoting political stances, whether or not you are doing so consciously.  

As citizens of a country, it is our civic duty to actively participate in politics. Encouraging political debates and discussions with friends and family not only evokes a sense of interest and curiosity about current affairs but also increases knowledge that can be fruitful in many aspects of life. It is time to engage ourselves with our government and do so in a way that is not behind closed doors. I do not mean that everyone should be a political connoisseur, but understanding what democracy really is and how our government is handled would be a fine start for those who currently remain apathetic. 

 

 

Yoothika is a third year BA candidate at the University of Toronto, St George. She is a writer for the U Toronto chapter of Her Campus. In her free time, Yoothika likes to explore the city of Toronto for trendy brunch places, occasionally run around the Harbourfront, listen to R&B and hip/hop music and binge the latest historical/crime Netflix shows. She is an admirer of fiction and classical literature, two of her recommended books are All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Yoothika aims to pursue a career in Human Rights and Law.
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