Who do our pollies speak for? Not the old or the young

Today’s politicians don’t speak for the selfie-stick generation, according to an article in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald by a young political candidate … But do they really speak for the over 60 as this young candidate believes?

23-year-old Clara Roldan, who is standing against the Premier, Mike Baird, as Greens’ candidate for Manly in this month’s NSW election, wrote the piece that accuses the Australian political environment of being “full of older men in suits grandstanding about their children and their grandchildren”. But is it? Or is this far from the truth?

“My generation, the generation of selfie-sticks, viral videos and constant, instant communication, will inherit the environmental and political landscape that is being shaped today,” said Ms Roldan.

“Young people today face a world that will be completely alien to anything that has come before us; traditional models of employment are collapsing, house prices are so high that the suburban white picket fence will remain out of reach until we are well into our 40s (or perhaps forever) and, most importantly, the earth is heating up”.

But Ms Roldan is adamant that what is being offered by today’s politicians is not enough for young people. Dare I say it, it is not enough for older people either. Most older Australians feel neglected, in favour of the 30-something childcare seeking, paid-parental leave hungry average Australian on which most policies appear to be trained in this generation, with little concern for how social services, health services or community services will serve our older group which makes up 25% of the population. Are the older Australians just as needy as the millennials?

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Ms Roldan deplores, “we have descended into a juvenile battle of wills that pits one side against the other constantly, regardless of the policy or issue on the table. It’s become more important to discredit the other side (or your own party leader) than to get anything done. To use a sporting metaphor, it’s as though we’re playing a purely defensive game and no one has the courage to break free and run with the ball. This is not a political culture that engenders innovation or progress”.

“Hear, hear!” I say, but is this just a problem for the selfie-stick generation? Surely this defensive game is affecting more than just the younger people in society. It is affecting all of us. It is just that the younger person has not yet lived long enough to understand or appreciate how much older Australians are affected by political disarray where their livelihood is concerned, or their healthcare that is well needed sits.

The challenge it appears lies in the fact that no generation feels altogether well-understood at the moment, nor represented. The younger people want “more”, the older people want “more”, the parents want “more”, and companies want “more”… Who’s left to pay for it? The universities have their hand out, the hospitals have their hands cut off, there is no one left without the mining industry and the car industry – both of which we killed in the last political cycle.

Ms Roldan continues: “Young people can offer both ideas for change to the political dialogue and the energy to get things done. We have grown up with instant global communication; we are comfortable working outside traditional models and we understand effective new pathways. We use crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter to finance start-ups, we sell products directly to target markets through niche websites like Etsy, and we create virtual protests through Facebook and Twitter. Young people can provide the bridge we need to close the intergenerational communication gap in politics and, in doing so, re-engage our peers”.

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Surely older people can offer wonderful ideas for change too, along with the wisdom required not to reinvent the wheel or think that the things that have been built today don’t have relationships to the things that existed yesterday. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the intergenerational communication gap could be closed through inclusion of both young and old in politics, both young and old in workplaces and both young and old in community.

It would be an awful travesty to think that millennials are the only generation that is misunderstood by politicians.

Do you feel represented well by either side of politics today?