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Young Lithuanians, too, are disappointed with politicians

Why young Lithuanians, too, are disappointed with politicians, explained

Image source: © Canva / Canva
Materiały Prasowe,
29.12.2023 18:45

Disappointment with the government is not uncommon, even in a democratic country. Some people find certain solutions missing, others doubt the existing ones, and there are people who outright challenge every opinion of politicians. Given the situation, a question arises: what are the reasons for such an attitude and do the citizens of Lithuania, especially the youth, participate enough in our country’s political processes and take initiative when relevant and important matters are being discussed?

A lack of targeted engagement in political processes

The youth’s strong apoliticism has been the subject of discussion for many years, but various research and surveys show that the majority of young people are not interested in politics at all. Umberto Masi, president of the Lithuanian Youth Council, agrees. He says that the engagement of the Lithuanian youth in political processes is definitely insufficient.

"You can always do better, and I also mean societies with really high youth engagement. Young people can participate actively in the public discussion and solution of issues that are the most topical and poignant, share information, or take part in various movements. Generally speaking, the possibilities are always there, but there is definitely a lack of consistent and targeted engagement in civic and social activities and democratic processes," he said.

According to the Lithuanian Youth Council’s president, there are numerous factors that influence the current youth’s disinterest in politics, civic and social activities, and democratic processes.

"Retrospectively, we may blame the period of Russian occupation – how it essentially undermined all budding attempts at engagement and civic activities. We can also evaluate current global trends and changes, crises, which affect young people especially severely, the epidemic of emotional and mental health issues, the underestimated and unresolved consequences of COVID-19 that greatly affected every person, including the youth, the climate crisis and its ramifications, anxiety, and doubts about the future," Masi said.

He also mentioned another aspect, which he sees as the most impactful.

"But one of the most important aspects, I think, is the quality and nature of civic education: how we talk about politics and participation in civic or community activities. Civic activities and types of informal education and means currently are basically disconnected from formal education and general education programmes," he noted.

No topic is ignored

Even though the indifference of young people towards politics is obviously caused by a multitude of different reasons; nevertheless, it is very important to understand that such an attitude does not help solve the systemic issues that young people themselves are constantly mentioning during various discussions.

"No topic is ignored by the youth – every issue that is being discussed has a direct influence on their everyday lives," the Lithuanian Youth Council president added.

However, young people need that their voice be valued equally, just like every other citizen’s of Lithuania, and we lack that, Masi thinks.

"We can often see that young people are underappreciated just because they are young, but their experience and needs or expectations are just as important as those of any social group. For the youth, the most topical issues are related to their rights, their opportunities to improve and create a future in Lithuania. Unfortunately, many aspects, related to the empowerment, engagement, and recognition of young people are often seen as not very important or acceptable," he explained.

According to Masi, the spectrum of topics that the youth find important although their voice is not always being heard is also very broad.

"Climate change consequences, ecology, environment, LGTBQ+ equality, education, self-improvement, successful integration into the labour market, the ability to successfully live and create in Lithuania – all these matters are important to the youth," the president stated.

Too few opportunities

Even though the situation looks disappointing, giving up is not an option. There are ways to solve the problem, and Masi even gave a few suggestions.

"First of all, we should talk about the promotion of citizenship. Currently, the implementation of the programme and the content that reaches young people hardly contributes to making them more civic. This is proved by research and voting turnout," he continued.

According to the Lithuanian Youth Council president, it is equally important to stress the fact that citizenship or active participation in community life cannot be based on theoretical knowledge alone.

"Just like any other skill, it has to be honed, and the sooner, the better. Practicing democracy should become a much more widespread skill in our everyday lives. The youth’s engagement in civic and community activities is not as high as could be because there are no favourable conditions. I wonder if the majority of the youth are aware that there are numerous youth organizations where they could discover themselves," Masi said.

According to him, practical action and information presented via examples that are relevant to young people is what the current society needs.

"Today, we do not have a tradition of active participation and engagement. This means that we have to rethink and evaluate, whether the methods that were and still used in schools are sufficient. Treating politics as a distant, opaque, irrelevant, and unimportant phenomenon is the result of said methods," Masi shared his insight.

Thankfully, there are best practices to follow.

"We can find examples of best practices abroad when politicians visit schools before elections to communicate with future voters. Introduction to the political system and active creation of circumstances under which young people have a direct contact with politicians, public figures, and participants of the political process is what’s needed," Masi assured.

The president also indicated the importance of ensuring that the youth’s voice is heard in processes that directly affect them.

"Starting from the simplest of things, such as infrastructure for young people – parks for skateboarding and roller skating, playgrounds, and sports grounds – it is vital that the changes which are positive echo the needs of young people too," Masi added.

Indifference may cost dearly

Besides numerous negative consequences that result from the indifference of young people towards politics, Masi also said that even if you were not interested in politics, a time would come when politics would be interested in you, regardless of your attitude.

"Since politics has a direct impact on our daily lives, taking an interest in it is a must. Obviously, we can be disinterested in political processes or not actively follow them, but there is a huge price to pay. By being indifferent towards politics, we risk forfeiting our right and ability to contribute to the creation of our state to people or groups of people that do not care about our needs and expectations," he explained.

Masi insisted that being interested in politics enables people to follow actively and, if needed, join public discussions and sometimes even participate in the decision-making process, which is the basis for everything, and, most importantly, citizenship.

"Every day, by observing our environment we can notice many cases when we can choose to be active, civic, and communal, or passive and distant from one another. Indifference towards others is the opposite of citizenship. Our every action, taken to help or contribute to making another person’s day brighter may also contribute to the creation of a more active and engaged community," Masi concluded.

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