Are people really apathetic about politics?

Politics has a huge impact on everyone’s lives. So why don’t more of us actually get involved? Is it apathy? Are people too stupid, selfish or lazy? Dave Meslin says no. He identifies seven barriers that keep us from taking part in politics, even when we truly care.

Fortunately the last barrier he mentions doesn’t apply to us in New Zealand!

8 Comments Posted

  1. “Its all just too big.”

    It was no doubt easier when local government was the guy down the road who was in the local pub holding council on certain afternoons, and all they really did was survey land and commission roads where traffic was too heavy for the bare soil.

    When “regulations” were what we did to each other, by having a word with the local JP about what your neighbour was dumping in the creek, because people had rights don’t you know.

    But then it got corrupt. Big factories with lots of employees came first, their owners get the best roads, and “clean water” acts that remove your right to stop them killing all the fish with toxic waste.

    Now everyone’s got their own government handouts, the quality of our leaky homes as written by timber merchants, “earthquake resistant” buildings on sea-level swampland that a councilman’s developer friend just bought for a song. Should they refuse to drain the rivers for irrigation they’ll be replaced for “failure of duty” if we dare to re-elect them.

    Of course we have complaints, they’re screwing us. Why aren’t they listening? They /are/ listening, just not to you or I. If they want our opinion they give it to us.

    Fine example below the fold.

    Dunedin borrowed $200 million (and more every day) for a rugby stadium, because the old one (bought fresh from the local rugby union in lieu of them paying back millions in council loans) desperately needed $5 million spent on it and no one was going to get rich on those contracts. By gum there’s a lot of nice new Mercedes in town, that the rest of us will be paying for over the next century.

    Would you like a new stadium if it didn’t cost you anything? ~50% of people said yes. Great, and the councillors that didn’t like it are mostly gone now anyway, didn’t have much of a voice last election. Shame all that $200 million plus of debt ends up owned and underwritten by ratepayers.

    Didn’t cost us anything you see, we just own a nice stadium, and some nice debt (which, according to council, will disappear in a miracle shell-game in a couple year’s time, or they’ll just have to double everyone’s rates).

  2. Yes apathy often rules.. until something jumps up & bites people !
    The problem with politics in Aotearoa is the ‘major’ parties are centre-left & centre-right. The perception is that their major concern is staying in power, rather than fixing the countries ‘woes’ or at least being honest & sticking to election promises e.g. no rise in GST !
    … enough said… kia-ora

  3. I seem to have been involved in local body issues for decades – long, hard,frustrating battles about waste management and sewage. Currently engaged in trying to get the council to upgrade the waste water system they set up in 1983 – I was part of a group wanting a land-based system back then! Now their excuse is that there are sunk costs and they have no money…

    We saw the tiny notice for renewal of consent, got the whole community to object – nearly three years down the track they are paying vast amounts of money to a lawyer so they don’t have to talk to us. It’s not just apathy on their part but actual refusal to discuss the issues with the ratepayers who pay their wages and honoraria.

    The REgional council are missing in action – if they did their job, we wouldn’t have to spend all this time, money and energy on a straightforward issue.

    It is definitely not apathy on the part of this community either – they do not WANT to listen to us.

    However, chink of light.. mediation has begun, despite their best efforts to shut us up.

  4. I think Meslin’s point one (about stuff in the paper put there by local councils) is interesting; I’m of the opinion that the central issue behind the point is one of scale.

    A century ago, the forerunners of today’s local councils didn’t do much, and thus what they did was simply described, and easily published, and thus everyone knew what was going on in theior neighbourhood. Our local council started out as the “Roads Board”, so their original focus was very clear.

    Any modern local council is now managing hundreds if not thousands of concurrent activities, many of which one can submit on. One can also submit on central government activities.

    Last week I submitted on the Copyright Act regulations discussion paper. That submission took about four hours of work. Even if I allocated every waking hour to writing submissions, I could only manage a tiny fraction of the issues that could effect me.

    Its all just too big.

  5. He seems to have missed the willingness of politicians and others in authority to ignore public opinion. I’d reckon the biggest reason people don’t get involved is because they, correctly in many cases, feel powerless.

  6. Not enough internet at my house to watch Ted talks today

    Which Ted are you talking about katie? Mun Ted, Far Ted, Roo Ted, or Vomi Ted?

  7. Meh. Not enough internet at my house to watch Ted talks today. Otherwise, my apathy quotient is down 😉

Comments are closed.