CBC Asks: Is politics broken? Yes, says Dave Meslin

Today’s youth don’t believe power lies within the walls of our parliaments, legislatures or city halls, writes Dave Meslin.

Dave Meslin is a writer, community organizer and trainer. His TED talk The Antidote to Apathy has been viewed over 1.4 million times and translated into 37 languages. 

Twitter @meslin

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In September 2011, 15,000 young Americans gathered to peacefully protest social and economic inequality.

The Occupy movement, which originated in Canada and spread across the world, disproved the stereotypes of today’s youth as apathetic and self-absorbed.

Every generation has its protest movements, from the anti-Vietnam-War rallies of the '60s to the anti-globalization mobilizations of the '90s, and this young generation is no different. Except for one thing.

Previous movements located their protests in front of government buildings or at international gatherings of political leaders. But Occupy revealed a disturbing new reality. Today’s youth don’t believe power lies within the walls of our parliaments, legislatures or city halls.

Rather than targeting government as an effective path toward change, these idealistic and inspired youth descended on the financial district of New York City.

What a sad reflection on our current political state.

Even those who are engaged and prepared to stand up for change don’t see government as a relevant player. That’s how disconnected and cynical we’ve become.

But we can reverse this trend.

I’ve been travelling across North America, crowdsourcing 100 remedies for a broken democracyParticipatory budgets in Halifax, City Hall School in Edmonton, mobile voting buses in Calgary, ranked ballots in Ontario, open data projects, campaign finance reform, citizens' assemblies, online tools and more.

Canadians from coast to coast are dreaming up new methods to increase participation, rebuild faith in the political system and increase diverse representation in our governments.

But the first step toward change is admitting we have a problem.

Declaring that the political process is no longer the most effective way to enact real change is not declaring defeat.

Quite the opposite. It’s an invitation, an invitation to raise our expectations, focus on solutions and transform our collective cynicism into a culture of engagement.