Eighteen Good Enough to Vote?

Just recently, the Cabinet has agreed in lowering Malaysians’ voting age from 21 to 18. The nest step would be for the Minister to table it up in the Parliament whereby the Parliamentarians will debate and decide whether it should be lowered or not.

I welcome and agree to the fact that this has been a long-awaited decision. Many nations’ 18 years old has been given the rights to vote since a long time ago, and that left only a few countries with people above 18 years old to be eligible as voters, which includes Malaysia currently.

18 years old means a lot to all of us. It is the age where we are technically considered matured. The eligibility to drive a car, to own a house, starting a business, getting married. If 18 year-olds are considered matured for all those, why aren’t voting as well?

Allowing 18-year olds to vote means more voters which signifies the relevance of democracy. The results of an election will be more relevant and inclusive with the add-ons, provided that the turnout is high.

But even before we proceed to approve the decision, I think tabling the motion of lowering the voting age must come together in solving a few related issues. We must not only consider the technical part of voting, which is the age limit.

If we do not improve or change our political culture and behaviour, amending the limit of voting age that does not make any difference.

Age is only the technical part. Somehow, the Government and the society plays an important role to develop the teenager’s mind prior to voting, so that they could make wise decision, especially towards issues as important as choosing a leader and government of a country.

Neil deGrasse Tyson once gave a great speech on the value of knowing how to think is far more important than just knowing what to think. Sadly, our education system only teach us the latter. We were mostly taught to cram as many facts into our head as we can, only to spit out on a piece of paper, then forget about them.

Instead of just remembering the facts, it is more important that we learn how to navigate the modern sea of information, how do we filter out the important, and how to determine what’s downright false.

This is what is happening in our political arena these days, the people were fed with too much information, which many were false or incorrect news. And therefore, they make mistakes by believing in those news. It is hard to blame them, as the algorithm of the internet does not filter whether a news is correct or not. Many does not justify whether a news is true or not by its content, the truth today is justified by the top results of the Google.

When we talk about the top results on social media justifies the truth of an issue, the same goes to what is considered important to many individuals.

It is a sad thing when we take a certain movement in the wrong meaning. Take patriotism for example. I don’t consider myself overly-patriotic, but I do love my country, I love myself for being a Malaysian. I may be of Chinese descent, but I am born a Malaysian, and therefore proud to be one. The problem with patriotism is when it morphs into chauvinistic ultra-nationalism. We have to admit that there are such signs, and if we are not careful, it will cause us more damage than development.

Instead of believing that one’s nation is unique, one starts to believe that his or her nation is supreme. That is worst when it comes to races.

When we are too focused on nationalism, we tend to forget of what is more important. Issues like climate change and environment is not attractive to nationalists, we rarely see nationalists advocates of such issues. When there is no national agenda, but only a global agenda to such issues, some nationalist politicians prefer to believe the problem does not exist.

We can always do whatever to prove that one nation or race is supreme than the other. But when climate change and natural disaster strikes, it doesn’t differentiate which nation or race you are from, it affects everyone.

And what is causing many to divert away from what is important? The modernisation of technology and branding is causing more confusion than ever. And that is why we need to educate our young generation to develop them to know how to think and decide for the government.

We are using technology the wrong way. It is easier than ever to talk to our friends who are staying thousand of miles away using the internet; but it is harder to talk to our loved ones over a dinner because we are constantly looking at our smartphone instead of them. Instead of analyzing the information that we derive from the internet, we rely on the internet algorithm to decide what is the truth and the important.

When we think about a famous soft drink, you probably imagine young people, having fun, playing sports and living a cool life. You probably don’t think about the overweight diabetes patients lying in hospital beds. Similarly in the general elections, we were given beautiful and sweet promises, but many never thought of going into details and the practicality of each promises.

The young generations, and in fact, most of the population are heavily influenced by technology and branding. We do not want ourselves to be influenced the wrong way in making decisions such as the government. Hence, it is critical to develop political awareness, maturity and the ability to think and analyze, so that we choose the best for our nation.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 9th April 2019.

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