Eat the Young!

There was a fair amount of chatter among my friends last week as a result of  Lawrence Martin’s column If there’s an inspiration deficit in our politics, blame it on the young. My friend Alison Loat wrote an excellent, albeit polite, response, pointing out that blame could be spread across sectors and generations. She’s right. There is lots of blame to go around. And I don’t think Martin should get off so lightly. Here’s why:

The young reject the political status quo, as they should, but they are too lazy to do anything about it. Most of the under-25s don’t even bother to vote. Instead of fighting for change, they wallow in their vanities and entitlements. Not much turns them on except the Idol shows, movies with smut humour and the latest hand-held instruments. Their disillusionment with the political class is understood. Their complacency isn’t. It will soon be their country. You’d think they’d want to take the reins.

The problem with Martin’s piece is that he’s looking in the wrong place. He’s not looking at what young people are doing. He’s looking at what he thinks they should be doing… or more specifically, what he would have done when he was 25. To say an entire generation has given up because they don’t vote or participate in party politics is farcical.

Yes, young people reject the status quo, but it is deeper than that. They eschew the tools that Martin wants them to use – not just party politics but traditional media as well. They reject the whole system. But this isn’t out of juvenile laziness, but for the very opposite reason. In a world filled with choice, one that fragments our attention, they seek to focus their energy where they will be most effective and efficient – at the moment, that frequently means they are uninterested in the slow and byzantine machinations of politics (why engage when every party, even the NDP, are conservative?), the snobbishness of traditional media (when’s the last time a columnist on the Globe actually responded to a reader’s comment on the website?) or a hierarchical and risk-averse public service (held hostage by the country’s auditor general).

Indeed, Martin’s example around voting is perfect starting point. Here is a system that has not changed over 60 years. By and large one must still vote at the local church, community centre, or school, places that may or may not be near public transit and are not frequently visited by young people. In a world where shareholder proxy votes are regularly done over the web (not to mention credit card transactions), how are young people supposed to have confidence in a system that still cannot manage electronic voting? Complaining that an Elections Canada campaign targeting young people didn’t work is akin to wondering why a marketing campaign on Facebook didn’t generate a bigger youth audience for a cable TV Matlock marathon. Why didn’t young people watch TV any more? Can’t they see that Matlock is a classic?

Nor can they find much comfort in the media. If newspapers are the gathering places for political discussion, how inspiring might they be to young people? Since Martin writes for the Globe and Mail, let’s start there. Its opinion page’s most frequent columnists include Rick Salutin (68), Rex Murphy (62), Lawrence Martin (61), Roy McGregor (61), Jeffrey Simpson (60), Margaret Wente (59), Christie Blarchford (58), John Ibbitson (54) and the one young voice, Jim Stanford (43?). It’s not just political parties that have boring old guys (or BOGs, to use Martin’s term). I think it is safe to say that the hegemony of the boomers isn’t limited to the polling station. (No wonder so many of us prefer blogs – we at least get to hear what our peers think.) I wish the Globe would take a risk and hire some young and smart columnist for their opinion page – someone like Andrew Potter. The New York Times did; they replaced the relatively young William Kristol (56)with 29 year-old Ross Douthat. It would appear there’s an inspiration deficit in our newspaper too…

But above all, just because someone doesn’t vote, prefers blogs to the Globe, or doesn’t find Ottawa engaging doesn’t mean they are either inactive or a bad citizen.

Take my friends over at Mozilla (some who vote, some who don’t – but all of whom are young): they are part of a worldwide movement that broke Microsoft’s monopoly over control of the web (probably the single most important act to preserve freedom of speech and expression in the world as well as democratizing innovation online) and now, through a combination of technology (Firefox) and advocacy (the Mozilla Foundation) are continuing to innovate and find ways to preserve the freedom of the internet. This is something no political party or government initially cared to do or was willing to do something about. Should they have devoted their time and energy to get involved in politics? Should they have instead lobbied the government to regulate Microsoft (for all the good that ended up doing)?

Or take ForestEthics – another organizations started and staffed by young people. Canadians may consistently rank the environment as one of Canada’s top priorities and yet inaction consistently wins out. So ForestEthics bypasses government altogether and combines the power protesters with that of market forces to improve logging practices and save forests. It identifies corporations — such as Victoria’s Secret, with its vast catalogue distribution — whose consumption shapes the paper industry. It then offers these corporations a choice: cooperate and reform their practices or face painful protests and boycotts. For those that cooperate, ForestEthics works with the multinational’s procurement department to help it adopt more sustainable practices. This has given ForestEthics direct influence over the forestry industry practices, since logging companies pay attention to their largest customers. Would the staff of ForestEthics be more effective running for office or working for Environment Canada?

The key is, young people (and many Canadians in general) are engaged and more exciting still, are innovating in new and transformative ways. It just happens that most of it isn’t seen by today’s BOGs. Moreover, even when it is happening right in front of us it is hard to spot, such as within the Globe (where it feels like Mathew Ingram is almost singlehandedly fighting to save the newspaper), within political parties (where a community here in Vancouver has been excited and rewarded by our work with Vision Vancouver around Open Data) or within the public service (where a small and and amazing team within Treasury Board has been creating tools like GCPEDIA in an effort to pull the government into the 21st century).

But because the efforts are often invisible, herein lies the real dangers: not to young people — they are going to be just fine — but for the institutions Lawrence Martin and Alison Loat worry about. To many of my friends, today’s newspapers, political parties and public service look a lot more like General Motors than they do Google, Facebook, or better still, Mozilla, ForestEthics, or Teach For America. As they look at the institutions Martin assumes they should engage, they’re still evaluating: should we bail them out or should we just let them go bankrupt and start from scratch?

And that’s why Martin is looking in the wrong place. His misidentifies where the real innovation gap lies. The fact is that these institutions simply aren’t places where new thinking or experimentation can easily take place. They may have been at one point – perhaps when Martin was young, I don’t know – but they aren’t today. So those young people he believes are wallowing in their vanities and entitlements… they aren’t apathetic, they’ve simply opted to deploy their social capital elsewhere, places Martin chooses not look, or don’t know where to look.

So is there an innovation gap? Absolutely. Just not as Martin describes it. There is a gap between where it is actually taking place, and where he thinks it should be taking place. But let’s be clear, there’s plenty of innovation taking place, if you know where to look. Will it manifest itself in some political revolution? I don’t know. But more importantly, will it change Canada, or the world? Definitely. It already has.

As an aside, one friend suggested that Lawrence Martin and I should debate: “Be it resolved there is an inspiration deficit in our politics and young people are to blame.” If Martin is up for it, I’d accept the debate whenever and where ever he wishes. Perhaps we could rope Alison in to moderate.

48 thoughts on “Eat the Young!

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  4. KirbyCairo

    Very good posting, thank you. But I think there is a problem that runs, in a sense, between what Martin is saying and what you are saying. And that is that though many young people are still active citizens in various and important ways, the political paradigm remains more or less the same. This means that while people who have disengaged from traditional politics can still affect some change, their room to maneuver is significantly restricted. As a result of this problem, many of the changes that young people, as only one example, are working for, can be much more easily co-opted or in a real sense ignored by those who wield genuine political power. The Harper government can, for example, undermine the freedom of information, take away adult literacy programs all over the nation, remove the court challenges program, etc. and these will all have very serious long-term impacts on the health of our nation and the power of citizenship. If you live in a prison-camp and while you are busy rearranging the bunks while the guards are building a higher and better fence, the end result will be more or less the same. Perhaps over time some of the changes affected by young people will help to bring about a new political paradigm but just as likely they will become victims of political forces that they choose to ignore and don't even vaguely understand.

  5. Darren Chartier

    thank you – as one of the young people fighting to drag the public service into the 21st century (*cough* OPSpedia *cough*) i know exactly what you mean. Every day I wonder “is it worth it” should i continue to spend my energy trying to reform the civil service or should i give up and find somewhere (like mozilla etc) where my efforts will be more effective. For now, I think it's still worth the struggle, but it's a constant question. I would love to see that discussion between you and LM, i suspect that BOG would get schooled hard by you :)d_c

  6. M. Morden

    Inevitably, one can cite examples of youth who are engaged in public affairs by other means. And I'm glad you have; it fills an admittedly-large blind spot in Martin's analysis. But it is, in some ways, beyond the point. First, I'm not sure that youth do “reject the whole system.” This implies a sort of radicalism which I fail to see. By relatively recent standards, youth today are centrist, pragmatic. Now, this can be blamed in large part on the Boomers. They sapped the credibility out of student activism by pushing it to its radical limits, then promptly running to the Right in later, tax-paying years. But the fact remains: that take-it-to-the-streets rejectionism is only a shadow of what it was in the Sixties. In other words, low voter turnout can in fact be attributed to apathy, rather than the notion that youth imagine themselves in some parallel civic universe.Second, I just hate when young people quote to me the ages of politicians, or in this case columnists. (Note: I'm not a “BOG”, but a young person who has been involved in innumerable attempts to engage my peers through everything from social media to street demonstration to party membership). Good ideas are better than young ideas. Just because I belong to a certain demographic doesn't mean I'm only able to receive my inputs from the face in my mirror. Would Obama be less persuasive if he was older? Would McCain be more if he was younger? I'd like to think we are more intellectually-capable than that. Would my Dad be justified in cancelling his (theoretical) New York Times subscription because they hired Ross Douthat, irrespective of what Douthat thinks or how he writes? Certainly not. Well, I feel just as capable as anyone else to engage someone on their merits, rather than their date of birth. Finally, shouldn't inspiration overcome everything else? All the structural issues which prevent youth from participating in elections (and you're right – they are many). All the old faces in Canadian politics. When William Pitt became PM of Great Britain at the age of 24 (!), was it because the late-18th century British state was better adapted to the needs and impulses of young people? This seems unlikely. Do politicians ignore youth becaues they don't participate, or do youth refuse to participate because they are ignored? This is a circular argument we need to escape. The way to do that is to be self-reliant in the best Emersonian sense, follow inspiration, to seize the State and bend it to our will. We may be justified in blaming others for our isolation, but we aren't any better off.In short: I don't agree that extra-political engagement equals political engagement in either required effort or ultimate effectiveness. Young people do face some discouragement from participating in mainstream politics, but if we are talking about true inspiration, it just shouldn't matter. Thanks for your response though – thoughtful as always.

  7. David Eaves

    M. Morden – thank you for the comment. In a few places you've interpreted the meaning of my post in ways I did not intend, so let me dive deeper:On rejection and radicalism: I don't equate radicalism with marching on the street – indeed, my whole point here is that there is a quieter, different type of radicalism taking place, one that doesn't always channel itself into street marches (as Martin hopes for) but has other, equally powerful and effective outlets.I didn't quote the ages of the columnists because I was saying good ideas are young ideas – this is a gross misrepresentation of my piece. What I was pointing out was that these columnists, because of their age, will likely perceive “what is good” very differently than a younger audience, who as a result, will likely feel less likely to get engaged in their discussion. They will have good ideas (they frequently do) but they may not recognize new and emerging good ideas. Hence the desire for some balance. Indeed, the reason I site Douthat is because, despite being young, I disagree with him. But he does write from a perspective that I often find engaging. Obama would be just as great if he were older, but the fact is, he wouldn't talk the way he does or think the way he does if he were… there is a reason Jesse Jackson didn't like him for a long time.On your final paragraph, that's the issue I end on too. I think people are unsure if it is worth it. That all said, if you don't believe extra-political engagement equals political engagement then we diverge from the start… from most of the younger people I talk to extra-political engagement is the only form of political engagement, and I still think it is poor form for Martin to discount it completely and use that to write off a generation.

  8. Felix Pleșoianu

    I am 31 and I *do* reject the whole political system. My refusal to vote *is* a vote, a blanket one against all politicians. After seeing every political party in my country taking turns in power only to abuse their positions worse than their predecessors – always worse – I just want them all to go away. Not sure who or what could replace them, but things have gotten so bad, almost anything would be better than a modern state.I could go into details (e.g. on how most people just want to do the right thing, or how Internet-powered crowds can do a lot of things better, cheaper and more humanely than traditional institutions), but there isn't enough room here, and it would take a lot of time anyway.Thank you for writing this article. These things aren't told nearly often enough.

  9. Havvy

    Hmm, I am 16, almost 17. I couldn't vote even if I wished to (in the US, I am). By people rejecting government as a method of getting positions across, and moving to things like Mozilla or creating a business itself, they are showing that they believe choice is fundamental. Government, in the way it works, gives people no real choice. It only limits. On the other hand, companies (non-profit or for-profit) do not take away choice, but add to it. I would rather be on the side of adding choice than on the side of taking it away.

  10. Morden

    I didn't mean to ascribe to you the argument that “good ideas are young ideas”. I only meant that I don't think the merit of an idea, the breakthrough quality of an idea has any inherent relationship with its age. In my experience, there are a lot of conservative thinkers (on the Left and Right I mean) under the age of 35. In fact: survey the paradigm-busting ideas of the 20th century. Keynes, Freud, Fleming, Piaget – all in around their 50s when they achieved their “eureka!”s, though I don't doubt these ideas could've come from a 26 year-old either. As to the question of extra-political vs. political engagement: this can't be easily resolved. But consider any interest group (though I don't believe youth constitute an interest group as such). When do the breakthroughs occur? The usual example is the Christian Right in America, which was able to halt the massive momentum of social reform (and wreak incalcuable damage) precisely at the moment when it decided politics wasn't beneath it after all. There has always been civic activism beyond large-P Politics, and it has always played an essential role in the functioning of any polity. But it is most effective when it is enhanced by, rather than in lieu of activism channeled through the State. Nothing has really changed. We have Twitter now, we had pamphleteers 200 years ago, and 300 years before that we had letters nailed to a church door. The basic formula for transformative change remains the same. The fact that voting isn't enough isn't reason enough not to vote.

  11. ChrystalOcean

    Am thoroughly fed up with politicos, bureaucrats and journos blaming youth for the erosion of our democracy. And for labelling all nonvoters as 'apathetic' while at the same time, in the same articles or speeches acknowledging our collective disgust, disillusionment, disdain, dismay… Clearly, these people don't know the definition of 'apathy'.When I first saw Martin's article, I wrote a lengthy and furious comment about it. Am still fuming.

  12. jeremyvernon

    A compelling analysis Dave, as always! A piece of the Mozilla narrative worth mentioning is that Mozilla was Netscape – a (mostly) conventional company that used conventional litigation to halt Microsoft, and ultimately failed.I agree with KirbyCairo that perhaps the call-to-action lies somewhere in between. My biggest observation is that alternative political engagement defies observation by those examining the mainstream because such engagement just doesn't matter quite as much.Obama may have harnessed unconventional sources of political power in his campaign but he used it to get him to the place that affects the change that matters, POTUS, an entirely conventional and mainstream source of political change.Disengaging from the mainstream through non-participation doesn't disempower the mainstream, it disempowers YOU. That, I think, is a point made by Martin that is accurate in an unqualified way.Throwing one's hands up in disgust is the cowardly irresponsibility that lets problems like the panoply we currently face perpetuate. Edmund Burke didn't mean we get to pick our battles – wherever injustice is, you fight it, you do not do it where it is convenient for you. The greatest injustice does not lie in civil society, and so it encumbent upon anyone seeking change to go where they must to make the change they seek.Let us not forget also, the profoundly dangerous implications of legitimation of extra-political influence upon society. It isn't all warm fuzzies of twitter protests and blog storms.Trudeau's “Just Society” stemmed from an enhanced participation in the public discourse facilitated by elected representatives. Trudeau was no stranger to alternative extra-political engagement, especially of the young (Martin rightly observes that Trudeau was no youth – born in 1919) but he saw it as supplemental.

  13. Craig Elliott

    Snort. Pardon me for sounding 'old,' but:From where, pray tell, does the internet (which apparently powers crowds nowadays), come, “in almost anything but a modern state?” Also: you could go into details, but there's not enough room and it would take a lot of time? Y'know, a more honest person might just own up to the fact that they don't engage because they can't be bothered. Maybe you'll be that person, when you're older.

  14. scf

    Very good post. Many young people know, either from experience, from observation, or form word-of-mouth, that the last place where a young person will get the opportunity to make a difference, to be heard, to be promoted, to try new things, the last place to do that is the public service. So, like you say, young people gravitate elsewhere, so that they CAN make a difference.

  15. scf

    There was absolutely nothing conventional about Netscape. Nothing. It was an innovative and influential company.

  16. jeremyvernon

    In the form and manner that is relevant here Netscape was entirely conventional – it had a board of directors, it was traded on the stock exchange, had shareholders and pursued a profit. The technology it created (notably JavaScript and SSL) was certainly innovative and its pursuit of profit in the web was influential – but that's irrelevant to what is being discussed, the role of youth in shaping the direction of society.

  17. jeremyvernon

    I make a redaction to the above – Netscape was not a plaintiff in the DoJ anti-trust, which I recognize might be inferred by my wording. It did however furnish significant quantities of evidence to the case, notably the Bad Attitude debacle.

  18. ranXerox

    What broad strokes you paint with scf!Try this on for size – Politics makes shit happen. Or not.The very framework on which you predicate a persons ability to advance or “try new things” comes from POLITICS. It is the political nature of a state which creates the environment necessary for organizations (business or otherwise) or people to flourish. The political structure of a state is the foundational element of processes that arise from it, so yeah, I'm really really sorry that public service gets derogatory guff from unappreciative folks like you, but those “boring stiffs” are the ones reading proposals and distributing art grants, developing policies about why you shouldn't be living next to a garbage dump, making sure you get electricity in your house and working to ensure you and your loved ones don't get fondled by the boss.Far too many people have been brainwashed into considering the private sector as the real engine of change – but truly – what has it done without the attendant political policies that enable it?Mr Eaves can note with some satisfaction Mozillas triumph , but can he appreciate that it was the *LAW* provided by the political system that enabled that victory?Can you?Politics is literally humanities created environment, the very air we breathe and, not dissimilar to nature, often ignored as we peer through it to understand the world. Though you may not respect it, the political structure of Canada and the policies it's enacted have given you the opportunity to build a life many others would gladly have. Absolutely *nothing* happens until politics lets it happen.

  19. scf

    I disagree. We have a charter. The US have a constiution. These things give us all fundamental rights, rights of freedom of speech, rights of being equal under the law, and others. You sound like a dictator. Politics does not let things happen. That is the whole point of democracy. In a democracy, we all politicians to do things! You've got it completely backwards, with the statement “Absolutely *nothing* happens until politics lets it happen”. Politicians serve the interests of citizens. They represent their constituents. We have trhe courts and the police to handle politicians and people like you who think they run the show.Sure, politics has an important role. But as long as we don't become a tyranny, we are all capable of making significant conributions outside of government. There is a reason they are called the public “service”. They serve us. We do not serve them. You've got it backwards. People outside of government make achievements, and the public serve is there to provide assistance.”reading proposals and distributing art grants, developing policies about why you shouldn't be living next to a garbage dump, making sure you get electricity”What utter hogwash. Electricity is the result of scientific discovery and private enterprise, not the state. The government would have a hard time reinventing the wheel. Al Gore did not invent the internet. We should not even have arts grants, true artists don't need handouts. I will grant you that most public servants know how to read.

  20. scf

    You are completely oblivious to the early history of Netscape. If you are going to act like an authority, you need to do your research properly. It is likely because you are a young person who actually missed the early days of Netscape, so you don't even realize they happened.Prior to being a public company, Netscape was a private company. Its most innovative and influential product was, by far, the Mosaic browser, the very first graphical user interface web browser in existence. The innovations of Javascript and SSL are nothing in comparison. The Mosaic browser paved the way to the WWW as we know it today. The experiences we have on the WWW today might be completely different had Netscape never existed, because they initially defined the browsing experience with a graphical browser. Browsing was text-based prior to mosaic. Mozilla is also nothing compared to Netscape. In fact, Mozilla is more or less a successor of Nescape. After Netscape was bested by Microsoft, Mozilla was conceived as the successor, the next generation of browser to counter the new dominance of Microsoft.In the early days of the web when it first became commericalized, and for years before that, almost everyone used the Netscape browser. Internet Explorer and others were years behind. Eventually Internet Explorer surpassed the Netscape browser (after essentially copying it, which took years to achieve), and other alternatives appeared.

  21. scf

    I should really be a little more nuanced. While the Mosaic browser was the first GUI browser (developed at NCSA at U of Illinois), the Netscape Mosaic browser was not exactly the same. It had the same name, was developed by the same lead developer and many of the same authors, but it was not the same browser, the source code was not shared.It is similar to the manner by which the founders of Google developed their tachnology initially at Stanford, and later commercialized similar technology at Google. Similarly, the founder of Facebook developed the technology at Harvard and later commercialized it.

  22. jeremyvernon

    All above is true – it also entirely irrelevant to the particular area we are discussing. Netscape could've also invented six-hundred other technologies that utterly subverted the natural order of things – it would STILL be a mostly conventional organization with mostly conventional practices.It still sought to change the environment in which it operated through entirely conventional means, which was my original point and why I think it is mistaken to say there was nothing conventional about Netscape.They did some amazing things – I'm not arguing that, that point is patently obvious. Accusing me of ignorance for not belabouring the genius of their technology is unseemly and unhelpful.

  23. freudian_crap

    'Young' rejecting the 'old' and vice versa would be a case of Mountain not coming to Mohammed and Mohammed not going to the Mountain.Countries are functioning with the 'old' bureaucrats. Something is working, which means not all of it is a failure. Centuries of time and thinking have gone into the current Public Admin system and it would save a lot of time for everybody if we have open minds and learn from it.I read in Planet Mozilla, don't throw away the old code, just improve on it. Revolution brings in as many problems as it solves. Steady Reformation is the right way. We cannot just fill an office with computers and fire all 'old' bureaucrats who can't use it. Work within the system, introduce ideas gradually. There need not be any visible 'changing of the guard'.

  24. ranXerox

    I am fascinated by your response, but I have a couple of questions.Where exactly did these Charter thingees and Constitution whatchamacallit's come from? Did the “free market” make them? Were they hammered out between tweets by branding strategists over drinks at SXSW?Think hard. Real, real hard.In your initial response, you claim that in politics, “the kids these days” won't be listened to, promoted, or be enabled to “try new things”, presumably because uhhh… well okay, you don't really say why.You just kind of throw it out there, all loosey-goosey like.Then in your second response, you say that public servants serve *us*(the citizenry), which, soylent green jokes aside, is really telling, because now, if that's actually true, means that *we* citizens are effectively responsible for life as a public servant being “icky”. In other words – it's *your* fault their jobs – according to you – “suck”, because uhh…. I guess, according to your inference, *we* the citizens don't need anybody working for us “making a difference” and we especially don't wanna hear any of their guff ! Next – You know how the Internet was developed, and by what organizations, right? Hint: Private enterprise had absolutely nothing to do with it.Apparently, it will surprise you to learn that a great of what gets patented (pharma, chemical giants and software engineering) these days comes from government funded institutions and the patents either licensed or sold outright to private industry.Personally, I think citizens of countries who fund these institutions (like Canada) deserve a much better return on their investment instead of having to watch as their learning institutions become cheap petri dishes for privatized profit.Don't believe me?Take a look at why so many universities are developing their science departments (and slowly suffocating to death the arts departments) and partnering with big multinationals.Finally – when you start in on art grants, I can really understand where you're coming from – and in a fair world, that would be a mud hut somewhere in Somalia.As you know, Somalia hasn't had a functioning formal government for a decade or so and I don't doubt for a minute you're packing up to head there as I finish writing this.I don't idolize the government and couldn't completely disparage “the market”; each has it's place. Though the market has been steadily encroaching on the sovereign powers of states for the last 30 years (thanks Ronny and Maggie and dear old Frederick!), it's still the state that gets to make the rules of engagement.Full stop.I don't care you think otherwise; but I do and should care if people like you, who apparently loathe and belittle government, end up working inside it or, God help us, running it. (far too many political parties get elected on this oxymoronic concept)People who revile and disparage a effective and efficient government are a big reason why the world looks the way it does (and that ain't real good) here at the front end of the 21st century in the Western world and, what the heck – I blame you.

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  26. Mark Wickens

    Great comment. I would add, re “[Young people] seek to focus their energy where they will be most effective and efficient – at the moment, that frequently means they are uninterested in the slow and byzantine machinations of politics (why engage when every party, even the NDP, are conservative?)”: This 44-year-old asks “why engage when every party, even the Conservatives, are leftist?” but I do not ask it as a member of my age group. Age is irrelevant to ideology.

  27. Bill Doskoch

    David:I'll stick to the media part of your post.Yes, it would be better if columnists took part in debates within the comments about their work.But in the case of the Globe and Mail, it does do online Q-and-As with columnists for efforts that particularly resonate with the audience. My sense is that's more than other Canadian newspapers do.Those online Q-and-As predate Mathew Ingram's ascension to the post of communities editor.While you credit him with 'trying to save the paper,' publisher Philip Crawley (who has been there since 1998) has been a longtime believer of the importance of online. He signed off on the creation of the first dedicated online news team at a Canadian paper back in 2000 (I worked at globeandmail.com from July 2000 to Feb. 2003).And Crawley's, like, really old — a BOG, if you will.Yes, some younger voices on the opinion page of the G&M would be useful, both for attracting younger readers and exposing the current readership to some new thinking.But the G&M is primarily written for the MOPE demographic — managers, owners, professionals and executives. The columnists you mention do a very good job of speaking to that demographic.How can the G&M be more friendly to aspiring MOPEs while still retaining its appeal to its core audience?That's a key problem for all newspapers — how to specific audience segments within its 'department store' architecture that is designed to serve a mid-market, mass audience? The theory had been that young people grew into newspapers when they bought homes and had kids, but in the disruptive era of the Internet, that's not really happening any more.On another media matter, CBC has gone positively youth-crazy in recent years, ditching long-time personalities and replacing them with young-sounding voices? Do you think it's made a diffence in audience composition? It would be interesting to find out.Given that I'm old (I'm 50), who's young in the context of your post? Are we talking those who are now of voting or drinking age? Old enough to have graduated college? With my younger colleagues, they're starting to feel old at 28. Some people in their 40s think they're still relatively young. Defining 'young” isn't a simple proposition.

  28. David Eaves

    Hi Bill – thank you for the comment, great points that deserve a thoughtful response. Let me dive in and do my best.I agree that Globe does to Q&A's and that is great… but those are “safe” moments where the topic is preset. Nobody builds on or grills the columnist on what they wrote a few weeks or months back (and I suspect such questions/comments would get weeded out as off topic) so it doesn't quite foster the sense of engagement and interaction (or responsible community) that responding in the comments section would. People would take those comments a lot more seriously if they thought the columnists were actually reading and engaging with them.I think Crawley is great and am really hopeful for his tenure… and I think Mathew has been fighting hard to get other columnists to understand the importance of the web and of fostering a community.On the MOPE demographic… I don't disagree, if you only count over 40s (or over 50s) as part of the demographic. My understanding is that the G&M's readership has a demographic cliff approaching it (not as bad as other papers, but still serious). Your approach may work, but live by the core and die by the core… and at some point the MOPE core is going to stop reading newspapers… then what?I think the CBC example is interesting. I've never used the CBC all that much (it's never had an online “voice” unlike the radio, or so I understand). Would be interesting to see how they are doing… but there challenges are probably even greater. They truly are trapped by a broadcast mindset (the overhead! the centralization! the bureaucracy!) that is probably going to be tough to overcome. Their mandate is to promote Canadian culture, but what happens when ordinary canadians can do that on their own? What does their role become? Finally, what's young? I'm not sure it matters. I'm 33, people still call me young. Me, I'm less sure. But when I list the columnists for the G&M I'm not saying is that they aren't smart or inspirational, I'm saying that some younger voices might see the world differently, might provide some new frames on problems (which I try to do in my blog) and those perspectives are virtually invisible on the G&M opinion page. (Here's the closest I got – no columnist over 40 was going to write that in 2007). And I requested it be online since back then (I believe) the paper content was behind a firewall and I knew the audience for this was online – I wanted to speak to my peers.Thank you for reading the piece – and for commenting. Hope this engages some of the issues you raised…

  29. cjottawa

    Dave Eaves wrote: “…probably the single most important act to preserve freedom of speech and expression in the world as well as democratizing innovation online…”Perhaps “meritocratic” would be a better concept to apply than “democratic,” as you've done in past?

  30. alisonloat

    Hi Dave et al,Thank you very much for your provoking post. I've written a longer response (likely too long for this space) that touches on a number of points raised in your post and by the many comments and summarizes the various feedback I received on the piece and posted it to the Samara blog:http://www.samaracanada.com/blog/Hopefully it keeps the discussion going.Alison

  31. scf

    Your comments make little sense, especially the strange comments about Somalia. Sure, I could invoke Cambodia under Pol Pot as an argument for limited government. Government-madated year zero and all that jazz and human atrocities. And I could on about the actual reason for a constitution – to restrain people like you. You seem to prefer latin-american style government, the kind where winning the election means you can throw the constitution and the laws out the window and do whatever the heck you like.I find it strange that you managed to equate the existence of constitutions and charters with the need for big government, or government that enables everything and has a hand in everything. What a strange leap in logic (or lack of, to be more specific).And I certainly do not advocate the complete lack of a government, effective laws and courts, etc. You seem to think there is no middle ground between governments with a hand in everything and the complete lack of government. Go on, talk about Somalia, talk about Uzbekhistan. I really don't care, it has no bearing on the discussion, but if it makes you feel smarter, then go for it, I don't want to get in the way while you stroke your own ego.If governments restricted themselves to the things that governments are needed for, the world would be a better place. Instead there are schmucks like you who think nothing happens without government. The road you prefer is the road to non-prosperity, travelled by many corrupt states. Think Egypt or the Philippines. Think hard, real hard, even if it hurts your little walnut.Of course the internet was invented by the military, the military is one thing that governments are needed for. Full stop – whatever the heck that means – if it strokes your ego to say things that add nothing to the conversation, then go for it – full stop! Period! My sentence is over! Now! Take that!The tyrant within you shows in every paragraph, particularly the comment that those who wish for smaller government should not be allowed to be a part of government. Your love of democracy is endearing. You are only in favour when it's your side that wins the election.It is tyrants like you, who wish to assume full control over others, that can be blamed for the ills of the world.Full stop!

  32. David Eaves

    cjottawa, I like the insertion – totally bang on. What about both? Definitely more meritocratic (in that anyone can succeed), but perhaps also still democratic (in that anyone can participate)?

  33. freudian_crap

    http://neteffect.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/0…“Slacktivism” is the ideal type of activism for a lazy generation: why bother with sit-ins and the risk of arrest, police brutality, or torture if one can be as loud campaigning in the virtual space?For example, is the growing public fascination with “ethical consumerism” likely to erode other more effective (and more political) forms of protest? Given that some advocates of “ethical consumerism” still cling to the notion that “shopping is more important that voting,” this may as well be the case.

  34. cjottawa

    Hey Dave!I've been thinking about this a great deal lately Dave and my concern with the term “democratic” is that it implies “we will do what we think the majority wants.”Government in Canada seems to fit that description; political parties do what they think will cause the least objection from the voting public because they want to keep their jobs.I was touring the Diefenbunker just west of Ottawa recently and got a chuckle out of the kitschy 1960's furniture decorating most of the facility. It was built in the 1960's after all and they've restored it quite well.When someone on the tour remarked at the ashtrays accenting every table, the guide pointed out those were standard issue until sometime in the late 1980's or early 1990's.He also pointed out this was the point in time when the balance shifted in Canada from the majority of voting Canadians smoking to the majority not smoking.If the government were meritocratic, they would have said “smoking is bad for you. We don't care that the majority of Canadians smoke, they shouldn't. We're banning smoking in government offices and public places because the idea has merit.”I use this story to illustrate the difference between an open source community which will laugh a horrible-if-popular idea out of existence.Is that a reach?

  35. David Eaves

    Ah – we've got two different definitions of the same word at play. The Wikipedia article on Democratic refers to two of its core principles as equality and freedom. Here I see your use of meritocracy as being linked to the first principle – we are all equally able to participate online, where as I was getting at the second, we are all able (free) to participate online. Both are critical and essential! As for open source communities, I find they are democratic (anyone can participate) but not always equal (for good reasons, but someone new to the community with a great idea or patch may find they are ignored/have a tough time getting traction, reputational effects appear to be quite important).

  36. kferaday

    As a relatively old geezer (same age as Obama), I still take exception to your comment about old vs. young. It shows a bit of ageism arguing that old guys won't recognize new and emerging ideas. That just isn't true. I know guys who are older than me developing exciting new products (as an example). As far as extra -political engagement vs. political — while I agree there are fundamental problems with the political system, those have been there from the beginning. Extra-political oranizations have a role but recreating an entirely new infrastructure outside of the current political system (to address all possible issues) doesn't seem pragmatic. In some ways it also smacks of elitism. If you have the time, energy and resources to commit to creating an effective lobby then you can impose change – that's what makes them so successful. But it doesn't necessarily reflect the general will. And for all its shortcomings that's what the political system does. Supporting that system seems to me to be more than worthwhile. One last thought. The argument that “youth reject the whole system” sounds exactly like youth 40 years ago. To me it sounds like an excuse not to excercise one of the fundamental obligations we have as citizens. That is to vote.

  37. Raptoreyes

    We are living in an age where small organizations are overwhelming those the babyboomers built. No matter how many bailouts the older generation does its organizations of the young that will make many of the changes. The young are very active, but this is NOT boomer style activism. Another wrinkle that fools many is that some young people these days (such as myself) are active on the libertarian side of things. I donated to Ron Pauls campaign and called my congressional representatives in favor of auditing (with an eye toward abolishing) the Federal Reserve. This doubtlessly does not register as activism with the left. Still many Libertarians are looking for groups that end run around the political process entirely. (as featured in this article)

  38. ranXerox

    Initially I assumed you were the parent of the infant shown in the comment icon – but after that infantile outburst, I'm convinced it's actually a photo of you.

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  40. timcoates

    Hi Dave, great job keeping the discussion going (you to Alison!) and engaging this long thread of commentators. I have expected to see something from Martin though. Do you know if he's ever replied to or taken up any of the challenges posed to his column?

  41. scf

    Wrong again, on both counts. Regardless, I'm sure there have actually been occasions when you lost a debate with an infant.

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