With elections only two days away, one of the more annoying discussions I’ve been hearing in the recent weeks is the idea that 21 is too young an age where individuals are able to make informed decisions about governance. They say, at twenty one, this age isn’t mature enough to handle these choices, or make “good”, thought-out decisions and to be apart of the electoral process, and frankly this is an idea that’s riddled with unfair, overly simplistic judgements, because the question is never about age.
You ask any young person what they want, and they’ll tell you exactly what that is, the question is, whether or not what they want is in line with what you think they should be wanting. The old say that this is the generation of apathy and ignorance, but ignorant about what? Apathetic about what? Young people are some of the most passionate people on earth, they’re one of the few left that still know how to be. It’s a fire that is unbridled, and one thing youths are never ignorant about are their passions. It just so happens that the question of whether or not their passions are in the “right” place, is a question only the old ask.
Age is all relative. No one looking back at their younger selves will have anything good to say about who we were. We will always look stupider in retrospect, we will always be less informed, less mature-less. We even regret what we ate just hours ago. Age is an unfair assessment on ability. It’s also the exact kind of rhetoric we have regarding so many other things where there are risks involved to society. The legal driving age, for example, are eighteen year-olds mature enough to handle a moving vehicle? There are prohibitions and age limits to cigarettes, movies, concerts, alcohol consumption, sex, and putting voting in a list under “limits with age” goes against our very ideas of what voting is. Voting for a government is a little different from the prohibitions on other decisions on harm and risk, despite the great risks involved (of our country falling into the hands of the corrupt). Voting is a right. It’s a privilege. It’s a duty.
At 21, people are old enough to have a stake in their country, we have had this right from the moment we breathed our first.
So the question isn’t about are they too young, the question is more about, are they having the good access to information? Is it evenly distributed? Is it free and readily available? Is our media unbiased and fair? What are we teaching in classes about civics and civic duty? Are we teaching our young to think for themselves, be critical about what we read in the news? To be aware of monopolies and media control? Are we teaching this at home? Are they being engaged in democracy and do they have questions in their heads? Are they asking them?
Those are the more pertinent questions we should be asking.
Malaysia is also one among the six other countries in the world whose legal voting age is at 21- Solomon Islands, Gabon, Central African Republic, Oman and Saudi Arabia. We’re among such great company for democracy.
Other countries are at Sixteen (Brazil) to twenty (Japan, Taiwan etc.).