Contrasts in Civic Engagement : My Personal Experience
My name is Chelsea Clark. I’m a new intern at Civinomics, currently a senior at UCSC double majoring in Political Science and Legal Studies. I’m still adjusting back to life in Santa Cruz after having spent a semester studying abroad in Paris, France. While attending Sciences Po, the leading school in France for Politics and International Relations, as well as immersing myself in French culture, I became hyper aware of the differences in the view points of citizens here versus there towards civic participation.
The political activity in France is enormous. Strikes are about as common as baguettes and perfectly acceptable, although not always appreciated due to frequent inconveniences to day to day life. Walking out of class I’d regularly see huge crowds of people marching in the streets chanting and banging drums demanding higher wages and fairer treatment, among others things. Although many of the people I was surrounded by were very politically aware simply because that was their field of study, it is quite the norm to actively discuss politics and the state of world affairs no matter what your background.
While most Americans could not tell you the name of their congressional representative, in France it is often frowned upon if you are not politically engaged. For example, the voter turnout rate for the 2012 presidential election here in the U.S. was around 57%, whereas in France it was over 80%. By no means are politics perfect in France, they have their fair share of scandals and disappointments, but I did notice one huge difference: they didn’t seem as pessimistic about the future. As a politics major I’m often presented with horrible facts and statistics that even discourage me at times, for instance real wages have remained stagnant since the 1980s while health care costs have skyrocketed. Yet sitting idly by won’t solve anything, as JFK said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long term risks of comfortable inaction.”
But despite France being more civically active, there were still things I missed about America, California, and Santa Cruz. I longed for the friendliness of strangers, the feeling of the sun on my skin and the sand between my toes, and, to be frank, how quickly and efficiently things are able to get done here. And yes, I’m well aware that at times it seems like NOTHING is getting done. However, I am confident that the foundation we built, while needing some fine tuning at times, is capable of producing the results we all know are possible. Which brings me back to Civinomics.
When I first heard about this company, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I often feel overwhelmed with the difficulties of finding a voice and being politically active – Civinomics has created a very accessible forum to voice your opinions and get feedback from others. In a sense, bettering your community is now just a click away. I am excited the opportunity to not only create my own initiatives, but also contribute to the vast sea of flourishing ideas from other community members. To this end, I look forwarding to seeing all that the citizens of Santa Cruz can accomplish with the help of a little inspirational push.
– Chelsea Clark