The Curious Case of Greta Thunberg

What is it that people possess which commands respect? Not youth it seems. The recent climate activism that has swept much of Europe and the World has spawned many interesting opinions, many of which are made simply because the owner of such thoughts wish to appear nuanced. Agreeing with consensus and groupthink is boring and easy, thinking differently and being a contrarian are ideals I not only support but try to adopt. However, nuance for the sake of nuance is rather embarrassing. In the age of the Twittersphere what gets attention is what is shocking and/or outlandish, usually not in a positive way.

With this being said, Greta Thunberg – the 16-year-old climate activist – has, on the whole, attracted positive attention. Many admiring her tenacity and commitment to fighting for what she believes in. She has met many European leaders, including our own political establishment, in her quest for change in climate policy. It is extremely admirable to see someone so young be given a platform of such influence and to use it for an excellent, necessary cause.

However. In the midst of consensus that Greta’s work is indeed admirable and positive, the usual hate-mob are out in full force on their quest for clicks and outrage. I will not name those involved (a simple Google search of Greta Thunberg will bring your attention to them) but their critique of this 16-year-old activist usually follows the standard vilification process of any passionate climate-advocate. That she is apart of the privileged elite who are trying to dictate how us common folk live. You may ask, ‘how can a 16-year-old be apart of the privileged elite?’

The far-right press wishing to smear this child looked long and hard for something elite to pin upon her. They struggled, but in the end, they managed to discover that Greta’s mother once appeared on the Eurovision song contest ergo she is the child of an elite. In which case, all of Ireland are elites because everyone knows someone who was on Eurovision in Ireland. Moreover, even if Greta was or is an elite, why does that detract from her argument and passion for the environment? It does not.

I shall paraphrase Orwell here, just because the Daily Mail says it is April 25th on April 25th, does not mean it isn’t. In other words, what matters is the argument and not the person making it. If Donald Trump was a passionate advocate for implementing positive climate policy, on that matter alone I would be fully supportive of him. We may disagree with an individual’s other attitudes, but it does not mean we need to disagree with all of them just to stay on brand.

It is telling of those involved that they focused on her ‘privilege’ rather than her argument and facts. You can disagree with facts or argument providing you can put forward a credible alternative that is also well reasoned. Retorting facts and argument with ‘her mum sang an average song on Eurovision’ does not meet that criterion. Speaking of those involved, it was rather funny to see that they cried ‘privilege’ as a reason to ignore this girl when they themselves (as is usually the case) are cut from the exact same cloth.

One particular individual involved in the slander of Greta Thunberg failed to get into Oxford University because they did not achieve the required grades. But alas, they attended anyway. Why? Because Father (who happens to be a Lord) made a phone call to someone in the right place. There is nothing wrong with that, hell, if my dad could get me into Oxford with a call I would definitely take up that opportunity. But what I do take issue with is the hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness of this individual I refer to. The whole nuanced ‘privilege’ take on Greta Thunberg can accurately be summed up by the meme used as the cover picture for this piece. 

Also, as a side point, what do some middle-aged people in the press and government have against young people? They moan when we are not involved in politics and matters of seriousness but they also moan when we are too involved. What is it that you want? Whenever someone young achieves or tries to achieve a platform for change they are often called ignorant, arrogant, or misguided. Young people engaging in politics is good for our active democracy, when we are involved we should be encouraged not torn down. Politicians often claim that they want to hear our voice and we should take charge of our future, yet when we do we are ignored. Why? Because politics seeks only to maintain the status quo. The youth are clearly too radical.

Debate and argument are a healthy part of democracy, but all arguments should be based upon reason, logic, and facts. Not name calling and slander, those who prefer this method give a clear indication of their motivation. Most of all, always be prepared to concede that you might be wrong, this trait is often seen as a weakness but to the contrary, it is a character of strength.

CS

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