(Photo Anders Hellberg)

Greta Thunberg

From the mouth of babes

The idiom, “from the mouths of babes” is, like so many of our linguistic delights, biblical in origin, having been presented to us in the Gospel of Matthew as: “From the lips of children and infants”.

In modern parlance it refers to the fact that the young can be remarkably wise – this certainly applies to 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.

If you don’t know about Greta Thunberg, you should. She is the young woman who organized and nurtures a movement of school-aged youth who are ‘striking for the environment’.

The movement involves school students striking every Friday to protest what our current generation of ‘adults’ is doing to their generation’s future. She is living proof that the young can have a voice, that that voice can be meaningful and that it can have an effect.

Ms. Thunberg has been dismissed by right-leaning politicians of every ilk, including some in Canada. She has had her looks and dress ridiculed and worst of all has been labelled mentally unstable by adults who should be pilloried for their ignorance.

Most notable are Fox News pundit, Laura Ingraham, who compared the youth movement to Steven King’s “Children of the Corn” and right-wing commentator Michael Knowles – also on Fox News – who described Ms. Thunberg as a “mentally ill Swedish child.”

Well, let’s deal with the nonsense. Greta Thunberg is not mentally ill, although she is undoubtedly Swedish. She’s not a child, she’s a teen – although I’ll allow some flexibility in the definition of ‘child’.

Greta Thunberg is smart and fearless and unlike the President of the United States who took the opportunity to mock her on his favourite forum, Twitter, she is remarkably stable.

Greta has been diagnosed with a spectrum disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome about which she says: “I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And — given the right circumstances — being different is a superpower.”

About her critics she adds: “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go.” That may indeed be the truth.

I am writing this on September 26 – on the 27th Greta will have been in Montreal for a climate march. The city of Montreal has waived all bus fares in and around the city and many schools are closed.

The youth are saying to us and our leaders: “If you don’t act like adults, we will.” From the mouths of babes indeed. Greta may indeed be a significant problem for the status quo.

Greta’s movement now is active in at least 170 countries and she has addressed both the UN and the US Congress. That’s pretty darned amazing for a 16-year-old young woman who aptly notes: “I honestly don’t understand why adults would choose to spend their time mocking and threatening teenagers and children for promoting science, when they could do something good instead.”

Something good would be nice, Greta, but as you have aptly noted, our fearless leaders prattle on about the economic system as if it is something we can drink and breathe.

Greta is also right about change happening in spite of the rhetoric of the far-right, vested interests and that portion of the public who have their heads stuck in the tar sands – and they are tar, not oil.

Even the petrochemical industry is moving away from their own product. The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered for a host of different reasons and the age of oil is ending. We are witnessing its death throes.

Like every societal change throughout history, this change is populated with those who will rend their clothes in horror, proclaim the doom of all we hold dear and fight change with their every breath. Unfortunately, if these climate change deniers continue with their nonsense their every breath may not be available for long and their last breath will not just be for them,but for all of us.

Greta is also afflicted with Selective Mutism, a very challenging form of anxiety that normally leaves its sufferers unable to speak unless they feel secure and relaxed.

Yet so driven is this young woman in her desire to protect the environmental future for her generation that she can speak with force and commitment in circumstances that would be challenging for the most confident adult. She is a force with which to be reckoned, an inspiration and proof positive that “from the mouths of babes”.

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