For all of you out there who are making fun of, and ridiculing Greta Thunberg as a brainwashed political operative of her parents -- please stop.
Let me tell you a story. I was very much like Greta. I understand where she comes from.
When I was 7 years old I watched the film “The Blue Planet” which although mostly a positive film about our amazing world, also showed some of the environmental damage that humans have caused.
One scene that briefly showed images of massive deforestation brought me to tears, upsetting me and angering me all at once. To this day I clearly remember that clip, and while don’t know exactly why I had such a powerful emotional reaction to it — I do know that for the next few weeks it was all I could talk about to anyone.
I remember feeling devastated.
I remember feeling angry.
I remember feeling like I HAD to do something.
I remember feeling a burning desire to do everything I possible could stop it.
My emotions were not something that anyone forced me to feel or brainwashed me into thinking. It was my own empathy and compassion for the earth that brought those emotions up in me. An empathy that I believe most children are innately born with before it is suppressed or driven out of them by our society and cynicism.
Parents needn’t do anything more than share the reality of what we are doing to the planet, our fellow creatures, and each other, for children to become outraged and upset.
Most people have have no problem with letting kids watch the news, horror movies, films that depict war, violence, death, and so much more. But suggest that you want to tell or show kids the truth about how we live on and destroy the planet, and you get called out for manipulating and brainwashing children.
And trust me. That’s something I am intimately familiar with. When I was still a child and teen, I had multiple people tell me that I was brainwashed because I was vegan and cared about environmentalism and animal rights. They told me “wait until you grow up, you might feel differently”.
Of course children are deeply influenced by their parents. So are we all. Everyone is biased in some way, and influenced by who they surround themselves with, their community, and the environments that they put themselves in. But that is no reason to ridicule and ignore youth that speak out on issues they are passionate about. Society is by no means "values neutral", and corporations, the government, and big business all try to influence children and adults alike on a daily basis, yet we still seem to listen to those corporations and adults no problem.
And as someone who remembers what is was like to be a teenage activist, and also currently teaches high school, I promise you that many teenagers already have strong beliefs and ideas about the world that are their own, and it is demeaning and condescending to act like they are all puppets of their parents just because they are saying something you don’t like.
And especially with the rise of the internet and social media, information is at all of our finger tips, including teens. It’s no longer just up to parents to share the truth about our world with the youth. Young people can find, read, and watch the truth and learn about the science of climate change all on their own now.
But whether you agree with Greta’s message or not, t is pathetic to try and undermine what she is saying by claiming she is brainwashed or being abused and manipulated by her parents. Just say what you mean, which is that you are threatened by the power and influence of a teenager, and you have no good response to her pointed message and anger at adults and world leaders.