The world should follow in Greta Thunberg’s footsteps
The voice of a generation, against a generation
I remember seeing a picture floating around the internet a few weeks back that caught my eye. It was a photograph of a student at a protest holding up a sign that read “why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated?” While the picture didn’t follow any elaboration on what the protest was for, a part of me thinks it’s best that way.
That statement could flow into any variety of social justice issues in the modern day, but what I would argue is the most fitting is the environment. It is because of that photograph, and because of the growing number of global protests, that I’ve grown more interested in the work of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who’s making headlines across the globe.
In an interview Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez conducted with Thunberg, Ocasio-Cortez stated “often people say, ‘Don’t politicise young people.’ It’s almost a taboo. That to have someone as young as you coming out in favour of political positions is manipulative or wrong. I find it very condescending . . . I’m interested in how you approach that.”
Thunberg replied: “The most common criticism I get is that I’m being manipulated . . . and I think that is so annoying! I’m also allowed to have a say – why shouldn’t I be able to form my own opinion and try to change people’s minds?” This is where my admiration for Thunberg predominantly lies: in her ability not only defended her own right to speak, but to defend the right of other young people to voice their opinions as well.
It’s no secret that tensions have emerged between generations. The ever-growing debate surrounding Baby Boomers versus. Millennials has been ongoing for years. Article headlines like “Why baby boomers’ grandchildren will hate them,” “The 2020 Primary Is Millennials vs. Boomers,” and “The baby boomers have wrecked marriage – no wonder millennials detest the idea” all but scream it. Maybe this is why Thunberg’s voice is exactly what we need right now.
Because of the conflict between generations, it’s understandable to see why millennials speaking out against the common practices of another generation may prompt some hostility. I would argue that that is where much of Thunberg’s criticism comes from: she’s young, she’s loud, and she’s challenging the world baby boomers, among others, have curated.
But Thunberg is unapologetically vocal. Earlier this week, she delivered a scalding speech at the UN, claiming: “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean . . . yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Thunberg is exactly what the world needs right now: someone who lays out the facts exactly as they are. Her statement is horrifyingly true: the previous generation continuously ignores the pleas and cries of a younger generation, and yet continuously looks to them for hope and answers. Why look for hope in a generation that you silence? Why should a generation give you hope when, at every turn, they are ignored or belittled?
The world needs to follow in Thunberg’s footsteps. In specific, our younger generation must. We will remain stagnant if we don’t call out hypocrisy and lack of action wherever we spot it. We will change nothing if we refuse to acknowledge how our generation is expected to be educated and yet silent: complicit and yet revolutionary. How is a generation that is routinely dismissed and ignored simultaneously expected to change the world in a magnificent, brilliant new ways?
An unfair pressure is being placed on our shoulders. We are expected to change the world in new ways despite generations who refuse to adapt with it and us. We are expected to provide hope for a world that refuses to listen to our desires for change and growth.
We need to be as loud as Greta Thunberg, as angry as Greta Thunberg, and as unapologetically honest as Greta Thunberg. The world should be following in her footsteps, but specifically, we, the younger generation, need to.
Because what do we gain if we don’t listen to educated? If we don’t listen to the generation who will be carrying our aching planet forward when previous generations are gone? If we don’t listen, we lose. We all will lose, not just the generations you choose to ignore.
So, it further prompts the question, why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated? Because if you refuse to listen, we will only grow louder.