- The public exhibition of the young activist, who rubs shoulders with heads of government, supports Trump attacks and challenges multinational power, generates debate
- “It is time for us to wonder if we are using it and even sacrificing it for what we perceive as a greater good,” says a Swedish journalist.
- “If she is a girl with her own ideas, why do we tend to think that they are instrumentalizing her?” They say from Save The Children
Greta Thunberg has done it again. During his last speech, one of the most anticipated at the UN climate summit, he reiterated his plea for urgent political action against the climate crisis. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” said the young activist to world leaders. He did it with anger and teary eyes.
His face and his words made headlines all over the world again. The ovation received from a good part of the room moved to social networks, where a crowd shared their strong message, calling to follow their example and remembering why it has become an icon of the international movement against global warming. Attacks also returned from some conservative or denial sectors of climate change that accuse her, to discredit her struggle, to be a “puppet” at the service of other spurious interests.
And between these two positions are those who express their concern about the magnitude of the media exposure of a minor, the responsibility she has assumed with 16 years when rubbing shoulders with international leaders and multinational power and the possible personal cost that the phenomenon generated in around his figure.
One of the first voices to ask if everything goes when it comes to boosting the cause against global warming was the Swedish journalist Paulina Neuding, remembering that at 11, Thunberg’s concern was so great that she went into a depression and stopped eating. “I don’t want to suggest that Greta is too young to understand the consequences of her actions … or even to lead a global movement. No one who has ever heard her speak to world leaders in impeccable English can doubt that she is very intelligent. Greta herself has said that doing something against climate change helped her recover, “he says in this article.
“But adults have a moral obligation to remain adults in relation to children and not get carried away by emotions, icons, selfies, images of mass protests or revolutionary dreams. Greta has recently been named ‘Woman of the Year’ by a newspaper Swedish, but she is not a woman, she is a girl. It is time we stopped to wonder if we are using her, failing and even sacrificing her for what we perceive as a greater good, “the Swedish reporter ditch.
The spark that Thunberg ignited just over a year ago, manifesting itself alone at the gates of the Parliament of Sweden to demand protection measures from the planet, has ended up crystallizing in unprecedented youth mobilizations worldwide. Therefore, from Save The Children they consider that theirs is a “clear case that demonstrates not only the right but the capacity of leadership and citizen participation that children and adolescents have” in a transcendental issue such as caring for the environment.
“There is some debate about whether there is instrumentalization in his figure. But I think he is a person who owns his speech. Due to the fact that he is a minor, we do not have to assume that he is being instrumentalized. Greta has channeled the rage through the threat of climate change and has managed to be a reference in this movement, “Carmela del Moral, head of political advocacy at the NGO, explains to eldiario.es.
“Sometimes, these questions are nothing more than the consequences of our adult-centered and patriarchal vision. If she is a child with her own ideas, why do we tend to think that she is being instrumentalized? While it is in a consensual, reasoned and voluntary way there is that encourage this participation, “says Del Moral, who draws parallels between the case of the Swedish minor and others such as the Pakistani Malala or the Palestinian Ahed Tamimi. “They are very young women, demonstrating that their opinion counts and that with their activism they reach more people, breaking the prejudice that because they are young they have no decision-making power or anything to say.”
Another of the edges present in the debate is that Thunberg, who began to worry about the situation on the planet years ago, has Asperger syndrome. From the Asperger Madrid Association, they emphasize the importance of the adolescent being “giving a different view” about people with this syndrome and stressing the fact that what is usually an individual interest – the deep concern for an issue – has become an interest shared with a whole generation. On the speech delivered on Monday, Araceli Martín, social worker, and coordinator of the association, is clear: “Greta does not suffer from being exposed. The suffering is real, it is his and individual. He would also have it in his room: he suffers because that interest it really affects him in his life. ”
The risks of high public exposure
For the American psychiatrist Gail Saltz, Thunberg’s “is a great example of the extraordinary abilities many people with autism have.” However, in statements to this medium, he warns of the possible consequences that a meteoric leap to fame can have, already in itself “difficult for anyone, and especially for children.” “There are risks for any minor who suddenly has massive recognition, presence in the media and, particularly, a message that polarizes. Unfortunately, people will comment, attack, be unpleasant and take away their privacy,” says Saltz.
In these months, the Swedish teenager has undergone public scrutiny and has been exposed to all kinds of criticism and attacks, often from conservative and far-right politicians. The last one was Donald Trump, who has pulled sarcasm to comment on his excited speech: “She looks like a very happy young girl.” Also, parties like Vox have lashed out at her, assuring that “she is an imposter who is dedicated to travel to the body of the king”. They have called her “guru of the apocalypse, ” “prophetess in shorts,” “Justin Bieber of ecology,” “deeply disturbed.” “Yes, I’m really ‘deeply disturbed’
“Her overexposure in the networks is a consequence of her leadership and this makes her more vulnerable, for example to cyberbullying. Just as we say she is a girl to say what she says, it is also for attacks that can have consequences on her self-esteem “, says the head of Save The Children.
Sergi Banús, a child-youth psychologist, also explains how high exposure and the rise to fame can be “a risk factor” for the development of a 16-year-old adolescent. “Fame in itself is not bad, the bad thing is how its structure works, what is around it. Entering the adult world can force certain behaviors and they are still people under construction who in a few years can see things differently,” says the specialist. It also affects certain situations of permanent exposure to many people “are not good” for people with Asperger. “They can generate significant stress unless you have a very good professional accompaniment, which I suppose will be so,” continues Banús.
It is here where all the voices consulted come together: in the importance of the adolescent having an auspicious environment that protects her and dampens the effects of the phenomenon that surrounds her. “There has to be a professional follow-up,” the expert ditch. “An excess of the exhibition can have consequences on development, we must see how it manages its popularity at a psychological level, with a good network of family support, a comprehensive environment, support, love, and love that ensures other rights such as play, education or violence-free life. If fame is difficult for adults, you have to be especially careful with children, “says Del Moral. In his activism, Greta Thunberg has the support of his parents and has defended several times that he is not part of any organization,
From the association specialized in serving people with Asperger, they defend the same. “She can decide if she needs support from a specialist and in what actions to embark with the support of a family that drives that cause and the part of the society that supports her. I think she is having it. But my professional concern is how to ensure that support is going to be maintained, “Martin argues. “What will happen when it stops being news? You have to work on that line, explain that it is the media boom of the moment, why it is loosening and people get tired, once finished. The risk could be the lack of understanding, that if it is difficult for everyone, for a person with Asperger more “.
The concern over the phenomenon unleashed around the Swedish minor has led Belgian environmental activist Félicien Bogaerts to shoot a fiction short film, Anita, inspired by the figure of Thunberg, about a teenage activist is overwhelmed by the pressure. In several interviews, the author has defended the importance of nuances in cases like this. “We can admire the courage and intelligence of Greta Thunberg while criticizing the drift of the media phenomenon that has been built around her. We also wanted to show the violence of the system, which puts the burden of the ecological struggle on the youngest “, he assured.
“The problem is not that Greta wants to be heard, nor that her parents let her do it. For me, the problem is that we have decided to give full responsibility for this cause to a teenager when there are entire organizations that have been saying for a while same. (…) The thousands and thousands of studies behind his rage did not deserve our attention, it seems, “said political scientist Berta Barbet on Twitter. “I believe, sincerely, that we have to start facing the debates before and without the need for anyone to sacrifice themselves for the cause,” he adds.
On the other hand, Irene Milleiro, global director of campaigns of Change.org, points out that the Swedish adolescent has become a “positive reference” that has led other young people to question “an ‘adult’ system that continually excludes voices of young people. ” “An example is the comments I read these days of the style: ‘That girl should be studying’, ‘they are manipulating him’. I do not know Greta and I do not know if it is, but with 16 years – and also with less – a girl can already have criteria to speak and decide what she wants to do with her life. No one accuses of being manipulated the boys of 16 or 17 who play in professional teams of the football league, right? I really believe that if Greta did not have 16 years, if not 30, nobody would have paid attention to him, “he says.