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Greta Thunberg, become a world icon: too much pressure with 16 years?

Teen activist Greta Thunberg
Teen activist Greta Thunberg
  • 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
Teen activist Greta Thunberg
Teen activist Greta Thunberg

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

“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 “.

Greta Thunberg brings colors to US congressmen
Greta Thunberg brings colors to US congressmen

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, 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.

Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden: “Everything you can do will be great”

Transcript of the phone call on July 25 between Trump and the Ukrainian president
Transcript of the phone call on July 25 between Trump and the Ukrainian president
  • Donald Trump urged President of Ukraine Volodimir Zelenski to work with Attorney General William P. Barr to open a corruption investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden
  • “There is much talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the accusation and many people want to know more about the matter, so everything you can do with the attorney general will be great,” Trump told the Ukrainian president
Transcript of the phone call on July 25 between Trump and the Ukrainian president
Transcript of the phone call on July 25 between Trump and the Ukrainian president

Donald Trump urged the president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, to work with the US attorney general, William P. Barr, to open a corruption investigation against former vice president Joe Biden, as revealed by the transcript of a phone call between the two leaders on July 25

The US president announced Tuesday that he would make the transcript public after being accused of pressuring the Ukrainian leader to remove dirty rags from Biden and his son in exchange for the delivery of financial aid worth $ 391 million. The former vice president is currently the favorite candidate in the Democratic primary to dispute Trump’s presidency in the 2020 elections.

Trump acknowledged Tuesday that, shortly before that conversation with the president of Ukraine, he ordered the aid to freeze that country. However, the US president alleges that this blockade of aid is not related to the request for investigation to Biden. The scandal broke out when someone from the US intelligence community filed a complaint about Trump’s behavior regarding Ukraine. The Democratic leader in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, has activated an impeachment process against Trump.

“There is much talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the accusation and many people want to know more about the matter, so everything you can do with the attorney general will be great,” Trump said during the call. “Biden boasted of having stopped the accusation, so if you can look at it …”, he adds.

“Since we have won the absolute majority in Parliament, the next attorney general will be 100% of my trust, my candidate,” Zelenski replies.

During the conversation, Trump makes no mention of the 390 million dollars of aid frozen a few days earlier, something that has justified as a pressure measure for European countries to help Ukraine more. “We do a lot for Ukraine. Much more than European countries, which should help you more than they are doing. Germany does virtually nothing for you. Many European countries, likewise,” Trump told Zelenski. “You are right not only 100%, but rather 1000%,” replies the Ukrainian.


The political and social conditions obvious by Xavi Hernández when he praises Qatar

Old paints and waste materials, which were stored in workers' housing places in Qatar, October 2012 © Shaival Dalal
Old paints and waste materials, which were stored in workers' housing places in Qatar, October 2012
  • “The system here works better than that of Spain,” said former soccer player Xavi Hernandez about Qatar, where he works.
  • The emir in Qatar concentrates all the executive and legislative power, political parties are not allowed and there are no elections to Parliament.
  • The small country of the Persian Gulf is known for the terrible conditions in which thousands of foreigners work in the preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
  • There are restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and women remain discriminated against.
Old paints and waste materials, which were stored in workers' housing places in Qatar, October 2012 © Shaival Dalal
Old paints and waste materials, which were stored in workers’ housing places in Qatar, October 2012

Xavi Hernández landed in Qatar in 2015 and, although he says he can’t pick mushrooms there and misses him, he has no intention of returning. He is currently a club coach and has a contract as a global ambassador for the Qatar World Cup in 2022. “I don’t live in a democratic country, but I think the system here works better than there,” he said in an interview with the newspaper Ara when asked if he was going to vote in Spain in the fourth general elections in four years. “I can’t do things like mushrooms here and I miss that a lot. However, there are many advantages: tranquility, security … In Qatar people are happy,” he said.

How does the Qatari political system praised by Xavi Hernández? As an “absolute monarchy with virtually all powers conferred upon the emir,” notes the report of the intelligence unit of The Economist. The current emir has been in office since 2013 and inherited it from his father, who ruled for 17 years.

Political parties are not allowed and the only elections that are held are for the Municipal Council, which has barely any powers. The Constitution passed in 2003 established a 45-member parliament with real legislative powers in which 30 of the 45 deputies would be elected every four years in free elections. However, the emir, Tamim bin Hamad, has postponed them year after year. 16 years after that reform, all members of Parliament remain directly appointed by him.

The country also maintains the possibility of applying the death penalty for some crimes. Executions for capital punishment were not recorded in the last year, but convictions, according to Amnesty International.

While Qatar is the second country in the world with the highest Gross Domestic Product per capita (in purchasing power parity), most of the population is made up of people who are not considered citizens with the same rights as Qataris. “Up to 90% of the population of Qatar is made up of non-citizens, including expatriates and migrant workers who do not have political rights or electoral opportunities,” says Freedom House.

Labor exploitation

It is estimated that it hosts about two million foreign employees, many of them contributing to a construction boom linked, in part, to the celebration of the 2022 Soccer World Cup, the same one that Hernández promotes. In many cases, they are migrants from the most impoverished countries in the world. Since it was known that Qatar was going to host one of the biggest sporting events, the situation faced by migrant workers in the country during the preparations has been documented, including conditions that often border on forced labor, with poorly paid workers and working during long hours. Some media such as The Guardian have reported dozens of deaths in the works and hundreds of others injured in falls and accidents with machinery. For its part, an International Trades Union Confederation report estimated 1,239 deaths of Nepalese and Indian workers between 2010 and 2013 based on data provided by the embassies of both countries.

“Qatar is home to some two million migrant workers, but it does not meet international labor standards. From Amnesty International we have repeatedly urged Qatar to abolish the abusive system of kafala [sponsorship],” said Marta Mendiola, spokesman for Amnesty International. This system, used in several countries of the Persian Gulf, links workers with their employers for up to five years “and prevents some groups, such as domestic workers, from leaving the country without the permission of their employers,” they remind from AI. In practice, the kafala regime leaves these people trapped in conditions of exploitation.

In response to the barrage of criticism received, the Qatari authorities promised a series of reforms of the labor system. However, Amnesty International has recently denounced that the country remains a paid land for exploitation, describing “the tremendous situation in which thousands of migrant workers are still waiting in vain for their unpaid wages and compensation,” and how many they have returned home without charging a cent. Since March 2018, AI has followed the cases of more than 2,000 employees of three construction and cleaning companies who stopped paying their salaries for several months.

A UN expert has called on Qatar this month to do more to facilitate access to justice for workers who suffer exploitation and abuse, and has requested a “higher minimum wage, non-discriminatory and permanent.” On the other hand, article 116 of the country’s labor law grants only the Qataris the right to form associations or unions. “As a result, migrant workers, who make up around 90% of the workforce, cannot exercise their right to freedom of association and to form unions,” says Human Rights Watch.

Restrictions on freedom of expression and discrimination

In May 2018, Qatar delivered the documents to the UN to become part of two of the main UN human rights treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, he made numerous reservations regarding the rights of women and migrant workers. According to Human Rights Watch, Qatar rejected articles on gender equality in marriage, divorce and child custody alleging that it violates the sharia. This small Gulf country also noted that it will reinterpret several clauses related to degrading, cruel or inhuman punishment.

Mendiola denounces the existence of restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly “incompatible with international law and norms” and states that women continue to be discriminated against “in law and in practice”. “The legislation continues to discriminate against women in relation to marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of sons and daughters, nationality and freedom of movement,” he says. In practice, it makes it much more difficult for women than for men to file for divorce and puts “women in a situation of serious economic disadvantage” if they request it, documents the human rights NGO.

Qatari feminist Maryam Ali AlHajry has denounced that mothers cannot transmit their nationality to their children under the same conditions as fathers, violence against women or discrimination in the distribution of land, pointing out that “society remains patriarchal due to the laws introduced by the Government. “