I’ve been getting into a lot of arguments recently on both Twitter and the comments threads of blogs I follow.
This week some random woman was trying to argue that it’s impossible to compare the Hong Kong protests with Greta Thunberg’s trip to the US on board a boat. Her premise seemed to be that, because Thunberg is a child and comes from a wealthy liberal background she should have no voice. The suggestion that children can’t possibly make important contributions to social improvement irritated me. I wondered if she’d heard of Anne Frank or Louis Braille.
Checking back at the message thread as soon as I woke up this morning some other bright spark has suggested that anyone under thirty-five should stop complaining because they haven’t actually experienced any hardship, unlike those that had to live through two world wars. She suggested that young people like Thunberg are concentrating on what she called “imagined trauma”. I had to go and make some coffee and run a bath to avoid screaming into the screen of my computer.
Apart from it being a completely nonsensical idea that people these days don’t have to endure hardship I thought about the point of history and that one of its main contributions to our lives is that it provides a reminder of mistakes we made in the past to help us avoid making them again.
Better then to imagine a crisis and head it off than to have the glory and honour of sleepwalking into one and then having to find a way out.
In years to come people will read history books and wonder why we didn’t do something different to stop the crisis happening in the first place, very much as we do now. But we never seem to catch on.
Personally I learn a great deal from my children and, far from being a source of irritation, the thought that I am handing things over to the next generation gives me some comfort when I look at the mess we seem to have made of everything ourselves. They can’t do any worse, surely.
But we like to be right. Even when we are hanging onto hopelessly destructive and negative views of ourselves and the world we feel better if we can point to evidence that proves we know best. It extends beyond the beliefs we have about the world right into the way that we see ourselves.
If I believe I am smart and knowledgable and popular I will only listen to the views which agree with me, and if I think I am worthless, or unlovable or a failure I will find a way to prove that too.
Better surely that we accept there is always room for doubt. I might not be as smart as I think I am. I may not be a failure after all. It is possible that someone can genuinely love me. So it might also be reasonable to believe that a sixteen-year-old girl with a social conscience and sturdy sea legs could see something that we refuse to.