Passing the generational baton for climate change

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Climate activist Greta Thunberg is a threat to older, mysoginistic men the world over (Screenshot via YouTube)

Greta Thunberg has not only been a threat to conservative, misogynistic men, but a voice of inspiration to generations around the world, writes John Haly.

CHILDREN ARE STRIKING in the streets and demanding an effective response to climate change, while many adults sit on their hands. It is a sharp illustration of intergenerational conflict and Greta Thunberg has become a lightning rod for that conflict.

Social media is awash with objections by conservative commentators. The abrupt and defiant language of children protesting at Climate Strike events confronts them. The disparagement of Greta Thunberg in the media has reached fever pitch in some conservative circles. The conservatives appear to have abandoned their allegiance to “free speech” principles — again.

Greta grief

Now it is everything from “crisis actor” to whom she associates with, to she’s a “spoilt brat“. The latter was expressed by Jeremy Clarkson, who in turn was swiftly rebuked by his daughter. Other women, such as Miranda Devine, accused unknown agents or even Greta’s parents of child abuse and a school headmaster described her as a little girl with mental problems.

This is from people who are responsible for our children’s education. You would hope an educator would minimally understand how autism works. In fact, despite the stereotyping by the less well-educated (which appears to include old, white school headmasters), being on the autism spectrum can provide one with a superior capacity to focus.

As the health site Betterhelp reports:

‘For example, people with Asperger's don’t have trouble with verbal communication. In fact, many have been gifted with extraordinary verbal skills, some do well in school and many have above-average IQs.’

Mind you, Greta had demonstrated quite the capacity to defend herself, protesting that:

'They come up with every thinkable lie and conspiracy theory.'

It’s not like the generational divide hasn’t been a feature of every previous protest and societal struggle, but with the advent of social media, the conservative minority voice has been amplified out of all proportion to their numbers.

Interestingly, on that subject, rarely does the subject of the “science” emerge in the conservatives criticism. When it does, it goes beyond parroting debunked rightwing dogma, as it has revealed the enmeshed relationship between the conservative press, mining barons and political parties. These self-interested groups will stop at nothing to protect their vested interests, and are quite literally prepared to sacrifice children and their future.

Yet Greta is triggering the troglodytes and eliciting bullying from a notably dominantly loud demographic in our society: “conservative and privileged old white misogynists”.


The rage of CAPOWM men is leading the charge. Miranda Devine and Daisy Cousens demonstrate it is not an exclusively male opposition. Irrespective, the role of women in outrage over Greta is dwarfed by the sheer numbers of male counterparts.

CAPOWM men feel very affected and threatened by a 16-year-old girl in plaits in a way they do not feel affected by thousands of scientists and adult climate activists. Despite adults protesting, the idea of children conducting a school strike is seen as an existential threat which invokes a moral panic previously unseen.

This “existential threat” is breaching some fundamental principle these CAPOWM men hold to be sacrosanct:

  1. These men hold that elder men are authoritative and demand respect for their “masculine role”, and Greta is challenging the status quo and daring to raise her voice to confront her elders on their failures to attend to these climate issues.
  2. These men hold that woman and children should be subordinate, and Greta is challenging their authority and refuses to back down to them.
  3. These men maintain that they have the right to power and authority, and Greta is building a groundswell of popular power to rise and challenge their “throne of swords”.
  4. These men have always been able to blackmail, bully and bribe, but she is so bold and so young they can find no means of leverage and, thus, find themselves in foreign territory. Perhaps not dissimilar to the British response when they faced Joan of Arc.
  5. These men realise they cannot reduce this young woman to being a sexualised, compliant tool they can manipulate to disparage or compromise. Although Tommaso Casalin, an Italian youth football coach, thought otherwise and was justly sanctioned.
  6. These men fear the loss of their wealth, power or privilege, or that they will be asked to share any part of it.
  7. These men realise it is inherently wrong to attack a child and are confronted by the power of her honesty. They know they lack the moral high ground and hate being outmaneuvered.

Finally, to my eighth reason — one I initially thought was satire when I read it online. I searched in vain through the article page for the satire disclaimer, but there was none. I have seen it replicated a few times now. I baulked at adding this, because – while acknowledging toxic masculinity – I inaccurately assumed this was a minority of chest-thumping men who felt afflicted by this issue.

  1. These men’s toxic masculinity has such a firm grip on their psyche, they feel that if they engage in eco-friendly behaviour, they’re worried it might undermine their masculinity. In short, being seen as “green” is perceived as being “too girly”.

As a personal interjection, I find it quite hard to wrap my head around the last one. Since I thought it was satire initially, I can only reference Mark Humphries or The Chaser’s real satire by way of providing these men with clarity.

Decent men

Decent, older men don’t behave like this. And I want to finish this article with an inspiration I took from the Student Climate Strike in Kyoto, Japan, which our family attended on 20 September 2019. My son has not missed any of the School Climate Strikes in Australia, but we were in Japan when this one occurred. My son is no “Greta”, even if he understands the crisis of anthropogenic climate change. He is a self-effacing lad not prone to outbursts of radical self-expression, or shouting slogans in people’s faces, although I have heard him joining in the chants at protests of his own volition, albeit only when he didn’t notice his proud father looking on. I spoke of his attendance at the first strike in this article.

It was witnessing the “passing of the baton” from one generation to the next in the Japanese march that caught my attention. The protest started with some speeches at Maruyama Park (an urban park known for its cherry blossoms). Protestors formed an orderly procession under the constructive direction of police officers, who at intervals reminded people to drink water to fend off any dehydration. Compared to the harsher attitudes of Australian police over climate protests invoked by Government lies, the courtesy and concern of the escorting police was a sharp contrast. The chants expressed by the protestors alternated between English and Japanese.

Amongst the protestors was an old man in a wheelchair, holding a sign in his lap that read, ‘No peace without global justice’. As the parade progressed down the street, I noted he was missing. The young lady (and accompanying gentleman) who had been pushing his wheelchair were holding the sign. After not finding him in the crowd, I approached them and asked them about where he had gone. As an older man, he wanted to participate for as long as he could in the student’s strike but had a medical appointment pending. He passed his sign back to the younger lady and left, in effect passing the baton back to youth to carry on the cause. She carried his sign until the end of the march.

Could we perhaps refrain from being foolish, misogynistic old white men, who keep disparaging our youth? Could we be less threatened by a forthright young girl demanding we pull our proverbial socks up and take a lesson from a wiser old Japanese man? There comes a time in an older man’s life when whatever effort we have made to better our world for our children is beyond us. We pass on the baton to them in the hope they will build a better world from the mistakes we have made. For that task, the only thing worthy of an honourable man is to pass on whatever encouragement, guidance and blessings he can.

You can follow John Haly on Twitter @halyucinations or on his blog at auswakeup.info.

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