The lessons our leaders can learn from voices of the young

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Anne Frank, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg — three girls with more wisdom and intelligence than many adults (Images via Wikimedia Commons)

The words of three young girls have carried more compassion and wisdom than what our world leaders seem capable of showing, writes Lyn Bender.

‘The young are not afraid of telling the truth.’ ~ Anne Frank

DENOUNCING the School Strike for Climate in 2018, Scott Morrison shouted across the Parliament floor that kids should be in school:

“What we want is more learning and less activism.”

Morrison and his entourage of shock jocks, including Andrew Bolt, promote the myth of wisdom growing with age and that youth in ignorance can only follow.

But apparently, our young people have learnt more about climate science than many adults who sit in Parliament.

Then Treasurer Scott Morrison came into Parliament in 2017 waving a lump of coal proclaiming loudly:

“This is coal, don''t be afraid of it, don''t be scared.”

His cheer squad of deniers chortled and laughed and passed the lump around.

After all, it’s all about that Queensland vote and the mining lobby. Let’s not worry about that pesky climate science.

How good is the end of the planet? These adults are behaving like buffoons.

Three young schoolgirls have shown more wisdom than those in power.

Anne Frank on fascism and genocide as evil, Malala Yousafzai on terrorism as ignorance and Greta Thunberg on climate change inaction as disastrous willful ignorance.

The world can learn much by gazing through the less encumbered unclouded eyes of youth.

From the cruel barbarism of fascism, the murderous repression of the Taliban and the greed of criminal corporations, Anne Frank, Malala Yousafzei and Greta Thunberg have much to tell us about the folly of the adult power world. Each has been thrust into an existential crisis which has not been of their making. Each has courageously brought messages of wisdom, powered by a clear vision of what is wrong and what is needed in our world. In a world dominated by males, these young women have earned a place in the history of the fight for human rights.

Anne Frank could now have been 90 years old had she survived the Holocaust. Her voice remains in the form of a diary. Anne, her family and four others hid in the now-famous annexe above her father's factory. They survived in hiding in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands from 1942 to August 1944.

Anne wrote to comfort herself in her enforced imprisonment and make sense of a world that was descending into chaos and madness.

‘I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.’~ Anne Frank

The eight in the annexe were denounced and sent to concentration camps only weeks shy of liberation.

‘Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.’~ Anne Frank

Her diary continues to be read by millions.

‘I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!’ ~ Anne Frank

Recently in Melbourne, a poster of a play depicting the life of Anne Frank was defaced with a swastika. Did the vandals think it was funny to do so, or was it a calculated re-enactment of the persecution portrayed by the play? Anne’s ashes lie somewhere in the vicinity of the Bergen-Belsen concentration campgrounds. The U.S. rejected Anne Frank and her family.

Trump and Australia’s refugee-persecuting Government would do well to read and heed her diary.

‘What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.’~ Anne Frank

The daubed swastika declares: see how we can continue to persecute a murdered person.

However, by their mad actions, the defacers are reminding us of the senseless barbarity of racism and genocide.

Their actions reveal what Hannah Arendt termed the banality of evil — how ordinary people can become part of evil actions. Unwittingly, the vandals have become part of the play. Unwittingly, indeed. Arendt argues that Adolph Eichmann’s evil deeds were enabled by a failure to think.

So, too, the vandal neo-Nazis speak an absurdity but fail to achieve the eloquence of Anne Frank.

Malala Yousafzai was shot on a school bus by a Taliban assassin. She was 15 years old. Malala had insisted on continuing her education despite threats. Her “crime” was being a girl who stood up for all girls right to education.

‘One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.’ ~ Malala Yousafzai

The assassin boarded the bus and asked: “who is Malala?” Now we all know Malala.

Despite a horrific head wound, Malala survived to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, attended University and was able to address the U.N. assembly

We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.’  


‘When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.’ ~ Malala Yousafzai

At first glance, Greta Thurnberg may seem an unlikely heroine, but quaint plaits and quiet manner belie her cut-through honesty.

History may prove her to be on a par with Mandela and Gandhi.

“You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”


“I don''t want your hope. I want you to panic.”


“Our house is on fire. I’m here to say our house is on fire.” ~ Greta Thurnberg

As Rebecca Solnit has written in her book on overcoming defeatism, Hope in the Dark, no one action will change the world but many actions can.

On 20 September 2019, in a massive global protest, the youth have invited all to join them in delivering a message.

What do they want? Action on climate.

When do they want it? Now.

Lyn Bender is a professional psychologist. You can follow Lyn on Twitter @Lynestel.

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