"How dare you": Greta Thunberg addresses world leaders at the UN. Photo: Getty

The UN leaders cheering Greta Thunberg are worse than Mike Hosking

Greta Thunberg is let down more by the progressives who are supposed to turn her words into action than by grumpy old conservative pundits.

You can’t blame Mike Hosking for being such an insufferable prick. Same way you can’t get mad at a dog for barking at every passing car. Hosking's reactions are basically muscle memory - at the precise moment he becomes aware of anything remotely progressive happening, I imagine his mouth starts opening and closing of its own accord and horrible little words come out without a first thought let alone a second.

He and his lesser controversy-courting counterpart Duncan Garner are both aware that they don’t really need to engage with the substance of an argument to whip up clicks for a couple of days before everyone exhausts themselves getting incredibly mad online and moves on. Which is not to scold people for expressing their anger on social media - I do it too! But what is by all accounts more troubling and worth paying attention to is the reaction from the people who are supposed to be on Greta Thunberg’s side.

 

Imagine being in the same room as Thunberg and hearing her say she blames you for what’s happening, saying to you  “how dare you” for stealing her childhood and putting her future in jeopardy, and instead of feeling deep, abiding shame at your inaction, you think the appropriate response to her trembling voice is to cheer and whoop and fill the room with rapturous applause. That’s what world leaders present for Thunberg’s United Nations speech earlier this week did following the delivery of several of her most damning lines. Watch the video above and listen - it’s incredibly unsettling. Greta Thunberg isn’t a badass kween slaying at the UN, she’s a rightfully furious young woman who is asking in very clear terms that the adults in the room get it the fuck together and actually do something about climate change.

The Onion sums the emptiness of liberal engagement with Thunberg up well here: Democrats Criticize Trump For Attacking Greta Thunberg Instead Of Praising Her Bravery, Ignoring Her Later.

As many people pointed out to Chelsea Clinton when she tweeted “Thank you” at Thunberg following the teen’s speech, wealthy and powerful dynasties like the Clintons and their allies are precisely the people the Swedish teen is criticising. That so many political actors who are supposed to care about climate change don’t appear to be genuinely reckoning with this fact is deeply alarming.

To use extremely outdated internet parlance, Hosking’s gonna Hosk, so it’s kind of irrelevant what he thinks of Thunberg. Of course he hates this uppity child, partly because he has many good reasons to want climate change to be fake and partly because he appears to hate young people generally.

If we take it as a given that conservatives will react with bluster and aggro to serious challenges to the status quo in the face of climate change, then what we need to make sure is that progressive politicians are prepared to knuckle down and fight for change, not pay lip service to how brave this one extraordinarily determined young woman is. Here in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern is a gifted communicator and comes across a genuinely empathetic person. What she hasn’t proven herself to be is particularly strong-willed when it comes to actually committing to being the transformative government Labour promised. 

It’s the job of every New Zealander who shares Thunberg’s fears about climate change to make it impossible for the Ardern Government not to act. Turn up to the climate strikes, write the PM a hand-written letter (apparently it’s more likely politicians actually read those), make sure to vote in the local elections and start thinking about which policies you care about ahead of next year’s general election, figure out who’s organising in your city or town and start heading along to meetings, participate in protests, stay engaged long after you’ve stopped feeling mad about a shitty take. All of which is hard (and sometimes quite boring - ugh, meetings) but it’s so, so important.

Part of Hosking’s criticism is that all Thunberg does is talk. No kidding, she’s a 16-year-old schoolgirl, what else is she supposed to do? It’s those with power who are responsible for taking Thunberg’s rhetoric and turning it into action. Rather than wasting our energy on the Hoskings and Garners of the world, it’s up to those of us who recognise the truth of what she’s saying, who think it’s reasonable how angry she is, and inspiring how committed she is to keep speaking truth to power, to hold those politicians to account.

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