Grumpy adults who complain about the fecklessness of youthful ‘snowflakes’ will be gladdened that at least some of the young are showing awareness of their political responsibilities by once again wagging school for a day to ‘protest’ about climate change. If that doesn’t show commitment and courage, what does? High time too. It’s years – centuries, actually – since the last big demonstration of child power, the Children’s Crusade of 1212, when bands of socially concerned young folk from various parts of Europe (the history is a bit sketchy) set out to rescue the Holy Land from the ravages of global warming.
There weren’t many schools to play truant from then, so the 30,000 or so junior activists just upped from whatever they were doing at the time, hewing wood and drawing water perhaps, or running down to the village alchemist to get something for mum’s headache, and set off for the Mediterranean, apparently in the belief that the sea would part for them, as it did in the Old Testament for the Hebrews, courtesy of Charlton Heston, and they could walk to Jerusalem.
How they then proposed to lower the earth’s temperature is anyone’s guess – sorry, silly me, I’m still thinking of the snowflake school-waggers, that’s not what these kids were going to do at all; they were going to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslim yoke (little Islamophobes). Well, they didn’t get far with that. Not only did the sea refuse to part, but some of the mini-crusaders were tricked by unscrupulous merchants who, under the pretext of taking them to their destination by ship, landed them in north Africa instead and sold them as slaves (we won’t say to whom, but here’s a clue: they’re still at it). All things considered the crusade was a flop.
With luck no such unpleasant fate awaits the child protesters on 15 March in their crusade for ‘climate justice’. There are other differences, too, between the two youthful ventures. For a start, Jerusalem is the last place contemporary child-activists would have anything to do with, at least not while the Israelis, who they’ve been taught at school are fascists, are in occupation. Nor will they be making the kind of sacrifice the earlier children made. Imagine walking across Europe with no shoes! This month’s young climate protesters will be well and expensively shod, in top-label footwear whose manufacture will have pumped its share of carbon into the atmosphere (this irony, if not lost on the child-campaigners, will be simply ignored in the way well-to-do climate moralists, when it suits them, ignore their own anti-pollution propaganda as they swan around in the Range Rover or jet off to Japan for the skiing).
Nor, as Tony Thomas pointed out in this magazine (9 February), is what is being touted as a children’s ‘strike’ (what labour can schoolkids withdraw?) a spontaneous youth-generated affair.
Adult manipulators are behind the scenes, whereas the original Children’s Crusade was a genuine youth initiative, started by two boys, Nicholas and Stephen, who went about telling other children about visions they’d had, calling them to strive by peaceful means to convert the Muslims in Jerusalem to Christianity. One hopes that the youthful March protesters will also act peacefully, but as to the puppet-masters pulling the strings, if they could impose ‘climate justice’ by force, would they? The Australian Youth Climate Coalition, in receipt of your taxes, is chief among the puppeteers and boasts on its website of students ‘fired up to fight’ for the climate. Metaphorical perhaps, but it doesn’t sound exactly non-violent.
By the way, ‘youth’ in the context of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition is, well, flexible. The activists who call the shots at this self-important lobby group aren’t all teenagers. Its website ad for a ‘talented young person’ to become ‘campaigns and organising director’ ageistically specifies ‘under 30’. William Pitt had been British prime minister for six years by that age; Michelangelo had painted the Sistine Chapel. Were they ‘youths’? They certainly had much to be modest about, whereas modesty appears not to loom large in the ranks of the school ‘strikers’. Their publicity machine makes them sound as heroic as the Jarrow hunger marchers when, frankly, who gives a toss whether they go to school or not? In fact they’re probably better not to, when you think of the rubbish about intersectionality (and of course climate) their little heads are being filled with when they do deign to attend.
Nor is there anything original about this display of junior puffed-uppery. The idea was pinched from a self-promoting little goody-goody in Sweden, who got herself invited to prattle away about climate to a UN doomfest, and she seems to have been put up to it by her pushy parents.
It stands to reason that childish activists for anything are being exploited by adults, just as surely as factory children were in the Industrial Revolution, though in this case it’s their minds rather than their bodies. That’s not their fault, but even so, judging by their television utterances, the ‘strikers’ belong to that category of child who is an insufferable and precocious show-off. They are not the innocents of the 1212 crusade. They are the Swallow’s Juniors of today.
For readers unfamiliar with the pantheon of talent that was Melbourne television of yesteryear, Swallow’s Juniors was a show sponsored by a now defunct biscuit company. Its performers were teenage and younger singers and dancers, and it was much loved by mums and grannies. The late Frank Thring, actor, TV critic and cynic, got himself into trouble when he wrote in his column in TV Week that what the pert little performers needed was not applause but physical chastisement (he used plainer words). Today he would be considered a dangerous paedophobe and locked up.
This month’s young climate activists – let’s call them Gaia’s Juniors – are the child spotlight-seekers of our harsher, more rancorous age. And just like Messrs Swallow’s protégés, they play to a gallery of admirers, who these days include all those hand-flapping ABC reporters who’ll be reverentially interviewing them. Doubtless mums and grannies still beam proudly on, but they’d now be Greenish mums and grannies, enlightened about impending climate armageddons by Four Corners etc. And cheering the young activists from the shadows, who knows what sinister forces plotting to use climate panic to cripple the industrial West?
So enjoy your day off, kids. But while you’re out marching avoid the trap of your fellow crusaders 800 years ago and don’t accept lifts from strangers.
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