Illustration by Hannah Robinson
2019 can be easily called a year of youth activism. Young people all over the world have been grabbing news headlines. From the Zimbabwe’s democracy activist Vimbaishe Musvaburito to Swedish climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, whose solo burst of rebellion morphed into a global “Fridays for Future” movement.
Liberal leaders are queuing up to praise her, but their inaction on the climate crisis shows that they do not really care about the issue for which she stands, whilst right-wings have taken a personal grudge against her. American President Donald Trump mocked Thunberg on Twitter as a “happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future”. Brazil’s populist President Jair Bolsonaro called her a “brat”. According to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, “Greta Thunberg doesn’t understand complexities of ‘modern world’.”
Greta’s young age and gender apparently annoy her critics, especially men, primarily far-right. Why? Because this young woman refuses to bow to them, and it has left them twitching. It is sad to admit that in an economic system in which power and resources are reportedly still in the hands of a very small number of largely male leaders, women are still expected to be people-pleasers. And when women simply refuse to be the male ideal of a woman, they break the mould, upsetting the patriarchy. Greta does not want to be liked. And her defiance dispels stereotypes, that girls are expected to be angels. Usually clad into loose clothing without any trace of makeup, all she cares about is how to prevent looming global catastrophe.
But the broader problem of entrenched hierarchy still remains. A society that cannot bear to be told anything by its youth, especially when they are right, is one that is doomed to fail. Thunberg’s wake-up call of rebellion is a necessary jolt for all of us. And among her greatest contributions to the existing system is to convince the wider public that current outlook is doomed to fail.