‘I think that we were very successful in holding the majority of the blockades people had planned,’ a spokesman for the ‘climate rebels’ told The Washington Post. ‘We significantly impeded traffic in some of the main areas we were in for about three hours.’ Indeed. That’s what happens when a pack of overeducated, oversexed college kids decide to stand in the middle of a street and air their grievances. Assuming some impatient commuter doesn’t plow through the heaving, unwashed mass, commuters will have to waste an hour or three waiting for the protesters to get bored and go home. But I didn’t realize the nuisance itself was the point.
Of course, there’s no environmental emergency. Even if there was, this is obviously the worst possible way to solve it. Shutting down the capital until legislators pass the laws you want is like barring your mother from entering the kitchen until she cooks your favorite meal, which I’m sure many of these kiddies have also done.
To activist youffs, everything is an emergency: climate change, healthcare, handguns, and not least of all the big orange racist in the Oval Office. But they simply lack perspective. These wee Robespierres came of age during the Obama administration, when the president was a C-list celebrity: they couldn’t tell you what he was in, but they’d seen the clip of him dancing on Ellen, so he was definitely fine. His successor, on the other hand, is compared to Lord Voldemort so often that even HuffPost determined that it’s ‘pretty dangerous.’
We can hardly blame them for being upset. They can’t imagine a worse president than Trump because they’re only aware of two presidents to begin with. They’re certain Trump is the worst president ever because their sense of ‘ever’ doesn’t extend beyond the 2010s. They weren’t self-aware during the reign of President Bush II (or, as HuffPost then styled him, President Voldemort I).
In a saner world, they would be met by a group of counter-protesters clad in gray suits and armed with briefcases, calling themselves Reboot D.C. These brave ‘commuter justice activists’ would fight to protect future next generation of white-collar workers from filthy hipsters who clog up traffic whenever they feel particularly aggrieved. Hell, just have the police turn the water cannons on them.
That’s what grown-ups are for, after all. They’re supposed to share their life experience with hormonally unbalanced youths — to restrain their passions and give them a sense of proportion. When a newborn emerges from its warm, silent womb, of course it’s going to cry. That doesn’t mean his mother has to take his distress seriously. She doesn’t drop the child and scour the room for the source of his alarm. She doesn’t hide under the bed and wait for her little ambidextrous potato to give the all-clear. No: she smiles, holds him close, and waits for it to realize that the bright lights and loud noises aren’t, in fact, trying to kill him.
Why, then, are we indulging these large ambidextrous potatoes? Why are the police standing by, truncheonless, protecting them from the workaday folk who (quite reasonably) want to punch them in their cappuccino-scented mouths? Why are journalists writing headlines like ‘Climate Rebels Shut Down Intersections Across Washington’ and not ‘Dirty Hippies Cause Mild Nuisance’? Why is there a story to begin with? Why haven’t they all been pepper-sprayed and sent back home to their craft beer and essential oils?
I’ll tell you why: middle-aged progressives are so nostalgic for their own days as youthful radicals that they encourage their children’s political anxieties. They feed off it. And that, if you’re wondering, is how Greta Thunbergs happen. The poor kid gets herself so worked up about climate change that she goes months without eating. She has obvious signs of cardiac disease caused by persistent stress. Her monomania is so severe she’s developing mutism.
What Greta needs is for the grown-ups in her life to make her come home and lead a normal life away from the spotlights and the cameras. She needs her mom’s tender comfort and her dad’s firm reassurance that everything will be OK. Instead, her parents tell her that all her fears about ecological disaster are warranted — that the only way to save the world from a fiery apocalypse is through urgent, worldwide political action — but would she please try to eat a sandwich before crossing the Atlantic on a solar-powered skiff?
I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe we should bring back the draft and declare war on China. It would give young people something to do, and at least we’d die in a fiery apocalypse of our own making.
In any event, we should take C.S. Lewis’s eminently sensible advice to those denizens of the Nuclear Age:
‘The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.’
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m something of a greenie myself. ‘There’s nothing more conservative than conservation,’ as Russell Kirk once quipped. But if Ms Thunberg and her fellow ‘climate rebels’ fail — if the Earth does ignite from lack of atmosphere — I hope I die at Mass with my wife and children or reading in my study, not wasting my time standing in the middle of the street or addressing the United Nations.