The Children’s Climate Crusade
“How dare you?”
Eight centuries ago, during the Middle Ages, some European children were seized by visions. Jesus Christ appeared to them, urging them to redeem their people by marching to the Holy Land and peacefully converting the Muslims to Christianity. Their preaching inspired tens of thousands of idealistic European youth, who undertook the arduous journey to the Levant. The great majority died on the way – whether of starvation or disease – and most of the remaining gave up and chose to return home. A few managed to reach the Mediterranean sea, perhaps hoping to walk across it, as did Moses and Jesus, but in the event were sold into slavery, ending up miserably in Tunisia. Meanwhile back in Germany, angry parents whose children had died following these boy-preachers arranged for one of their fathers to be arrested and hanged. Thus ended that most idealistic adventure known as the Children’s Crusade.
Today, we are expected to follow the preaching of another child-wonder: Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old Swedish girl who has become a global sensation among the media/UN/NGO establishment through her apocalyptic warnings about climate change. A sample of her pronouncements:
“I want you to feel the fear that I feel.”
“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet, I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying.”
“You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”
“We will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. Change is coming whether you like it or not.”
But who is Greta Thunberg? Is she a modern-day Joan of Arc, that teenage maiden who by her visions inspired the French to rally against the English invaders and found the French nation? Or is she Nongqawuse, the fifteen-year-old African prophetess who warned that a divine disaster could only be averted by slaughtering all of her tribe’s cattle? (Spoiler: her Xhosa tribesmen slaughtered cattle and slaughtered yet more cattle when the prophecy failed to materialize, resulting in the deaths of 400,000 bovine and 40,000 Africans.)
“Greta,” as people like to refer to her, is popular precisely because she polarizes. To the educational-media-UN-climate complex, finally we have a young person saying the truth (regurgitating their own messages, to be precise) to elected officials and business leaders. She is a child. She is a girl. She claims to be autistic (she certainly has weird mannerisms, though she must have learned a great deal from her parents, who appear to be far-left Swedish actors). She is standing up to bullies. And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the ‘left’ in our increasingly feminized and infantilized culture. The triumph of the Left is women screeching “think of the children!” while their menfolk slink into submission, their tails between their legs. Rational and self-interested considerations naturally cannot be broached in an atmosphere of emotional hysteria and moral blackmail.
All of Greta’s traits naturally annoy right-wingers. Politics, in particular democratic politics in which each faction seeks a dedicated base among the population, rewards polarization and fragmentation. A political tribe thrives and has unity not by what they agree on, but by the people they hate. Thus, the animosity Greta stokes among the mainstream right is precisely what indignantly keeps her supporters behind her.
The same of course can be said of Donald Trump. The one thing that makes me sympathize with the American president is the absolute shamelessness, unfairness, and mendacity of his many enemies in the Democratic Party and the mainstream media. Couldn’t they go after Trump citing a legitimate issue? Lord knows there are many to choose from. But no, they must resort to endless lies, hypocrisies, and irrelevancies.
Greta and Trump are mirror images.
Of course, a “child” does not pop out with a fully-fledged political ideology of destroying the economic system and replacing it with some form of Transnational Green Communism (“equity,” “climate justice”). The fact is that children tend to simply regurgitate and radicalize whatever their authority figures tell them. This was the case in the Third Reich, where the youth were urged to overcome the class prejudices and conformist conservatism of their parents’ generation. This resulted in the infamous book-burnings of mostly Marxist, pornographic, and/or Jewish works (which was an initiative of the youth movement and not of the Nazi leadership). It was also the case in Fascist Italy and Mao Zedong’s communist China, the latter resulting in the disastrous Cultural Revolution.
The globalists and mainline environmentalists, however, are comforted by Greta because, after all, she is right. To those revolted by the emotionally manipulative use of a child to promote their political agenda, I say: All’s fair in love and war. And to those who dislike Greta’s brand of Transnational Green Communism, I say, like Water Sobchack concerning National Socialism: At least it’s an ethos.
As a matter of fact, I would say that Greta and her movement are possessed by a great deal of insight. The very idea of “striking” in order to skip high school attendance is brilliant. The popularity of this measure shows that the youth understand intuitively that sitting on their butts in a classroom is an utterly pointless waste of time. Sure, she may say that she “ought to be in school,” but really the whole strike against school attendance shows that the youth possess a great understanding: that their high school classes are an utterly pointless waste of their time (as Yes Minister! already pointed out decades ago).
Greta herself has personally benefited from skipping school, becoming a global star.
“Education, education, education,” is supposed to be our social panacea – leading to valuable professional “skills” (and therefore, economic growth and universal upward social mobility), while the truth is that these institutions are glorified daycare centers dispensing, at best, what can only be described as a kind of intellectual circus training. This regimented submission to authority, without end, is supposed to foster “empowered individuals” and “critical thinking.” The youth are tired of this and are therefore no longer showing up. The youth also sense the worthlessness of their lives, of this frenetic daily activity, producing so much waste for nothing worthwhile.
The kind of lecturing dispensed by Greta is obviously targeted at Western whites. No other demographic is sensitive to this kind of emotional blackmail and moralistic appeal.
But the fact is that, as of today, Europe and North America account for less than a third of global emissions, and those emissions are declining. Asia alone contributes more than 50% more emissions than all the West combined, and this is rapidly increasing. Greta makes the facile left-wing argument that the planet is being destroyed only for the wealth of “a very small number of people.” But in fact, the economic growth she detests today principally concerns raising up billions of Asians to the middle-class standard of living Westerners take for granted.
The main environmental risk of the Climate Crusade is that it will spill over into a generalized Luddism, as occurred in Germany under Chancelor Angela Merkel, who shut down nuclear power and claimed to be instituting an Energiewende (“Energy Change”) in favor of renewable energy. The result: coal plants were fired up again and electricity imported from atomic-powered France to make up for it. The more economically successful Westerners are, the more creative they seem to be in idiotically wasting their excess wealth.
(Full disclosure: I was raised on a steady diet of French State propaganda extolling the wonders of our nuclear power industry, and I have learned nothing in my adult life to give me cause to revise this judgment.)
My problem with the Climate Crusade is not so much in the ends than in the psychological and institutional means involved.
In my view, austerity and frugality are absolutely desirable if these are consciously willed, as means to achieving spiritual and material autarchy. That is to say, self-control, self-discipline, and independence, in other words, sovereignty, in the deepest, most general, and most genuine sense. As an Italian naval officer told the American journalist Lothrop Stoddard during the Second World War: “You’d be surprised to learn how self-sufficient we have become. Autarchy is a good idea. Puts a nation on its toes.” The Italian Traditionalist writer Julius Evola went further, expounding at length on the “spiritual meaning of autarchy.”
The problem with the climate movement is that it does not, for the most part, make such demands on the individual. The metropolitan “climate-supporter” class itself tends to be affluent frequent fliers, whose lives revolve around the flurry of utterly superfluous activities of contemporary upper-middle-class existence. The climate movement is not, in the main, about personally reducing our material needs and curbing our appetites, in the name of both the planet and our individual and, why not, national sovereignty. Oh no.
The modern-day Children’s Crusade rather demands, as a moral imperative, the action of the State. This makes sense politically, but what does it mean? It means a demand that an already obese State constrict and suffocate our already hyper-regulated social-democratic societies even more. This would be according, not to the will of a people to maintain social standards for itself or to foster their collective independence, but to submit to a permanent straightjacket of regulations concocted by the United Nations. The end result is not personal and national empowerment and sovereignty, but subjection of individuals and nations to a transnational committee of unelected bureaucrats.
I initially did not think much of the children’s “March for the Climate” and the buzz it caused in the European media. I thought it embodied metropolitan Europeans’ and international committees’ penchant for “fake and gay” symbolic action instead of real and accountable action. However, Greta’s warm welcome in the U.S. media and Congress shows that she may have wider appeal. The youth of America seem to be converging with that of Europe, away from Christianity and individual liberty, and towards secular social democracy. The Mammy State is spreading.
I assume some form of climate change is happening. But I also remember being warned decades ago of “rising sea levels.” I’m still waiting for the Netherlands to sink beneath the waves – the memory of which will survive only as a legend among the colored masses that will replace us – or at least for coastal property prices to collapse. And yet, they don’t.
Still, I do not despair of something good coming from the current environmental panic: a return of ethics, of the idea of civic duty. Ezra Pound complained in the 1930s:
Liberty was “defined” in the Rights of Man as “the right to do anything that doesn’t hurt someone else.” The restricting and highly ethical limiting clause was, within a few decades, REMOVED. The idea of liberty degenerated into meaning mere irresponsibility and the right to be just as pifflingly idiotic as the laziest sub-human pleased, and to exercise almost “any and every” activity regardless of its effect on the commonweal.
Ultimately, the Climate Crusade represents a salutary critique of capitalist democracy.
A few climate activists, like the décroissance (de-growth) advocate and astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau, also seem to pair their activity with a certain asceticism. Once these people’s personal lives tend to Gandhism, I will listen. I believe the Right, which in fact pioneered ecology in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, will thrive if it can return to its demanding ethical roots.
There is no telling what the Children’s Climate Crusade will lead to. In terms of intensity, Greta Thunberg’s attacks against industrial civilization, consumers, and business are rivaled only by the writings of the Unabomber or by Adolf Hitler’s denunciations of the November Criminals. Greta’s argumentation leads us to ask a number of questions: What rights should climate-deniers have? Should their children be confiscated from them? Should they be jailed as are holocaust-deniers? Should they be sent to summer camps where they will be free to appreciate the nature we must protect and undergo a thorough ecological education?
More substantively, can we expect these capitalist democracies – which prize belly-chasing and individual comfort above all – to be able to deliver “climate justice”? In the absence of a technological deus ex machina, I should think not. Ultimately, Greta’s agenda would have to be enshrined in our constitutions, protected by virtuous guardians, and placed above the vagaries of democratic electoral politics (as are in principle, by the way, the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution or many of the EU’s economic policies). I sometimes wonder whether Greta is planning for her March for the Climate to turn into a March on Rome. She has made her ambitions clear, and more than once: “Change is coming whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”
 T. Lothrop Stoddard, Into the Darkness: An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War (Burlingston, Iowa: Ostara, 2011 ), p. 6.
 Julius Evola, “The Spiritual Meaning of Autarchy,” 1 March 1938, in Julius Evola (trans. E. Christian Kopff), A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism (London: Arktos, 2015).
 Ezra Pound, “The Teacher’s Mission,” English Journal (1934), quoted in T. S. Eliot (ed.), The Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (New York: New Directions, 1968), pp. 59-60.
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