The children marched last Friday. It might have been the ultimate teenage rebellion. I’m troubled, but not surprised by some of the disrespectful, hateful responses to the march, and to Greta Thornberg in particular, from a few right-wing commentators and politicians. The majority response has been positive and even expressions of hope in this next generation of kids. Though, should not the adults be providing the path forward?
While many cultures have ceremonies and rituals to treat this transition from child to adult with great importance, others, at times, treat acts of rebellion like a pathology to be squelched—often for good reasons over concern for safety. However, “rebellion if given proper reverence, is a necessary confrontation with society that ensures our sustainability…young people [must] be invited to contribute their disagreements to our shared aliveness” (Turner, 2017, Loc 249). The danger of dismissing or squelching teenage rebellion is driving the passion felt into shame and repression. The energy and passion still exist and then can be expressed in truly dangerous and self-destructive behaviors (Turner, 2017).
Maybe the anger felt by some of the “adults” is in part a natural reaction to teenage rebellion. “Sit down and be quiet.” I think it is also a reaction of fear and shame. No one likes to be scolded and in large part the intent of the march was a global scolding. We don’t like that their rebellion is not turning towards the typical dangers in early independence, but instead pointing out our own failures—pointing out that the danger is actually us! The older generation is hearing the younger generation and what we are hearing is an evaluation of how we’ve done. It isn’t a positive performance review.
Often-times in folk tales, literature, and movies the rebel ends up being at first an outcast and then a leader for change. These children, and Greta Thornberg in particular, are outcasts and we do not like what she represents as an outcast because what it really shows is what we have cast out.
We’ve worried they never go outside. We’ve worried they are addicted to their phones. We’ve worried they spend too much time alone and won’t know how to do anything or interact with others. And then they marched.
We cannot now criticize or dismiss this as just an act of rebellion and tell them to sit down and be quiet. It might be time for the adults to shut up and listen for a bit, but just a bit, and then take action by taking leadership away from those in the way of necessary work to secure our children’s future and very existence. That’s what you do when you are the adult. They marched. Now, we act.
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Turner, Toko-pa (2019) Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home. Her Own Room Press. British Columbia, Canada.
Photos: March is from the independent.ie, Greta Thornberg from globalnews.ca