We must be careful when, as adults, we abdicate traditional leadership roles on matters of great public concern and welcome children to the forefront of the battle.
My concern is prompted by the explosive arrival on the global warming battlefront of one teenage female named Greta Thunberg. It is historical fact that young women have from time to time over the centuries used family connections, their vocabularies and their access to big money to leap from obscurity to national fame – or beyond – to big-time sensations on the international stage.
Times do not appear to have changed much in recent weeks as we have watched, enthralled, as the instant teenage superstar from Sweden made her dazzling United Nations debut. A short time later, the 16-year-old Ms. Thunberg was in Vancouver, British Columbia, savouring the cheering adulation of a crowd estimated by some at 100,000.
Now comes a dangerous time for this intelligent young woman and her handlers – for never let it be thought she does not have handlers to organize travel between countries and cities and places to sleep and eat. People with money and/or the ability to raise funding for such epic adventures are essential for a 16-year-old or even a 60-year-old. These things happen by design, not luxury.
And, with today’s ever-growing demand for “transparency” when the public donates money to be used for a specific purpose, there’s a need to tell the donors from time to time how much has been collected, and where it has been spent.
It has never been easy to get new, refreshing thinking into the political orbit, but Joan of Arc did it back in the 1400s – and she’s still listed as a saint although her claims to have conversed on a regular basis with Saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret have long been suspect.
She was 13 when she started talking about her hopes and dreams for her beloved country, France. Though peasant born, she displayed a surprisingly intelligent vocabulary and enjoyed the power of persuasion. At the age of 19, she was the titular head of the French army, but there are many who believe she never did learn to write what she could speak. And she spoke often of the need to drive England from France and end the 100 Year War.
In the sometimes-bewildering mix of fact and legend in ancient history, we are told Joan convinced French political leaders her conversations with dead saints were real, not figments of her imagination.
The Roman Catholic Church gave her it’s blessing and Joan of Arc became commander in chief of the army, but – according to http://www.history.com/news7 – “never actually fought in battle or killed an opponent.” She was the inspiration, carrying a battle flag or ceremonial sword, delivering the dawn of battle exhortation and leaving the tawdry business of finding the money to fight such wars and supplying armies in the field to lesser mortals.
It all came to a mortal end for Joan in 1443 when she was taken prisoner in her final battlefront appearance and was charged with 70 offences in a special English ecclesiastical church court. The charges ranged from sorcery to horse theft but were eventually reduced to 12 – with heavy emphasis on two claims – that Joan liked to wear men’s clothes and that she received messages and instructions directly from God.
And, at the end of the road, there was no eye to pity, no arm to save. The politicians and courtiers she had favoured with her inspiring talk and dreams for her homeland scattered like the ashes of the fire that consumed her.
And to finish where I started: Greta Thunberg’s teammates should tell her to stop waving a finger on camera and snapping like an angry adult with quavering cheek: “Don’t you dare tell me … ”
So, I won’t.