The speech by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg at the climate conference in Katowice in December 2018 was engineered for the media. The student, known since then as ‘Climate Greta,’ spoke in front of almost empty rows of chairs, whereas the camera angle suggested to the television and Youtube audience an eagerly listening audience.
The content of the speech was as banal as could be expected and PR-oriented: A Swedish girl with pigtails, a mixture of Pippi Longstocking and autistic teenager, sprouted an evocative pathos of world salvation from the depths of her heart unspoiled by career considerations and functional rationalism. A similar event was repeated in January of this year on the occasion of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
‘Climate Greta,’ who has been protesting against global warming since August 2018 in Stockholm by refusing to attend school on Fridays, has become the worldwide icon for the ‘FridaysForFuture’ school strikes, i.e. for demonstrating, screaming, jumping, poster-swinging truants. The Green voters of tomorrow are making themselves heard.
Adolescents as a power factor
Greta, as you know, doesn't stand alone. The parents, relevant NGOs and foundations have attached themselves to her. Commercial interests are usually associated with children and young stars, but this is also about politics. At the party congresses in the countries of the Warsaw Pact, uniformed adolescents always appeared who in fiery speeches thanked the Communist Party for its policies for the benefit of the children.
Afterwards they stepped back into the crowd, because as individuals they were not in demand. There were terrible exceptions during the height of Stalinism. In the Soviet Union, twelve-year-old Pavel Morozov, who with his brother Fyodor, three years his junior, denounced half the family and numerous villagers as enemies of Soviet power and sent them to their doom, was revered as a ‘hero pioneer.’
Greta is also a power factor. Joke Schauvliege, Minister of the Environment of the Belgian region of Flanders, had to resign after criticizing the student action. She had declared in a public speech: “I can guarantee you that I do not just seeing ghosts, but that there is more behind this than just a spontaneous action of solidarity for our climate.” She departed from office with the words that her statement had been a mistake, “but no lie.”
Greta criticism as sacrilege
Greta is already being treated as a source of insight. No radio station or newspaper would want to do without reporting her criticism of the German coal compromise. Her demand that rich countries reduce emissions by 15 percent annually was also met with media attention. So far it is unclear whether and how she assesses the German-Russian Nordstream gas pipeline project. When CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak mildly criticised on Twitter: “Oh dear ... not a word about jobs, security of supply, affordability. Only pure ideology,” and added a lenient “poor Greta,” he reaped indignation. A Green politician even called him “unchristian.” Criticism of Greta as sacrilege!
“The climate crisis has finally found its narrator,” cheered the ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ newspaper. Their eulogy of the little Swedish girl involuntarily reveals the peculiar logic of the Greta disciples. The author admits that climate change cannot be “predicted with certainty” and that the projections only provide an abstract idea. This supposedly allows most people to close their eyes to the threat and hide behind excuses.
“In this respect, the climate crisis is also a crisis of narrative.” Greta, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a variant of autism, cannot take this escape route. Her brain is “wired differently,” which enables her to concentrate exclusively on the facts. These made her understand climate change “as the existential danger that it is.” She doesn’t need an illustrative narrative for this.
Transitioning to objective fanaticism
But it is not at all about ‘climate change’ as such, because it already existed when humans didn’t even exist. It is also no longer a question that environmental protection and the conservation of resources must be further developed. On the one hand, the dispute revolves around whether global warming is actually caused by human action. The other controversial question is whether the measures proposed or taken are at all effective and have a reasonable cost-benefit ratio. What can the German phase-out of coal achieve if dozens of new coal-fired power plants are built every year in China and India at the same time?
Common symptoms of Asperger's disease include increased intellectual ability in a limited area. The ‘savantism’ goes hand in hand with the inability to communicate and comprehend opposite points of view. Asked by Spiegel Online whether she could accept that other people had different opinions about the climate, Greta replied: “I listen to these people. But this is a black-and-white issue: Either our human civilization continues – or not. There is no grey area when it comes to our survival.” She only feels sorry for her critics. Such statements give an idea of how autism, encouraged and fueled by the outside world, can turn into objective fanaticism.
In the end, Greta, too, cannot deliver what the assembled science remains short on: the conclusive evidence of the anthropogenic cause of climate change. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, however, cites Greta's special brain wiring, which is scientifically unproven. Greta Thunberg is ascribed a similar function which in pre-modern societies was perceived by the wise woman, the oracle, the pythia, the sibyl, the blind seer, the prophet.
Climate issue as a civil religion
The sociologist Max Weber described a person as a prophet “who, due to his mission, proclaims a religious doctrine or a divine command.” At the same time, he bears the traits of a “teacher of societal ethics” who “seeks to influence his fellow human beings in order to create ethical systems.” Prophets are not only the announcers, but themselves vessels of the divine. One of their characteristics is the moment of suddenness with which they emerge from nowhere – like Greta in Katowice. This fits into the treatment of the climate question as a civil religion, as the sequence of guilt, repentance, penance and the prospect of forgiveness. Especially in Germany, it offers the comforting complement to the Holocaust religion, which offers no prospect of forgiveness or reconciliation.
More than a hundred years ago, the poet Stefan George, then in his mid-thirties, proclaimed the epiphany of 15-year-old Maximilian Kronberger and created an aestheticized cult of Maximin. In his 1907 volume ‘Der siebente Ring’ he let his followers know: “Now complain no more – for you too were chosen –/ That your days unfulfilled float away .../ Praise your city that has born a god!/ Praise your time in which a god lives!”
Max Weber mockingly asked what predestined the boy in leather trousers as the new god. It was a purely private matter for the circle of poets, which meant nothing to outsiders. In fact, the god who was to redeem was the self-made creation of those in need of redemption. For Weber this was a characteristic of a sect, a congregation of supposedly enlightened people who on the social side-lines cultivated their self-created cults and disturbed perceptions. Today, the whole society, believing itself to be progressive, acts sectarian; in Greta-Maxima it has currently created an idol for itself. Here the crazy dialectical dances of an enlightenment that has itself gone mad combine with the longing for the re-enchantment of the disenchanted world under the label of saving the climate and the world.
Tabula rasa situation
But it's also about politics. “Limiting global warming requires rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all areas of society.” This is what the current report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says. A globalist elite demands general international power. In order to implement it, it needs helpers and activists, and if in doubt, new Morozovs.
The Russian historian Orlando Figes writes about the Morozov phenomenon that it acted as an example especially on orphans who did not know any family and normal interpersonal structures. Today the stripping away of traditional structures – family, nation, gender, borders – creates a tabula rasa situation in which up-and-coming Green politicians are conceivable as Khmer Rouge.
The Greta cult may soon be over or be replaced by a new one. The underlying disturbance in the collective psyche of the Western world, whose symptom it is, remains virulent and dangerous.
Originally written in German for 'Junge Freiheit', where the article appeared under the title 'Hüten euch vor falschen Propheten', on February 24th 2019.