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Child activists

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By Donu Kogbara

Weeks back, I told you about Greta Thunberg, a passionate teenage activist from Sweden who took to the stage at the United Nations  General Assembly, UNGA, gathering in New York and blasted world leaders for failing to take climate change seriously.

Greta has attracted a lot of criticism and applause. Her supporters praise her for courageously and uncompromisingly highlighting the terrible dangers she thinks we face, while her detractors say that she talks rubbish and is disrespectful and/or mentally unhinged.

Her supporters are convinced that planet earth will be a much better place – environmentally, morally, socially, etc – if more youngsters become radicals, organise protests and boldly confront the selfish, destructive elders who undermine our collective welfare.

Greta Thunberg

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Her detractors are convinced that she is a silly, naive schoolgirl or toxic little hardline harridan who is unable or unwilling to understand or acknowledge the complex realities and tough challenges that those who manage governments and businesses have to cope with.

I fall somewhere in the middle of the debate that Greta has generated, in the sense that I totally agree with her views but feel that she should quietly complete her childhood, face her studies, quit rudely haranguing adults and leave grown-ups who share her concerns (and there are many) to make noise in global fora.

Long story short, my problem is with the messenger rather than the message. Truth be told, I find Greta’s steely shrillness somewhat disturbing in light of her age. Bluntly put, she irritates me! And if she had been my daughter, I wouldn’t have allowed her to take time off school, never mind address the UN or do TV interviews.

Some of my friends echo the above opinions, while others think that I am being boringly conservative. What do Vanguard readers think?

Would you allow your offspring to traipse around giving fiery, tub-thumping speeches about ANY issue (not just climate change)? Would you let your child mount a podium like a mini-politician and lecture anyone who will listen?

Do you believe that children can – and should at least try very hard to – save humanity from the follies and evildoing of adults?

I guess my question boils down whether we should permit children to occupy the spotlight FOR WHATEVER REASON, while they are still young, intellectually unformed and emotionally vulnerable.

When my son was eight, he had a fabulous singing voice and tons of charisma; and he was offered – by a well-known thespian who bumped into him – a part in an award-winning musical in London.

But his father and I flatly refused to let him go down that starry,  sophisticated path because we wanted him to mature naturally and finish his education before thinking about fame and fortune.

We told my son that he could always become an actor later. And he didn’t seem upset. He just shrugged and continued to be a normal kid. But looking back, I sometimes wonder whether we were wrong?

Should we his parents have encouraged him to become a high-profile personality to be reckoned with? Could he perhaps have become a juvenile millionaire if the acting thing had gone well? Did we do him a grave disservice by depriving him of a rare opportunity to shine? Did we overestimate advantages associated with a normal childhood?

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