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Greta Thunberg addresses world leaders at the start of the 2019 Climate Action Summit. JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10421665ds)

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

Greta Thunberg, 23 September 2019, New York

It was one year ago today that Greta Thunberg erupted on the global stage as a person of note and as a person with righteous indignation. Instantly she became the darling of the so-called progressives, and the object of scorn by the industrial and business class.

I am neither dismissive of her, but neither am I ready to beatify her as a saint of the current fad of the ecological movement (that is to say, if we’re honest with recent history, the ecological movement is a moving target of what “it” deems should be acceptable practices).

Just look at the abuse heaped on Michael Moore since he dared to contradict the current tenants of the gospel according to the ecological movement in his controversial film: “Planet of Humans.”

Rex Murphey, the ever sharpened rapier wit, writes:

“Michael Moore is a progressive’s progressive. He is a container of every correct progressive idea.

He bludgeons capitalism. He despises the big corporations. He wears a baseball cap. Susan Sarandon admires him. He hated George W. Bush. He endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016. He despises Donald Trump… Up until this week he was great buddies with Naomi Klein.

In the high cathedral of the progressive thought (the term is a loose one) Michael Moore is outstanding (pun, deliberate) buttress.

Truth to tell, Moore has always been specious, clever-cute, manipulative and one-dimensional in his presentations. His films, though labeled documentaries, were always more agitprop than analysis…”

To read a rebuttal to Moore, see George Monbiot, a leading environmental journalist who writes, “Monbiot take down of Planet of Humans.” He launches a scathing attack in the film, which he claims “has been pilloried for a series of errors, misrepresentations, out of date footage and appeals to “racist” population control arguments.” (See Thunberg and Monbiot speak together in #Naturenow).

Nevertheless, there is something to listen to in Planet of Humans – and – at the base of teenage Thunberg’s passion plea there is something we must examine. How do we have reasonable conversations about tough topics? I suppose to get the conversation going, you need instigators like Moore or Thunberg… but then what? How do talk about these things without devolving into merely taking sides and casting vitriol?

How Dare We?

Brian Wong wrote:

“At her speech at the United Nations summit on the impending climate crisis, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg spoke with passion and anger, calling out those who have been apathetic towards bringing about global warming. Her speech was criticised by many for Thunberg’s bellicosity, which allegedly put off potential sympathisers to the movement. Anger is alienating, upsetting and even exclusionary under particular circumstances – yet one can’t help but feel that Thunberg’s anger is at least partially justified. After all, it is decades of unbridled carbon emissions and industrialisation that have led us to the mess we are in today.

Thunberg’s speech – and what we make of it – epitomises an age-old conflict between those who oppose anger for its seemingly counterproductive consequences, and those who find anger a natural and appropriate human emotion with value in both public and private spheres.”

What we do with our Anger

Over three years ago, after Trump was elected president of the U.S., Pankaj Mishra of the Guardian wrote, Welcome to the age of Anger.

If this is a particularly angry age, what we do with our anger – for how we express it makes all the difference in its outcome. I can’t help feel that anger meeting anger travels in the direction of increasing violence; this is simply unproductive; it is simply destructive. I believe a commitment to the goals of a movement is best served through the process of non-violent, non-cooperation.

But that’s me… in theory.

In other words, I am not so self-righteous or naive to give the impression that I don’t have anger, or haven’t used it as a strategy for movement. It’s just that usually anger meeting anger is a bully’s game. It’s often a form of manipulation or the immature expression of a tantrum. It often becomes normal, and, to paraphrase a lyric from Bruce Cockburn, “the trouble with normal [anger] is it always gets worse.”

What and how we express our anger makes all the difference in how change is activated – for after the side that wins with the most violence – there remains, still, a legacy of anger.

The Struggle of Ideas

Perhaps all history will be marked with the struggle of ideas that meet with violence and injustice. How you struggle will be as important as the subject of your struggle.

May we be found wise and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love…

To understand more about anger, see “How we can be angry and not sin.”