Why Greta Thunberg triggers the troglodytes among us

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
September 28, 2019 /

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In spending any time probing the blather of bottom-feeders, there’s a danger of amplifying it.

A risk of implying that it’s common, ubiquitous even. It isn’t. On the whole, it’s not as though The Internet has it in for Greta Thunberg.

The teardowns and tirades aren’t everywhere: in my feed they certainly don’t outweigh all the love and praise, the admiration and all the go you good things.

But there’s an underbelly. A cruel and creepy world where it’s apparently perfectly fine — nay, encouraged — for adults, generally but not exclusively male adults, to shred a 16-year-old to pieces.

Greta ticks all the boxes — triggers the troglodytes amongst us — in some wholly predictable ways.

We quite like it, say, when they swim fast enough to earn “us” a gold medal.

We especially like them consuming our products and chiming about them on social media. But we largely abhor girl culture.

Things that girls like, things that girls are interested in, are routinely devalued and considered as trivial.

If a book, a band, a film, a foodstuff has a disproportionate teen-girl following — think Twilight, think Taylor Swift, think Billie Eilish — it’s rendered culturally unimportant at best and as vacuous crap at worst.

The moment girls scream and cry over something is the moment our culture has decided it’s wholly unimportant.

She’s not just a girl — she’s a girl with Asperger’s

We like certain 16-year-olds. Ideally, ones that look like they’re on the cusp of blossoming womanhood. Barely legal in porn parlance.

The spotlight for girls in our culture shines on the ones that are a tad salacious.

This won’t go unpunished though. Let’s not pretend being sexual doesn’t come at a cost; let’s not pretend that double standards don’t abound — but it’s the mandate.

If we’re going to pay her any attention, the least she can do is offer us something enticing to look at. To smile for us. To not be too strident. To play nice.

Greta Thunberg isn’t a 16-year-old doing sexiness for us. She’s not performing femininity, she’s not exchanging eroticism for a platform to talk about the environment.

She’s a soft-spoken girl with bare skin and pigtails. And because this packaging is so unfamiliar on the world stage — because we have no real track record of paying attention to girls who look like this — it’s acceptable to ignore her.

They’re naive, and their words — their wants, their hopes — get discounted.

But she’s not just a girl. She’s a girl with Asperger’s. And Asperger’s is commonly perceived as a disability.

And the disability frame means she’s not neurodiverse. Her differences aren’t what make her different — make her amazing, rather.

She’s rejected as fanatical. As a single-minded obsessive. As someone who keeps banging on about the same thing over and over again after everyone else has left the room.

This enables Greta to be brushed-off as not comprehending nuance, of not “getting” social cues. As failing to understand how the world really works.

As being not only naive, but as a bit “broken”. Certainly too broken — according to haters on the internet — to be listened to about policy matters.

Greta is the ghost of a very dismal Christmas future

But she’s not just a girl with Asperger’s. She’s a Swedish girl with Asperger’s.

In lots of ways, we quite like the Swedes.

We like their noir novels and their flat-pack furniture. Their ABBA, their Lykke Li. Their cosy cocoa-and-cake culture.

And we often find appeal in much of their public policy. Appeal right up until the point where we have to ponder paying for it.

Then, abruptly, Sweden is slammed as a socialist dystopia.

When a girl from Sweden tells the world all the ways that they are failing the planet, all the toil we’re neglecting to do for the Earth, she’s dismissed as a meddler.

She’s a person — and not just a person, but a mere girl — who’s looking down at us, who’s judging us.

If we can work out ways to disregard her — to use her age and accent and Asperger’s against her — then her scowling and judgment doesn’t matter.

In considering the source as less than, we can rationalise not paying proper attention. Afterall, the judgment of our inferiors matters little.

And this is what it’s really about. The pigtails and soft voice takes a backseat to the true problem with Greta Thunberg: she reminds us of the litany of our collective failings.

Not just about how we don’t care enough, but that we’re not doing enough. That we’re not outspoken enough. That we’re not sacrificing.

That even if we acknowledge that there’s a climate calamity, we’re not forgoing anything for it.

Just as we hate vegans because they remind us that there’s a dark cost — paid by animals every bit as sentient as our fawned-over puppies — to that burger, Greta is the ghost of a very dismal Christmas future.

It’s equal parts predictable and reprehensible that a girl gets targeted because she’s saying and doing what we’re too — variously — lazy, complacent and greedy to do ourselves.

But the reasons she bristles, the reasons that a soft-spoken 16-year-old Swede has the capacity to stir such defensiveness and prompt such venom, is testimony to the fact that she’s doing an awful lot right.

© Lauren Rosewarne 2019