- Comparative cases of children in charge: Malala, Greta, and Nongqawuse
The article Child Soldiers in the Culture Wars3 notes: ‘The value proposition represented by politically active children is obvious. Sensitive subject matter that withers under dispassionate scrutiny thrives when that kind of analysis is taboo.’ Added to which, the emotive influence of the meme that children by virtue of innocence possess special insight / veracity, significantly enhances the persuasiveness of all these girls. (Despite this meme is false4, irrelevant of personal aspects such as Greta’s Asperger’s syndrome). These factors create an emotive smokescreen that can amplify the irrational in our perceptions. Determining per section 1 whether reality or culture dominates the pitches made to authority by these three girls regarding major, complex social issues, some questions to be asked are:
- a) Is the child morally sponsored by a culture?
- b) If yes to a), is the child’s pitch rooted in / driven by the culture’s main narrative?
- c) Does the pitch represent an issue of current or future wrong[s]? Future is more likely cultural.
- d) Does the child dictate a specific solution (and timescale)? Even with great complexity, culture may.
- e) If yes to d), and whatever is a)/b), does the solution seem irrational5? Strongly cultural solutions are.
- f) How big (behavioral and infra-structure change) is the ask? Cultural asks can be astronomical.
(Level of respect is also interesting, fervent belief ultimately respects no authority above its own). The answers tell us whether emotive enhancement is merely an extra push to an already sound reality pitch, or a critical means to guarantee the invocation of cultural fears6.
The answer to a) is ‘yes’ for all three cases. In her UN pitch advocating education for children (especially girls) and protesting the extremism / bias and poverty that closes this down, Malala, the girl shot in the head by the Taliban, makes very clear that she is a religious adherent. She starts out with thanks to God and later cites inspiration from Mohammed and Jesus Christ (among others). However, regarding b) it’s also clear her case isn’t mainly driven by religious narrative. Indeed, her own victimhood was a result of an (extremist) interpretation of religious narrative, as Malala herself puts it, a ‘misusing of the name of Islam’. Her promotion of the supreme value of knowledge, plus plea for peace, prosperity, universal free education and the protection of rights, is consistent with her religiously framed principles. Yet these aims are nevertheless largely secular, and certainly not owed to culturally (religiously) instilled fears. Question c) is ‘current’ for Malala’s pitch (for details see footnote 7). Regarding d), albeit calling for a rejection of prejudice and for developed nations to pull their weight, Malala doesn’t dictate a specific solution, nor a date by which major progress must be achieved. So e) is n/a. But with an implied goal of assisting current sufferers, the ask is still big. Likely a major acceleration of longstanding efforts plus new initiatives are both needed; however regarding f), this isn’t astronomical8. Malala shows respect to leadership9.
The culture sponsoring Greta’s pitch to authorities is characterized here. The core narrative of this culture, propagated for decades by numerous authority sources from a raft of the highest in the world downwards, is a high certainty of imminent (decades) global climate catastrophe. Greta’s words10 leave no doubt that her pitch is driven by this narrative, so b) is a ‘yes’. Notwithstanding some secondary claims of current harms11, Greta’s pitch mainly concerns future and overwhelmingly greater damage, albeit she emphasizes imminence (to ‘irreversible’). So, c) is ‘future’. Where the main event is clearly occurring already, this cannot be a cultural fear; for a projected future occurrence, it could be (although even in the former case, causality could potentially still be attributed to a fairy tale). Regarding d), Greta does dictate a solution and also a timescale12. Answering e) involves subjective views. However, although Greta takes climate catastrophe, the ‘sacrifice of civilization and the biosphere’, for granted in her short UN speech, her longer UK13 and French13a pitches cite the IPCC as confirming this catastrophe. But the IPCC science13b doesn’t support a high certainty of imminent (decades) global climate catastrophe. [Note: this confirms the assumption from observed social characteristics per the above link, i.e. the policed central narrative of catastrophism is emotively emergent, aka wrong]. Applying this benchmark, Greta’s solution is geared to address emotive invention and not reality. This is indeed irrational; e) is a ‘yes’. On f), Greta is pitching to world authorities, and her ask for the world is astronomical. To fix imminent global apocalypse requires humanity’s largest behavioral / infrastructure adaptation since the industrial revolution, maybe since the invention of farming, on essentially a crash timescale14. Whatever policies mainstream science might call for, it doesn’t justify this radicality. Greta shows no respect to leadership14a plus claims they (generically) lied15; emotive conviction to the catastrophic no doubt makes this seem irrefutable.
In 1856 the Xhosa nation in South Africa, whose lifestyle and economy were largely based on keeping cattle, was under pressure. From a century of serious colonial encroachment, from a fatal lung disease (brought out of Europe) afflicting many of their cattle, and from internal political rivalries as the nation struggled to deal with their difficult situation. In April 1856 a young girl, Nongqawuse, the niece and adopted daughter of a councilor of the overall king, Sarhili, brought a prophecy of salvation to the Xhosa leadership (Sarhili and tribal chiefs). The prophecy was communicated to Nongqawuse, who is variously described as 14 to 16 at the time, by ‘the spirits of two ancestors’. To achieve salvation, she said, all of the Xhosa’s cattle must be killed, grain destroyed and cultivation cease. Plus, new houses / enclosures must be built; essentially nothing ‘contaminated’ must remain. Upon full compliance, new unsullied cattle would be resurrected from the dead, (new) granaries replenished and the European settlers swept away. In time, albeit not across the entire nation as some chiefs resisted, the prophecy gained majority adoption. So, several hundred thousand cattle were killed (of which the meat couldn’t be eaten) and much food was destroyed. The nation soon descended into famine and chaos. The Xhosa homeland population dropped by three quarters (~78,000), from a combination of starvation (~40,000) and withdrawal for colonial wage labor or slavery16. Xhosa independence, already weak, was lost.
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