Child Prophets and Proselytizers of Climate Catastrophe

  1. Comparative cases of children protesting: the 1963 crusade and the school climate strikes

Regarding mass protests of children, the same section 2 questions clarify the cultural or reality nature of the events. The 1963 children’s crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, took place within a wider campaign to desegregate the city and bring wider attention to racial discrimination. Although a non-violent protest (in which techniques the children were schooled), the use of children was considered controversial by many, including some adults within the desegregation campaign itself. In the end, campaigners were gambling that the protected social status of children, the shaming of authorities and emotive reactions in potential wider audiences, would gain them significant advantage. But at risk to their children; and if perceived as cynical, at risk of backfiring too. President Kennedy disapproved, though added that just grievances must be resolved. Churches were physical bases and protesters were supported by their faith, so there was a cultural sponsor. Yet as with Malala’s pitch, the crusade’s aims were secular. Children were themselves wronged (a critical factor) and currently, albeit likewise for their parents and all the community of color. These children weren’t pawns; directly and indirectly they’d suffered injustice and their resistance was genuine. They called for negotiation, but ultimately a specific solution, the end of segregation (the issue scope is pretty narrow). As seen today and wrt principles in the wider US and the world at the time, this was certainly not irrational. And definitely not astronomical, albeit requiring behavioral change from an empowered minority.

Greta being the main spokesperson for the children’s climate strikes, her answers stand for them too:

‘Children protesting’ summary
Very likely reality
1963 Crusade
Climate Strikes
Very likely cultural
a) Protest morally sponsored by a culture?
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
b) Protest driven by above culture’s main narrative?
n/a
No
Yes
Yes
c) Protesting current or future wrongs?
Current
Current
Future
Future
d) Protest dictates specific solution (& timescale)?
No (no)
Yes (yes)
Yes (yes)
Yes (yes)
e) Does the above solution seem irrational?
n/a
No
Yes
Yes
f) Is the solution astronomical?
No
No
Yes
Yes
Comment
Ideally a = no, but ->
b) = no, negates a).
e) = no, negates d).
c) based on un-founded projection.
Same as Strikes score.

Would a robot from Mars find the same answers? We can’t know; it’s impossible to free ourselves from bias. Yet the climate strike children are largely privileged plus not suffering current wrongs; their fear is a myth not strangled by adults. They faced no risk of heavy reaction, which doesn’t alone invalidate their cause but they appear to be pushing on an already opened cultural door. There’s been much approval from adults and influencers globally, and essentially no formal opposition from authority. Pushing on an open door seems like a paradox for a protest. It is, because cultural fears aren’t real, but via subconscious mechanisms certainly can’t be admitted as such. This doesn’t mean the children are pawns, except in the sense that they and adult adherents too are subconsciously pawns of the cultural narrative; as Greta herself notes many are (genuinely, see 5 below) anxious plus sad, angry or scared. But it does mean they’re essentially emotive proselytizers of a cultural narrative30b, i.e. climate catastrophism, and this culture will drive them as a wedge into power. In comparison, the 1963 children faced a very heavy-handed response: water-canon, dogs and jail. They definitely pushed against a closed door, which we know retrospectively (and really, even at the time) was bolted by local sub-culture. They certainly weren’t proselytizers acting out the bid of their own strong culture to capture authority commitment in support of belief; they weren’t demanding conformance to emotive existential narrative. Despite deploying their social advantages as children, they represented equity and reason that was countering a long-entrenched sub-culture of racism. History has smiled on their gamble back in 1963, but such cannot be foreseen.

  1. Children and cultural absorption

We’ve exhibited cultural behavior since before we were homo-sapiens-sapiens26. Due to long gene-culture co-evolution our brains are geared for cultural behavior, including support for an in-group / out-group recognition and reinforcement system. The latter can bypass our reasoning for the sake of group unity, via strong cultural belief and alignment. Religions are the most familiar class of strong cultures, and due our above inheritance cognitive scientist Justin Barret makes a case in ‘Born Believers’ that children have a default ‘affinity’ or instinct for the concept of god / gods. A religion-shaped hole if you will, just waiting to be filled by a matching social ‘shape’ within the child’s environment27. The theory doesn’t remove a significant role for religious indoctrination (though Barret makes clear his view this isn’t an exclusive / primary enabler of belief take-up), which reinforces default affinity plus delivers details of the particular religious system acquired.

The author speculates that significant effort and re-framing can ‘force-fit’ alternate concepts into this ‘hole’, e.g. the theory of Natural Selection as a world-view foundation. But apart from major potential downsides28, this is a very poor fit. No reasonable framing can imbue this theory with existential hopes and fears, cogent emotive cocktails and of course deeply felt identity, which are all standard features of cultures that for most of our history were figure-headed by god / gods / spirits. However, secular cultures are in essence religions with different details, working via the same mechanisms and exhibiting the same range of behaviors, including emotive convictions that bypass reason. Hence during child development climate catastrophism, with its anthropomorphized climate apocalypse29, carbon sin and tenuous hope of salvation based upon articles of faith such as renewables30, will slip very easily into such a ‘hole’ when children are exposed to this culture. And whatever the affinity / indoctrination mix, climate catastrophe claims carrying this major emotive pay-load are part of school and home life in many societies now. Via repetitive teacher30a / parent / peer / media promotion, indoctrination (not typically the aggressive sort) will occur. And the claims evolve, e.g. to XR’s: ‘Such claims are having the desired effect of terrifying children into supporting the aims of Extinction Rebellion: Thunberg is one of those children.’ [free].

Given enough years / exposure, the above morphs climate catastrophism from ‘learned in adulthood’, so overlaying / modifying existing beliefs, to a ‘received’ culture, absorbed, indeed just like religion, during childhood. This creates much more ingrained belief, and far less opportunity for reason to prevail against bias. Not to mention much more associated (and morally legitimized) fear, and simultaneous hope plus a wide range of other emotions. A problematic byproduct is moral approval of children acting in normally intolerable ways, e.g. public chants30b grossly denigrating a leader, or anyone who is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be blocking the cultural ‘solution’ for catastrophe. This genie won’t go easily back into the bottle.

Next page (5) for more…

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