In recent weeks, a question has become common in the most conservative circles around the world: who (or what) is behind Greta Thunberg? Swedish detractors claim it is impossible for a 16-year-old girl to embark on her world crusade without a hidden agenda. Apparently saving the world is not reason enough.
Thunberg has been accused of being a puppet of Bill and Melinda Gates, of being funded by the philanthropic foundation of U2 lead singer Bono, and was even falsely pointed to in a photo as billionaire George Soros's secret granddaughter. Falsehoods.
The truth is that Greta Thunberg is not a miracle messiah. Without detracting from its own merit of getting where it came, it seems that Greta is the social fruit of a country where money speaks, but not as loud as in other corners of the world.
Sweden is a parliamentary monarchy that follows the Nordic model of social welfare (alongside Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland): universal health care and higher education, gender equality, protection of civil liberties and human development. All funded by a tax regime that promotes widespread redistribution of income.
The secular state has a serious commitment to social cohesion and offers protection to vulnerable individuals and groups in society while maximizing public participation in social decision-making.
But as our abused article 5 of the Constitution attests, all are not equal before the law just because the law says so. The effectiveness of the Swedish system depends on a broad social fabric that underpins the acceptance and enforcement of laws, and further promotes its basic notions of equality and social solidarity.
This is evident in news that is astounding around the world: a supermarket chain that no longer sells Brazilian products in protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro or the newspaper that refuses to advertise fossil fuel products and services.
Reactions of this nature, which put values above financial success, are not limited to small enterprises. Five years ago, a television ad used a traditional Swedish poem to promote the sale of a car. The Swedish Academy (Nobel laureate) understood that the company (which had been authorized by the poet's successors) was violating a cultural symbol and distorting its original message. The advertisement went down.
The main instrument in the construction of this social capital is one: education. And then the mystery of Greta Thunberg begins to unfold more clearly. If other countries have already produced young leaders in environmental activism, there is something peculiar about the Swedish girl that may explain her success.
Greta Thunberg grew up in a society in which the child has, at least in some areas of life, as much power as adults. It is common in Swedish preschools for children as young as two to eat their meals in buffet form, choosing what they want to eat. Each learns very early to reach out with a flat hand saying “stopp, min kropp” (stop, my body), in an unmistakable manifestation that the other cannot come close to her body if she does not want to. In fact, the country was the first in the world to ban corporal punishment in children in the 1950s.
(Incidentally, it is worth adding that in Sweden, sexual consent needs to be expressed: whoever does not consent.)
The Swedish child learns early on that nothing is more important than his integrity, physical or moral. Nothing is more natural then to rebel against a system that threatens its very existence. Nor is it surprising that Thunberg opted for a different activism, which was long in force without major institutional initiatives. There was no need in her Swedish mindset to act like adults: her child's voice was worth it too.
If the Swedish educational system stimulates a perception of each other as an individual, it also promotes a strong sense of collectivity. It is common for day care children to meet in an “assembly” to democratically decide which special activity they will do that week. Exercises of solidarity and collective thinking are also frequent. On outdoor walks, many schools instruct children to line up in India holding a rope, so that if one stops, everyone stops and attention turns to the one who interrupted the walk: does he need help? This week I received a picture of my four-year-old daughter's school. The teacher had placed a hula hoop on the floor and asked the children how many would be able to stand inside at the same time. Seven, showed the picture. They hugged tightly together, holding each other so no one fell.
In Thunberg's case, the role of Swedish education becomes even clearer. At age 11, after watching a video on plastic pollution in the seas, she became increasingly concerned about environmental degradation and global warming. Worry turned to anxiety and a strong depression. She was then diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (a form of autism that often expresses itself in repetitive behaviors and limited interests), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism.
Thanks to a principle of accommodation of differences by the Swedish educational system, the girl was sent to a special school, which allowed her to do "Strikes" on fridays to protest against the climate crisis with a cardboard sign in front of the Swedish Parliament – which eventually earned him worldwide notoriety.
The accommodation of the different, as a state policy, allowed an autistic child toiscursasse in United Nations forum cursing the pursuit of "infinite economic progress." In the eyes of world capitalism, it is a heresy, to which the girl allows herself without blushing her cheeks.
This is because they have been taught that there is something above economic development. This is because they have been taught that your voice is worth as much as the others. This is because there is room for everyone inside the hula hoop if we make room and embrace each other.
. (tagsToTranslate) environment (t) activism (t) Sweden (t) autism (t) sheet