Is it a call to action or a call to nihilism, the belief that life is meaningless because they’re all going to die anyway? Why bother if it’s too late, if things are so terrible that we’re all doomed? Is this how young people should view their world? Carol Roth argues that the message is the problem.
Children today should be enjoying their youth. They arguably live in the greatest time ever, with unparalleled access to information, connectivity around the globe, advances in health care and tremendous opportunity. But instead of embracing optimism, the adults in their lives are filling them with fear.
In the last few weeks, from town halls on climate change to “climate justice” marches, I have seen scores of children – some teens, some squarely of elementary school-age – proclaim their anxiety about the world ending.
In what is described as either an impassioned plea from the face of global warming or the abuse of an indoctrinated child, Greta Thunburg has become the voice of climate doom and political failure.
She’s no climate scientist. She’s just 16 years old, and has numerous personal issues. Yet, she’s become the “environmental activist” of the moment, making bold assertions that capture the fear of many in her generation.
Depending on the source, children are being told that if we don’t act right now to solve one particular “crisis” or another, we will all be dead in anywhere from 18 months to 12 years. That’s not a message of hope and optimism that kids should be embracing.
As Roth argues, this isn’t about the virtues of young people being “woke” to important issues like climate change, but about the message of death and doom, that it’s too late, that we’re all going to die. That there is no hope.
But she’s just a young girl, so we shouldn’t put too much stock in her negativity or predictions? Global warming is just one of the fears that have seized young people. They may not live long enough to suffer the end of times because of school shootings.
“I just don’t want to die.”
Leaders in Congress who fail to have the courage to act on gun violence are traumatizing an entire generation of students. pic.twitter.com/JMWrg9SSKD
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 23, 2019
When a senator tells a student “you’re right to feel that way” when she fears dying every day, Kamala Harris validates a belief that a 1 in 614,000,000 possibility should be a prominent, daily concern in a young person’s world. What’s a kid to believe?
The tragic death of children, the end of times, are certainly powerful tools for manipulating opinion, particularly for those more inclined toward feeling than thinking. But this is an adult perspective. What does this mean for the children who are being used as pawns?
Negativity is all around us, from mainstream media to social media. It’s not healthy for us to be constantly consuming a negative information diet, particularly when the general outlook for life is so robust. We need more gratitude towards the abundance, opportunities and advancements that surround us.
As an adult, if you want to mire yourself in pessimism, that’s your choice. But please, leave the kids out of it.
It’s not that society doesn’t have problems to face. We do. We always have. And whether we will overcome them this time remains to be seen, although human resilience remains quite the marvelous thing. But that doesn’t address the damage being done to the young in the process.
If the world is telling you that pretty much everything that matters will end with your death and destruction, that there is no future of happiness, that the sky is constantly falling and even if we fix one problem, the next problem will still “get” you, what’s the point?
These are curious times. We are safer than we’ve ever been. Our medical capabilities were unimaginable to your grandparents. Gay people can marry and while racism remains, society has made huge strides. And there are significantly more women getting college and advanced degrees than men, although you wouldn’t know it from the growth in their grievances.
In the little niche of criminal law, hundreds of wrongfully convicted have been exonerated and freed. Pervasive video has conclusively shown that our cries of years ago, that cops sometimes beat or kill people for no good reason, is real. The one-way carceral ratchet is being addressed with life plus cancer sentences being reduced for some, even though there remains many innocent people in prison and many serving grossly excessive sentences. It’s far from perfect, but it’s moving in the right direction, even if too slowly and inconsistently.
Is the future so bright, you gotta wear shades? In many ways, it is. In many ways, it isn’t. But facing our problems with overwhelming negativity and doom leaves young people without hope.
This isn’t their fault. If all you feed them is terror, then what else could we expect but a world of terrorized kids.
But the world really is that horrible? But the fears are real, the problems are real, the world is truly horrible? First, this isn’t real. It’s not that the problems aren’t real, but that the overwhelming sense of doom is a lie perpetrated to manipulate people’s opinions. Fear is a powerful weapon, far more so than joy and hope, and it’s used to game your emotions to get you on board with ideas that would otherwise seem outrageous and absurd. This is nothing new.
Second, so what? If we’re all going to die anyway, then spending the rest of our existence wallowing in the misery of coming disaster isn’t going to change it. What will change it is the hope that there is a wonderful future worth fighting for, worth working toward. The belief that we wake up every morning with the possibility that we can overcome problems that seemed impossible to solve is what pushes us forward. And when we push forward, we strive to find solutions.
We’re killing our children. It’s not their fault they live in fear and have given up hope. It’s ours, for giving them nothing but doom to look forward to. Greta Thunberg is right when she says “this is all wrong.” Our children have a wonderful future ahead of them, and by believing in it, and fighting for it out with intelligence rather than emotion, it can be achieved.
This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Do it for the children.