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Clementine Ford: The Children Are Coming, Andrew Bolt. They Are Coming.

“I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru.”

So wrote Andrew “Australia’s Most Read Columnist” Bolt last week, in a tirade against climate activist Greta Thunberg. Bolt’s spray against the 16-year-old Thunberg included the claim that she was “deeply disturbed” and in a “fragile state”, and that she was being taken advantage of by “cynical adults”.

Thunberg has Asperger’s and obsessive compulsive disorder, neither of which preclude her from being allowed to speak about the reality of climate change. To suggest so isn’t just ignorant and ableist -- it’s also part of the long-standing historical practice of dismissing the troublesome opponents of power as ‘hysterical’ and ‘crazy’.

I believe that the notion that children and adolescents are somehow incapable of offering perspectives or opinions on matters with which they have either direct experience or direct investment is ridiculous, and merely another way that the status quo maintains itself.

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg. (Image: Reuters)

Last year, Scott Morrison criticised the participants of a national student strike against climate change inaction, telling them it would be better to stay in class rather than march against things that "can be dealt with outside of school”.

He doubled down on his views, saying “What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”

It’s a laughable statement, not least because it reveals how little the Prime Minister appears to associate ‘learning’ with actually ‘thinking’.

I’ve spent the past two days speaking to two different groups of Year 6 students. One group was participating in a mock government at Victoria’s Parliament House. The other was a group of student leaders in regional Victoria. All of them spoke from the heart about issues that were of concern to them, which ranged from climate change to bullying to sexism and racism. And thankfully, they were also surrounded by educators who were committed to validating those feelings of concern and creating space for these thoughts to form productive conversations.

Students gathered to demand the government take action on climate change in Sydney in 2018. (Image: Getty)

These are passionate, smart kids who care deeply about the world around them and are just beginning to find the language they need to prosecute their views and test their beliefs. What are they to think when they see people with inordinately loud megaphones and highly privileged platforms disparaging any efforts they make to be politically engaged?

We cannot deride The Youth for being apathetic and disinterested in the world if we also stand by and do nothing when their passion for social change leads to them being ridiculed, undermined and diagnosed with ‘mental disorders’.

Thunberg has never asserted herself as an expert on the science of climate change. Indeed, she has never asserted herself as anything other than a child forced into taking on the battles that far more influential and politically powerful adults are refusing to wade into.

She said as much in her blistering, succinct response to Bolt, tweeting, “I am indeed ‘deeply disturbed’ about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science. Where are the adults?”

It’s an excellent question. Where are we? Why are we leaving the responsibility of fighting for action on climate change to the generation who will be left to deal with our apathy and greed? It’s children like Thunberg who are desperately trying to initiate some kind of change from politicians who continue to put profits before the planet. And what does she get for her efforts? Bullied, undermined and ridiculed.

Similar hostility has been directed at children and adolescents in America who have demanded action on gun control from politicians more devoted to the NRA than they are to ensuring kids can get an education that doesn’t include learning what to do if an active shooter is on the loose.

In early 2018, the conservative TV host Laura Ingraham mocked Parkland shooting survivor, David Hogg, in a tweet that accused him of “whining” about not being accepted into his choice of college. Ingraham later apologised (when her show started to lose advertisers), but she’s one of many conservative adults who launched attacks against the young people who have become activists for gun control after surviving mass shootings at their place of learning. Children! Know your place!

These highly paid, highly conservative mouthpieces rant about the exploitation of children and how they’re being ‘brainwashed’ into rebelling against a system that serves only the most elite, but I think this is exactly what they do in their own line of work. Children are the perfect political football for them to use when it comes to protesting progressive action around things like climate change, gun control and even LGBTQI inclusivity, but they are still poised to attack the moment these children assert a different viewpoint.

There is a silver lining though. Men like Bolt are vast in number, but the grip they have on power will eventually pass as it always does.

It seems obvious to me that Bolt and his cronies aren’t concerned for Thunberg; they’re afraid of her. Because she, a mere child, will not cow to them. And nothing angers frightened men with power more than people who refuse to bend the knee. Greta Thunberg and the many thousands of children who have been inspired to march alongside her since her bold protest first made headlines are the ones who are going to save us all, and I believe that is a terrifying prospect for elitists who like sitting at the top of the pile.

The children are coming, Bolt. They're coming.