If Greta and her pals really want to get results, they should try protesting in Tiananmen Square
Originally published in The Sunday Times on 7 November 2021
Greta Thunberg is now kayaking back to the Swedish port where she left her bicycle, having spent the week outside a conference centre in Glasgow, swearing a lot and being interviewed by BBC journalists who fawned like soap stars being introduced to the Queen. They didn’t call the annoying little bucket of ego “Your Majesty”, but you could see they were thinking it.
I simply don’t get the Thunberg phenomenon. She has no knowledge of how the world works, no manners and no letters after her name, because instead of going to school she’s been busy sailing round the world so she can be mardy and abusive to grown-ups. What she needs is a smacked bottom.
Rod Liddle calls her the “Swedish doom goblin”, which is, of course, brilliant, but she’s worse than that. She’s a pest. A 4ft maypole around which the deranged and the weak and the unemployable can dance and chant and make a nuisance of themselves.
However, she did come up with one idea last week that struck a chord. In essence she said that there was no point listening to whatever the f*** the Cop26 politicians were saying inside their important meetings because the people outside knew what had to be done and could just get on and do it.
Absolutely. I already know that I should not buy palm oil or products that come with unnecessary plastic packaging, and that I should not use wet logs in my wood-burning stoves. I also know that if my journey’s less than a mile I should walk rather than use the car, and that I should make more of an effort to understand what goes in the recycling part of my bin and what doesn’t. I don’t need Joe Biden to wake up from one of his naps and tell me.
So here’s a tip, Greta: lecturing me on what needs to be done is pointless. It’s like standing in my bedroom every morning ordering me to wear clothes. I know already.
What you should be doing instead is cycling to countries where people are perhaps less well aware of what should be done. China, for example. That I’d like to see. Greta standing outside Zhongnanhai with her parka and her Glastonbury backpack and her microphone, lecturing the leaders about their policies on coal and trees and so on. Maybe she could be joined by those Extinction Rebellion halfwits who go to the middle of London to tell Barnes people in Teslas to be more green, rather than going to the slums of Calcutta, where two million people, living in poverty, cook their supper every evening on chulha stoves, which blanket the city in a thick yellow fog. These are the people Tarquin and their sexually ambiguous mates should be targeting. But they’re not.
I saw a map last week of where the world’s methane is coming from. And let me tell you that billions of tons of the stuff is pouring into the skies from India and China. And not a single hairy person in Liberal Democrat shoes is over there with a placard complaining about it. Because they’re all here, moaning about how my cows burp too much and how there’s a turd in the River Evenlode.
It’s the same story with the loft insulation protesters. There was a photograph in my newspaper on Friday that showed them blocking the path of a lorry that was actually delivering loft insulation. So, again, they’re inconveniencing the lives of people who are already doing their best.
They too should be in China, because I’d dearly love to see that as well. Especially the footage of the Chinese police unglueing the hands of a vicar from the tarmac in Tiananmen Square. “Oh no, Reverend. All your skin’s come off. And now you’ve hit your head on the police car.” I’d also like to see them daubing the words “racist” and “murderer” on statues of Chairman Mao, but this would never happen because they know they would not be treated with respect and reverence by China’s news crews. And neither would they be invited with Greta and the Lib Dem vicars round to President Xi’s for some nuclear-free vegan peace food.
This is why they’re not protesting in countries where protest might do some good: because they’re timid and wet. Greta turns up in Glasgow so she can bathe in some adulation for a few days, rather than be sent to a labour camp for a few decades.
That’s what these protesters need to get through their knitted hats and into their thick skulls: that if you want to get something done, and I mean really done, you’ve got to be uncomfortable. And you’ve got to be surrounded by people who don’t like you, not those who do. You’ve got to talk to Fox News, not CNN or the BBC.
Look at Gandhi and Mandela. They were prepared to undergo unimaginable hardships to further the cause in which they believed.
Thich Quang Duc was prepared to go even further. Had this Buddhist monk stepped out of his Austin A95 and glued himself to the road to protest about the South Vietnamese government, it’s virtually certain that no one would remember his name. And I wouldn’t have been able to recall what sort of car he had. But he didn’t glue himself to the road. Instead he set himself on fire and sat there, in the middle of a busy crossroads, until he was dead.
Then you have Emily Davison, who, to further women’s rights, leapt in front of the King’s horse at the Derby and was killed. And the Tolpuddle Martyrs and William Wallace. I think it’s safe to say that if the blue-faced agitator had fought for Scottish independence by glueing himself to a tree, Mel Gibson would have been less inclined to make that film.
But those days are long gone. Today we have a planet that’s being fried because too many people are living on it. And there’s not a single climate activist who’s prepared to make a protest by reducing the numbers.
They managed to block the path of a lorry that was actually delivering loft insulation.
(thanks to Margaret Stevenson-Wright)