I have to admit it: I was disappointed when I saw Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
It wasn’t because he didn’t deserve it. In fact, it was almost that he was too deserving. He’s achieved a degree of peace with neighboring Eritrea and helped shepherd through a host of economic reforms in the East African nation. Given the other people who’ve received the award, it’s almost as if he might not want to put it on his CV.
When we think of the Nobel Peace Prize, we think of the moral giants who’ve won it: The Rev. Martin Luther King. Malala Yousafzai. Desmond Tutu. Elie Wiesel.
Instead, we should probably think of the winners who were undeserving, sometimes profoundly so.
American liberals are popular in this category (Barack Obama, Al Gore, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War).
So are supranational organizations (the European Union, the United Nations, Amnesty International).
And then there’s a category that could be charitably characterized as individuals of dubious morality (Yasser Arafat, Mikhail Gorbachev, North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho).
In short, I was really hoping Greta Thunberg, once the odds-on favorite for the prize, would join this august company.
Yes, yes, I know — we’re not supposed to say not-nice things about a 16-year-old political football and amateur climate doomsayer, just her enablers. Hoping that she’ll join the company of a North Vietnamese dictator, a Palestinian terrorist and Al Gore isn’t a polite thing to wish upon a teenager.
However, I can’t think of any move that would have perfectly encapsulated the utter hollowness of the Nobel Peace Prize than handing it over to a mediagenic 16-year-old who’s done nothing for the “climate crisis” other than induce children to walk out of their classes.
If you needed further evidence of this, I give you an interview the pigtailed scold gave on BBC Radio 4 on Monday.
During the interview on BBC’s current events channel, Thunberg was asked what she’d say to President Donald Trump if the two were to meet.
“Honestly, I don’t think I would have said anything because he’s obviously not listening to scientists and experts, so why would he listen to me?” Thunberg said, according to the Washington Examiner.
“I probably wouldn’t have said anything; I wouldn’t have wasted my time.”
This is interesting inasmuch as she had said, during her much-ballyhooed trip to the United States via carbon-neutral boat, that she’d come to deliver a message to the president: “My message to him is just to listen to the science, and he obviously doesn’t do that.”
If she wanted to deliver that to his face, that probably would have been effective, if just as a photo op. Oh well.
Thunberg also said she was part of a crusade that Trump and the other suzerains of the status quo were fearful of.
“Me, myself alone is not much of a threat,” Thunberg said during the interview.
“But I’m part of a big movement that they probably see as a threat.”
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) December 30, 2019
Deep stuff there. Then again, this is a 16-year-old. What does she know about climate change? What does she know about the “crisis” she believes will engulf the world? What other people tell her about it.
To a certain extent, we’re all the same way. That’s how education works: You learn about a variety of opinions and then you make up your mind as you get older.
The thing is, Thunberg doesn’t evince having heard any other opinions other than that the world is collapsing in upon itself, which seems to be the point. She’s “listening to science and experts,” just the ones that agree with her and those around her.
Trump, for his part, has given her some good advice: “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!”
The “When Donald Met Greta” thread was left mostly unexplored during the interview. Instead, there seemed to just be more set pieces served up for the 16-year-old Nobel finalist. This included a Skype interview with nature filmmaker David Attenborough, whose films inspired a young Thunberg.
She also got a chance to go after populist Brazilian president and all-purpose gasbag Jair Bolsonaro, who called her a “brat.” (“Those attacks are just funny,” Thunberg said. “They are terrified of young people bringing change, which they don’t want. They see us as some type of threat.”) And she had a rare moment of clarity.
“I don’t why people are listening to me,” she said.
“I don’t know how long it will last. I just know that right now people are listening to me, and I need to use that opportunity and to try to get out as much as I can during that time.”
In terms of why people are listening to you, well, that makes two of us. I’m sure that Greta and those around her will make sure that she uses the opportunity to give all of us the old “how dare you” routine.
But here’s what Greta Thunberg won’t do during that time: meet with any expert who disagrees with her rhetoric.
As much as I don’t like to attack a teenage girl, I also don’t like to imply that she’s the Manchurian environmentalist.
It’s unfair to say that she’s a puppet of a cabal of environmentalist adults around her. It’s not unfair, however, to say that she’s woefully unequipped to deal with any kind of serious opposition to her worldview.
Thunberg doesn’t really want to address Trump aside from telling him to listen to scientists. All right, but then what about a sit-down with a scientist who doesn’t concur with her apocalyptic worldview?
It doesn’t even have to be someone who denies the existence of climate change. It could simply be someone who thinks this statement by Thunberg is beyond over-the-top:
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she said in her most famous address. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”
Will she sit down with scientists who don’t share this view? Will she sit down with a representative of the millions of people who will lose their jobs if policies like the Green New Deal are pursued? Will she sit down with economists and legal experts who believe there are flaws in her oratory?
No, of course not. Thunberg isn’t exactly seaworthy in the realm of debate. She tells you what to do and you’re supposed to dutifully listen. If you contradict her, you’re attacking a teenager.
That’s how it works, and it works that way for a reason: She’s an avatar of a movement, not a thought leader. That’s why she’s not going to sit down with Donald Trump, even though that would ostensibly be the dream of any activist — not because she couldn’t change his mind, but because even if she could, she’s totally unequipped to do so.
When Thunberg is an adult and these ideas can be properly questioned, my guess is that it’ll all end in tears. For right now, she’ll do.
That might sound facile and manipulative — but, in case you haven’t caught on yet, that’s the whole point.
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