Policy-making has been with us since the dawn of humanity and generally its rules are timeless. Governments, heads of states, diplomats, religious leaders – whether they are part of the establishment or in opposition – have employed various instruments in a bid to tip the balance of the power play to their advantage. These included propaganda, finances, religions or ideologies and – the most powerful of all – emotions. It is, however, the twentieth century that made extensive use of… children. Not that the instrument was not known earlier: the reader will have remembered the Children’s Crusade of the Middle Ages, for instance.
With the advent of the visual mass media – photography, film footage, television, the internet – this present-day biblia pauperum, the lay and religious leaders alike have learnt to how make a highly emotional appeal to the public through children. The effectiveness of this instrument cannot be overrated. Why, we are – men and women – biologically hardwired to positively respond to a child’s facial expressions. If you want to gain support for aid directed toward a far-away country, you post pictures of children’s lovely faces, now sad, now smiling – whichever better suits the purpose at a given time and place – and the hearts and minds of the receivers of the message are sure to be won over. That’s the power of an innocent child’s face, as we are accustomed to saying.
Nowadays presidents, prime ministers, monarchs – some of them intentionally childless! – and popes like to be filmed with or photographed in the company of children. The message is clear: someone who likes children is good, intends no harm. The little ones are not only used to elevate a politician’s image but also to advance and advocate a policy.
Case in point: Engelsina Markizova. She ran up to Joseph Stalin during a state celebration, he picked her up and gave her a hug, and the images of this even showing in a simple manner the humaneness of the top communist leader were later popularized throughout the Soviet Union.
By Unknown – Transferred from ru.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Pavlik Morozov. Framed by the authorities as the role model for the Soviet youth. His merit? He pledged greater allegiance to the state and the communist party than to his parents, who he denounced to the secret police.
By Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ. It was her heart-rending but fraudulent account of the Iraqi soldiers throwing the babies out of incubators that was widely publicized in the run-up to the first Gulf War with the aim of making the world opinion favourably disposed to the American intervention.
Alan Kurdi. His drowned corpse graced the covers of multiple magazines and newspapers published cross Europe during the notorious influx of the Third World people. It was expected that the image of a dead child would favourably dispose Europeans to accepting wave after wave of aliens by switching off their cognitive abilities and turning on their emotions.
Greta Thunberg. A sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, who in December 2018 lectured the leaders of the world in Katowice, Poland,1)Greta Thunberg at COP 24 in Katowice, YouTube 2018-12-13.and in January 2019 in Davos, Switzerland,2)‘I want you to panic’: 16-year-old issues climate warning at Davos, YouTube 2019-01-25.on the climate issues and urged them to act. This impassioned speech by a teenager, who read out the ghost-written texts “on behalf of climate justice(!)”3)The Katowice speechwas, of course addressed to the broad public, not to the world powerful leaders without whose consent she wouldn’t have been able to raise a finger in protest of anything. Her words were devised to make people buy into, persist in the belief in and never call into doubt the huge climatic problems that humanity is allegedly facing.
‘I want you to panic’: 16-year-old issues climate warning at Davos,
Engelsina Markizova’s father was shot dead by the Stalinist police a year later and her mother was imprisoned for a period. Pavlik Morozov’s fate is heavily disputed by historians some of whom posit that the whole case was the invention of the Soviet propaganda. We only know about Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ that she was the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. Alan Kurdi has turned out to have fallen victim (alongside with his mother and elder brother) to the human trafficking performed by his own father, who took him on a dinghy.4)Migrant crisis: The truth about the boy on the beach Aylan Kurdi, Express 2015-09-15.Just as is the case with Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ, we also need to wait some time to learn the story behind Greta Thunberg.
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We strongly suggest that the readers familiarize themselves with Greta Thunberg’s Katowice speech in which in a strange reversal of roles this teenager is berating the grown-ups and the powerful of the world. Emphasis added.
My name is Greta Thunberg. I am fifteen years old and I am from Sweden. I speak on behalf of climate justice now.
Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do, but I’ve learnt that you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we all could do together if we really wanted to. But to do that we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. You only speak of green, eternal, economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess even if the only thing sensible to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us, children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and a living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.
In the year 2078 I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you, maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else and yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes. Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground and we need to focus on equity. And if the solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself. We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people. Thank you.
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