Originally I wanted to write about something else but it can wait. I just can’t stand it to see a big shitstorm coming over young autistic climate activist Greta Thunberg expressing herself in a blunt but passionate way about the closing window to prevent a climate catastrophy on our planet. To be honest I didn’t listen to the latest news about the young activism movement for a while, mainly for one reason …
Things are rather different in Austria in comparison with other countries, probably due to the long monarchistic tradition where protest movements take little place in history (except for Hainburg Au protest and protest against nuclear power plants in Austria, to name both famous and successful ones in Austrian history). However, the current far right-wing coalition is greatly supported by the majority of voters and still accepted in the population considering the latest polls. Despite the obvious implications of climate change in Austria and alpine region, the government is much more immersed in spreading hatred and prejudice against minorities of all kind (people with disabilities, women, migrants, refugees, NGOs, worker’s chamber, etc…). Its ultimate plan is to install an austrofascist government with Hungary or Poland as a role model, where independent media is suppressed and people helping refugees are criminalised. You wanna know what this government will do about climate change? Raising speed limit on motor highways from 130 to 140 km/h, preferring economic reasons for big infrastructure projects over environmental protection. I couldn’t remember one reasonable legislative proposal to contribute to the fight against climate change. And Austria will need it. Glaciers and permafrost are thawing, the number of hot days grows continuously. Extremely dry summers like 2018 pose a threat for mountain farming and crop yield in lower terrain. Vermin spread over the fields and forest while there is a massive loss of insects and birds at the same time. Small protest movements against the current government stay small mainly since the democratic people (formerly known under the denotation “left”) aren’t united among themselves. I never experienced a generation-spanning protest movement such as we’ll see it in Germany against the danger of far right wing parties and policy. Austrian media rather deals with daily scandal and provoking proposals by the government than with young and promising climate activism movements.
Back to Greta Thunberg. German Wikipedia tells us …
Im Alter von 11 Jahren wurde sie durch die Beschäftigung mit dem menschengemachten Klimawandel depressiv und hörte auf zu sprechen und zu essen. Anschließend wurden bei ihr das Asperger-Syndrom, Zwangsstörungen sowie selektiver Mutismus diagnostiziert.
Translation: She got depressed by dealing with anthropological climate change and stopped talking and eating in the age of 11. Subsequently, she got diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, compulsive disorders and selective mutism.
These lines may complete the picture of a young and motivated girl but serve well as a pretext to discredit her engagement. Compulsive disorder and selective mutism have absolutely nothing to do with the important goals and facts her brutally honest message is conveying. As someone said today at Twitter: “Asperger’s are preferred to be considered as Wunderkinder in media stories but if they critisize the comfortable egoistic self-righteous capitalistic way of life, they’re denoted as ‘disturbed, living in their own world, used by left wing greenie parties, as sick human beings who are not allowed to have their own opinion”. It is also ironic that politics demand young people to become grown-up earlier and earlier (e.g., allowing them to vote earlier or get a driver’s licence), and when the express their opinions in a loud and fierce manner, it is wrong, especially when protesting occurs during school hours.
To throw in some facts …
Autism where Asperger’s is a subgroup under the umbrella term autism (and future term autism spectrum contains all former denotions for subgroups) is neither a disease nor a synonym for disturbed behavior.
Autistic people rarely live in their own world, even when they’re not talking. They are usually aware of their surroundings. In the case of Greta Thunberg, it even appears she’s sensing the outside world a bit too strongly leading to her temporary mutism. For autistic people, obvious injustice is sometimes very hard to take, especially when you know you can’t do anything about it. Autistic people tend to be overwhelmed by negative thoughts and catastrophy thinking from time to time. In a world with a majority of non-autistic thinkers, autistic people may feel very lonely and miss support to accommodate their needs and challenges. So the accusation “living in your own world” should be directed back to the accuser. It’s them people who refuse to acknowledge our planet is dying. Rapid loss of sea ice on both polar regions, thawing permafrost worldwide, rapid loss of worldwide insect population which we need to grow our own food. Rising sea levels, increasing number of damaging flood and heat wave events, etc. Do you really need to see the evidence? Step away from your computer and go outside!
Autistic people tend to develop a great passion for their area of interest, for different reasons, amongst others our lonesomeness gives us more time to occupy with details of a certain matter. You probably won’t get very far if you go to a party every weekend. I myself couldn’t develop a number of weather theories during school and university time if I have been out with friends every week. I decided to stay with a certain topic and lived it excessively. Autistic people tend to address great importance to details but I wouldn’t go so far they always miss the big picture. If your special interest is climate change, you have necessarily to deal with the big picture of complex physical processes around the globe.
To conclude, we see Greta Thunberg excelling one of possible autistic strengths – the ability to be straight and blunt to remove the scales of our eyes. No smalltalk, without frills. Pointing out her disability to discredit the message is mean and disrespectful.