Strange World: The Radical Rhetoric of Greta Thunberg

[A version of this piece was published by Green Left on 8 January, 2020.]

On Friday, 20 August, 2018, rather than go to school, Greta Thunberg sat outside Swedish parliament to protest inaction on climate change. The then-fifteen-year-old school student had with her some flyers, and a handpainted wooden sign that read: โ€œSkolstrejk fรถr klimatetโ€ (school strike for the climate). On the first day of her strike, she sat alone, but news of her protest quickly spread via social media. On the second day, others joined her, and so began a youth-led protest movement comprised of millions around the world who have taken to the streets to demand a liveable future.1


โ€˜Harrison Bergeronโ€™ ยท Kurt Vonnegut ยท 1961


Contains spoilers.

United States, 2081 AD. Amendments to the US Constitution have brought about widespread equality, to the exclusion of no one. That venerated phrase of the 1776 Declaration of Independence declaring that โ€œall men are created equalโ€ has been enacted literally, enforced by the tyrannical Handicapper General and her agents. The society that emerges is an absurdist dystopia whose denizens are hobbled via inconvenient and unwieldy contraptions. Radio earpieces emit shrieking tones to restrict extraneous thought, athletes and dancers stagger beneath sash weights and bags of birdshot, and masks and prosthetics render attractive people hideous, so that no single person might take advantage of their innate intelligence, strength, agility, or beauty.