No life is not black or white: Let’s help youth see the light of hope between the shades of grey

No life is not black or white: Let’s help youth see the light of hope between the shades of grey

Bambi’s current post is a quick comment to an article by Naomi Klein that she just read in the Toronto Star (Sept 14, 2019) and entitled “Maxime Bernier attacked Greta Thunberg’s autism. Naomi Klein says autism made the teen a global voice of conscience”:

Bambi cannot help not to weigh in on the conclusion of Klein’s article before commenting on its introduction because, in her mind, encouraging a black and white view in youth is worrisome. This is even a bigger threat than climate change or Maxime Bernier’s clumsy yet possibly hurtful words. Bambi will explain in the following paragraphs: 

It is surprising how Naomi Klein, a brilliant middle-aged writer/activist and a mother, forgot how teen brains are not fully developed yet.

Whether with high functioning end of the autism spectrum disorder (i.e. Asperger syndrome) or not, all youth go through adolescence.

Adolescents typically have trouble understanding all the nuances or complexities underlying experiences and behaviours.

Thus, adolescents typically tend to see the world in black and in white or in good and bad. In other terms, they have a simple view of what is good and bad, what is right or wrong, etc.

To add more complexity to the above, adolescence is a time of dramatic and rapid biological in addition to psychological and social changes.

There is an increased risk of depression, regardless of any complex care need like autism spectrum disorder.

Plus, child and adolescent epidemiological data generally agree that before puberty the rates of clinical depression are similar in girls and boys. However, gender differences tend to begin to appear during adolescence.

Greta is an adolescent girl with autism. It is well known that teens with autism spectrum disorder often experience medical mental health disorders, such as anxiety and clinical depression (depression usually goes hand in hand with anxiety). They may also have medical physical problems and challenges in transitioning to adulthood.

All this is of course independent of any climate change crisis (or breakdown, to use Klein’s term). Imagine with concerns about it then?

Thus, adults have the duty to simply support youth during their adolescence journey and transition to adulthood.

Of course, like Greta, youth with similar conditions can teach us about life. They can inspire us in many ways with their intelligence and ability to focus on matters for a long period of times (obsessions).

Furthermore, let’s not forget that we all have a bit of Greta in us. By this, Bambi means that we can all have autistic traits. This being said, Greta’s story of mental health issues is not a secret. It is actually public: her mother published a book and Bambi has read her mom’s tweets or interviews.

In a clinical depressive episode, people (young and old) may have a black and white view of the world.

Once again, it may be unwise to encourage both Greta and her young peers to remain trapped in this view.

Bearing this in mind, Bambi would like to comment now on the introduction of Klein’s article. The author started by writing about how Mr. Maxime Bernier “insulted” Greta (in one tweet out of a series) by stating her mental health struggles in order to score a certain point.

Yes, he did not choose the most sensitive words, Bambi sadly agrees. However, he had the humility to clarify his thoughts afterwards. How many politicians have the courage/humility to do so?

Bambi watched/listened to the video of Klein with Greta and her other talented peers. What a smart, friendly, and funny girl this Greta ?!

 Klein was excellent in general and happy to meet Greta. However, at one point, she took the time to mention Mr. Bernier’s story to Greta and her American audience, without any apparent consideration for Greta’s feelings. Perhaps she asked her privately before if she can ask this question? Who knows? Luckily, Greta seemed to joke about this story. Perhaps she has already learned to develop a thick skin like politicians? Good for her then!

As for Bambi, she would have preferred to see Klein debating with Bernier about Greta’s comments: “To solve the climate crisis, we have the money in the banks. Just give it away”.

Anyhow, it surprising how an experienced writer, like Ms. Klein, omitted to cite her references properly. Specifically, she started her article by informing us that Mr. Bernier is the “leader of the *extremist* People’s Party of Canada”. However, instead of inserting a link to his political party and letting us see for ourselves his extremism, she inserted/cited an article in the Toronto Star about him. Instead of showing the readers the bio of Mr. Bernier, she inserted a link to another (biased) article about this politician.

Mr. Bernier’s words may have been interpreted as being insulting to Greta. Klein’s words could be said to be insulting the Toronto Star readers’ intelligence.

To come back to Greta, Klein added: “In fact, a big part of what has made Thunberg such an inspiring figure, is the fact that she is a living proof that diversity — in her case neurodiversity — is absolutely key to the survival of our species”.

Well said… but what about the (intellectual, political, and scientific) diversity? Doesn’t this matter anymore?

Furthermore, Klein noted that people on the autism spectrum disorder are “intensely vulnerable to bullying” because of the neurodiversity.

Interesting point with which Bambi agrees. However, what about their intensive vulnerability to political child use (abuse?)?

Anyhow, Bambi worries about how Greta will fare in the long-term given all this premature fame in life. Is she really equipped to deal with it? Of course, her parents are there to protect her. However, they can also end up suffering from fame by proxy or from their own fame (as activists or as artists). Indeed, numerous examples of young Rock or Hollywood stars teach us that fame is challenging. After becoming famous, it is hard to turn back. The pressure can become unbearable for all, especially for an adolescent (with autism and/or co-occurring other medical problems).

Klein also wrote about how, “at age 15, she decided to stop doing the one thing all kids are supposed to do when everything is normal: go to school”.  Is this an insinuation that it is OK for other kids to stop going to school now to be like Greta.

According to Klein, “pretty much *every aspect of our economy* would have to change if we were to decide to take climate change seriously, and there are many powerful interests that like things as they are”. Isn’t this solution too extreme (not Bernier then ?)?

Klein concluded her article as follows: “Because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white.”

This white and black view scares Bambi. Although she may be wrong, it can lead to an intolerance for any developing nuance in one’s own thinking and… in others’ diversity of opinions.

It is one thing to lecture adults. It is another thing to play the same game with adolescents. Indeed, Bambi is concerned not about the climate problem per se (although this is important) but rather by the whole world-wide “circus” or drama around Greta/the climate. Even someone as accomplished as Naomi Klein seems to be inflating her own public image with Greta’s brand name.  

Teens usually have existential questions concerning values, love, friendship, parents, the future, society, morality, religion….and justice. They naturally question everything. They judge adults. Sometimes they do so very harshly because, as mentioned above, they cannot see the nuances yet. They are also searching for and building their own identity. They remain vulnerable, despite their increasing autonomy.

To conclude this post, school is usually important for children’s education all the time, not just from Monday to Thursday. Plus, it costs money to skip all these Fridays. Instead of strikes (where many kids are just excited by skipping school), let’s help youth keep focused. They will need their focus and hard work to graduate. Some of them will eventually train to become the scientists of tomorrow. Those scientists who will innovate solutions to the world’s climate change problem.

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