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We've all heard them – the eye-rolling rhetoric of stale, pale, male outrage against Greta Thunberg's impassioned plea to the UN Climate Action Summit, where she took no prisoners, saying, "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words...How dare you."
The interesting thing about these privileged outbursts is that they are less concerned with Greta's message than they are with here breaking down power dynamics that adults hold about young people (not to mention a girl with unique function such as aspergers) – that they should be seen and not heard and be respectful to adults, no matter what.
In contemporary leadership theory we talk about hosting new conversations to create change:
“We change the world when we create the time and space for heartfelt, unique conversations that discuss values and affirm doubts, feelings, and intuition.”
― Peter Block, The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters
But there seems to be another, more subtle issue at play in Greta's case and those of other marginalised, powerless voices. Unless those with privilege change their attitudes about those without privilege, the privileged won't listen to what is being said, new or otherwise:
“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”
― Margaret J. Wheatley
At the heart of listening to new conversations lies the need to value diversity : the synergy of our uniqueness and commonality.
Until the Clarksons, Garners and Hoskings of the world respect the similarities as well as the differences of adults and young people, female or male, with or without common function – intelligence, passion, values, rights etc – Greta Thunberg and tomorrow's adults will always be discounted as naughty girls and boys.
(Thanks to additional diversity input from Jeannie Grant.)