I was once on an Overground train in East London where every one of the other passengers, nine of them in total, was staring at their mobile device. My first impulse was to take my own phone out of my pocket and tweet about how appalling the situation was.
It’s very easy to criticise other people’s bad behaviour when it comes to phone use – it’s much harder to notice and control our own foibles. We all have a blind spot when it comes to our own culpability. As a teacher and the parent of a young child, I’m conscious that when it comes to educating younger generations, I’m in no position to pass on much grown-up with regard to certain topics.
This is true in a broader sense when it comes to the climate. I don’t know what a proportionate individual response to global warming is, so I dread to imagine how I’m going to address the issue when my daughter’s a bit older and starts asking the obvious questions. It would be morally abhorrent for my generation or those above and below mine to sit back, praise what Greta and her cohort are doing to demand climate action, and feel complacent about the future of humanity. To do so would be to completely ignore the content, tone and urgency of their message.
It’s a central tenet of this blog that our refusal to face up to our responsibility to keep our planet habitable and the global upsurge in racist sentiment are intimately connected. Repressed fear returns as displaced anger against whatever targets are conveniently made available. In very much the same way, while our Government is now in utter turmoil in response to the predictable chaos caused by a pet project of a cabal of xenophobes who also all just happen to be dedicated climate liars, people around the UK are hunched over their/our stupid devices furiously demanding the actual head of a definitely very stupid and clearly extremely traumatised teenage mother who found herself involved in aspects of the adult world she clearly had little or no meaningful comprehension of.
Meanwhile, in the face of open contempt from a Government which makes no pretence whatsoever to represent their interests, thousands of young people have walked out of their schools to try to break the adult taboo on taking climate change seriously. Either we respond to their call and finally start to own up to the absolutely urgent absolutely fundamental changes we have to make to our economic systems and our everyday lives, or the central organising principle of our reality will be systematic programmes of scapegoating which will make Orwell’s Two-Minute Hate seem like a harmless game of Angry Birds. To paraphrase the same novel: if there is hope, it doesn’t lie on our phones.