At this week’s gathering of economic pooh-bahs who flew into Davos, Switzerland on their private planes, an important debate ensued between the US treasury secretary and Greta Thunberg, 17 year old prophetic spokesperson for the Earth and especially for her generation who are inheriting a sick planet. She asserted that current plans are too modest to truly deal with the problem, that we needed more of a sense of urgency and deeper solutions.
She was attacked by treasury secretary of the United States, Steve Mnuchin, who does not even understand what climate change means—he actually said we should not use that language but should instead talk about clean air and clean water. All this while the Australian continent is in flames and catastrophic floods as well as prolonged droughts and ever more wild hurricanes and the highest temperatures ever are being recorded around the globe.
Mnuchin replied to Thunberg’s warning with a patronizing message telling her to go to college and then she can talk about economics.
One problem with this message is that Mnuchin went to college (and lots of his fellow economic pooh bahs) and where were they when the economic collapse happened 12 years ago? As I recall they had no inkling the collapse was coming and were in full panic when Main Street collapsed (and is still in collapse in great part) and these pooh bahs, having predicted nothing about what bad loans would do, rushed to Main Street (ordinary citizens) and congress for a bailout from Wall Street’s excesses.
A second problem with Mnuchin’s college education is that it seems to have been completely lacking in a study of ethics or values. For them the bottom line seems to be all about money—not people or the planet or future children.
A third problem is that he and his boss fashioned a tax cut for corporations and people like those at Davos promising that wealth would trickle down for the rest of us. Instead it has increased the debt by a trillion dollars that the young (like Greta) will supposedly pay down the line.
But the deepest problem with Mnuchin’s arrogant response to Greta and her generation is the evil of adultism once again asserting itself. As I wrote thirty years ago, adults should not envy the youth or neglect them or project resentment onto them and burden them with debts, scorched earth, scarce waters, devastated forests, dwindling species, despoiled beauty, fossilized institutions. Attend to the youth in yourself and you will heal your relations with the young and with the generations still unborn. ‘For Wisdom opened the mouths of the dumb/ and gave speech to the tongues of babes.’ (Wis 10:21)
Perhaps Mnuchin should move beyond his failed college experience to listening more deeply to Greta Thunberg. Wisdom trumps knowledge.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, p. 198.
Queries for Contemplation
Have you heard about the evil of Adultism before? What do you know about Adultism?
Have you experienced it as a young person? As an older person?