There are serious discussions to be had about climate change, whatever its extent, direction, or causes (as it happens, I am a “lukewarmer“), but the growing millenarian cult surrounding Greta Thunberg is something else altogether, and something that almost certainly represents a more immediate danger.
Millenarianism, a belief with an almost uncanny capability to stir up the madness of crowds, has existed since pre-modern times. Over the years it has led to many apocalypses of its own, from Anabaptist Münster to revolutionary Petrograd (and before and beyond). It is clearly a delusion with a persistent — and powerful — psychological appeal.
Some years ago (and for what it’s worth) I reviewed Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience for The New Criterion.
This seems relevant:
As to what draws people to such fantasies, Landes offers numerous suggestions including the excitement of anticipation; the allure of secrets decoded; the satisfaction of being amongst the saved-to-be; the “elating coherence” of apocalyptic grand narrative; the jubilation that comes from breathing the “clean, clear air of apocalyptic righteousness”; the urge to punish; and the craving to see the richer and more powerful brought low. There is also, I reckon, the thrilling masochism of purification (appropriately, global warming makes an appearance within the pages of this volume) and vanity, too: Ours is the time. And then, lest we forget, there is the perennial attraction of bloody destruction (of bad people in a good cause, naturally). It’s not only disappointment that brings out the knives.
Meanwhile, over at The Spectator, Dominic Green steps in:
The acclamation of Greta Thunberg is as profoundly irrational as the millenarian cult of purgation and redemption that she advocates — puritan in its authoritarian demands, lascivious in its sensitivity to pain. The intrusion of this kind of sub-religious foolishness into politics is always a bad sign. It shows that we are in an environmental crisis, and that the world is coming to an end. But which environment, and which world?
The environment that is dying is the liberal democratic order in which we live. The world that is coming to an end is political: the post-1945 order, led by the United States. The form of Greta Thunberg’s protest is familiar to any student of medieval Europe, the civilization that produced the Children’s Crusade and Joan of Arc. The content of her protest is a deliquescence of Protestantism into narcissistic terror.
Read the whole thing.