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Why school hours are precisely the right time to march for Mother Nature

maandag 11 februari 2019
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  • PS. During the early morning walk I made with Fellow in our silent neighborhood after the writing, a formation of about twenty geese flow over us in the direction of the North. That is an observation seldom made in Louvain. I imagined sending Message along with the big birds all the way to Greta’s Sweden, like the little man on the back of the goose in the lovely tale “Nils Holgersson’s wonderful Journey”.

* Address via Facebook:

“Hi Greta and Anuna! In this early hour, I have written a new Word of Encouragement and Inspiration for the Movement of Strejk & March for Mother Earth. The title is "Why school hours are precisely the right moment for the Marches for Mother Earth".

Enjoy! With Love from Louvain.”

Dear Greta and Anuna,

‘I scent the morning air’…

(from Shakespeare's Hamlet!). A new and purified dawn is rising, a life where less energy will go to the man-made Mega Machine and it’s all too little noticed pestilence.


I feel the morning moment is just fine to offer you and all those who share our Cause some more assistance. I want to help you and the movement to find the best words to express to the adult community the sense and sanity, the profound significance of what we do. I guess that task is not always easy, because your rise does not stem from academic, scholarly reasoning and elaborated expert knowledge, but rather from a drive that originated in the depths of your female human soul. As an experienced opinion maker, I know altogether how important it is to win from our adversaries in the long run, to explain in clear words what exactly moves us and why. 


The Movement you, Greta, started single handed and in so solemnly a stubborn way in Stockholm (and that afterwards was brought successfully to brave little Belgium by Anuna) is worth fighting for, even if that means me to get up in the middle of the night, when Inspiration has come. The day before Yesterday, the Message reached us through Facebook that school youngsters in Holland, Germany and later in the United Kingdom too, are ‘infected’ with the visionary zeal that sprang from your wholehearted vision, and drives thousands out of the classrooms onto the streets, in defense of the Wellbeing of Mother Earth and of all its inhabitants.


Some say,

‘Ah, you young people, keep quiet and wait! The combined power of Capital and Technology is surely going to solve the Environment Problems. Obey. Like youngsters ought to do. Sit still, listen to full grown men, give due attention to your teachers! If you want to march for Mother Earth, do it during your holydays!”


They are right, in their own mind. But they misunderstand us completely. Like Byron has written:

“But quiet to quick bosoms is a hell” 

We cannot remain quiet, sitting still on the stools in front of the blackboard anymore. Those in power gave since too many decades continuous proof of a strange blindness to the common future Fate that is silently but ominously approaching the world community, almost as a justly deserved Punishment for billions of irresponsible acts and overestimated attitudes like Greed.


Since the marches began, In Stockholm just as in Antwerp and Köln, the ears of us Activists for Nature who are demanding Climate Measures are under attack of reproaching voices. How come? It is not a secret: most adults love and cherish Law and Order. Even if that state of things is in part a cover up, a blanket thrown over parties and people that suffer from structural Injustices, from a consuming Fire that makes us unable to go on, or even to think and feel clearly to react and set ourselves free.


We tend to shrink from voices that try to silence the spirit of change. Thousands of youngsters have to stand up to doubts. Feeling a bit guilty after the them voices that try to exorcise the strange but pure and powerful revolt of which the Spark was born in your special Mind.


My message is to urge young people to join and to continue the action. For we do see clearer than the majority of MP’s and CEO’s, even if they can boast their knowledge is better.

“You do see clear with your Heart,

for all that is Essential is invisible to the Eyes”

(Antoine de Saint Exupéry, French war pilot and writer of The little Prince).

Has relative wealth and the race for daily bread made millions of citizens drowsy? Is Europe a drowsy hamlet? Are there no Guardians left on our Watchtowers? Where is the awareness that the philosopher Nietzsche penned down in his masterpiece Also sprach Zarathustra:

“Brüder, bleibt der Erde treu!” (- Brothers, stay faithful to Earth)

A sacred cause will meet certain resistance

I suppose you have noticed, dear maidens, that our era can be described in terms of rather general rejection of Religiosity, from the polar circle to Gibraltar, from the Hebrides to Athens. Whatever the causes of that secular movement, and the possible benefits it may yield in some areas, we ought to remember Europe is an exception, and we must keep an eye on the rest of world cultures, where people keep an eye on God. In the best part of the world, men and women do still foster a feel for what is Holy, for sacred values and for religious practices in daily life. Everywhere people join their hands, bow in prayer and meditation, burn candles or incense in temples and chapels, from ancient imperial Kyoto to La Paz and Lima, those Latin American Indian capitals high up in the mountains, where prayers are sent to “Pacha Mama”, which in our tongue it is right to translate with the name of “Mother Earth”.


The solid Significance of a Sacrifice

Many adults in a variety of cities shiver from the news of the climate strikes. That is front page news in Newspapers and on social media and TV. It’s the talk of the day. My conclusion after seeing these objections to the Movement is the following: Some Problems prove to be “too Big to look in the Face” for most adult people. Maybe one reason for this lack of understanding is them having become entranced in daily routine and in risk avoiding attitudes. The new numbness to the religious dimension doubtlessly adds to this. Jesus, the young man who sacrificed his life for the Bonum Commune, for the General Interest, is to many an old story without too much interest. The pivotal goal of millions of people seems to be the enjoyment of life, to develop oneself, and moreover, to avoid pain and to avoid being a loser at all cost. What you, Greta, have decided to do, is of an different order. You decided to risk and loose the esteem of others, teachers, pupils, neighbors…. You became ready to sacrifice your peace and your honor. The situation today proves you were so right. Thousands do as you do, and the United Nations Ambassadors invited you and listened to your message in awe. But there are still people that feel what we that do the marches, do the wrong thing. Part of their misjudgment has to do with the lack of understanding of what a Sacrifice exactly means.

When I was a boy of your age, even a few years younger, a noble Congolese University student resided in our house, taking exams at the Louvain University, a personal road that would lead this Sir Simanga to the prestigious but mostly extremely challenging position of Minister of Energy in his home country later on.  This man became a giver of advice and a fine friend to my brother and me, we played Stratego together, and he would enjoy a meal with us at the family table every now and then. Simanga then invited us to visit his village in the future. He wanted to give back, after having received our hospitality, support, friendship and respect. He plotted the scene, when we would come with him to the village in woody Kivu. How do people in Sub Sahara Africa show their respect and love for a friend that arrives from far away? By offering him a meal, and more precisely by slaughtering a young sheep or a goat. I know this traditional practice will strike a sensitive cord in many young citizen’s heart, but let me make my point if you please.

As a boy, this perspective struck my mind. I loved animals already then dearly, even if my dog Fellow would become my companion  de route only thirty years later; but I understood at the same time that expressing special and somewhat ‘religious’ things like a strong and awe inspiring bond between human beings, may justify that kind of Sacrifice.


I wanted to share this anecdote and my conclusion with you, for in this nowadays society, where capital, money and power are prominent in a pervasive manner, people tend to have difficulty understanding the principle of Sacrificing something that is dear to us, in order to obtain a thing or reach a goal that is of a higher order. It is just that what I see happening, when school kids leave school to go on strike for the sake of our Natural House.

As another word of support and instruction, I want to offer you reader a topical insight that I received while studying as a twelve year old boy the Latin language, once the main power tool of the Roman Empire; it is a remark made by the famous wise man and stoic philosopher Seneca, the personal adviser of the Emperor:

“Non scholae, sed vitae discimus”


“It is not for the School, but for Life that we study”!

In taking up responsibility for the conservation of what we may call the Wealth of Nature, you will learn so much more about what Life really is, than you possibly can during a few more hours on the school benches. You will learn so much more from what I like to call ‘the School of Life’. You will learn about what Freedom is. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of thinking, Freedom of Conscience. Acts speak louder than words. You will learn, most importantly, about your will power. You will gain self-esteem and self-worth.

As you will be amazed that your natural need for justice and its stubborn concepts can really stand the test of the hare brained thinking of some adult people. You will come to see, in continuing the School Strike each Thursday (in Belgium) and each Friday (in Stockholm), your action supported by similar actions in dozens of cities in the continent,  that smart adults and parents show openness to your sacred cause, to your resisting of wide spread bad habits.

There is a quote by a great leader of the last century, maybe it was Churchill, that goes like this:

“Intellectuals are made through reading, in libraries and college rooms,

Character is made in the whirling water of life itself!”

Honestly, after observing our nations fate over the last forty five years, I am in little doubt that we are more in need of people of character than we need to increase numbers of learned men and women.

Many Wiser people are already now showing great sympathy for your pertinent Criticism of a toxic life style that has received a mild blind eye from too many of us for too long.

Why Skolstrejk is not the wrong thing

Moreover, if we endeavor to reflect on what precisely is the Root Cause of the Success of your “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” we come to the following conclusions. They are conclusions pointing out why it is best to continue to perform the manifestations ‘during’ classroom hours.

During the recent visit they have made to you, Greta, learned activists from Belgium had a debate with some of your friends on your Action. They tried to understand the amazing success of it, by referring to the fabulous principle of Lorentz, best known under its popular name “the butterfly effect”. In some cases, in a complex universe, where information is plenty, a very small act can lead to a landslide change in a faraway place. In the Theory, it is explained that the beating of the wing of one Butterfly in, let’s say, Lissabon, will be able to cause  a bit later a snowstorm in Helsinki! Or a rain shower in the Gobi desert in the Asian plains.

This is of course precisely what your sit in on the pavement next to the Parliament of Sweden’s capital has managed to do! This is how I see things: the crucial element in your Enterprise  is first of all that you have put small steps in “the very right direction”. You have chosen to step out of the school system out of disagreement with the global economic System, and the (not so) ecologic System of producing-, transport- and consuming goods. The form of your action was wonderfully in tune with the general goal you want to pursue. The Messenger made clear the Message.

The power of Peaceful Presence

Moreover, you have “voted with your feet”: you have used the single strong power that you had possession of: your muscles, your own body. You have put your Presence at work. You acted within the limits of the city of Stockholm, but in a strong Symbolic way. You have taken away that prime thing that is your Presence from one universe, the class room, to another, the Parliament Pavement. Offering our Presence is an often misunderstood instrument. Every volunteer worker that tries and gives support to sick, poor or dying people knows about its profound effect. Think of the benign effect of a mother staying present at the sick bed of her child. How soothing and healing that can be!

I have been active myself as a volunteer in palliative care. From  2000 to 2002, I have sat with friendly, mostly silent and listening presence at the sick bed of dying men and women in our regional hospital in Louvain. I was able to see the difference my warm and humble presence has made. Alone or with a nurse, I literally held the hand of three people when they breathed their last.

In my view, nothing is more inhumane than to leave a dying man or woman alone. (The visionary palliative she psychiatric doctor Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926 – 2004), born in Switzerland and most famous in the USA, has practiced this presence approach and has developed a Theory about it, a story that makes a thrilling read. Also the French palliative psychiatrist Marie de Hennezel is a great forerunner in this area; she had the honor to be at the side of the great president Mitterand in his last months and hours, and she wrote “La mort intime” – The intimate dead - about her convictions and experiences).

On a more general level, what you have put into practice, Greta and Anuna, is just the well-known practice of “voting with the feet”. Think of the marches of black people during the Civil Rights movement in the USA in the era of Martin Luther Kind. These walks have had a tremendous impact. The march on the Bridge of Selma has notably been of great inspiration to the future president Barack Obama. (See the first biography written on Obama titled “The Bridge”, by David Remnick, editor in chief of the  New Yorker and journalist for the Washington Post).

Simple minds that beat intellectuals

This possibility of power to the powerless has struck me one day particularly when I visited Brussels, the capital of Belgium (which is sometimes considered to be the capital of Europe ;-) ). In a store called “Entre ciel et terre” (Between Heaven and Earth), that was selling stuff for trekking and mountaineering, located at the Place Stefanie, near one of the most expensive shopping malls in the world, the Avenue Louise, the shop keepers had placed a framed Quote on the wall above the racks containing different brands of trekking shoes. It said:

“Un con qui marche vaut plus que dix intellectuels assis!”

“An idiot that marches is of more value than ten intellectuals that sit!”

Lol!

I stared and grasped the deep truth of this joking and unusual wisdom!

This is what I see happening in the schools and streets of Europe!

Of course, this truth is not applicable to you and the school kids in  streets in the sense that you are not sane or clever, on the contrary! But a Truth is pointed out here, one that just many money-, calendar-, clock-, book keeping- and text-wisdom-driven-people tend to overlook.

So, just go on marching.

We will overcome one day!

Believe in what you do.

It’s worth believing. On very solid grounds it is, believe me.

Big hugs,

Stef