Wednesday 10 April 2024

Something Important: The Curious Death of the School Strike 4 Climate Movement.

The Hope That Failed: The Christchurch Mosque Massacres, Covid-19, deep political disillusionment, and the jealous cruelty of the intersectionists: all had a part to play in causing School Strike 4 Climate’s bright bubble of hope and passion to burst. But, while it floated above us, it was something that mattered. Something Important.

THE YOUNG MAN is every centimetre the twenty-first century revolutionary: youthful, indigenous, and draped in the keffiyeh of martyred Palestine. Like so many of his generation, raised with-on-by the smart-phone, he communicates faultlessly with his audience. And what he says is every bit as revolutionary as his looks.

Except … Except his message is aimed at an audience that until this week had not, generally, been associated with the Palestinian, or the Toitū te Tiriti o Waitangi, causes – secondary school students.

Posted on “X”, the young revolutionary’s video-post was intended to mobilise the tens-of-thousands of students who had turned out five years ago to play their part in the global “School Strike 4 Climate” (SS4C) movement. Presumably, he and his comrades had reasoned that their own causes would be immeasurably strengthened through this “intersectional” linking of the Treaty, Palestine and Climate Change.

In his own words:

“The primary tool used against the people is division – divide and conquer. Our response must be to unite. We cannot win with fragmented movements.”

Had the young revolutionary’s expectations been met, it would, indeed, have been a political triumph.

On Friday, March 15 2019, an estimated 170,000 New Zealand secondary school students took to the nation’s streets. RNZ still ranks that turnout as the “second largest” protest in New Zealand history. There is no precedent, however, for 170,000 demonstrators turning out on a single day. Those kids represented an astonishing 3.5 percent of the total population!

On Friday morning (5/4/24) RNZ was carrying the SS4C protest organisers’ predictions of a turnout in excess of 100,000. Protest rallies were scheduled from Whangarei to Invercargill. RNZ was also careful to share with its listeners the six demands of the protesters:

  • A ban on oil and gas exploration 
  • Halting the Coalition Government’s fast-track approvals bill 
  • Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi 
  • “Climate education” for all 
  • Lowering the voting age to 16 
  • Free Palestine - Stop the Genocide

By the end of the day, however, it was clear that something very serious had gone wrong with the plan to unite the Left’s fragmented movements by, in effect, piggy-backing on the huge numbers formerly responsive to the SS4C’s summonses. Rather than a turnout in the range of 100,000: across the whole country, and by the most generous estimate, the organisers of the “Strike” turned out a derisory 5,000 people.

By any measure, the “Strike” was a disaster. Indeed, the whole event turned out to be less than the sum of its parts. That is to say, more people turned out to rallies organised in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and/or to protests against the Coalition Government’s Treaty policies, when these were staged as separate events, than turned out for SS4C’s unity demonstrations on Friday afternoon. As for New Zealand’s secondary school students, well, apart from a few hard-core “intersectionists”, they were nowhere to be seen. The largest turnout of 5 April was in Wellington, where a few hundred kids gathered in Parliament Grounds to chant “From the river, to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

What the hell happened?

To answer that question we have to go back to 2021, and the tragic demise of SS4C Auckland at the hands of the very same intersectionist forces responsible for Friday’s debacle.

The young people behind the Auckland chapter of SS4C were responsible for turning out 80,000 protesters in 2019 – beating Labour legend John A Lee’s 1938 record of 70,000. Predictably, such extraordinary support bred deep resentment and hostility among less fulsomely supported activists. Homing in on the whiteness of the SS4C organisers’ and their middle-class origins, the “decolonisers” and “indigenisers” within the Auckland chapter’s ranks “persuaded” the leadership to shut down the most successful protest organisation in the city’s political history.

In their final communique to the people of Auckland, SS4C’s local leadership stated:

“We are disbanding because, since 2019, SS4C AKL (as well as the wider national group, though we can’t speak on their behalf) has been a racist, white-dominated space. SS4C AKL has avoided, ignored, and tokenised BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Colour – C.T.] voices and demands, especially those of Pasifika and Māori individuals in the climate activism space. As well as this, the responsibility and urgent need to decolonise the organisation has been put off for far too long. SS4C also delayed paying financial reparations for the work BIPOC groups/individuals within and alongside the group have done for this organisation in the past.”

There is much, much more, all in the same vein, in this cringing example of polemical self-criticism (which would not have been out of place at a Maoist Red Guard rally circa 1967) admirably concluding with this, its guilt-tripped authors’ parting admonition:

“We fully discourage any future and current Pākehā-led groups from occupying the space we leave behind.”

Strangely enough, neither this incident, nor the subsequent collapse of the fight against global warming in Auckland’s secondary schools, is mentioned on the SS4C website promoting the 5 April “Strike”. Those intending to join the demonstrations are, however, urged to chant: “The people united – Can never be divided!”

Equally strange, but much less excusable, is the almost complete absence of mainstream media analysis of this mass-event-that-wasn’t. How could a movement that had put 3.5 percent of the country’s population on the streets, on a single day, have crumbled to virtually nothing in the space of five years? How could the organisers of Friday’s event have deluded themselves to the point of predicting a turnout of 100,000? And what do those same organisers make of New Zealanders’ apparent indifference (if not downright hostility) to the causes in support of which they had been invited to demonstrate?

These are important political questions.

Certainly, the dismal turnout must have given Green co-leader, Chloe Swarbrick, considerable pause. After all, she has staked a great deal of her political credibility on the proposition that she and her party can mobilise, electorally, the young, the alienated, and the disenfranchised. After Friday, however, transforming the 2026 general election into a people’s crusade would appear to be a much taller order.

Contrariwise, the failure of the “Strike” offers Messers Luxon, Seymour and Peters considerable cause for celebration. Their coalition is described on the SS4CNZ website as: “the most conservative government in our history” – a claim that would doubtless bring a wry smile to the lips of Bill Massey, Sid Holland, and Rob Muldoon. Still, if Friday’s flop is the best the New Zealand Left can set against the Great Strike of 1913, the 1951 Waterfront Lockout, and the 1981 Springbok Tour protests, then our Coalition Government can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Perhaps the most important lesson of Friday is that political consciousness cannot be assembled like so many Lego blocks. The huge SS4C mobilisations of 2019 were symbolic of a confrontation as old as history. The intergenerational hostility encapsulated in the young Swedish founder of the movement, Greta Thunberg’s, choked challenge: “How dare you!” She spoke for the children and grandchildren of the men and women who run this world. “If you cannot save the planet for yourselves,” she seemed to be saying, “then, in Gaia’s name, save it for us – your own flesh and blood!”

The Future confronted the Present – and demanded action. Its partisans may not have displayed the revolutionary chic of the young man in the video with whom our story began, but they made their parents simultaneously proud and penitent. One-hundred-and-seventy-thousand strong, they convinced the system, if only for a little while, to stop, and listen.

The Christchurch Mosque Massacres, Covid-19, deep political disillusionment, and the jealous cruelty of the intersectionists: all had a part to play in causing the SS4C’s bright bubble of hope and passion to burst. But, while it floated above us, it was something that mattered.

Something important.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 8 April 2024.


new view said...

The strike for climate movement has failed because they hadn't taken into account that times have changed, the government has changed and the cost of living has changed. In 2019 our young adults believed that if our country did everything in it's power to reduce emissions we would not only be doing the right thing but we may actually turn the climate change and the heating of the planet around, and in so doing give them and their future offspring a better world to live in. Since then the realisation for most of us is that by reducing our emissions we are doing the right thing but hope is fading that we can change the climate in the short term. Since then those of us who work and are trying to beat the cost of living crisis are starting to understand that improving our economy is the only way that will happen, and that doesn't always go hand in hand with a clean green philosophy. The two other mistakes the strikers made was firstly trying to include all their other gripes about the treaty etc which to many was just a big turn off and lastly the criticism students got for striking ( marching) in school time when there has been so much discussion about the poor school attendance figures. What we saw was idealism up against adversity. Although students are our future they have limited life experience especially when it comes to working and earning. The reality of living clean and green is quite different to dreaming clean and green.

R Singers said...

March 15 2019 was a lovely warm afternoon in Wellington and all the teenagers seemed to enjoying the weather and an afternoon off school. My sons and their friends said they were going to join the protest and then just sat in the sun at a park.

Given the dire state of secondary education they weren't missing much.

Don Franks said...

I recieved an email from the CTU, requesting financial support for this event. The CTU email said: "The April 5 Climate Strike will be a testament to the strength of collective action. Students, activists, indigenous communities, unions, environmental organisations, businesses, and concerned citizens will unite in solidarity, calling for bold action to end the climate emergency". Class collaboration remains a delusion.

Andrew Osborn said...

Nicely done Chris!

One cannot fail to be reminded of Monty Python's Life of Brian Sketch:

The protests here and in the UK do seem to be led by posh girls from private schools. It's more obvious in the UK protests because their accents give them away.

It reminds me of my uni days in the UK. The real hardliners were more than often than not women and many of the boys involved were really just there to get into their knickers. LOL. Most were from well off backgrounds, while as bursary kid from a welfare background, I was there just to pass exams. No such fun for me!

Little Keith said...

Well, maybe this new generation thought better of it and realized education was far more important, given under a progressive government, they missed so much due to kindness and lockdowns for anything from civilisation ending covid plagues to slightly iffy weather!

Maybe they are aware Greta Thunberg had made apocalyptic predictions before, like her 2018 example (now erased from Thunbergs personal history like a page from 1984) that if we didn't cease using fossil fuels we'd all be doomed by 2023, yet we didn't and we aren't.

Maybe the more switched on were appalled at the progressive movement exploiting a 16 year old autistic girl as the face of their politics and quasi religion of climate change. Maybe they even thought them evil!

Maybe they don't buy into Swarbricks dismal depressing dystopian world views. Or her endless causes!

And maybe they think her lame, uncool and old.

Or what goes on half a world away in a region that exists in a semi permanent state of dysfunction that we have less control of than climate variables.

Maybe what they've seen from the Greens drove home New Zealand's terrible record on mental health.

And just maybe, the world has turned a corner from practicing divisive insane woke dogma!

Here's hoping so!

David George said...

"And maybe they think her lame, uncool and old."

Yes Keith, kids are inclined to be rebellious, to kick against convention and authority. Perhaps many of them now see the wokesters as "the establishment" or as up themselves posers?

greywarbler said...

Little Keith
Is this amongst the height of political critique in nu zilland? Wushfil thinking instead of clear sight of something after cutting through the rhetoric.

greywarbler said...

New View - just read - very to the point. And that phrase 'Idealism versus Adversity', sums it up just about completely when one adds 'wilful ignorance and
SEP' from those people focussing on their own interests and advantage.

David George said...

Chris: "it was clear that something very serious had gone wrong with the plan"

Following our legacy media you certainly wouldn't have known that, or the real size of the Groundswell protests from a couple of years ago. Didn't fit the narrative?

Andrew: "The protests here and in the UK do seem to be led by posh girls from private schools"
Girls generally from what I can see. Young women do tend to be more socially conforming; a lot of movements are just that. That a lot of kids aren't joining the baying mobs is a positive sign IMHO.

BTW there's an excellent new book out (I'm part way through it) from Abigail Shrier. Bad Therapy: Why the kids aren't growing up.

"In virtually every way that can be measured, Gen Z’s mental health is worse than that of previous generations. Youth suicide rates are climbing, antidepressant prescriptions for children are common, and the proliferation of mental health diagnoses has not helped the staggering number of kids who are lonely, lost, sad and fearful of growing up. What’s gone wrong with America’s youth?

In Bad Therapy, bestselling investigative journalist Abigail Shrier argues that the problem isn’t the kids—it’s the mental health experts. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with child psychologists, parents, teachers, and young people, Shrier explores the ways the mental health industry has transformed the way we teach, treat, discipline, and even talk to our kids. She reveals that most of the therapeutic approaches have serious side effects and few proven benefits. Among her unsettling findings:

*Talk therapy can induce rumination, trapping children in cycles of anxiety and depression.
*Social Emotional Learning handicaps our most vulnerable children.
*“Gentle parenting” can encourage emotional turbulence – even violence – in children as they lash out, desperate for an adult in charge"

Wayne Mapp said...

Because the group has been conspicuously taken over by the Green Party means that it is now a narrow cast movement rather than broad based. But don't underestimate their influence. The latest Curia poll showed a large rise in Green Party support, almost certainly due to Chloe Swarbrick. She is very much the person de jour for many young people, especially for activist youth.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Greens get to a sustainable 15% with Labour topping at 30%. The youth activists will be part of the reason for the shift.

Tom Hunter said...

Judging from the attitude of my kids, who were either finishing off high school or varsity in 2019-2022, there is a deep well spring of anger at the people who screwed them over with lockdowns for nothing.

As a result they don't trust almost any institution, public or private, and have no interest in being "ra-ra'd" into the street for yet another cause.

The good news for the Left is that there is a lot of anger there. The bad news is that it's around things like the hope of ever owning a house and starting a family, and the Left seem to be as useless as the Right in meeting those basic, simple expectations.

John Hurley said...

Emile Donovan
What he council did to day has united people of different political stripes it’d fair to say?

Joel McManus

Yeah. In my own words described this as what I’ve termed, the old town and the new city.

I don’t think this is a left and right issue. This is an issue about two completely different visions for Wellington, and in fact for all cities for New Zealand and the Western world. We have these two factions, between people who sort of grew up in Wellington when it was a large provincial town, they liked it for what it was, and they vallue that (and they are totally within their rights to value that). And then we have the new city which is the new generation of young people who see this kind of new vision, they want Wellington to be like Melbourne, Amsterdam, London, you know, however big they want to see it.

And ah, they’re not actually left-right things. In fact there’s left and right on both sides
Odd that McManus representations of young peoples new vision, echoes Arthur Grimes and Harcourts Shanghai?

Archduke Piccolo said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, 'even though' it's a white bloke septuagenarian saying it: identity politics is a luxury we can no longer afford. From what I'm reading here, the SS4C died of identity politics.

That is one advantage - a decisive advantage - the Right has always had over the Left: the ability and willingness to shed identity politics, and band together in the face of threat. The Left doesn't seem to have that kind of awareness: oblivious to imminent oblivion.
Ion A. Dowman

Tom Hunter said...

SS4C AKL... has been a racist, white-dominated space

Yes, well speaking as a White Male who is rather proud of his European ancestry I have to say even I wasn’t impressed by a bunch of pale, well-off little shits having a temper tantrum about stuff they really didn’t understand – and being applauded about that by The Bank Of Mummy & Daddy.

Five years later most of them are either piling up debt for inadequate university degrees and peering into a working future that’s looking tougher every day, or are actually in that work environment – all while watching their power and fuel costs rise relentlessly to enable Green Energy.

Oh, and having basically three years of their young lives smashed up by a bunch of Boomer-Gen X “leaders” over a disease survived by 99%+ of the population (and basically 100% of anybody under 30 years of age) likely also dealt to their youthful enthusiasm for the same people screaming about the sacrifices needed to deal with Climate Change.

Tom Hunter said...

Equally strange, but much less excusable, is the almost complete absence of mainstream media analysis of this mass-event-that-wasn’t.

Please tell me that you wrote that with your tongue firmly planted in cheek.

You know damned well why the MSM doesn't want to analyse this; they're 100% invested in pushing this topic as propagandists and excluding any bad news that might damage it, and there's no more bad news than people rejecting it or worse, ignoring it.

Analysis would mean reporting and agitprop factories don't do that.

Anonymous said...

My thanks to Don Franks for that news on the CTU seeking support for the SS4C. I had an email from Forest and Bird urging participation. All they got from me was an email back, politely declining, and giving my reasons why (I was not prepared to be associated in any way with any supporters of Hamas, mainly). A friend from F&B who did attend was shocked at the "intersectionality" on display. To the point of wondering if there is now space for a centrist "blue-green" movement that actually prioritizes the environment.

The latest Taxpayers' Union-Curia poll was headlined "Greens surge in poll, Act takes hit" in the Herald's coverage. Well, maybe, if you call an increase of 3 seats a surge, and a decrease of four a hit. But overall the coalition government would still have 64 seats to the combined opposition parties 56. (The current "overhang" would disappear because TPM support was at 4.6%. The pollsters assumed that TPM would retain all six of it's current electorate seats. In that case, proportionality is restored in a 120 seat Parliament).

Or in other words, the poll broadly confirmed the overall polling trend since the election. The governing coalition has enjoyed about 55% support, the combined opposition around 40%. (The other 5% being spread around parties not currently in Parliament). Support has shifted around a bit within the blocs, but, until now, not that much between them. This latest poll does show a relatively modest increase for the opposition bloc, at the coalitions expense).

The Herald also reported on individual politicians favorability (or unfavorability, to be more accurate). Luxon was down further, to -7%. Chris Bishop was less unpopular, at -4%. Chris Hipkins went from +ve to -ve, down to -6%. David Seymour was down to -11%, and Winston Peters down to -18%.

But, and I quote the last sentence in the Herald story: "Green Party co-leader Chloe Swarbrick had a net favorability of -19 per cent".

Hang on Herald, if you and the pollsters have got it right, Chloe Swarbrick is viewed more unfavourably, on balance, than the PM, one of his own parties senior ministers, either leader of the other coalition parties, or the leader of the opposition. But you only include that, without comment, as the last line in your story? How about a headline "New Green co-leader has hill to climb". Then perhaps some analysis and opinion on why that might be? Sexism, ageism, and homophobia are in the mix? I'm sure that's true, but I think it's mainly due to the toxicity of her "intersectionality" politics. How does she overcome all these negatives to forge broad unity, and lead a mass popular movement towards the promised land? With great difficulty, it would seem to me.

Gary Peters said...

Little Keith.

Don't be holding your breath.

Nick Roberts said...

Too many causes rolled into one, and the problem is that if you disagree with any one of those causes you may just decide to stay home (because perhaps you dislike those that are supporting the other ones)

Or maybe just like me at school they have decided to rebel against all and anything that is popular, because they don't like being told what to support (unless Joe Strummer or Mick Jones is telling you)

Maybe they're tired of screeching politicians that tell them they're doomed but give them no answer or hope, so they get bored and decide it's more fun to just go have a laugh as an idiot teenager.

Maybe the first event was just a bit of a laugh on a nice day, and besides they had PE that day and it was going to suck at school running around a field.

Bing said...

You get listened to a lot aye.

Red Nech said...

To be fair, twice as many people mobilised for the recent opening of JB HiFi in Invercargill.

John Hurley said...

Wayne Mapp said...
The latest Curia poll showed a large rise in Green Party support, almost certainly due to Chloe Swarbrick. She is very much the person de jour for many young people, especially for activist youth.
People buy lotto tickets because (for a while) they get to dream.
I’m interested in this “new Kiwi dream”, Helen Clark is pushing the dream of the new city. A member of Grey Power pointed out that we had a liveable city. What is unclear is “what will my house be like” (given the track record of Bob the Builder).
Where is NZF (swallowed by the National Party amoeba - again)? Winston is doing a great job as foreign minister.
The old Kiwi dream was that it’s working class could live cheaply just about anywhere.
The new kiwi dream is that it’s rich can live just about anywhere and be assured of a constant supply of workers (thanks to RNZ, TVNZ, Paul Spoonley, Spinoff, NZ Initiative etc)
John Kiwi-Key had a batch in a development (43 Success Court Omaha), it sold for $6.3m.

Jonzie said...

As with all these loony fringe ouuuuuutrage protests, it's always a very small ouuuutraged minority that starts all the trouble. You know, that one drop of ballpoint ink that turns the whole wash grey-blue. Very annoying to most of us. And so the country put the clothes back in the washer and added Vanish to the washing powder. Sorted. As for the kid wearing the keffiyeh, why is them not in Gaza or Palestine, fighting for 'da cause'? Answer: because it's nice and safe here in NZ.

John Hurley said...

Bernard Hickey came from a wealthy family. What about Hayden Donnell and the rest of the Spinoff/trendy Greens. Along with Paul Spoonley they have launched a war on old NZ.
Spoonley accuses boomers of "blocking and hoarding" - Damien Grant podcast.

NEW: my column this week is about the coming vibe shift, from Boomers vs Millennials to huge wealth inequality *between* Millennials.

Current discourse centres on how the average Millennial is worse-off than the average Boomer was, but the richest millennials are loaded