Greta Thunberg, Alexander the Great, and Walking the Talk

In The Campaigns of Alexander, written in the 2nd Century AD, Arrian narrates an event that took place probably in Taskṣaśilā. 

Alexander came cross a group of sages who were engaged in conversation. On seeing Alexander, the sages stamped their feet and gave no further attention to the conqueror who had come from afar. Arrian writes that Alexander was puzzled by this (my guess is that he was probably quite upset ) and asked what their "odd behaviour" meant. One of the sages replied --

”King Alexander, every man can possess only so much of the earth' surface as this we are standing on. You are but human like the rest of us, save that you are always busy and up to no good, traveling so many miles from your home, a nuisance to yourself and to others. Ah well! You will soon be dead, and then you will own just as much of this earth as will suffice to bury you."

What i find particularly interesting is that, after writing about this, Arrian goes on to point out that Alexander approved of these words ”but in point of fact his conduct was always the exact opposite of what he....professed to admire." 

This binds many many of us across history. We are quick to profess admiration for great ideals and commit to nice goals, but shirk from them in practise.

In August 2018, the (then) 15 years-young Greta Thunberg started to strike outside the Swedish Parliament calling for urgent action on Climate Change. In the initial days, she bunked school every day to strike -- over time, she kept to striking every Friday. This solitary act set off a movement that led to about 1.5 million children around the world taking to the streets (on 15th March 2019) demanding that adults act to save the future. In addition to this, many have joined Greta in peaceful continuous protests aimed to awaken adults who appear to be sleepwalking humanity into an irreversible state 

Sometime last week, Greta addressed Members of Parliament in the UK. ”I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing. Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.

Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money....You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late....During the last six months I have travelled around Europe for hundreds of hours in trains, electric cars and buses, repeating these life-changing words over and over again. But no one seems to be talking about it, and nothing has changed. In fact, the emissions are still rising....the basic problem is that basically nothing is being done to halt – or even slow – climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises.

We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.

We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back."


Greta has the usual set of detractors but, to me, she is a superstar. She trudges on staying true to her mission to wake up adults with calls to conscience. 

“We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.”

i am thinking of Greta, Alexander and our hypocrisies. In far too many things, we admire, but do not walk the talk.