Here’s a pro tip: When you want to rally the nation to save humanity from certain extinction, maybe you shouldn’t dismiss all the elderly people simply because they’re in their sunset years.
That was the lesson that the German branch of an international movement spearheaded by teen climate change speaker Greta Thunberg learned the hard way this week. “Why do grandparents talk to us each year?” Fridays for Future (FFF) Germany tweeted. “They won’t be around much longer.”
This generation-bashing attitude would probably be cheered if it was from a rebellious teen punk band. Not so much from people who say the world needs to be saved yesterday and accuse adults of ruining children’s dreams.
Comments accusing the movement of being insensitive to those who lost their grandparents and disrespecting their elders quickly piled up. The failed attempt at humor was slammed not only by rank and file Twitterati, but also by many German politicians.
Paul Ziemiak, the secretary general of the Christian Democratic Union, told Bild he is glad that “the overwhelming majority of young people in Germany” do not share the view voiced by the FFF. The Green Party’s Boris Palmer said in his experience, grandparents are usually “the most concerned about the future of children.”
Social Democrat Sawsan Chebli responded to the dismissive tweet saying she never had the chance to be close with her grandparents and envied those who have them. “Please, delete this tweet,” she said. “Nothing in the world justifies such contempt to grandparents.” Konstantin Kuhle of the Free Democrats said the FFF couldn’t expect others to respect them and their legitimate cause while posting such things.
The FFF first tried to downplay the gaffe, saying it was just satire, an attempt to find things that can be said about both Christmas and the climate crisis, but soon caved in and offered an apology.
Thunberg, the spiritual leader of the movement, also landed in hot water in Germany recently. The young activist lashed out at the national railway, Deutsche Bahn, complaining about overcrowded trains. The company shot back, with a sarcastic thank you to Greta for traveling first class.