Recently an Etsy entrepeneur started marketing “Make America Greta Again” caps, “Greta” being Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist who has been in the news lately after her speech at the United Nations in New York City and her participation in the Climate Strike, which she inspired with the Fridays for Future school strikes she started a year ago. The entrepeneur, Johan Hansson, claims 100 percent of the profits from cap sales will go to Greenpeace, and if that is indeed the case, then it appears his primary goal in making the caps is trolling the current president and his followers, the MAGA crowd.
Mr. Hansson did not think up the slogan for his caps, which has shown up on placards at climate change protests since Greta Thunberg became an internationally famous figure, but he did think to put the slogan on caps that look exactly like the original MAGA caps. The typography and colors are the same, and all Mr. Hansson had to do was switch around two letters. It’s a clever twist, and as for trolling the trolls it is bound to be effective. The question is whether that is the best way to read the science behind climate change, as Ms. Thunberg continually stresses is the driving force of her activism, or whether it is merely a satisfying way to get under the skin of MAGA people by giving them a dose of their own medicine.
Greta Thunberg speaks at the May 2019 Austrian World Summit Climate Kirtag (or Fair). Photo originally posted to Flickr by the Austrian Foreign Ministry. Like the enlarged image of Ms. Thunberg on the screen at the left of the stage, her influence on the climate debate has grown in the past year such that journalists and politicians have attributed the tripling of seats gained in the Austrian parliament by the Green Party in the September 2019 election to what they call “The Greta Effect”.
The problem is not the altered slogan itself, but in how the design of the new cap mimics the original so closely that even from several feet away most people would be unable to distinguish the difference. The original MAGA cap has over the course of a few years become strongly associated with hatred and hatefulness, and the wearers delight in how its appearance “owns the libs”, or trolls them. For MAGA people, that’s part of the fun of wearing the cap. Since the new cap looks exactly the original from a distance, most reasonable people, associating the wearer with hateful beliefs and often unpleasant behavior, would probably steer clear, under the assumption the wearer is a devoted follower of the current president, a hateful person who often exhibits unpleasant behavior.
MAKE AMERICA GRETA AGAIN
Fellow MAGA travelers, on the other hand, upon companionably sidling up to the wearer of a cap with a slightly changed slogan, may not even notice the difference until the wearer gives out unexpected opinions or points out the change to them. The old trick of switching two letters in a familiar word derives its surprise from how often people will gloss over the change in their minds and never even notice it.
MAKE AMERICA GRETAAGAIN
Trolling trolls may seem satisfying at first, but the long term result is like that of a wrestling match between a person and a pig in a muddy pen (once considered a fun event at county fairs), in which the person ends up filthy and exhausted, and the pig is happily in his or her element. The altered slogan would probably serve its ultimate, positive message of taking action against climate change better by rising above the muck where the current president and his followers wallow in hatred and hatefulness. To do that with the slogan on caps, perhaps changing the color or font or point size of “Greta” would make all the difference in signaling to friend and foe alike that the original was only a point of departure, and a lowly one at that. Maybe change colors of the cap and the typography of “Greta” entirely so that it stands apart, the way Greta Thunberg herself has demonstrated in dealing with the trolls. Nothing infuriates trolls more than not being taken seriously and having their distractions ignored as reasonable people go on about the business of taking serious action on real problems, and that can give climate activists some measure of satisfaction in denying the power of climate change deniers in MAGA caps.
The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report lays out a stark timeline for how long we have to reduce our carbon emissions to avoid crossing the threshold of a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature leading to catastrophic effects for life on Earth. Paraphrasing the report, at present levels of emissions we have until 2030, or 2050 at the very latest. To avoid the worst case scenario, we will need to cut emissions in half by 2030, and cut them entirely by 2050. Given the conservative political and capitalist landscape prevalent today, meeting those targets does not seem likely.
A wedding party crosses a street in 2006 in Oulan-Oudé, Republic of Bouriatia, Siberia, Russia. Photo by Cyrille (Suleiman) Romier.
Since national governmental and business leaders will not take the initiative on this issue because it conflicts with the greed of the status quo, it will be up to local leaders and citizens to address the problem. There will be calls to use technology, such as geoengineering, and wholesale adoption of driverless cars and electric vehicles. Those are attempts at a fix that are best implemented by national organizations on a large scale, and cannot be relied on considering the need for national consensus and funding. Geoengineering may work to a limited degree, though it would certainly be subject to the law of unintended consequences. Tweaking the worldwide car culture would have more limited effects since improving the efficiency of how cars are driven and shifting their emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack would ultimately amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
A scene in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, directed by John Schlesinger and starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, depicts New York City’s thriving pedestrian culture. Warning: foul language.
What’s needed is a wholesale change in the approach to daily living, particularly among the citizens of the world’s wealthier countries. Start with walking. Every day, everywhere. Build sidewalks. Get cars, driverless, electric, or otherwise, off the roads entirely. Bring back public transportation for trips that are impractical for walking. People will have to demand improvements in public transportation and pedestrian infrastructure through their votes and their dollars, rather than waiting on public officials and corporate executives to make the necessary changes. As a quote popularly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi has it, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And as he did, walk if you can, for yourself and for change in the world.
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
― words of Jesus Christ from Matthew 7:3-5, King James Version of the New Testament.
The second half of the schoolyard taunt in the title is “But what am I?” What, indeed, are you, Mr. President? On Tuesday, the current president of the United States addressed the United Nations General Assembly for forty-five minutes, and the results were an embarrassment to the country he purports to represent before the world.
After some preliminary stroking of his own ego, the current president launched into the main part of his speech, and for much of it, when he was excoriating other nations he may as well have been referring to the current iteration of the United States as people in other nations might very well see it.
The April 15, 2017, Tax March on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., included this inflated rooster in the likeness of the current president, borrowed from a sculpture by an American for a Chinese shopping mall to mark the Year of the Rooster. Photo by Mike Licht.
“Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists, but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.”
“Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.”
“International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people; force dislocation and mass migration; threaten our borders. And new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens.”
“We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow.”
“It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime [North Korea], but would arm, supply and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.”
“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”
“This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.”
“And above all, Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.”
“It is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and others that slaughter innocent people.”
“For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the UN Human Rights Council.”
By his own words you shall know him. He speaks of others but he may as well be talking about what his own country has become and how it behaves in the world. There is one more notable part of the speech, in the middle where he talks about North Korea and ad-libs the “Rocket Man” insult line.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
Rocket Man [Kim Jong-un] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
The United States is ready, willing and able. But hopefully, this will not be necessary.
That’s what the United Nations is all about. That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.”
The current president appears to have the emotional maturity – or immaturity – of a teenager. He fails to understand, however, that unlike the outcome in this scene from the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, there will be no safety valve for either of the belligerents in his game of nuclear chicken with North Korea. James Dean stars as Jim Stark (in the red jacket), Natalie Wood is Judy, and Corey Allen plays the ill-fated Buzz Gunderson.
Oh, really, that is what the United Nations is for, to rubber stamp the will of the President of the United States, however unhinged he may be? We know what the 45th president of the United States is, and we also know what his counterpart, Kim Jong-un of North Korea is, and in terms of schoolyard threats and insults they have achieved parity. What’s difficult to comprehend is that these two malevolent idiots hold the fate of so very much of humanity and the Earth in their child-like hands and don’t appear to grasp the gravity of the situation beyond their own little sandboxes.