Why Greta Thunberg's speech sounds offensive to S'poreans, explained by S'pore Cambridge law undergrad

Not uncommon to see comments by Singaporeans slamming Thunberg.

Matthias Ang | September 26, 2019, 06:59 PM

A Cambridge law undergraduate from Singapore, Arjun Dhar, has taken to Facebook to explain why a speech by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg at the United Nations climate summit sounds offensive to Singaporeans.

To Singaporeans, Thunberg sounds like an insolent child

On Sep. 23, Thunberg delivered a speech at the United Nations' Climate Action Summit in which she sharply rebuked world leaders for failing to act on climate change.

Arjun highlighted that to the Singaporean ear, such a speech gave the impression of an insolent child.

He wrote: "Greta Thunberg’s speech feels deeply grating to the Singaporean ear. It is rude, melodramatic, disrespectful to elders, entitled, immature, defiant and ungrateful. Thunberg is a disobedient and a truant."

Singaporeans' only way of interpretation

Arjun explained, however, that the reason why Singaporeans came to such a conclusion was because it was the only way that they were able to interpret Thunberg's speech.

He added that such an outcome was the result of Singaporeans neither understanding protest, nor having a culture of protest, and also seeing "activism" as a dirty word.

An effect on bigger and more powerful countries

The law undergraduate noted that Thunberg's speech was for the ears of the world's biggest and most powerful nations.

Thunberg's speech spoke to them as it recalled their own traditions of protest and standing up against entrenched interests.

He wrote:"They (Thunberg's words) harken back to earlier movements, when they stood up together in defiance against toxic and entrenched interests. It reminds their lawmakers, electorates and governments that climate change is an ecumenical abuser, a tyrant that will leave no one behind."

Shocking such countries and their governments into action appears to be the point.

If Thunberg's speech makes an impact, it will help Singapore

Arjun further highlighted that Singapore was already preparing its S$100 billion kit to combat climate change and that this cost was just on the aspect of rising sea levels alone.

He added, "In this critical stage, action or inaction by other countries will weigh heavily on us."

He then concluded his post by calling out reactions to Thunberg's personality as a distraction from the most appropriate courses of action -- to urge governments to do more and hope that more countries will actually do so.

Thunberg's speech drew backlash in Singapore

Thunberg's speech immediately attracted backlash from some quarters in Singapore.

In particular, Xiaxue slammed Thunberg for being “one-dimensional” in her views, and argued that climate change will not stop just because of Thunberg’s crying.

Thunberg was also slammed by the self-styled one-man-show social commentator, Critical Spectator, as a "spoiled brat" who had ignored global economic progress in the past 200 years.

Criticism also came from Singaporeans on CNA and The Straits Times in reaction to the video of Thunberg's speech.

Many criticised her as rude and overly-emotional.

Screenshot from The Straits Times Facebook

Screenshot from CNA Facebook

Screenshot from The Straits Times Facebook

She was also slammed as naive and supposedly unaware of how the world operated.

Screenshot from The Straits Times Facebook

Screenshot from The Straits Times Facebook

Screenshot from CNA Facebook

Screenshot from CNA Facebook

If anything, it appears that reactions to Thunberg are likely to remain polarised for some time to come.

And if Arjun's name rings a bell, it is because he made headlines in June 2019 when he called out Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohamad of constantly and unabashedly applying anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Top image collage from The Guardian, ST and CNA


Content that keeps Mothership.sg going

Do you remember the last time you used a passbook?

What's it like to be a 22-year-old with depression and anxiety?

Limited 40% off vouchers for fine dining here!!! Don’t say we bojio.