Yesterday’s Observer has a long extract from the book written jointly by the Thunberg family about their famous daughter. The extract is by Greta’s mother, opera singer Malena Ernman, and I found it extraordinarily interesting and moving.
She discusses the family’s struggle to deal with Greta’s psychological problems with apparently admirable honesty, and much that seemed obscure and suspicious about the sudden appearance of Greta on the world media stage suddenly becomes clear. There is no need to posit a conspiracy by media-savvy luvvies to exploit their sick child. The fact that journalists, film-makers and Greenpeace activists buzzed round her from the beginning like flies round a honeypot is the most natural thing in our peculiar world. Malena and her husband actor Svante Thunberg come over as less than perfect parents, but what parents are perfect? And how many would own up to their imperfections like this, even in the cause of saving the planet?
If there’s a villain in the story, it’s the school, which seems to have responded with the sensitivity of a 19thcentury Lutheran pastor. The health authorities eventually came up with a sensible sounding psychiatric diagnosis, but we don’t learn much about that. Psychological “help” comes in a hundred different forms, but psychoanalysis or family therapy are never mentioned.
When Malena was pregnant with Greta, she and her husband decided that, since he earned far less than she did, it was sensible for him to give up work.
“So now I’m a housewife.”
The sentence appears like that in the text, and from the context it can only be an interpellation by Svante. I’d say “househusband,” but maybe the Swedish language is different.
So Malena is pregnant, and Svante stops working. OK, it makes economic sense. But maximising your revenue is not what life’s about, is it? Since saving the planet implies that we’re all going to have to take a cut in our living standards anyway, why not start by giving the pregnant mother-to-be a break? If you’re an Asian peasant you don’t have that choice. But if you’re a couple of well-paid cultural workers in the most advanced, feminised country in the world, you do. A therapist might make the same observation, but far less brutally of course.
The rest of the article details how Greta became the person she is, and how her militant action appears to have cured her of a life-threatening psychological disorder. It’s a touching story of a family’s struggle against a situation which would have destroyed less caring, thoughtful people.
The message I take from it (and I’ve only read this small part of the whole story) is the message which is central both to the major religions and to psychotherapy: that we can only be saved one person at a time.
Which is the exact opposite of the message which Greta and her supporters are conveying, of course.