Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘TEDxBeirutSalon

Speakers lucubrations at TEDx meeting at LAU Beirut, May 26, 2011
I attended another gathering of TEDx.  This time, Patsy, William, and the committee for organizing a TEDx Beirut this September, have decided to hold it at LAU Beirut, the new business school building.  The idea was to expose, promote,disseminate, and associate as many participants in the coming TEDx event.  Thus, once a month, a major meeting, called TEDxBeirutSalon, showing a few TEDx speakers and commenting on the topics will be in a university campus.  The three other Thursdays will be at Patsy house in Awkar.  Reine, a teacher of English and Ethics at LAU, facilitated and coordinated this first “Salon”.  Over 100 showed up, among them 30 LAU students.
I felt a good vibe among these young people, and refrained from commenting as I wished to do on many topics.

The first speaker, (I tend to forget names, though many in the small auditorium considered him top in statistics and adulated him), exposed by animated graphs the trends of the US, England, Japan, India, and China since 1858 in life expectancy versus average income.  The speaker said that in 2048, India and China will surpass the US, Japan, and Western Europe States in life expectancy and average income. 
Apparently, these countries have preserved data since 1858 and could be compared.  Anyway, the  year 1858 coincided with the defeat of Indian uprising against the British colonial power, the defeat of China in the Opium War (opening China market to European product in exchange (bartering method) of opium manufactured in India, and the coertion of japan to opening its harbors to US and European merchant ships.  And in 1858, Queen Victoria talked to the US President via the new invention the Telegraph.
First, the speaker didn’t clarify whether data on life expectancy were homogenous among all countries.  For example, were children dead before age of 5 included in the samples?  Were people living to be 60 and over, functional, relatively healthy, or practically dead and needed to be fed in their bed for another ten years?
Second, how average income were computed?  Were income standardized to match the cost of living?  Is $100 in India of the same worth as $1000 in the USA from 1858 till now?…  Anyway, if we standardize the notion of income, we can conjecture that the trend for the lower 20% classes is a flat line to all countries.  We can also conjecture that the trend for the richest 1% of the population is basically the same among all countries.  What make a difference in the trend are principally the lower middle-class section that represent 60% of any population. 
Third, average income is not a good indicator.  For example, poor Bangladesh, neighboring India, with half the average income is better than India on human development indicators as defined by the UN.  A couple of years ago, I had read an extensive article in the French monthly “Le Monde Diplomatique”, showing exactly the same graphs.
Derek Sivers’ funny 3-minute speech “How to start a movement” could have been a basis for heated opinions, but we were ready for a coffee break. Derek showed a video of a group of people on the beach.  A youth, top naked, starts dancing alone.  Another clothed youth join in the dance.  Pretty soon, most of the viewers hurry to participate in a haphazard dance, just not to feeling left out from the crowd.  Derek said: “If no one joined the first dancer he would be labeled a nut case; but, as another fellow joined in and another, then the top naked dancer is a leader, and worse, a movement was set in motion!
This is the kind of speech that get people “excited”, as if a new discovery was invented.  Youth who does not demonstrate to be a nut-case is usually not a normal youth.  Youth not joining the first nut-case is not a normal youth.  The notion of leader in that context is not applicable.
If someone did his due diligence, studied, read a lot, went on adventures, reflected on his experiences and constituted “expert convictions or opinions”, and then, decided to recall his youth craziness and energy and acted out a nut-case scenario, and happened to have youth join in, then he is promoted a leader momentarily.
The irony is that, although youth are the backbone for any movement, it is the “matured” new followers who grab the administrative and managerial positions.  The youth are expected to just “follow” and stop acting crazy!

As William wrote: “I don’t believe a leader is someone that people follow. In Derek’s talk, what the first lone nut did is simple. He showed everyone that nothing bad will happen to him if he danced on the beach. No consequences. Of course this by itself doesn’t start a movement. People will not get up and start dancing just because he did. There’s another secret ingredient.

Everyone got up and started dancing because they all really wanted to dance in the first place. And because they were afraid… no one did it.  A leader is born when he does something that a lot of people already want to do. He uses himself as an example and abolishes the fear. People do what he’s doing not because he’s telling them what to do. It’s because he’s showing them that it’s OK to do what they’ve always wanted to do. He creates a safety net. If something goes wrong, he’s the one most likely to suffer the consequences. And so the followers feel safe.

And so this changes the concept of a leader and follower. A leader doesn’t lead, and a follower doesn’t follow. They’re just people doing what they’ve always wanted to do, but wouldn’t (Mostly out of fear).  The TEDxBeirut team isn’t doing this because our curator Patricia is telling us what to do. We’re doing it because each one of us already wanted to do it so much.”

The third speaker demonstrated that car technology is advancing:  We can let the car drive us wherever we want, at any dangerous road, and be safer than if we decided to be in control.  He said: “The number fatality for youth is car accidents.  One day, we will be wondering why we drove car.”  Indeed, if there are efficient and inexpensive public transports, why anyone but nut drivers would purchase, maintain a car, pay traffic tickets, be exposed to humiliating policemen, be incarcerated in prison for reckless driving, and spend half his income on a private car?




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