TED Conversations

R H
  • R H
  • Chicago, IL
  • United States

TEDCRED 30+

This conversation is closed.

What's the point?

The premise: Art is an excuse for pseudo-intellectuals who are poor in math to be cynical. Popular designers seek 'innovation', 'green', and 'poignant' style to hide the item's lack of practical application. Technological 'advancement' is the poor trading food and selling daughters to get cell phones. We 'gotta have our guns' so when the gov't comes with fighter jets, missiles, aircraft carriers, and smart-weapons we can defend ourselves. I stand by my political party because when they're wrong they're still right. The homeless, incest-victimized, hungry, non-insured student should score the same on tests because they have the same opportunity as any other kid. The gov't lowers home interest rates by 2/3 so I can pay more in taxes, but won't lend the money. We're outgunned, outclassed, and outsiders from the decision-makers so let's just give in, go with the one-world gov't, let the super-wealthy have their way with us, and settle for a latte, a day off, and the trinkets of least cost production

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    May 10 2013: Now that's how you goad people into a debate! Hey, your closing phrase, "trinkets of least cost production", gave me the name for the heroine of my unpublished (because it is unfinished) new novel about the decline and fall of the USA. Now follow this. . . her name is Elsie Peteys, which is the phonetic pronounciation of the acronym Least Cost Production Trinkets, LCPT's, Elsie Peteys. The novel is called "Atlas Quit". So far I have the title and all the pages numbered sequentially. There is a cynical artist who is laughably bad at math; an industry mogul who cranks-out useless products for the voracious consumers of Green, Innovative stuff; everyone will be fixed-wired in the To Disagree With Me Is To Be Wrong mode; tests will be biased against homeless, hungry, incest victims who have no heath insurance; Big Brother will toy with the hopelessly impotent hoi polloi;and Elsie will secure a place in history by selling lattes and trinkets to people on their days off. I just know it will sell and I will join the super-wealthy!
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      R H 30+

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      May 11 2013: Ha! You found me out! Thanks edward. I laughed out loud. Ayn Rand will roll in her grave. Let me know when you get there, I may need a place to stay.
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        May 11 2013: Have yours call mine. Long live Objectivism!
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    May 9 2013: Globalised everything seems to me to be the modern scourge, and your premise illustrates that. And a one-world gov't will probably prove to be its awful culmination.

    I still maintain that 'the local' is appropriate not only as an antidote to the insidious dysfunction of 'the global', but might also restore the feeling of "the point" again. I think true democracy would return; businesses would run on the basis of quality rather than quantity - and employ local people; politics would be appropriate to local needs and desires; there would be more respect for the local environment (as something to be nurtured as a local benefactor - not just something to exploit and sell globally for as much money as possible)...

    This need not be a naive, closed and parochial society, because our knowledge of the global would still be there.

    In such a society, I think there would be a point - but how to get there...?
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      R H 30+

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      May 10 2013: Man, am I glad you ended it that way - "how to get there...?" The premise of this debate is just that, we've been trying forever to get there, the sages and the wise throughout history have pointed the way, yet the power we give to 'the fittest' could prove to be our own sentence to life in prison, a 'guilded cage' perhaps, but we can't win - or can we?
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        May 10 2013: I'm afraid to say that change will only come about through stupidity and disaster, not intelligence and design. We've become too accustomed to the gilded cage with all its fatal attractions.
  • May 10 2013: Oh, R H, you are coming in loud and clear!

    This reminds me of one of my favorite works on existentialism, Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", which follows the pre-determined journey of the two characters in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" who are pretty much written off the minute they appear in the play. It's often been compared to Beckett's "Waiting for Godot", but in my view, much more accessible.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosencrantz_and_Guildenstern_Are_Dead

    In this short play, Stoppard deals with the absurdity of it all, the conflict between art and reality, how insignificant we feel. Like R and G, we feel that we are not in control, that whatever we do, it will not have the desired impact on our lives. Our free will is actually at the hands of a higher power, it seems, and fighting it is utterly useless.

    But I am the 'silver lining' kind of person. If anything, TED has re-established my faith in humanity. As long as there are folks out there who are not willing to let the 'powers that be' determine their fate, there is a chance for all of us.

    Only we as individuals can determine our own goals, but the key is to actively pursue them and make the real.
    Only we as individuals can form a community and actively contribute to that community by communicating.
    Only we as individuals can pave a path that leads to change, and there are countless paths that lead to the same place - namely, a world each individual wants to live in.
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      R H 30+

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      May 10 2013: Thanks Lizanne. I feel your view. But this is a debate, so I'm going to counter: We are insignificant. We have become a means to an end, a category to be managed, a 'human' resource. 'The' middle class, 'the' poor, 'the' Islamic, 'the' white, 'the' bright, 'the' rich, 'the' republican, 'the' women, etc. We are not people, individual, 'priceless'. And we're meant to be kept angry so we stay apart from each other. We have our own 'proofs and views', which are generally exclusive of other possibilities. We are placated with a 'car', a 'beer', and debt, so the grand issues are no longer critical or ours. And however that 'beer' or 'car' were provided, is of no concern.
      • May 10 2013: Gotcha.
        Ok, so all these individuals make up a whole - a 'we'.
        'We' keep all this segregation and separation going - why? To accommodate the thing 'we' find most important - consuming, keeping the economy going, making sure there's enough to buy and sell til the day 'we' die.

        Do 'we' really not want to know about the horrors that take place far away from our bed? Do 'we' really want to be kept in the dark by authority, or scared into buying things we don't need?
        Is our biggest concern really the Starbucks on the corner is going out of business?
        (I borrowed that comment from someone's contribution on another discussion about local/global issues - was it yours in fact?)

        Hang on - without each of those individual 'the's, there is no 'we'.

        'We' need to rethink who 'we' are on an individual level - in fact, all the resources you mentioned, all of which bring insight, intellect, experience and enthusiasm into the mix.
        Humans need to take responsibility for their role in society, which is to pave paths, not blindly follow them.
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          R H 30+

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          May 10 2013: Yup to all the above. and yea it was me ;)
      • May 11 2013: What... no rebuttal?!
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          R H 30+

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          May 11 2013: Ha! I thought I had with the one word 'yup'. But ok (like I said, this is a 'debate') - "Humans need to take responsibility... not blindly follow them" Bah! 'Humans' are taking responsibility, just which one's? Who are the 'humans' that decide? And how does one 'human' get to be included with the decision makers? What does that human have to do, to become, to be part of that group? Stay independent? Give the 'contrarian' view? Relinquish power to 'fight the good fight'? No. We've been grouped. You're either with us or against us. You're either a 'member of the club' or not. And guess who's got the bigger guns?
      • May 11 2013: Ok, R H...
        Which ones?
        Each individual one, of course!

        The humans that decide, as democracy determines, are the humans 'we' decide should decide.
        The problem there, is that the vote is never unanimous (unless it's corrupted, which is something else), so the ones in charge can never reflect the desires of every individual they represent. More often than not, they will end up representing those with the loudest voices and the fattest bank accounts.

        BUT, let's not forget, the decision-makers are in fact human!! School principals, town mayors, captains of any ship have the same needs and desires all humans have. Perhaps these humans have the ability to switch off those needs and desires in order to make decisions? Making decisions in the knowledge that not everyone will benefit from them, can't be an easy task...

        "You're either with us, or against us." - if that applies to all of us, then it is untrue.
        I can't be for myself, and against myself simultaneously, unless I have a mental condition.
        A member of the club is something else. That is proof that we are all equal, "but some of us are more equal than others".
        The system is myopic. Those in charge look for easy, short-term solutions that, in reality, only increase and lengthen our problems. Searching for the root of the problem is too expensive and too time-consuming, especially when you consider the citizens, not the decision-makers, are the ones waiting and paying for the solution.

        http://somnath01.blogspot.be/2012/11/an-argument-against-myopic-thinking.html

        (Oops, I was supposed to be arguing the other side of this debate, wasn't I... Let me get back on track.)

        We, as individuals, have more ammunition than the biggest guns can carry.
        We, as individuals, have more power than votes can buy.
        We, as individuals, have the loudest voice, but only when we speak up together!
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          R H 30+

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          May 11 2013: There, now we're getting somewhere. A point by point challenge! (the proposing team almost won by default - and your 'near' defection!). Individuality?! Ha. That's our greatest deception. Yes, we are individuals. We have 'rights'. Our voice should be heard. We fight to the death, with each other, to defend our position. We do not yield, not even a bit. All individuals have the same rights, because we are free. But 'they' are a collective. They have the same interests, the same beliefs, the same methods, and we are beholden to 'them'. They have alliances. They have one special interest that unifies them - power. What can one scattered, dis-unified (word?), relatively 'powerless' group of individuals withstand against such a formidable onslaught? I work too hard. I'm too tired. Besides, I have to meet someone to try a new coffee shop on my way to Wal-Mart for something on lay-a-way, and it is my only day off so i just don't have any time... You see? we're doomed. So let's just join the party... I believe that's worth 10 points.
      • May 12 2013: What, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?"
        Never!
        As an individual, my significance is so worthless, so menial, that I should just pack it in and give up?
        If we did that in 1939, we'd still be hailing Hitler today.

        Time is priorities. You don't have time to make your own identity count? Well, make time.
        Are you really willing to spend (or rather waste) hours of your precious life drinking pre-fab, overpriced coffee? Is that what will make you feel more significant?
        In fact, all individuals are not free. Not as long as they continue to conform to the desires of our capitalistic society, instead of their own.

        There is power in separatism, as long as it is not segregation.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separatism

        To move forward, we need to take a pledge to end conditioning, to stop thinking 'inside the box', to take that bold step out of our comfort zone and realize our full potential.
        http://drlinsteiner.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-guise-of-separatism/
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          R H 30+

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          May 12 2013: Words! My country was born on the expression of individual power and freedom, yet multi-national conglomerations make mute those expressions. My metaphor example is perfect: how do we fight against jets and aircraft carriers with pistols and rifles? The individual is reduced to rabble and separatism, while 'the People Of Oppressive Power" (P.O.O.P.) march on in dominance. So let's do lunch. I'm by the pool... But, with that said, you have won me over, so I yield. :)
      • May 14 2013: That was great fun, R H. Let's do this again soon.
        Make my drinky a mojito.
  • May 9 2013: Are you asking about the point of all these meaningless positions or life? I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to accomplish here on this thread. If you're trying to expose how silly we are as humans, I'm down for that. Have you read Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky? That's a great book for talking about how silly we are, especially how silly intellectuals are.
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      R H 30+

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      May 10 2013: Ha! No problem. Thanks for the great comparison! Actually, it's simply a debate. I offered a premise - although it is a bit dramatic, as is my default - meant to offer a very cynical perspective. The ending offers the result - we 'give in to powers that seem to be overwhelming individuals'. So, I hope respondents will pick a side: Yes, it is hopeless or No, our work is truly grand and moving forward to save us all, and give their reasons why they think so.
      • May 13 2013: Oh ok. MM....I wouldn't say our work with politics, science, etc. is truly grand. None of that is ever going to really change anything. Only when we work with people's hearts and characters is true progress obtained, and most people don't do that it seems. So it's not hopeless because there is a way out of the mess of our world's problems, but the solution is so hard (each person choosing to change to become responsible and moral) it'll probably never happen.
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    May 18 2013: Every question is useless when 'one' knows 'whats the point'.
    One can keep asking questions and others can keep throwing answers... It's a never ending loop.
    It's a never ending loop because both the sides don't really know 'whats the point?' .
    So, clearly if one wants to know 'whats the point', the individual needs to know the 'truth'.
    Any more word I add is hindrance towards this 'truth'...
    simply because it does not belong to the language of words...it belongs to language of silence...
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    R H 30+

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    May 13 2013: I find it interesting that, especially at T.E.D., that so many respondents offer personal/human dynamic solutions to global concerns rather than tech/eng/desgn solutions. That 'what we do' wont save us, but 'who we are' will. I am certainly in agreement, but still somewhat surprised. Thnx
    • May 14 2013: Good point!
      Especially considering what TED stands for... Technology, education and design.
      Maybe we're so wrapped up in who we are, we forget about what we can really do?
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        R H 30+

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        May 15 2013: That's an interesting perspective. Many believe we are defined by what we do. That 'We are what we do'. Therefore what we are is our action. Very compelling. For what does it matter 'who we are' in isolation? The 'sound of the tree falling' is moot if it's not heard. But then again, many also believe that 'what we do' is merely a reflection of 'who we are' inside. That our 'outside' world is a manifestation of our 'inner' life. Then, our actions are only reflections of who we are. I guess I would side with 'who we are' as being more fundamental. Although what we 'do' is of paramount importance, what we 'are' determines what we're capable of doing. So, in view of this observation of TED respondents, I guess it's understandable that we would 'default' to 'who we are'. We've seen 'what we do' in reflection of the world around us. If it's true that that's 'what we are', then we are a confused lot in desperate need of exploring and re-evaluating our inner inventories.
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    May 9 2013: I am confused as to how "art is an excuse for pseudo-intellectuals who are poor in math to be cynical." I think of art as a form of expression of a point of view or a means of processing and representing an idea or image.

    I think there is so much we can do to improve the quality of life for those around us, even when the giant structural changes are elusive and that those local-sized effects matter to anyone who thinks every person (or bird or beast) counts.

    When you write of the homeless, hungry student, I can speak only to the US, but almost any locality where that person lives, including the school, is working on the range of needs such a child has rather than leaving those be and expecting stellar school performance regardless. It matters.

    I don't know how many are in the "settle for latte/day off/trinkets scenario". I don't know anyone personally who is. This is usually something people assume more of anonymous others, I think. Anything we assume mainly about those we don't know well we should consider only as conjecture rather than firm conclusion about humanity.
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      R H 30+

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      May 10 2013: That's great, Fritzie. Thanks for participating. Just what I was looking for (see response to Scott W). Let me respond and defend the premise of this debate: I have become involved recently in the Chgo art scene, primarily poetry, and have been somewhat surprised at the level of angst, pain, and frustration that dominates artist's themes. There is no beauty anymore. I have interviewed a few artists and asked why. Their responses led to this cynical premise of the debate. Regarding students, no matter what we feel locally, we still have NCLB and the testing parameters that come with it, hence that premise. Now about the last one, the way I see it, we watch sports while people starve; we lose our livelihoods, then sit in a bar and go to Wal-Mart while financial criminals reap bonuses. . We justify our lack of response and tolerate great inhuman injustice with our fatigue and powerlessness. We've given in already.
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        May 10 2013: In terms of poetry, and with the caveat that I know little about poetry and don't follow the contemporary work, I have a couple of hypotheses or questions. First, particularly if you are looking at work by people new to poetry, might there be a concept of identifying being "profound" with being negative? Related, I have noticed sometimes people believe that focusing on the dark side and cynicism distinguishes them effectively from the (presumably shallow) masses, when, in fact, that attitude is as popular as any modern pastime. People love to remark on the broken and act like only an elite few are wise enough to notice what is broken.

        Second possibility, if you are looking at people new to poetry, are you perhaps seeing a population that has come of age with few opportunities (and little evidence in the near future of recovery from that) who have decided to try their hands at poetry as a way of emoting about that?
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          R H 30+

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          May 10 2013: yea. the artists I spoke with (professional with advanced art training - some not poets) said the basically art is more often than not a reflection of the times we are in. Cynicism seems to be the operating word. There are various levels of quality (read: uncontrolled angst and/or marketing), but mostly this is the world through their 'eyes'.
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        May 11 2013: Could I ask as an aside whether you are something of a poet?
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          R H 30+

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          May 11 2013: I was afraid you'd ask that. Let's just say I 'tinker'.
  • May 9 2013: Maybe the little fillm the pooint got it right. We are the point.