TED Conversations

Casey Kitchel


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When fighting for rights, which is tougher: a battle against an oppressive government, or a battle against an oppressive society?

Manal al-Sharif opens her TED talk by asking the audience a question.

“You know that people all over the world fight for their freedom, fight for their rights. Some battle oppressive governments. Others battle oppressive societies.” And then she asks, “which battle do you think is harder?”

Fellow TEDers, which do you think is a tougher battle? And why?


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  • Jun 18 2013: A oppressive society is much harder. To be in a society where everyone is screaming freedom, but only certain groups of beliefs are able to publicly share their opinions and beliefs is sickening. Once that other group of people try to speak their beliefs they are sued or told to be quiet or immediately accused of being the oppressor.
    Its a larger crowd to fight against, its a crowd who doesn't care about professionalism because they aren't under that kind of spot light.
    I would say a oppressed society is harder to speak to. Americans are so swooped up in their own personal crap that they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free.
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      Jun 23 2013: Is it just "Americans" who are full of crap? Why not other countries and societies? Why just Americans?
      • Jun 24 2013: No, its other countries. But America is the only one I know of personally because I live here, I dont or have never lived in another country to know how the people are over there, so that was my example.
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          Jun 24 2013: So, how can you attempt to compare us to others? Most people I know abhor lies and earnestly desire to know the truth. It's the "fool me once; shame on me: fool me twice: shame on you" way of looking at life that give rise to the idea we like being fooled.

          The whole idea of "Oppression" is to force people to live and behave in a certain way. We could all stand up and protest but the blunt truth is: we will be arrested and go to jail. What mother or father can afford to be separated from their children in such a way?

          Yes. American are oppressed, but it doesn't necessarily follow that we enjoy it or are content with the situation.
      • Jun 24 2013: I don't see how i was making a comparison, I was just using Americans as an example. But an example on how the american society oppress people would be Christianity. Christians are ridiculed and oppressed, their religion calls them to spread the word of God, not to influence but to inform. Society is always trying to sue other parents and schools for providing info or even speaking of God, around the holidays it is no longer appropriate to say merry Christmas, and laws are being passed that demean christian values, traditions, and practices i.e. marriage.

        I dont see where you thought I was comparing America to any other country, I was simply answering the question of is the battle tougher against an oppressive society or government and america was my example. But my honest opinion, compared to other countries, we're a few amended rights from being no different.

        Just because you and the few like minded people you surround yourself with feel oppressed doesn't mean everyone in america feels that way. There are some people who are happy rights are being taken away, they feel safe, some people want more rights taken away from other groups of people, we still have racism here, we have people who are pro abortion and others who are pro life, we have people that believe certain classes in society should have more rights than others, we have people who believe gays should be brainwashed straight, its some people who want all immigrants to go back to their countries. And some people are just indifferent to it all. To say our society can't be oppressive is absurd, I mean, if that's what you're saying...
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          Jun 24 2013: I was in a bad situation in Virginia one day in my life. It was Christians who helped me out. I didn't see anyone else trying to help.

          I've been in many bad situations in my life, always, it was Christians who were willing to help. No one else was willing. Now, we have Atheist churches. At last there is some competition for doing good in the world.

          I hear how Christians are brutalizing all of society everyday, yet, I never see it myself. I sometimes wonder if I'm blind? I'm not a Christian and doubt I could ever be one.

          I know some of them can be a pain in the behind but why throw the dog out with the wash-water?

          I understand that you don't see the comparison I was alluding to Ms. Monie. It is more of an inference in your writing, rather than an outright testament in what you said.

          Think of it this way. How do you know that sugar is sweet unless you have bitter to compare it to?

          You said: "Americans are so swooped up in their own personal crap that they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free."

          I noticed that the word Americans was plural, indicating all Americans or at least a whole bunch of them. I also notice that the mental attribute you were attaching to them was not good one:

          "...swooped up in their own personal crap...", "they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free..."

          It's not a good description of a harmonic society. The comparison appears almost immediately as you compare good to bad. "Good" was not necessarily mentioned but, "inferred" by contrast.

          It just kinda jumped out at me as I read your comment. So that is how it appeared to me that you were making a comparison. :)
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          Jun 26 2013: Re: "Americans are so swooped up in their own personal crap that they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free."

          Does it apply to "other Americans" or to you as well? How do you know that information on which you base your statement is not a lie? You speak of "society" as of "them". Aren't you a part of "society"?

          Re: "laws are being passed that demean christian values, traditions, and practices i.e. marriage." Marriage is not exclusively Christian practice. Non-Christians marry as well. Every culture has its own traditions around marriage. It would be absurd to force everyone marry "Christian way". Nobody forces Christians to marry same-sex partners or force the Church to conduct same-sex weddings. So, why do Christians feel compelled to dictate how and whom to marry to non-Christians?

          How do you interpret the following quote from New Testament:
          "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
          Do you think, this Christian tradition needs to be kept (even within the Church)?

          To whom does this passage apply - to others or to ourselves?
          "“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

          Well, actually, to say "you hypocrite" to another person is hypocrisy and judging. Something to think about.
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          Jun 26 2013: Arkady, are these sorts of assumptions/claims not practically always about "the (unenlightened) Other?"
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          Jun 27 2013: Uniqea, I understand the utter despair of seeing a world you grew up in desegregate around you, being ridiculed for enjoying things you were brought up to believe. It's a form of heartbreak, especially if that world appeared full of love, affection and joy.

          It was the society I was raised up in when I was a child. During a few brief years as a young man, not long returned the War in Vietnam, there was a time of great salvation in the whole country of the United States of America. It was a time when it appeared the whole country was turning back towards it's religious, christian roots. The Out-Law-moteorcycle gangs were converted to Christianity. It was a time when John Leneon was singing spirituous songs and the whole word appeared long for peace on earth.

          It all fell apart in the 80's. Religion in schools was questioned heavily and the secular movement came in full force. It was the beginning of the decline for religious zealotry.

          I understand it is only natural for someone to want to preserve that which felt good in their lives. But, times change. We live in progressive times and we are looking for solutions that are not so sacredly defined. We don't wont to wait for a solution we want to build one ourselves. It is only natural to want these things also. To those of us who see a increase in secularism, it is just as joyful and comfortable as it is for those who live a different way.

          Living without a faith in the hereafter or a godlike being is not something to be afraid of. It just taking responsibility for your own actions. We are still human with human emotions like love and affection and an Ernest desire to help others.

          Yes, I miss Christmas, not the sacredness of that day; I miss the joy and family gatherings associated with that day. We still practice Christmas but we don't use the religious trappings. It has no religious meaning to me. I still like to see people smile and be happy.
      • Jun 27 2013: This country was founded and fought for on the basis of religious freedoms. The laws placed and the rights given are on the basis of religion. You take out our foundation, and now we have a mess of corruption and devil worshiping propaganda all over the place. Smh. You can't just pull out a bunch of blocks at the bottom of the tower and expect the tower to remain standing.
        I do not believe everything I hear regarding religion, i do not believe everything in the Bible or any religious book is entirely true. I dont believe that I should just wait around for God for things to happen, or that I can do wrong all day and ask for forgiveness later, its unrealistic. I am accountable for my own actions. I dont believe everyone who doesnt believe in religion is bad or immoral. But I do have the morals, values, and ethics that I learned while studying religions, and I do believe in a higher power which keeps me in line and it helps me keep those morals. I feel that everyone should have that, and they dont, and they're being shielded away from it. The government can't teach morals, and Christians are ridiculed and ignored for doing so, other people are labelled paranoid conspiracy theorists.
        Every other country keeps their religion(s) in the positive light, we dont, we celebrate removing religion from things... We celebrate removing morality from our lives, everything is about sex and drugs and gluttony and now we praise satanic symbols in our media. Our government is full of sociopaths, our military and police is full of psychopaths, we have the most incarcerated people in the world, our country is going straight to hell, you dont see that?
        It's not about being against change, Im all for change, we don't need to go back to killing people in the name of God, but we have no guidance for our behaviors as a whole.

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