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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    Jul 14 2013: Society. by a large margin. really really huge margin.
    1. Let's start with the developing world for my first example. It is illegal to kill people in just about every country. but I have personally witnessed something horrific that was perpetrated by ordinary folk in India. A couple living together in the neighborhood was discovered to have eloped and the wife had left her husband in a different state. The neighbors got together and locked the couple inside and set the hut on fire. this was around 1983.
    2. 2002 USA being belittled and called a terrorist supporter at a halloween party for wearing an indian costume and then getting my car keyed before I left.
    3. 2007, 8 or 9 The government had just outlawed corporal punishment in indian schools. Not one teacher stopped in the school where I taught. I was called to the principal's office for breaking all the switches I found on the teacher's table. After chastising me, the principal then used a metal ruler to beat a 2nd grader for not doing his homework. This particular student was the son of the teacher who sent him to the office, because her own beatings weren't doing the trick.
    4. about a year later: A husband beat his wife right out in the street and there was blood pouring onto the ground and her hair was matted from it. I pull out my cell phone to call the police. The neighbors standing in a circle watching the spectacle grab my phone out of my hand. "you should not interfere between a husband and wife because of the credo "my husband is the god I can see"
    • Jul 15 2013: Manishka....that is terrible and I hate to read stories like this. I was in India in 1972 and the shock of the poverty has remained with me all my life and I help where/when I can.

      India has around 150 million millionaires an Indian friend of mine tells me. He came here as a student runs a taxi business and his wife works for the government and they have only 2 children.

      He says the rich in India pay no or little tax and do not support their poorer people. The rapes of the women there is just disgusting and a real turn off for attracting much need tourism.

      India and many other countries just have too many children and therefore the poverty and low status of women. Kids sold into prostitution or domestic slaves, or roaming the streets begging. Not good enough.

      My wish is that the Gates foundation & Medecines san Frontiere can help supply Bayer microchip contraception for women which lasts 5 yrs. and costs $8.10. With less children the status of women then improves.

      A Ghanan doctor has started this program in Africa (Ghana). In first year prevented 500,000 unwanted pregnancies and saved something like 40,000 women dying in childbirth.

      I was widowed young and I could only afford one child, he has done well climbing the corporate ladder. I just wish every child in the world could have a decent life , education, food, medical, home.
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        Jul 15 2013: Karmel, Absolutely agree, population control would help. India could actually take care of it's own issues if the rich got involved. but the rich that stay here are the ones benefitting from this culture.-
        The caste system encouraged giving blind respect to those of a higher caste. This means you don't evaluate people as individuals. The higher castes have a sense of entitlement to whatever they can get from the lowers... cheap labor, bribes.

        India also has a huge brain drain.. the ones that leave the country are more educated, but generally don't come back. Why? Its too hard to fight here. too hard to accomplish anything. They leave, find a completely different world outside, and never come back.

        They end up being successful outside. Why? the same predatory culture they've grown up with is exactly how you get ahead in business.

        A social responsibility movement could do wonders. But social responsibility needs to first be explained. One time I spoke about it, someone told me how much gold they gave to the temple. And when I asked how the temple spends it, he said "to build more temples or to beautify the existing one."
        Me "do they do anything to help people?"
        Him "no"

        The rapes in the news...The feeling I get here is of territory. The male marking his territory. Women should not go out at night unless escorted by a male family member. Rapes happen to women who are seen with a "boyfriend".

        In the end, it's not the government that's the enemy, it's society.

        P.S. I have only one child too :) It's a good number for the world we live in. Did you mourn for his lonely playdays at home? I did.
        • Jul 15 2013: Being a single Mum it was hard to leave him, in those days there was no single mothers payment I had no choice but to get out to work....or starve. Often I worked 2 jobs 24/7. My Mother stepped in and looked after him and my brothers daughter. Mum used to walk them to school and back. While babysitting Mum taught the 2 kids to read and write and do math and I credit her one on one teaching for him getting a scholarship to University (college).

          My Dad was not well enough from WWII injuries to accompany me out at night. My brother too busy attending his child and sick wife. Often I would have to come home from work at night by myself.

          Western countries do not have the 'family' network. My nearest cousin lives 3 hours away and 2 overseas.

          I will say though that some of our girls/women should show a bit more modesty in clothing. and behaviour. Awful to nowadays see young girls/women going out at night getting drunk in niteclubs or on the street and falling over drunk or drugged.
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        Jul 16 2013: Sounds like you had it tough. I do feel that families are still close in the west, at least some that I have seen. Distance is certainly there, but the view I take is that living further away from your hometown forces independence and also a larger view of the world. I don't know what the answers are, children, especially 10 years old or less need their grandparents and cousins around.

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