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Daniel Early

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Stevenson points out we don't like discussing injustice in America, to what extent is the online response to his talk evidence of that?

Bryan Stevenson pointed out how we don't like to talk about our problems in America and I'm curious to what extent the online reception of his talk is evidence of that. Does the low number of views of his talk compared to some of those talks on technology and design (which happen to be two areas he mentioned we tend to focus on more) speak directly to our evasive manner towards concepts like injustice? Is it possible that the title of the talk puts people off and is that disinclination symptomatic of America's tendency as a nation to refrain from addressing such shocking injustice?

I was surprised to see his talk has garnered only 382 total comments so far, which is less than some of the videos I've watched today that have 1,000's of comments. And his talk has been posted for over a year.

Last point, if you had me watch 'David Gallo's: Underwater Astonishment' and 'Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice.' And then told me that one had a million views, but the other had over eight million, and then asked me which one was the one discerning, open-minded, issue-facing, problem-discussing TED talk viewers watched eight times more than the other. I would have been wrong. But this could be comparing to apples to oranges, that occurs to me as I right this, but the possibility is there.

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  • Jul 13 2013: To answer your original question, the response to his talk does support his statement.

    Most Americans are self centered, concerned primarily with just getting along as well as possible. To most of us, the so-called justice system is something to be avoided, and as long as we avoid it, "out of sight, out mind". I thought that the system was suppose to be self-correcting. I thought that judges were suppose to take note of extreme statistics that clearly demonstrate that the system is not just, and take action. Apparently they have not, and so the responsibility for action rests with ... me! Well, all citizens.

    A minority of Americans do take full advantage of the freedom of speech to examine, discuss, analyse, dramatize, and generally do anything it is possible to do with our history, including misrepresent it. This includes our history of injustice. It remains an interest of a small, enthusiastic minority.

    For most of my life, I argued that the death penalty was just and that society had the right to impose it. Bryan's simple question about deserving to kill changed my mind.

    The contrasts in our culture are truly awesome. Spectacular technology and entertainment, and horrific injustice, poverty, violence, environmental havoc and war. Will our wisdom ever catch up to our cleverness?

    I suspect that Bryan was not surprised by the low number of views and comments. I had the impression he was surprised to be on the TED stage at all.
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      Jul 13 2013: "For most of my life, I argued that the death penalty was just and that society had the right to impose it. Bryan's simple question about deserving to kill changed my mind."

      That takes some real humility. Very compelling!

      "A minority of Americans do take full advantage of the freedom of speech to examine, discuss, analyse, dramatize, and generally do anything it is possible to do with our history, including misrepresent it. This includes our history of injustice. It remains an interest of a small, enthusiastic minority."

      I think this is not true. I believe the majority of us are good people, if not all of us. This is only the PERCEIVED image of their character, falsified by the misrepresentation of a few as the whole, by media coverage. Why did this happen? Because the mass media only selects the most interesting stories. Or maybe they wanted to show the world that some lady is taking advantage of the justice system because the media guys believe in justice and believe that what she was doing was wrong and they know perfectly well that most people view this negatively. Come on, who would really cheer for a person like that when she is portrayed as someone greedy and unjust?

      But that could also be a misunderstanding too. Sometimes it's not like the lady really wants to sue, she just wants to win the court. Her voice is really probably her lawyer's voice because her lawyer knows how to win this particular case because he did his research and he knows his shit. That's just his job.
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      Jul 15 2013: Although it happened years ago, I, too, transitioned from firmly believing in the death penalty to being strongly against it. I'm almost close-minded on the subject now, because I can't comprehend why it would be acceptable. I find it difficult to understand advocates of the death penalty.

      However, I think advocates of the death penalty are answering the question, as Stevenson pointed out, of whether the person deserves to die, which leaves unanswered the real question: Do we deserve to be the ones to take that life.

      The best statistic was about how 1 out of every 9 people (and I can't remember if they are people on Death Row or people who were actually executed) are eventually exonerated by new evidence was astounding. I can't believe that doesn't compel the people and the government to at least suspend all executions.

      Your comments, Barry Palmer, on how it "remains the interest of a small enthusiastic minority," reminds me of one of the few books on social injustice I can remember reading, 'In the Spirit of Crazy Horse' by Peter Matthiesen, that studies the continual conflict between the Sioux and the government.

      I like to think of myself as civic-minded and socially aware, but the more I carry on this TED conversation and read others' comments, the more I realize a widening gap between my values and my actions. James Zhang, especially, made me stop and consider how much I could do, in regards to preventing social injustice, and how much I actually do.
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    Jul 13 2013: I would have said Americans love to talk about our problems in America. The United States was founded in the spirit of protest and our founding documents place great priority and value on challenging government and every aspect of the power structure.

    I am surprised, as you are, that Bryan Stevenson's talk had fewer views. I have not seen the Gallo talk. Perhaps it is because injustice is discussed so much in America and in the world and has been for so long that people do not expect to hear something new, whereas the title "Underwater Astonishment" suggests something new.

    I think people choose where they engage about ideas and with whom. The vast majority of those who watch talks online do not choose to converse about them on the site. Those who discuss things on the site are not a random sample of those affected by the talks or who converse about a subject. The number of comments on a talk is probably a poor indicator of the extent and quality of discussion of the talk or its subject offline.

    While some may prefer not to challenge their own views, others may not enjoy engaging with those they see as fixed in their views..
  • Jul 13 2013: This is surprising given that social injustice is now worse than ever in the US with a tiny minority earning endless millions, the middle class shrinking and the poor growing. Its maybe because noone wants to hear about this to try and sweep it under the carpet. The politicians don't want to touch it as much of their influence is generated by rich corporations, those few extreme rich. People aim to be rich just like them so they can relax and say: "phew, I made it" and the rest of the people can rit.
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      Jul 13 2013: Good point. It didn't occur to me people might fear being accused of discrimination and that it would be equally, or at least similarly, applicable conversations. I've felt that way myself sometimes. Over breakfast this morning I finished the fourth chapter of Kahneman's 'Thinking, Fast and Slow.' In his discussion of priming effects, he states: "You cannot know this from conscious experience, of course, but you must accept the alien idea that your actions and your emotions can be primed by events of what you are not even aware." I wonder how likely it is people don't consciously consider they are rejecting involvement "in a discussion that would challenge their opinions and might make them feel bad about something they have done," because they are primed to disassociate themselves from subjects like 'injustice' or 'race equality.' In other words, they don't fully realize themselves why they are avoiding 'a hot button,' but they are and it is a mental process mostly hidden to them. I'm new to TED, but when I reflect on my initial response to the suggested talks on the 'New to TED?' playlist, I had a preference for some over others based on the title alone, demonstrating some of the innate bias of my own, preferring things I'm interested in to things that are more important.
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          Jul 13 2013: Brene Brown's talk on vulnerability would be good to people carrying childhood complexes into adulthood in regards to shame.
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    Jul 15 2013: Consider this: The online response to Stevenson's talk, which speaks of countless and tragic injustices going on all the time and outlines some of the things that can be done to prevent it VERSUS the media-frenzy and nation-wide protests in response to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trail.

    We don't like talking about injustice in America, but then one controversial events captures the attention of the nation and people suddenly find themselves following the court hearings and later protesting in the streets. The President weighs in.

    It makes me wonder how many people will experience a permanent shift in how strongly they feel about social injustice. Will they seek to make themselves better informed about the issues? Will they take and continue to take in the years to come action of one sort or another, whether writing a letter or joining in a peaceful protest or encouraging others to end the death penalty? Or this whole thing with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman a flash in the pan?
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    Jul 14 2013: Dude. I totally agree. Because it is surprising. And I think that if you consider the question of social justice and if it is or is not worse than ever you'll see something terrible and disgusting behind the shiny facts that we ended slavery or gave women the right to vote, etc, I recommend Hans Rosling's talk on 'stats that will reshape your world view' for a little encouragement and lots of information.

    I try not to dwell on the apathy of the rich so I don't want to respond to your excellent response directly.
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    Jul 13 2013: You know, I bet you if you just had more Grandmas like his grandma talking with the juveniles, crime rate would reduce to 0%.

    I hear a lot of crime stems from bad parenthood and lack strong parental figures.
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      Jul 13 2013: Yeah. He made good use of statistics and it would have been interesting to see what statistics he had on hand involving crime in relation to "bad parenthood and lack of strong parental figures."

      And his Grandma's message was important, it was sort of like the talk at the heart of his own talk. I don't know how to produce "more Grandmas like his Grandma,' but encouraging as more people to watch this TED Talk would help to spread her message. I imagine in the million of views it received that there are more than a few people that have sat their own children down or juveniles they work with and had them watch this talk. At least I like to think so. I've done some tutoring and mentoring in the past and a little attention and appreciation go a long ways...

      Thanks for your response.
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        Jul 13 2013: If I told you, you can achieve world peace by doing WHATEVER you can to focus and listen, would you do it?
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          Jul 14 2013: That is an excellent question. I liked it and green high-fived the grey thumbs-up.

          Between the area of would I do it or would I not, is this wonderful little realm of possibility where I would try, as I am and have been trying, to do it, WHATEVER. I'm not trying to play a card, but I'm jobless and broke yet I still can't bring myself to do anything detrimental to the environment (particularly when it comes to the sustainability or morality of food I purchase) or to drain event a cent from government services like unemployment or food stamps (now called SNAP). The world is chaotic (and perhaps that is my perception) so I try to do what I can to focus and listen on a daily basis (although world peace is not the objective on mind so much as sanity).
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        Jul 14 2013: Wow, I'm glad that you still haven't given up.

        People don't recognize perseverance until they see and experience it. The world is indeed chaotic! But that's what makes it so special because diversity brings perspective from everywhere and different ways of looking at things.

        It sounds like you're going through a tough time, and anyone can empathize. You'd be surprised how many people DON'T focus and listen, and they don't realize the damage they do until they understand the impact of not doing it.

        You got this bro!
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          Jul 15 2013: Gandhi said we must be the change we wish to see the in world. When I think of it in that context, I realize three things:

          One, I don't have the change the world. I just have to change myself.

          Two, there are a lot of changes that I haven't made but could and should.

          Three, rather than denigrate myself for what I don't do, I can be grateful that I have been made aware of all these changes I can make and I can show my appreciation of these possibilities be trying to make changes, even little sustainable ones.

          Some rabbi once said that it isn't necessary you complete your task, but neither are you free to desist from it. In the current context, I interpret that to mean I have to EVERYTHING to achieve world peace, but I do need to keep doing things, a little here a little there, everyday in some way or other, to bring peace into my own world and hopefully into the world of other people.
    • Jul 13 2013: I do not think it would reduce to 0%

      Grandma told all of her grandchildren that they were special and should not drink alcohol, but Bryan's brother and sister both started drinking beer rather early.
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        Jul 13 2013: I think you're underestimating Bryan's brother and sister, and Grandma and Stevenson.

        Are they bad people?
        I would like to assume not, with Stevenson and Stevenson's grandma so close to them.

        Alcohol's not a bad thing, it's a medium for socializing. It's only bad when people abuse it and drown in it, and I think Bryan's sister and brother know better. Some people also just like the taste of alcohol. Red Wine is apparently good for your health.
        • Jul 13 2013: The point I was trying to make was not about alcohol.

          The point was that Bryan listened to Grandma and actually did what Grandma asked, whereas his brother and sister did not. That certainly does not imply that they are bad people. I have zero knowledge of their character as adults.

          Grandma seems like a very fine, caring, person, and her advice was very good. I am sure that if we had more people like Grandma, things would improve. But it would not change the fact that some people hear good lessons and follow them, while others hear the same lessons and ignore them.
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        Jul 13 2013: Yeah, that's something to bring attention to, but that's something I don't think is a big issue. If anything, the fact that they defied Grandma's instructions could probably be because they are intelligent, independent individuals and know where to draw the line. Or maybe they were just curious. We may never know, but at least for me, I think I can trust their characters.

        "But it would not change the fact that some people hear good lessons and follow them, while others hear the same lessons and ignore them."

        Here's the real question:
        Did they listen to Grandma? Did they hear what she had to say and understood her and her intentions? The real message is not "Don't do alcohol" or "don't do this," the real message is that Grandma cared for their well-beings and hopes that they become great people. And I sure as hell trust Grandma to carry out that message to Bryan's brother and sister having learned of her through Bryan Stevenson.

        That's why I trust those two.

        And that is why I think it can be 0%.
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        Jul 14 2013: I have to be honest. I accidently 'thumbs-up'd Barry Palmer when I didn't mean to for his comment: "I do not think it would reduce to 0%." I don't think James Zhang meant it in quite those absolute terms. So nit picking about the statistic didn't contribute to the conversation anymore than saying the sky is blue.
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    Jul 13 2013: That makes sense. Not surprising. I was really moved by the talk. Emotions composed a larger part of my reaction to this talk than have to other talks. Maybe I assumed other people would react more emotionally and then assumed that there was a correlation between one's emotional reaction to the talk and the likelihood of them posting a comment. That belies the conception I have of how Americans 'talk about' or 'discuss' our problems.

    It might say more about me and my cynical nature, but I tend to perceive Americans as loving to whine and complain and bemoan their problems, that they have emotional or pre-conditioned responses more than intellectual or rational responses, which I associate with discussion and serious talk. I guess that is cynical of me, saying others treat problems as things to be blamed rather than things to be solved.

    But how earnest and serious and deep can a conversation about injustice be amongst a general population that, for example, doesn't have a working knowledge of the Bill of Rights? http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/03/20/how-dumb-are-we.html 44% of Americans were unable to define the Bill of Rights.

    Thanks for your response.
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      Jul 13 2013: As the concepts of justice and injustice are universal concepts rather than concepts peculiar to the United States, I would say that people the world over can discuss them seriously and earnestly without having a working knowledge of our Bill of Rights.

      A lack of knowledge of the Bill of Rights definitely does affect people's ability to engage in civic participation however. I have twice been part of jury selection as the lawyers probed potential jurors and was shocked that potential jurors did not understand matters like that the law says you are innocent until proved guilty and that jurors must decide by that standard even if they personally believe the accused should bear the burden of proof of his innocence. There were jurors who said that the more serious the crime, the more right they had to presume guilt as a starting point.
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        Jul 13 2013: Yes they have to get to a higher level of corruption before they need to concern themselves with the interstate commerce clause.
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          Jul 13 2013: Have you sat on a jury, Pat? I can just imagine you as a jury foreman.
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        Jul 13 2013: George C. Scott or Jack Lemmon or Courtney B. Vance?
  • Jul 13 2013: Bryan Stevenson's talk was outstanding, but I didn't see it when it first came out because of vision problems connected with cataract surgery. Who knows - I missed it because of my eyes.