TED Conversations

Diann Rust-Tierney

Executive Director, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

This conversation is closed.

What will it take to move our nation and then the world to the place where we value and nurture people.

We pay a lot of lip service to the value of the individual or our investment in children as our future. But when you look at what we do there is a gap. We tolerate people and families living on the streets, we accept vast disparities in educational opportunities for children, we keep millions of people locked up and locked down in solitary confinement and we execute some.

I'm looking for concrete steps we can take to build a sense of commitment and connection that will allow us to be a healthier and more compassionate society. I have described the symptoms-- what can we do together to fix the real illness? How would you define it?

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    Jan 19 2014: the only thing that comes to mind are Mahatma Gandhi principles . one that i like most is his views on change, he said that we cannot change the world that surrounds us wothout changing ourselves.
    all these change begins firstly with self the individual, then the family, friends, society.
    we only need compassion and strong will power to change from " I " to " We". i think there are many ways to achieve this, from medidation to education of the self
    apart from Gandhi. Teachings of J. Krishnamurti, Sermon on the mount by Jesus, Budha will definitely take us on the path we want to achieve. it's not rocket science it's will power.
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    Jan 9 2014: The US is a compassionate society, and here is a little proof of that from a US TV show called “That would you do?”


    To me and many others True compassionate is something you just do, no motivation or forethought needed. I guess you can say it is instinctive or a primal response, no education required.
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      Jan 9 2014: Thank you for sharing this. It made me cry-- it was wonderful. And I agree. This question was not meant to be about reinforcing the negative. Its about how can we get more of this.

      It's about redefining ourselves as the people in the grocery store. I'm going to share it now.
      • Feb 7 2014: Bleeding heart without resources is like marriage without sex. I is non starter. Starting point is let poor stop making babies and let us restrict non productive longevity. If you do not agree show me the resources to solve the problem. Let us start with mental health or cheap housing or having true friends.
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    Jan 19 2014: Hi Diann

    Great and inspiring words, from a great and caring soul. This is my temporary perception and I own it.

    Unfortunately, for as long as the Human Consciousness is polarized, there will be no end to pain and sorrow.

    The polarization of human consciousness is the reason between the feeling of "We" and "They" and this division necessarily brings forth Bias. As an example, you can see it in politics, where there is the ruling party and the opposition. The Divide and the Bias that maintains the Divide will not end soon.

    How can we put and end to this? How can we put an end to Bias, to "We" and "They"?

    Can you live without bias? Investigate this question deeply, and the answer will come to you in DEEDS, and not words. The words will convey the finding, but the finding must not be answered from knowledge.

    Equality, is a word that is meaningless, even though it is used more often than it is worth using.

    When we use words without Honesty, meaning that we use them to gain an advantage rather than to convey facts, words are meaningless.

    Deception is a great inward perceptual Distorter, and it distorts in favor of "I", due to Bias.

    Truth has no Favorites as it seeks neither to advantage or disadvantage. Advantage or disadvantage distorts the Truth. Truth brings Clarity into Consciousness. Then we can See. And we can behold the Great Oneness. Only an Unbiased mind, mind that is Innocent, harmless (Bias is harm) can see the Truth.

    Can you live without seeking advantage? Seeking to be biased? Or, can your Bias be made to work for the rest of Humanity? Can we have a bank that has one account, the Humanity account, and we all deposit our money there, as much as we earn, but never knowing how much we individually have, only collectively?

    Every deed of ours is biased, towards something. And Bias makes us blind in one eye, we become One Eyed monsters. Selfish and divided.

    Where there is Bias, there is no Equality. Without Equality, we cannot stand as One.
    This is how it is in my world.
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      Jan 26 2014: That is the big challenge. You have described the obstacles. For some what you write will resonate with a spiritual path for others it will sound and feel as though they are being asked to give-up the self.

      I think that is the heart of the challenge of moving to the next level. You ask hard questions and worth considering. Do we make progress by at least considering the questions?
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        Jan 27 2014: It seems that we as a species need to admit that whatever we experience, we experience as one, as every species is responsible individually as well as collectively. It is vital that we see this, that we, from all cultures and languages, all races and ideals, we have one thing in common: we are Humans. And being Humans, we are obliged to extend out humanity to all our members, without favoring one over the other, and to other species. It may take thousands of years for this truth to come to the light; some of us see it, most of us not. Progress can be made by considering the question, as you summarize it. We are together on the Titanic. When the Titanic goes down, which is already happening, the top deck-first class, will also go down with the rest, nobody will be spared.

        We must consider seriously our future as a specie, and the rest of the species, else the Noah's Ark will be empty, lifeless. Thank you for raising the issue.
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      Jan 27 2014: Refreshing to see a champion of truth. Bias is only bad when you don't recognize it as such. Find the truth in one's self and project outward.
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    Jan 9 2014: Make compassion, understanding, and acceptance a priority in your own mind and within your home. These virtues are as contagious as a smile. Set an example and the people will follow.
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    . . 100+

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    Jan 9 2014: LOVE
  • Jan 8 2014: Even though the question is vast, I believe individual small steps can be taken in order to set the ship assail that could one day achieve this tremendous goal.
    I think the first step is for each of us to see the individuals around us. Smile at others, don't ignore them. Put down the smartphone, take out the ear buds and listen and interact with the people in whom paths we cross each day. If we actually step out of our own world for a moment and into a strangers we may be able to help solve a problem making a positive impact in their lives. Something as simple as giving directions to someone who is trying to make it to a job interview. This would require some of our precious time, but the impact it may have on the other person could make a huge difference in their lives, compared to the small sacrifice we would have to make.
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      Jan 8 2014: Well said.
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      Jan 8 2014: I agree Steven and Diann...well said:>)
      I am all for starting with our "self" and doing small acts of kindness. When we think of the enormity of the challenge, it seems overwhelming. And if each and every one of us does a few small acts of kindness every day, it could make a HUGE difference in our world.

      You say...."the impact it may have on the other person could make a huge difference in their lives..."

      I agree and add...the impact it has on us, also makes a huge difference in OUR lives. There is a conversation going on about the ripple effect.....it works!

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      Jan 8 2014: And once we have begun the communication we can work towards a better political decision making process, one where consensus trumps prejudice, belief and assumptions.

      Meanwhile, I would also suggest looking at the world itself and all that reality presents to us. The wind in the grasses or the trees, the bird flying by, the shadows moving across the landscape and anything else that is not electronic or manufactured. I find it far more entertaining and engaging than anything electronic or manufactured except, perhaps, Ted Talks.
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      Jan 8 2014: I Agree (Nicely stated)

      But, I would say that is the second step.
      The first step in being charitable is self-reliance. AKA: not being in need of charity.
      I have MS and work every day to maintain my self-reliance, with the hope that by not taking any of the limited charity dollars, it will be there for those in greater need. (I must add it is extremely aggravating, to see those not in need take charity.)
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        Jan 8 2014: You make a good point here that is relevant. People feel more able and willing to help if they are feel as though their needs are taken care of. Its called compassion fatigue. If we are worried about where our next meal will come from or whether we will lose our home, its harder to have the bandwidth to go out on a limb for someone else.

        But there were stories during the depression about people taking other people in, sharing what little food they had- what accounts for that?
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          Jan 8 2014: Diann,
          Could it be that some people recognize our interconnectedness? When we are helping someone, we are also helping ourselves because we are all connected.
    • Jan 9 2014: I believe what Steven said, is of the utmost importance.We as an individual should get some time to rethink on what needs to be done,as a human,for the humans.Another thing what i feel is about relevance and satisfaction. A miniature dying in front of you might be more relevant to you, than people dying in some way, long long distance.Lets say we've spending most of our time with one person,now that person would be more relevant to me, than the one which i have met an hour back,so if any needs come to both,then because of our tendency to think,or the feeling/emotions attached with a particular,we'll be forced to help the one which you know from long back.It depends on the way we take things.What we feel as right and important to be done, always comes in first priority.
      Also, there is a predetermined satisfaction behind every shot.Be it a game,or be it the life's most crucial decision.Our mind governs us,and a proper government always leads to a good nation.So here, if we do put a second thought on our coming steps,then i hope we could make this world a place where happiness is being bestowed on everyone.
  • Jan 16 2014: interesting topic, I like the topic, but it is not a straightforward answer

    Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world'. It really does start with the individual. Unfortunately there is no quick fix as the individual must first grow in compassion and responsibility. By example, when an individual takes responsibility for their actions, they will think carefully before they physically abuse their partner or children. It is because of lack of responsiblity their is a rife in domestic violence, murders, rape all over the world. People act but fail to take responsibility for their actions. So you see by just addressing one topic of responsibility how we can make the world a better place.

    Also whenever the individual does reach out to help, there is an expectation of a return. There should be no expectation, and you must act without expecting anything in return.
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      Jan 16 2014: Hello Radha, Great topic, although a neutral topic. Principles of Spirit give direction and I try to follow. I like your expression of reaching out. It defines the Principle of Giving. To bestow or impart to another person without an equivalent or reward.
      • Jan 16 2014: hello Larry, people have so much potential to be much greater than what they are, but yet they dont know how to tap into it. That is the reason why there is so much suffering in the world.

        Its not easy to take time to quieten the mind and go inward, but when people stop seeing the world from the 'outer eye', and perceiving that as their reality then there will be a shift from pain and suffering to joy, peace and harmony.

        On another note, we know that there are consequences for actions, so when people act badly there are consequences. Some of the suffering we see is a consequence of action, and for those we need to be compassionate.
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    Jan 15 2014: From the conversation so far, I am seeing the following themes:

    * First that there is a reservoir of caring and compassion that we have and exhibit that should not be ignored or underrated
    *Second, that a lot has to do with the way that we as individuals feel about and respond to the needs around us
    *This is less in the realm of things that can be done through direct programs and a lot to do with raising consciousness about how our fates are intertwined.

    Perhaps what we are trying to do is to affect a culture shift. Perhaps one as significant as the transformation in our thinking about drinking and getting behind the wheel. It was not so long ago that responsible people did not see having a few cocktails and then getting behind the wheel as irresponsible. With a concerted push to raise public awareness, that view has been completely turned around.

    What if there was a concerted and sustained effort to change the way people think about our connection to one another? Would that be a good approach?
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      Jan 16 2014: Diann, I can see that you have followed the roots and are close to the source. I know how my thinking is transformed and perception of the world follows. How do I change your thinking? How do I change your mind? How do I change your heart? Answer that and you will know your approach. Old saying, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." Feel free to change the saying you can add man or woman if you like. Keep progressing, Progress defined as increasing in Truth and Light.
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        Jan 17 2014: That is the heart of the question. The next stage of evolution for us will be in our hearts. I think we can get there.
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        Jan 26 2014: Thank you for this.
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    Jan 15 2014: Nothing will change until the system of political decision making is changed because that is where everything starts. The current representative system only represents the interest of those who are able to buy, manipulate, seduce, blackmail or otherwise influence that decision making and what the voters want is irrelevant. Representative systems are a joke.

    First things first. Put control of that decision making in the hands of those who have to live with the decisions. The rest will follow. See Direct Democracy and Liquid democracy for ideas.
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      Jan 15 2014: I agree completely! The US representative system is perhaps one of the most openly broken ones that I know of.

      "To lead this country you must accept donations from donors that will be exchanged for promises about policy changes" It's not a Democracy, it's the clearest case ever of a Plutocracy.

      For anyone interested in a debate about different democratic models you are welcome to join it on: http://www.ted.com/conversations/22548/which_is_the_best_form_of_demo.html
      • Feb 7 2014: Jimmy:
        That is how living organisms are structured. At times physically strong, at times mentally strong and at times resource rich controls the social set up. Is democracy designed to resolve this issue. We have system where one group that invest in Government benefits greatly. Bottom 90 % invest little and survives on false morality feeds on each other and let rich be rich. Only rich innovate, take risk, initiative and gambles their life. Large group of ordinary souls in any group ant or humans cannot run society. If all low income people want is no work, no gamble, lazy marginal lifestyle, American democracy is giving it to them, so far,
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    Jan 9 2014: Your concept is great, agree with every word you say. It is a grand task for us to invent the structure of many varieties of small flexible systems for to serve our future society. Why small systems instead of the existing gigantic systems? Our manmade society and its systems of all sorts, treat everyone as collective non-existing prototypes. When they are huge it is impossible to adjust them to unavoidable changes within our environment, these systems are doomed to collapse, sooner or later creating disasters .

    We still shall learn that nature nurtures us as unique individuals with different abilities and characters, different needs and possibilities. Each of us has uniqueness that shall never be suppressed by our society games and conventions, otherwise our stiff systems provoke illness, bitterness, madness, crime, and war. We still need to learn how to bring out the best from our nature's granted abilities, within ourselves.
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      Jan 9 2014: I agree Vera, that people often get "lost" in systems....stereotyped and prototyped as you say, and it's important to recognize people as individuals with different abilities and characteristics, different needs and possibilities.

      Along with our differences, I think/feel it is important to also recognize our similarities. We can learn and grow with each other when/if we make that choice, and that choice starts with each of us as individuals:>)
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        Jan 9 2014: Coleen, you put this together better than I did. Ted just published my conversation very much related to this one.

        "How seriously does our ability to imagine others in our minds impact our understanding of others in real life?"

        I'd be so glad if you will comment on it. It is about how we manage to create our own character while perceiving others… it's also about our natural abilities to act as others(at least in our minds) in order to understand others..
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    Jan 9 2014: We, human beings, by and large, are already taking care of ourselves. There are more than 7,000,000,000 of us. What is worrisome is the rest of the other living things that share the planet Earth with us. Don't they have the same value as human beings? Don't they deserve the same care and nurturing?

    Perhaps if we learn to take care of the trees, and the fish, and the birds, and other living creatures ... perhaps if we take care of our ecosystem and stop polluting our Earth, we may also learn to take care of each other a little better.
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    Jan 27 2014: It will take a set of moral standards that everyone can live with. De-centralized government. Return of the gold standard or some other currency stabilizing mechanic. Those who want something for nothing must re-evaluate their purpose on this beautiful earth. What I see today is division...all driven by things that really don't matter. What matters is family. The message to all ..this is our earth...let's work on it.....together.
    • Jan 27 2014: "Return of the gold standard or some other currency stabilizing mechanic"

      I do not understand comments like this.

      The gold standard guaranteed you could buy an ounce of gold with $10, or $10 with an ounce of gold, but it provided no guarantee as to the price of anything else.

      In fact, on the gold standard, we experienced very wide swings in the price of everything other than the pegged gold/$ exchange rate.

      In the 1800s, the golden age of the gold standard, there were 10 depression and 12 recession, with a 20% decline in total economic activity being the dividing line. With an average duration of about 2 years each, we spent about 46 years of the 100 year century in some state of economic collapse.

      There is a reason that pretty much every nation in the world left the gold standard. It sucked HARD!
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        Jan 28 2014: History rewritten for the benefit of those in power. In order for a man to work with diligence is the knowledge that his sweat will put food on the table. It is the value of his labor that must remain stable and reliable. This allows him to make rational decisions based on the output of his skill. No Gold was not the guarantee, discipline and trust that your labors will buy the same goods is the guarantee. My point was not the gold standard, just a value standard. You blame the gold standard on the collapse when it truth it was the manipulation of man that was the cause. History is only published by the one's in power. Know this and you will begin to know truth.
        • Jan 28 2014: "History rewritten for the benefit of those in power."

          Exactly how would someone not in power rewrite the 1800s that is different from the version written by those in power?

          In the end, the price of everything is at the whims of highly variable supply and demand, even gold. One day wheat is plentiful and you can buy a lot of it for an ounce of gold. Next year, locusts and drought ravage the crops, you can't buy wheat for gold, but farmland is cheap as the banks have to dump all the foreclosures.

          Gold standard did not prevent the wild swings in prices. If anything, it magnified them as trust in script, bank note, and other forms of money waxed and waned rapidly.
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        Jan 28 2014: Again, Gold is just a scapegoat to cover the misdeeds of the bankers. Only banks foreclose on intellectual property. When the defaults could have easily been forgiven. Just as it could be today. All the talk of debt to a creditor that is broke. It's all just intellectual garbage to maintain the hold on power. Try to wrestle yourself free from the doctrine of lies.
        • Jan 28 2014: The defaults could not be forgiven because there are depositors that want their money out, and that (in the days before FDIC) meant the bank staying solvent, not to mention the shareholders that didn't buy stock in the bank as a charity.

          The doctrine of lies is that the gold standard had some magical ability to prevent the business cycle and maintain price stability... or that price stability is actually some great thing.
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        • Jan 28 2014: Yes, gold is an excellent, time tested way of flaunting your wealth in the faces of others... and with the exception of electronics leads that do not corrode, has not a whole lot of value otherwise.

          It has value because it had value, and it had value because it was one of the first metals we could work . Its high malleability allowed it to be beaten into shape in the melena before we discovered metal casting.
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        Jan 28 2014: Man is to blame for the collapse of any system. We can not move forward in this discussion until we agree it is not the currency in and of itself, but man's ability to manipulate the market for unfair game. This is achieved through politics. Trust is earned by deeds not by policy.
        • Jan 28 2014: Well of course, but that does not alter the only point I was concerned with. The myth that the myth that the gold standard provided some magical price stability is a pet peeve of mine. Prices of everything except gold gyrated wildly while we were on the gold standard.
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        Jan 28 2014: And my point is, it could well have been any thing put up as a standard and it would have failed. We don't have the discipline to adhere to the standard. Where there is no standard of measure, there is only chaos and nothing by which we can compare achievement or attain credit in exchange for goods and services.

        I must thank you for your contribution to this thread. Perhaps we can discuss it over a pint of ale someday.
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          Feb 7 2014: So looking at this strain, do I gather that the point is that people must have some sense of personal security in the basic needs for survival before we can reach out to others?

          There is an old saying that is: you can not lift someone else up when you are on the ground. Is that the idea.
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    Jan 23 2014: We can all contribute to make this world a better place by making our generation more aware of our history like how it used to be. Nurture begins at home so we can contribute to be a role model for some one by being a nice person.
    Also it is necessary to let our generation value happiness rather than paying price for it.
  • Jan 13 2014: each of us could mention different scenarios prevailing in our countries. but whats important is not the differences in its manifestations but to see the nature of the problem being the same.

    we are trying to see at the global scale, or at national level but is that not what we do in our small worlds - our world of family, friends, neighbours, work place, relatives? we speak of family - we are one but in our experience we separate ourself from them. we try to draw limits as to how far we act or think for the other. beyond that limit even if you see the other needs help, you tie your hands and legs, zip your mouth, block your heart and head to feel or think. we are concerned as far as we consider mine. ‘mine’ is the area that gives you certainty, pleasure, security, significance. it defines your sense of I. and unfortunately, the circle we have drawn is limited to our families, our achievements, joys and sorrows.

    the moment you have limited yourself you are blind to the fact that we are actually not this limited, separate entity as you tend to perceive or believe. our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures, our pleasures and inconveniences, our position or status in the society…every experience is connected to the small and the big world we live in, to all the people, nations of the world.

    if only if we can realise this truth of our existence, we will then act responsibly, with commitment, very different from what we are today. so Diann, if you are looking for a powerful, strong initiative it has to begin at the individual level. people in position and power have to think differently for them to act differently. thats when we act responsibly. thats when compassion is possible. for that matter any noble, wise action can be taken.
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      Jan 13 2014: Well said. This question is as much about what we can do now as it is about how we individually and collectively can evolve in our nature.
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    Jan 10 2014: Introduce the concept in the public education system. From start to finish. With each level becoming more complicated as the student progresses. Advertising fast food, and toys, and tv shows, and expensive cars, and big houses......twists everything up.
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    Jan 10 2014: According to Immanuel Kant: Humans want concord, but instead nature “wills discord". And I have to agree with him, we always tend to make better societies, a better future for our children, a better life, thus Utopia, However, in reality, what is happening is that we always fight for a better life without ever achieving it, we have wars, hunger, poverty, depressions, suicide... and unfortunately, that's the way nature works, it will never change, and the proof is that we have been living like this since the creation of the first societies.
    My point is that "societies" are the real problem! As long as we live in an organized society, this hierarchy of having fortunate and less fortunate people is crucial for its survival, its kind of like the cells of a body, we have "fortunate" cells like our brain cells that we carry till we die, and "less fortunate" cells like leukocytes, who defend the body and die for its sake. In the end, they are all crucial for a healthy body, but each one have its "divine" role to accomplish.
    Now imagine a world with no societies, where each individual is king and peasant at the same time, what would happen to wars? hunger? etc... I believe that this is a solution, it is proposed and discussed by Nietzsche with the ultimate purpose of creating the "Overman" a human being so perfect that he is only managed by virtues.
    However, we are social creatures, Rousseau said, we are destined to live in societies, in a pyramidal structure. Rousseau created this "Social Contract" which is the fundamental of modern societies, could we refine it? customize it?
    In the end, the solution lies in each one of us. A couple of days ago, my friend did a random act of kindness, what he said is the following: If only for a moment we could walk in someone else's shoes out in this life, the world would be a better place.
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    Jan 9 2014: Let's ask this question another way: Are there other places in the world where people are valued and nurtured more than they are in the US? We might be surprised by the answer.
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    Jan 9 2014: Diann, below you asked for practical steps that can be taken.

    As with most issues education is the key, and not talking about adding a class to the current failing public miss education system. The US and world needs a free for all online local, national, and international education system. So Jean from the slams can take the same Miss Goodhart from small town USA 101 math class or Bill Gates 7801 programming class as John from Park Avenue.
    I should add, I’m suggesting an education blend something like 50% online and 50% traditional schooling.

    This would provide equality in education for all, and also boost inter-contentedness between everyone.
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      Jan 9 2014: Wow. Maybe you have just given us a picture of what it would look like. First, I commend you for what you are doing. And while everyone might not have the capacity that you have to love and bravely take on this kind of commitment it is an example of being responsible for your own corner of the world.

      In answer to your question, I would not warn you against what you are doing. I would be very mindful of the enormous commitment and challenge that you have taken on.

      This young man is very fortunate to have you as his champion.

      But as you suggest to move beyond the theoretical to the practical is hard work and can be scary and uncomfortable and even lonely.
      What can make us brave enough? As brave as you are?
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      Jan 9 2014: Carolyn,
      I would not "warn" you about the possibilities, because hopefully, before entering into the kind of scenario you present, you would have considered all the warnings, and gathered all information about the situation.

      I am curious about the information you provide. You say the person is "currently charged with attempted murder". "There is no guilty charge and it will take years". There would not be a guilty "charge", until the end of the court proceedings. Has there been a formal "charge" in a court of law? You say...."it will take years", which suggests that charges have not been filed in court?
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          Jan 9 2014: Carolyn,
          I suggest if the witness or victim refuses to testify, there is no case. If there was a case, they probably would be holding the person in custody. If it was a "boy", he might be in a detention center. Since it is a man (18) by law, he would probably be held in a jail if there was a case? Apparently there is not enough evidence (without the victim's or a witnesses' testimony) to hold the 8 men who are involved.

          I also suggest that your friends and family are concerned about you....maybe with good reason? If 8 men attempted murder, that is pretty serious Carolyn, and it's wonderful to reach out to people while considering all relative information.
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    Jan 8 2014: Most people genuinely want to help others, they want to feed the hungry, eradicate poverty,etc.
    But they don't want to do anything because they see it as an unachievable goal. People are indifferent to the millions of people dying of hunger, disease etc. because they think that their individual contribution will not fix it completely.
    The first step would probably be to make seemingly impossible tasks like ending world hunger look like it can be done, which is in itself a very difficult thing to do.
    Throwing statistics at people will not work, people need to find a way to connect to a problem personally for them to care enough to do something about it.
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      Jan 8 2014: I think you are on to something there. When the problem feels too big ( the way this question started out maybe :)) You don't know where to start. And it seems hopeless. And you are right to point out that in policy debates, we tend to focus on trends and statistics to describe the problem. We often fail however to go back and dissect the problem into smaller pieces that can be acted upon by communities and then the individual.
      What would be the best way of doing this? Say the policy folks describe the problem and give us a sent of the magnitude. Do they then go back and dissect it? Find the leverage points for the problem to identify the bite-sized pieces that people can act on? Or do we try another approach is to take the problem to the community or neighborhood experiencing it and have them come up with steps that can be broken down.

      Or is it as simple as each of us taking responsibility for the people in our immediate sphere- -assuring their comfort and well being and supporting and encouraging others to do so as well. Would that get us to helping the person living on the street?
    • Jan 9 2014: Altruism shouldn't be motivated by goals such as ending world hunger or malaria or whatever. Helping people, knowing that you're making at least a few lives better, should be motivation enough.
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    Jan 8 2014: You may be right in this way "valuing people" and nurturing people may be too amorphous. I am really talking about priorities.

    From my experience, the resources that are allocated to education varies by locality. In other words we have school districts within the same state with vastly different resources are available to educate the children in the state. And there is no legal requirement that states spend equal amounts to educate all of the children in the state. As a result all children do not receive the same quality of education.

    As for homelessness, there are no simple answers. The reasons that people are forced to live on the street are as varied as there are people. Some people have untreated mental health issues and/or substance abuse problems.Other lost jobs. And access to mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment requires medical coverage. Access to free services is limited.

    You are right that despite very challenging circumstances, many people do find a way to succeed despite the obstacles. But we need make that the rule and not the exception.

    As for prisons, budget cuts have resulted in cuts in services. And a philosophical shift away from prison as a place for rehabilitation to prison as a place for harsh treatment has eliminated many programs as well.

    And a significant and increased number of prisoners are kept in solitary confinement-- locked down-- 22 out of 24 hours. These prisoners don't have access to services and the conditions actually aggravate or create mental health issues..

    My question really goes to what policy choices do we make ?

    But I also, see that you don't buy my underlying assumption which is that there are inequities and disparities.

    But your comments point to a deeper challenge -- which is that we are not all working from the same set of facts.

    So if I could pose one answer to my own question: We must first get a common understanding of how those who are least like ourselves live.
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      Jan 8 2014: Your absolutely right about policy choices which then points to the greater problem, namely who is making those policy choices.

      As for common understanding, first consensus or at least some agreement is required and current political posturing in both the U.S. and Canada graphically illustrate the intransigence of some of the actors in that regard. Hence nothing will change in that regard until the decision making process changes. Democracy is supposed to be bottom up, not top down. Authoritarian is top down. Consensus is bottom up. Direct Democracy now.
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    Jan 8 2014: I think this is too vast a question, and in fact several questions with possibly all different answers. In our nation and our world there is an enormous amount of valuing and nurturing of people. So I guess you're saying that sometimes we don't see it? But I don't even buy what you're saying. I believe a lot of homeless people are homeless by choice, I believe resources are available that they don't want to take advantage of. And you can't force them to, can you, you can't march them into an apartment building pointing a gun at them? As far as prison goes, I suppose people have many different reasons for committing crimes. The system I think tries to help people. Schoolteachers try to teach good values, the church tries to teach good values, the government tries to teach good values. If you need psychological counseling, you can get it on a pay-what-you-can-afford basis. If you're being molested there are many people to complain to. Even within prison from what I know there is a helping hand extended to prisoners, there are job programs, rehab programs, prison chaplains, prison psychologists. I don't believe there are such huge educational disparities, you will see people come out of the inner city schools and go to Stanford or Harvard, if there are such disparities how are they accomplishing that, they're not Supermen? I would think you need to narrow down your question, Diann, but I also think there is already huge amounts of caring.
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      Jan 8 2014: Yes there are a few people who choose to live outside the narrowly define structures of the existing economic system and who desire more from life than simply being wage slaves. But that does not mean they should also be denigrated and destitute simply for making such a choice.

      But your extremely naïve, misinformed or indoctrinated if you truly "believe that a lot of homeless people are homeless by choice". or that prisons are anything but warehouses for the unsightly indigent and taxpayer subsidized sinkholes for the profiteers.

      But then again, most of you premises begin with "I believe" and "I think" both of which seem to be substitutes for "I assume". And therein lies ther problem, namely that assumption is impoverished premise when it comes to going out and seeing for oneself, or obtaining - or even doing - the research and collating of the facts personally. Others have done so and that knowledge offers a far richer soil for their thoughts and beliefs to grow and flourish in.
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        Jan 9 2014: william, when I said "I believe," or "I think," what I was trying to suggest was that I'm not an expert, that my statements are only based on some, or a little, knowledge. I will say I don't particularly hear any hard research backing up your statements, as an example, I don't hear you providing any evidence that "prisons are....warehouses for the unsightly indigent and taxpayer subsidized sinkholes for the profiteers." I can say that the topic of homelessness, or prisons, does not interest me enough at this moment that I would do concerted research on them. So I make statements based on the amount of knowledge I have, for example, occasionally meeting and talking with a homeless person, or occasionally meeting someone who has done prison time, or, in my case, I often read about crime, or on TED I have talked a bit to people who have worked in the prisons, on paid or voluntary basis.

        I certainly would think your statements are debatable even on the basis of the limited amount of knowledge I have. From what I know, people who go to prison are violent, cruel people. Some are cruel to the point where they murder people. To say they are just "unsightly indigent" seems really inaccurate?

        Would you agree that there are already enormous amounts of caring and nurturance in this world? I look at this computer in front of me, and to me this computer represents caring and nurturance, that someone cared enough to labor and create this labor-saving device. I think of the TED organization and it represents caring and nurturance, that someone cared enough to create and maintain this wonderful organization that spreads ideas and creativity. I think of you replying to my comment, and that to me is also caring and nurturance, you cared enough to share your ideas with me, even if I don't agree with them. The list just goes on and on..........

        I maintain that Diann has bitten off too much in this question......
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          Jan 9 2014: you freely admit your knowledge is limited, therefore the best way to become better informed is to do the research yourself rather than expect others to do it for you.
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        Jan 9 2014: that if she believes there are places where not enough caring and nurturance is being shown, she would be more effective if she would isolate those points and engage in a conversation about those specific points.
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          Jan 9 2014: Greg,
          We see all kinds of conversations about what is "wrong" in our world. I LOVE the idea of discussing how we can move forward in our world to be able to value and nurture people. You start conversations about what YOU are interested in Greg, and other people start conversations about what THEY are interested in. You have a choice to participate or not, and popping in to criticize doesn't feel very nurturing to me.

          This is, as you insightfully say in your previous comment Greg....a caring and nurturing reply...even if we do not agree:>)
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        Jan 10 2014: well, William, I'm skimming the answers that other people have given to this question, and I'm not particularly seeing that anyone has based their answers on a great deal of hard research, or at least they haven't cited any research. This includes you. The person who started the conversation, Diann, made statements about three fields, but I can't see that she is much of an expert or knows a great deal about two of those fields. For instance, she asserts that there is inequality of education, but gives no evidence; she asserts that people are homeless because we non-homeless aren't compassionate, but gives no evidence. She makes a statement about prisons, and she probably does know something about prisons given her job title. But that's still only one of the three fields. If she and other people, including you, are giving their opinion without, in most cases, apparently backing it up with research or expertise, why do you expect me to do research to back up my statements?
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          Jan 10 2014: Well, Greg, my knowledge is derived from 20 years of volunteering with a dozen or more community based NGO's who provide services and support to the public and especially indigent populations. Each of which came with its own research and analysis of the demographics they deal with along with copies of related government and privately sponsored studies and analysis. That along with 20 years of first hand experience and 10 years of related university studies including applied criminology and psychology interactions provides me with a rich and substantial body of information to draw upon.

          Others in this chat have similar backgrounds and can provide valuable insights into you concerns. But nothing can compare with finding out for ourselves.
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        Jan 11 2014: william, you mention 20 years of first hand experience. 20 years of first hand experience of what?

        Probably I've approached this conversation wrongly. The woman hosting the conversation made certain assertions that I think are not based on her doing hard research or having substantial experience. For example, she seems to suggest that there are homeless people because many Americans aren't caring or nurturing enough, but I doubt that she has the qualifications that would give her statement strong credence. I took it that if she was making statements without a great deal of knowledge, I could, too. But probably a stronger approach would have been to ask her how she justifies her statements?
  • Feb 7 2014: When ultimately world will create a world currency and move away from dollar big changes will take place. Then American talking from the high will come down to earth. There will be dramatic changes and we will be in a same boat as 200 other countries and will have to worry about the amount of debt we can carry and still be on the mountain.
  • Feb 7 2014: My answer is simple... Start by looking at the mirror... and u will find the answer
  • Feb 7 2014: Republican congress-persons in hand cuffs.
  • Feb 7 2014: Those who cannot afford and/or do not know how to raise babies into citizens
    .should not have babies. Criminals should be executed so that they stop wasting money
    needed for sane society. Third death should be acceptable choice and should be facilitated.
    Older people who need very expensive care and do not have their own resources should
    think hard about choice of death.

    Ultimately 1 +1 equals 2. There is nothing one can do to make it 3. After realism we can create'a
    society you want.
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    Feb 5 2014: “A small step for a man, a giant leap for humanity” Those were the word of a man, who undertook a perilous task to show the world what an advance species he belonged. They are in constant technological progress, smarter computers, faster transportation, better communication, advance health care, finding cures for what was once thought to be incurable, yet we fall behind to find cures to racism, hatred and many more ethical and moral issues. Throughout history has been a few of us that thought of those issues could possibly be solved. Nelson Mandela, had strong ideologies for a better world, so did another great man with great visions ,Martin Luther King Jr., as well as a highly respected singer with strong beliefs for peace, Bob Marley. Man has the power to change not only his own fate but also of his companions, however the materialistic world around us have made most of us lose faith in humanity. It may seem like a small step for humanity but it will take a giant leap for one man to accomplish what a few good men has done before. We are all humanitarians in some ways that we don't realize, we need to inculcate humanitarianism in our educational system to where all future generations will ensure that our society have equal rights and seek innovation. I am myself looking forward to make the necessary steps to help my country by trying to raise awareness and hopefully make the latter a platform to where all the ideas gathered in TED talks can be successfully implemented. Developing countries can be "used" by organizations and foundations to make the them into a role model among other nations , if we invest the time to see the various development and innovation that can be done.
  • Feb 5 2014: Problems like this will continue as long as we accept without reservation political parties such as Republicans and their Taliban-like buddies the Tea-Party to exist. As long as people can blame god for all our problems instead of standing-up and deciding to not accept such swill for an excuse as to why things are as they are and do something about it!
  • Feb 5 2014: Teach ourselves to give freely without any expecation, and decrease the importance we give to our personal pleasures. A challenging path but nesecary to fix the real illness

    In terms of external action, maybe there is a way we can eliminate media and broadcasting that is designed towards prompting peoples personal craving. As that is what drives people to spend more money, maybe we can teach ourselves to live more simply.

    Thank you for posting. A much needed concern