TED Conversations

Mohammed Al Medfa

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What wrong(s) would you right?

Hi there everyone,

I'd like to ask, what wrongs you believe there are in the world, that you would make right, if you could.

I posted a related question, asking "What would you tell children about following their dreams?" over here:
& another asking "How will you strive to change the world?"

I'm asking these questions as part of a video project of mine related to inspiring people to follow their dreams, right wrongs, and strive to change the world. Its all part of a web and real world project dedicated to enabling and empowering people, which we're starting called Utopian.

I'd love to quote the answers that some of you provide to this question and the other questions, and use them in the video. We'll be constructing a kind of 'visual wall' featuring everyone's statements.

We'll credit each person by placing their name next to their statement on the wall, which we'll be filming as an important part of the video.

I think these are deeply important subjects, and I'd love to hear what everyone has to say.

Thanks a lot,

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    Dec 6 2011: I would like to right the wrong of racism. I've never understood why someone is better/worse/higher/lower than I am because of their ethnicity, skin color, hair color, shoe size, whatever. A person should be judged by their actions and their abilities - not by their accident of birth. We cannot predetermine our ethnicity/skin color (OK, you can change your hair color), etc. There are those with great ideas at every level of being. They should all be celebrated.
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      Dec 6 2011: Thank you Deborah. I could not agree more. There's a quotation I bring up a lot that is kind of related:

      "Patriotism is the belief that your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."
      - George Bernard Shaw

      But yes I could not agree more. Dividing people by country and implying that that is somehow meaningful and allows for sweeping statements of people from one place or another is complete nonsense. One thing that really gets me is:
      Why do we judge people by where they came from, rather than where they wish to go?

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        Dec 6 2011: Medfa:
        "Why do we judge people by where they came from, rather than where they wish to go?"PERFECT! I will be using that, and the GBS quote, with some of my more stubborn friends.Good luck with your project.
  • Dec 6 2011: I would right the wrong of education in Western consumerist cultures being so fixated on external development. Happiness is an inside job, but we're taught from an early age that performance, saying the right thing and piling up all those external markers of success (cash, branded items, good grades, sports/school prizes) are what matters. Parents may tell their kids, "Don't worry about grades, we love you anyway," but for the most part, they themselves are caught up in trying to perform for their bosses, being 'nice' (but not very authentic) and buying the right brands. Branding, grading and consumerism are consuming us. Where's the love in those Kodak moments? I would shift education priorities towards teaching kids how to be aware of the here and now, how to love themselves, how to be in touch with the needs of others ie how to feel compassion. This would help to make the world a far wiser, kinder and more ethical place. Happiness is about learning how to be. We need to start teaching our kids how to be, not how to perform.
    • Dec 6 2011: This is a very excellent comment.
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    Dec 1 2011: I would say it is wrong, that not every human being who works hard at a full time job, can support a family, that has a stable parent in the home. It's going to take a long time to fix that one, but I truly believe it is what we need. Everywhere in the world, if you're willing to work hard to contribute to society, you should be able to provide for a family of at least 4, own a small piece of land, or apartment, and drive a vehicle, preferably electric. I'd like to right that wrong if I could. International minimum wage...
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      Dec 2 2011: Thanks David. The things worth doing usually demand the best of us, and difficulty and resistance only implies something is truly worth doing. I believe we will inevitably get closer to the goal you've described over time, so long as we continue to put more tools of expression and production in the hands of common people. The Internet has provided the network upon which people can start to recognize their shared fate and see that others are in the same circumstances as they are. Its a long road ahead, but it's a road that is eternally worth taking. We need powerful symbols to inspire people towards taking action to take us closer to goals of positive changes. There's a lot we need, but people are the answer. We can be that answer.
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    Dec 1 2011: I would strive to make people stop thinking in terms of wrong or right.
    • Dec 1 2011: But their are things not right Frans. Things that demand collective will and action.
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        Dec 1 2011: If people mess things up they have to mess things down, they can make things better or worse, nothing wrong with that. If this is the only way to learn, it's allright.
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          Dec 1 2011: "There is one good, knowledge... And, one evil, ignorance." Socrates.

          There's a part of me that agree's with you, because concepts of right and wrong tend to lead to the division, that's creating the problem in the first place. I think in societies that are doing things collectively that are lazy, violent, or stupid however, there needs to be a discussion that brings knowledge to enough masses to correct the behavior.

          You would agree behavior can be correct, and incorrect right? Maybe that would be a better way of looking at it? We could be operating on false hypothesis, or true hypothesis, but to call them wrong paints us as evil rather than ignorant?
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      Dec 5 2011: But there are people around who seem to be psychologically predisposed towards doing evil acts (eg sociopathy and psychopathy).

      What is very wrong, is the power we confer upon such people in politics, corporate leadership, the media - and even religion. There is a paradoxical hero worship for people who have got to dizzying heights of success through behaviours normally considered as inhuman.

      What to do about this? Perhaps a complete shake-up of the media, and a powerful reminder towards religious leaders that the nurturing of empathy (which I believe is the default position of the human condition) is where their sense of moral responsibility lies.
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        Dec 5 2011: Allan, you’re right all the way. Things are wrong.
        But instead of calling them right or wrong it’s more productive to understand the mechanisms why things turn out as they do.

        To say they’re psychologically predisposed confirms the status quo, to say they’re fearsome creatures that lacked the love our species depends on to kiss awake our human nature, points to the cause of the problem. Children that are emotional hurt and neglected are apt to shut down their feeling part. To survive they will develop strategies to compensate for it by securing might and power.

        We can’t blame the parents that were a product of the same mechanism that on large parts of the world has become the cultural norm. It is important to change this by bringing this in the light and show that children that are loved become strong adults and those that appear strong are often fearing the world. The notion that children become weak if they aren’t hardened is completely false.

        As David quoted it is: “There is one good, knowledge... And, one evil, ignorance." Socrates.
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          Dec 6 2011: I would tend to blame the mechanisms of the societies and systems that lead to 'negative' acts. I'd personally say its a matter of a badly designed system, where attributes or practices that lead to negative outcomes are empowered.

          E.g. By and large we currently measure people's 'success' and thus how much we should 'admire' or 'respect' them based on their financial success. We measure people more by what they have taken or kept as a result of their actions than what they have given and the positive impact of their actions. (This is totally an example and I am by now means saying this is true for everyone or anything like that. But I do mean that there is a systemic bias towards measuring people's self-worth by financial worth.)
          One could easily argue that, as such, we exist in a system which is designed (either consciously or unconsciously) to celebrate and empower self-serving acts (At least in a monetary sense) without taking into account the net benefit to society of those acts. Which, when one thinks about it, is rather strange, from a design perspective.

          ---> But in terms of the reason I put this question forward. I wasn't looking for some expression of absolute universal wrongs and rights, or some kind of definitive answer. I'm just looking for people's personal subjective answers :)

          Although of course its excellent that this discussion is taking place!
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          Dec 6 2011: Frans and Medfa - There's much wisdom in what you have said.

          It brings into question the existence, not only of empathy, but also true altruism, especially when confronted by behavours displayed by people who seem (on the face of it) irreparably evil.

          And who is it making the decisions as to what is evil and what isn't? The responsibility of 'moralistic opinion-forming' used to be in the hands of religion. Who now? The media? If so, it might go some way to explaining the skewed sense of moralistic regard many feel towards our fellows, based on what now seems to them acceptable behaviour, as ubiquitously and falsely portrayed in the trashy media rags on sale.

          The belief in and practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others, seems also to be distorted by how we read people almost entirely at face value and make our judgements of them based only on brief acquaintance. There is good in everybody - we just have to take the time and the trouble to find it.

          The main point I was trying to make upthread, is that the insidious, immoral nature of modern 'journalism' in the media is distorting what it is we now consider as good or evil.

          That is the wrong that I would right, as a matter of great urgency.
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    Dec 1 2011: Give education to all children who want it and strive for it and are just as curious as I was as a kid. :) I have knowledge that I don't wish to keep just to myself ... I wish to spread it around so that others can benefit from it.
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    Dec 13 2011: i would encourage everyone to be themselves and not pretend or want to be or to become someone else.Knowing once's self they get to know their abilities and their weaknesses.That achievement will give them the power and the will to follow their dreams.Therefore,people would definitely realize that we are all related to each other in many ways,that we are brothers.
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      Dec 14 2011: I completely agree Manos. Knowing oneself is integral to everything in life. Especially looking forward, rather than backward. I think its unfortunate that so much of 'identity' is defined by looking backward in life. We ask not where someone wishes to go, but rather where they come from. We have history sections in libraries, but not future sections.

      Your dreams define your identity and your identity defines your dreams. There can be little joy or honest success living someone else's idea of a good life.
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        Dec 14 2011: You made a good point about the emphasis we give in one's past and not in their dreams and wishes.Sometimes we do that i believe to find common characteristics with our past.It's like trying to connect the other person with us.However,sometimes we use other's past and we focus in some mistakes they made so as to feel better with ours.Good parable this you made about the libraries,i hadn't thought it that way!
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          Dec 15 2011: Of course you are right, and ones past can be a basis for connections. I think the real distinction is that usually the kind of information we use to define identity is stuff that a person has no control over (Age, gender, nationality) rather than the things we do have control over. And it is your choices that define you, so I think defining people by the choices they make and where they want to go, tells us so much more about them.

          Also in my opinion this focus on the past over the future shows up in many other places too. For example a museum displaying likely concept technologies and ways of living that people may take up would be just as valuable as simply seeing the items of the past.
        • Dec 27 2011: Great Mohammed. Exactly my thoughts. (I have been unable to particiapte the last few days.)
      • Dec 15 2011: Mohhamed
        Yes, we cannot live others lives, or the one's they want us to live. I am still struggling with that! Freeing people has to mean something about them actually having the opportunity to 1) have self-identity 2) an opportunity to dream.

        Manos great comment.
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          Dec 15 2011: Mohammed
          Right,a combination of someone's past,their future (their dreams) and also their choices define them.The only part i disagree is that someone's future is not ensured,i mean they might say they want to live in a particular way and achieve specific goals,however their past is already 'concrete'. Another parameter that plays role is their history as nationality.What i mean is that when i meet a foreigner and i ask him where he is from i do that to build a bridge with his nation's philosophy and history and tradition so as to approach him,to understand him better.

          I totally agree with your point and in my opinion those two should be everyone's goals.
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          Dec 17 2011: Yes Michael I'm sure it stays an eternal struggle for all of us all our lives. I think it comes down to that moment where we're about to accept whatever default idea is in front of us, and instead take the moment to ask 'but is this truly what I agree with? And if this decision is going to shape my life, shouldn't my life stem from who I am and what I believe?'

          I don't think in the long run one will ever regret those choices. I think it's almost a form of integrity :)

          Manos, the thing is that for me it's their desire that defines them. Even if it is someone's wish to do something and they do not achieve it, it still tells me a very important part of who they are. To me it's where we wish to go, and what we wish the world to be like that really says the most about someone. That's also exactly it really I don't think identity should be concrete and immutable. It's true it is a combination of both I just think we currently put too much of a focus on what is immutable and has already taken place when deciding things about a persons identity.
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    Dec 11 2011: I would remove the concept of genocide from our human consciousness.
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    Dec 11 2011: I would make sure that no one is hungry.
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    Dec 11 2011: In the natural world nothing is or can be wrong. In our human response to the natural world we have done many wrong things.

    Among them, as a human race we have strayed from the natural world and have constructed an artificial world that is in many ways in conflict with the natural world and the evolution of it.

    One could argue that the human tendency to construct artificial worlds is in fact natural. But I disagree. Humans are capable of behaviors that other living things are not. When humans behave in ways that are in conflict with the natural world, that's where we go wrong.
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      Dec 11 2011: Thanks Jim. You summed it up a very important message elegantly.
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    Dec 8 2011: I think what is wrong in the world is that in most acts of people there aren't the respective consequences.
    Since we are children that is showned to us that rules are easy to broke and there aren´t consequences to what we do.
    We grow with this habit and all of us change the word lately when we're adults.
    Another thing wrong in the world is today's people spirit: most of people loses strength and give up when find an adversity to pursue their dreams; most of people don´t see the point of protesting against something they find unfair or they do not agree just because some people don´t care of what they say, and, in the end of it, they get resigned. This can´t be: we got to protest against injustice, corruption, pollution, poverty, etc, or the world will continue as it is or get's even worst. We can´t let the powerfull people (politics, owners of petroil companies, ...) to chose our destiny. We've got to STAND UP and fight for what we believe!

    I hope that I was usefull and I thank you for bringing up this subject.
    • Dec 12 2011: Great answer Joao
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        Dec 12 2011: Hi Michael,
        I can't reply to your other comment since I think TED's commenting system only allows 3 layers of 'replies to'.

        In my attempts not to steer the conversation too much I've avoided responding to a lot of the there are no right and wrongs comments. But I think I'll add my own view here since you said something very similar to what I was thinking with 'misplaced enlightenment views'.

        I personally feel that these kind of 'it is all a matter of perception' views are ideological cliches. Its all fine to have as many oft-uttered philosophical positions as one wishes, but if they equate to no action or construct a perception which facilitates no positive impact - they are neither wise nor beneficial to the bearer or the world.

        I think philosophy without a will for positive action, a will to discover that which will enable the best of us all, is intellectual miserliness.

        Of course, many things that are merely matters of perception, or equally flawed perspectives are fought over, but that doesn't mean nothing can ever be worth changing. And those aren't the kind of 'wrongs to be righted' I expected people on TED to be suggesting anyway :)
        • Dec 13 2011: Mohammed
          I really like the intellectual miserliness phrase. It is that. It is a great way that has been constructed on Western culture, to say "I am not responsible". It does come from the Enlightenment view more than what is termed post-modern although it is usually associated more with it. I thnk it is more of a vestige of the rationalist attempt except ending up nowhere.

          Your project looks to say to the world these things we can do! We can. There are things we cannot change immediately, or just wipe out with a stroke of a pen. There are things though that people in all cultures can DO to change what is now. I said on a another question, but it is true: We can't change everything, we can't sit back though, we can do something.
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        Dec 13 2011: Thank you Michael.

        (Don´t worry, I was the one that removed the post because I tought I've putted it in the wrong place)
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      Dec 12 2011: Thanks a lot Joao, I totally totally agree about how many of us react to adversity nowadays! Thats something I'd love to change.
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    Dec 8 2011: Wrong: The belief of many US citizens that people around the world speak English, so we need not bother to learn another language.

    Right: Language learning promotes literacy and peace and is increasingly important for success in today’s global world.

    I am advocating on behalf of early language learning in the United States. Most schools are wasting the most flexible years for a child's brain to learn languages. According to Patricia Kuhl: "babies are linguistic geniuses" (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius_of_babies.html) and by the age of seven, the brain's aptitude for language learning starts to decline. The benefits to language learning (http://www.ncssfl.org/papers/BenefitsSecondLanguageStudyNEA.pdf) are immense and the need for multiliterate individuals continues to rise as the world becomes more interconnected.

    In order to aid parents and teachers in exposing their children and students to quality language learning resources which are both free and easily accessible, I'm creating a website called Sunny Earth Academy which I hope to launch before the New Year. Think Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/) only the teacher is not one person, but participants from around the world who share their creations for teaching French, Spanish and English. I’m hoping the website will encourage monolingual parents to expose their children to other languages starting as early as possible. The inspiration for the website is the desire to share how my own children are learning French with their baby cousins, whose parents are monolingual. I also dream that the site will spark a global interest in sharing free, easily accessible resources for language learning.

    I believe that through language learning, people gain multicultural awareness and in turn, language learners become more tolerant, peaceful citizens of our global world. World language education promotes multicultural awareness…multicultural awareness promotes peace.
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      Dec 8 2011: Thanks Audrey,
      The Sunny Earth Academy sounds great. As a person who attended an international school and grew up surrounded by people from all parts of the world, I've seen firsthand how immense a difference a multicultural environment makes to people's perceptions. Its something I'm personally very thankful for.

      I would love to be kept up to date.

      All the best,
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        Dec 11 2011: Thank you Medfa and Michael for your encouraging comments!!

        There are already a lot of amazing people online sharing awesome language learning resources. I've been incredibly lucky to connect with several of them on twitter. So, I guess where I said above that I hope Sunny Earth Academy sparks a global sharing of resources, I should correct...I hope it sparks the CREATION of new resources by language learners themselves. I have started a club at my school which is doing just that. We're off to a slow start, but the students and I are dedicated to creating and offering engaging, high-quality lessons for the world.

        I appreciate both of your comments immensely. Thank you again!

        Medfa, I'd love for you to keep up with the project! The site will be at sunnyearthacademy.org and I'm hoping to launch before the New Year (with any luck)! I have put TED in the "Our Inspiration" section of the site...so many great presentations and wonderful ways to connect globally with fine people such as you!
    • Dec 8 2011: Ah..the power of change! I definitely agree this creating bilingual, hopefully bicultural children would be a wonder. Even monolingual parents would greatly benefit. A great idea Audrey.
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        Dec 11 2011: Thank Michael, Please read my reply above (under Medfa's reply) as I'd like to share it with you as well!
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    Dec 6 2011: The wrong is increasing dependence on materialistic comforts & decreasing human touch among people, this thing shall be given little more priority.
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    Dec 4 2011: I would find a way to develop a universal morality code/system that does not depend on relative emotional values or the "supernatural". That way people could talk about the difference between right and wrong without recourse to violence over superstitions or hurt feelings.
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      Dec 6 2011: I certainly think we could all benefit from embracing our universal humanity as the basis of society and how we measure our actions. Thanks Emmanuel.
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    . . 100+

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    Dec 2 2011: "You can cancel an unkind thought in midstream and in an instant decide to be harmonious. You can stop yourself at the moment you're cursing somebody and elevate your thoughts to kindness."
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    Dec 31 2011: Thanks to everyone for all of the wonderful responses, as this question and this year will be ending very soon.

    I'll contact everyone who contributed once our video is ready, and I hope that we can all take steps to inspire and enable people to live better lives, and achieve greater goals together.

    A wonderful, and meaningful new year to everyone.
  • Dec 14 2011: My own. If I right my own wrongs, I would be an efficient member of the community. Needless to say, others from the community will most likely do the same once they find that they too can also be as efficient.

    Remember this?
    "...And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others..."
    -Marianne Williamson

    And I will never run out of wrongs to right. There's always something.
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      Dec 14 2011: Thanks Mohammad. Our own personal steps are always the beginning of all things.
      • Dec 14 2011: I'm glad to help. I am also looking forward to your project's success and I wish to hear about it in the future. God-willing.

        It's good that somebody is working on these deeply important subjects.
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    Dec 13 2011: When I was little, I wanted to earn 1 dollar. I found 10 sea shells and was going to sell them for 10 cents a piece. Then I realized that if I found 20 sea shells, I would only have to sell them for a nickel. I would still earn my dollar, and my customers would feel like they got a better deal.

    A wrong I would right, would be the first transaction of the person who cheated someone, or made too much profit.
  • Dec 13 2011: i would rather erase the word "cancer" from our life and consciousness
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      Dec 3 2011: Thanks Don! I make this point to people all the time. Legal systems are not in any way morale or right unto themselves, their claimed purpose is to enforce a common standard of morality and action that the people accept and aspire towards. When this is not what legal systems do, they lose all validity.
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      Dec 3 2011: Reading the wikiquote pages for both John & Robert Kennedy is something I tend to do every so often.

      What he said here has been true eternally, but in today's digital, connected world it is a more powerful sentiment than ever.
  • Dec 2 2011: I think we need to put an end to the use of cheap throwaway toxic materials, such as plastics. I work in construction and find that almost all building products are toxic. The products have warnings on the back such as, "long term exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage." Why in the world are we damaging the brains of our work force? They made much to do recently about the September 11 firefighters being exposed to all sorts of toxic dust from building products that were released during the explosion and fall of the buildings. All I could think was, so no one cares about the construction workers who breathe this stuff in every day on the job?!

    I haven't even got into the impact on the environment, but there are plenty of TED video's on the subject such as http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/capt_charles_moore_on_the_seas_of_plastic.html. I love going out in nature, but more and more I see trash accumulating in the woods and waterways that surround our cities. Unlike many major cities, In Kansas City, where I live, the city has turned it's back to the river, in part because the areas that surround the river are industrial, but also because the river is so polluted there are signs that say "avoid contact."

    Finally, after recently having a baby, and reading a few baby books, I find that nearly every baby product is toxic crap, from the plastic toys to the synthetic fibers and dyes used to make their clothes. Everyone recommends buying organic cotton or wool, but finding these items in a local store is hard enough, footing the bill for some of the stuff is even harder.

    Finally, entropy is catching up with us and in the future we're probably going to be sitting on a toxic pile of trash, bombing each other for the last sip of oil, and trying to figure our way out of a big mess.

    For my part I have started developing my own building products that do not employ plastics, such as drywall joint compound made of lime, plaster, and casein. Out of words...
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      Dec 3 2011: Thanks James. Entropy really is the word here. In the system that is every one on Earth, each of us know certain things that we know to be problems, that we know should be fixed, we may even have solutions or ideas about how to go about fixing them. And others are in a position to make that change affect more people. And then there are the people whose lives would be benefitted by the changes we hope to make true. (All of this rings true with the deeply important situation you've described above.)

      What if all these people could find each other, effortlessly as a natural part of society? What if the tools of organization were so democratized that groups of people could naturally form and coalesce around the ideas and initiatives that inspire them? Thats what I believe is what we need. Because I have no doubt that between us all, we have the will, the skill, the resources and the drive to make these 10,000s of changes and improvements. But if we cannot find those who share our goals, only the tiniest sliver of them can ever be realized.

      Static organizations can only empower the 'established solution', the status quo or solutions that already exist -> They are static after all. Its time for ordinary people to take part in dynamic, organic organizations.

      You asked if 'no one cares about the construction workers' and I think this really touches upon the crux of the matter. Many people have the capacity to care, some have the capacity to do something about it. But until people like you can find other people like you, and can effortlessly organize and integrate your individual efforts and belief in the importance of your goals into 'constructive' wholes, these efforts will seem relatively ineffectual. Because they will have no shared identity or shared organization. If you don't know about the other people on Earth who are just as concerned as you are, you can't work with them, you can't be inspired by them..
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      Dec 3 2011: And I'm sure there are millions of people who share the same feelings you do, and surely a few thousand who have tried taking similar steps. But imagine if you could easily share your efforts, trade best practices, share ideas about how to take better steps to avoid all these toxic materials, organize ways to raise awareness as a group etc.

      You see the way I see it, a group that does not know it exists is infinitely weak. Once a group gains a shared identity, it takes on a strength beyond any individual member. It isn't a coincidence, to me, that the rise of the internet seems to have arisen right before our impending climate crisis, and a number other crises at least nearly as dangerous, right before perhaps the greatest time of need for coordinated human action. The solution and the problem seem equally clear to me.

      So one of the most crucial focuses of the things we'll be building with Utopian, are ways to enhance the creation of dynamic organizations, and put the ability to self-organize in the hands of groups of ordinary people. I do hope that can help many more passionate individuals find other people like themselves and act in increasingly coordinated fashion.

      Thanks for your thoughts :)
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      Dec 2 2011: Great reply Don! As a person whose read the Hero with a Thousand Faces and a big believer in the power of symbols and storytelling to inspire and define what we aspire to and thus who we are, I absolutely could not agree more.
  • Dec 1 2011: Medfa
    This sounds like a great project. Putting things to right s a wonderful thing. For me, it is a part of who I am as a spiritual person. It is a deep part of my belief system. If I could choose one thing it would be food distribution around the globe. We live in a marvelous world where enough food is produced to feed everyone. It is not a question of overpopulation or bad economics. It is a question of having an open hand. I would put to right that everyone should have enough to eat.
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      Dec 2 2011: Thanks Michael! This is precisely the reason I wanted to ask this question and get different people's answers, because I knew that each of us would find different things that we feel matter the most. I don't think there can be any question about whether we can make vast changes in the world. As JFK said no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. We make a change or lack of a change in every chance we take or opportuni we surrender.

      That's the reason I'm doing what I'm doing, because I do believe many people long for more meaning and fulfillment in their lives, through a life of action which resonates with who they are and the better future they believe in. I think right now more than anything it's a matter of inspiring people and providing them with the tools to do the things they want to do anyway, and the channels to access each other and find those who share their dreams for positive change. I believe that will make all the difference.
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    Dec 24 2011: Just a big thanks and a merry Christmas to everyone and their great contributions so far!
    • Dec 27 2011: Thanks to you Mohammed! It is a good discussion