Click on any phrase to play the video at that point.Close
I wrote this next poem for my mother. Every one of us had a mother, only one -- probably the most important person in your life, if you're lucky enough to know them. My mother was certainly the most important in mine. Let me try and describe her to you. She's 86 years old. She's frail. White, platinum hair. Why do they do that? Why do old ladies go to those hair shops, and make those helmets? (Laughter) Bright as a button. All the ducks in a row. Looks like a much prettier version of Margaret Thatcher, (Laughter) but without any of the soft bits in Margaret's character. (Laughter) I wrote this poem for her. These are not my beliefs. But my mother has lived by this creed all her life.
Now ladies and gentlemen, I'm up on me hobbyhorse. If every commercially minded cosmetic surgeon were tied end to end along a railroad track, that would be me, stoking the train without a qualm in the world. Ladies, don't do it. Don't do it. You think we want you to do it, but we don't want you to do it. Stop it. Tell them to go to hell. You bodies are wonderful as they are. Just leave them alone.
America, ladies and gentlemen, has done more for me financially than Britain ever has, or ever could have done. I was born in Britain, as you have probably guessed. Even when on its worst behavior, I find myself automatically defending the USA from the sneers of green-eyed Europhiles playing their Greek card to Roman trumps. America is an empire. I hope you know that now. All empires, by definition, are bumbling, shambolic, bullying, bureaucratic affairs, as certain of the rightness of their cause in infancy, as they are corrupted by power in their dotage. I am no historian, ladies and gentlemen. But it seems to be that the USA's sins, compared to those of many previous empires, are of a more moderate, if more pervasive, kind. Let me put this bluntly. If Americans are so fat, stupid and ignorant, my dear friends from Birmingham, how come they rule the world?
Um, there are -- I've got far too much money and I have far too much fun in my businesses. So poetry came as a complete shock to me, ladies and gentlemen. A complete shock. I was a little ill. Okay, I was ill. Okay, I had a life-threatening illness, you know. I was in a clinic. I wasn't allowed to make telephone calls. I wasn't allowed to see any of my -- you know, whatever. So, in the end I begged a pack of Post-it notes off a nurse. And from another nurse, I begged a pencil, pen. And I didn't know what else to do. So I started to write poetry. That was in October of 2000.
I'm not an evil man. But sometimes I try to put myself in an evil man's position. I'm not a glorious and fantastic-looking woman, who men fall down, you know, when she walks in a room. But sometimes I try to put myself in that position. (Laughter) Not with much success. But it's interesting to me. I love to write historical verse. I love to think what they thought, what it was like.
Because although many of the speakers and many of the people who are in the audience, although you guys can not only go to the moon, you know, you're going to totally transform everything. Cloning will transform everything. Voice navigation will transform everything. I don't know. You can do anything you want. All you guys are so clever, and women, you can do it all!
But human nature doesn't change, mate. My friends, human nature is exactly the same as it was when my ancestor -- probably it was my ancestor -- got his hands around the neck of the last Neanderthal, and battered the bastard to death. You think we didn't do that? Oh, we did. We killed every single one of them. Inch by inch we killed them. We hunted them down wherever they were. Rivals for meat. Rivals for berries. We're still doing it, with all of the genius assembled in this room. Our natures haven't changed a single iota. And they never will. Even when we've got off this little planet, and have put some of our eggs in some other baskets.
And I am as bad as you. I spent eight years running one of the most successful publishing businesses in the world. And at seven o'clock every night, I took me some more girls, already corrupted. I never did anything to anyone that wasn't. And I took crack cocaine, every single night for seven years. It was like Dante's "Inferno." It was unbelievable. One of the offshoots of crack cocaine is that you keep an erection for about four hours. And you stay up for 12. It was absolutely unbelievable. Twenty-two godchildren I've got. What do I say to them? I only stopped because I thought if I got caught, what would happen to my mother. If you're a woman, remember that. The love of your son can utterly transform anything he does.
You can share this video by copying this HTML to your clipboard and pasting into your blog or web page.
need to get the latest Flash player.
Got an idea, question, or debate inspired by this talk? Start a TED Conversation.
Media big shot Felix Dennis roars his fiery, funny, sometimes racy original poetry, revisiting haunting memories and hard-won battle scars from a madcap -- yet not too repentant -- life. Best enjoyed with a glass of wine.
Former hippie, former jailbird, former aficionado of crack cocaine, Felix Dennis built one of the most successful privately owned magazine empires in the world. Full bio »