Each week, we collect sharp critique, thought-provoking questions or interesting insights in response to TED Talks. This week’s haul includes a couple of replies to Simon Anholt’s introduction of the Good Country Index, a thought on the purity of art (and how we have polluted it with money), and an argument for trusting our own intellectual selves.
On Facebook, Eric Donohue contributed a long comment on Simon Anholt’s talk, Which country does the most good for the world? Here’s a taste:
“I grew up in a completely globalized world, in a world where our leaders looked outward and used ideals and corporate/national interests to drive policy.
Many governments, including my own, are not cultural psychopaths. I agree that the people of our country don’t always act with compassion but I don’t agree that the motivations of the people or the politicians are psychopathically driven.
Americans, though not great at many of these things these days, do change all the time. We change because we believe in something bigger than ourselves and we change because we believe in something very close to ourselves. We are actually very good at changing in reasonable timeframes, in most ways.
‘Do well by doing good’ is a good policy, but it is not something that is proven by the Good Country Index. The anomalies are too big. For example, Ireland is measured as the ‘goodest’ country. But Ireland did more to harm the world’s economy and social security than almost any other European nation. How can this index not recognize this? The United States has done more nationally and internationally to destabilize the world than any other nation on Earth in the last 30 years. So how could it be ranked 21st?
The trick of numbers is that we could talk about good and selfish at a national level or at a per-capita level. But when we are talking about a country, a nation, an international entity, we must not ignore the ‘good-to-goodest’ scale at the full scale of the country. The scale should even have a forward-looking perspective and a retrospective.
The talk does show some important ideas. It is not framed well for me, however. It is framed for a very young person who has no memory of the last 30 years. It starts as a fairy tale and ends with a wish. It could have been so much more as a deep analysis of the relative value of ideas for their arguably measurable good qualities.”
On Facebook, Laura Calderón had this to say about George Takei’s talk, Why I love a country that once betrayed me:
“It is enlightening to see someone who has struggled through so much political and cultural adversity throughout a large portion of their lives be as compassionate and understanding of said circumstance. I personally loved how tactful his rhetoric was: slow, easy to understand, incredible storytelling.”
“Is it really possible to generate this kind of goodness in humanitarian conduct out of generalized groupthink? Especially in light of so much worldwide desperation due to poverty, ignorance and superseding religious dictates — not to mention powerful vested interests in preserving things the way they are.
I agree with Anholt’s point that it is important to look outward as well as at the natural inward concerns any given society is blessed or cursed with in terms of its own assets and deficits. See the TED Talk, Why do societies collapse? by Jared Diamond. I don’t think many reasonable individuals would argue that we are not only affected by those within our nation, but are affected by other nations (via globalization) occupying and impacting Spaceship Earth as well. A nuclear exchange between nations was a serious concern for a number of years and is far from a resolved concern now, especially in terms of an isolated act of terrorism, which could produce incredibly scary and negative consequences.
Ultimately, is it not the consequence of strong and effective leadership that offers the best hope for improving the state of any given national union and this fact will help dictate the consequences of globaliation in terms of the net effect of this interaction.
I actually prefer the phrase “more accountable” over the notion of goodness because good can be so arbitrary and motivated by mysticism over reason. Is it not more likely that being a good (more accountable) nation may mean imposing restrictions on one another that could only be accomplished by effective and strong leadership?
Idealism is a wonderful concept, but could be self-defeating in the real world without concurrent globalized adjustments from others.”
“I enjoyed this talk because of the importance of discussing what inhibits/emboldens us. To me, art in the modern era has been perverted. The reward of art is creation and the moments surrounding creation. The reward is the ability to do the very thing you love. Modern man has made it all about money.
If you paint, write, sing, or act … you may never create an artistic work that resonates with others. And, that is fine. We create a world where we produce one-dimensional people who feel the need to make 100% of their living through their art. That blessing is reserved for only the few that find a mass market for their work … but reveals nothing about the importance or quality of the work. Frankly, we have made some hideous singers, painters, and writers wealthy without cause … while other artists create a lifetime in poverty.
I have the feeling that art, removed from vocational/monetary pressure is most pure and satisfying.”
“This talk advises us to trust science. But an even more fundamental assertion can be derived from this talk. That assertion says we can and should trust our common sense, human reason and scrutinizing judgment. If we follow diligently and undauntedly the power of our reason while putting it under our unbiased judgment, it brings us to highly significant achievements in understanding the physical world.
This does not mean that the power of common sense, reason and judgment is limitless. We are still groping in the dark around many basic phenomena in the physical world (like quantum mechanics, relativity, life, the origin and the future of universe … etc).
Even though there are matters in physical reality which we are not able to grasp fully by using our intellectual power, still the same power allows us to handle and manipulate certain aspects of those unresolved phenomena to enhance our capabilities. Again, this is evidence of why we can and should trust our intellectual power.”
Post your thoughts alongside any TED Talk or on social media; we read everything and will publish a collection of feedback each week here on ideas.TED.com. (Note: comments are edited for spelling and grammar.)