This Blew My Mind

A former student–President of the Chamber of Commerce in his small Indiana town–sent me a link to this Ted Talk.

There are several “nits” one might pick, but it is a fascinating argument, and well worth the 20 minutes it takes to listen. At the very least, it’s a reproach to arrogant assumptions about the way others should live….

That said, it brings to mind an important point raised by Fareed Zakaria in his book The Future of Freedom: the issue is not democracy, it is liberty. Living under the tyranny of a majority is not appreciably different than living under the tyranny of an autocrat. There can be a wide variety of mechanisms for making decisions about governing. We should judge them not just by their effect on the material well-being of the governed, but by the degree to which they respect fundamental individual rights.


  1. Very interesting, I agree with much of what he said. It seems to me the grand narratives are are idealistic statements that ignore many realities. If the U.S. had a pyramid like China’s, what would it look like?

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful TED talk. Throughout the talk, he refers to the “metanarratives” that we believe, a topic that should lead us to greater understanding about what it means to be human, as well as what it means to be an American. Many of the metanarratives that we believe, while purportedly serving as the myths that hold us together, are not true, or a variation of reality distortion. The idea that the U.S. is the “land of opportunity”, for example, appears to be deteriorating by the day, and I understand that in the free world, we rank something like 27th, which is basically dead last. At the time of year, when we celebrate our independence, we need to remember that many of the myths that people repeat as “history” are not really true, but enough people believe all this stuff that it’s virtual heresy to say so–at least from the standpoint of American civil religion–so that one is “unAmerican” by stating the case. Meanwhile, if education is valued only for its power to bring forth ostensibly good paying jobs, we have forgotten what education should accomplish. The educated citizen needs to be questioning the myths we live by, or the metanarratives, which while they serve to pull us together, leave us vulnerable because we believe and trust in lies. Lest people actually believe that truth is not valued, think again. The North Carolina legislature has decided that it’s better to lie to seventh graders about the medical consequences of abortion than to present the topic in an honest way with integrity. Ideology is valued over truth, not just in North Carolina. While truth is scary, unexamined ignorance will eventually destroy us, particularly when we believe it is true.

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