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  • I come

  • from a Jewish tradition, the same one

  • as Bernie Madoff, the worst financial criminal

  • in history. So perhaps all Jewish transactions,

  • including mine, need to undergo some

  • extra scrutiny. My Catholic wife seems okay,

  • but we all know about the horrors of priests and pedophilia.

  • So maybe all Catholics, including Patty,

  • need to undergo some psychological testing. Now my Italian relatives,

  • we know that they must be tied into the mafia, we've all seen The Godfather and The

  • Sopranos,

  • so we really need to be keeping an eye on them.

  • THEM the most dangerous four-letter word

  • in the English language. This word

  • is used to isolate, to marginalize, to insult.

  • This word has been responsible for the suffering and death

  • of millions, millions of people.

  • THEM is an obscene word.

  • I'm an entrepreneur, passionate photographer,

  • and have spent much of the last 12 years traveling in conflict regions,

  • places like North Korea, Syria, Iran,

  • getting people to communicate who otherwise would do anything to avoid

  • each other.

  • Working in confidential, small groups

  • with hundreds of top business and government leaders

  • trying to break down stereotypes, attack

  • this four-letter word, I've learned that THEMification,

  • a new word now, THEMification, is often the root of the problems we deal with,

  • both personally and geopolitically. We all know examples of the horrors

  • that arise from THEMification. Just a few of them - the Nazi Holocaust,

  • Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia and the Killing Fields, the Balkans,

  • Syria today. And it's not just what THEY

  • do to THEM, distant and far away. In America

  • WE annihilated Native Americans

  • as our Manifest Destiny, interned Japanese-Americans,

  • and today randomly stop and frisk blacks

  • and profile Arabs and Muslims. Now we all agree security is

  • absolutely essential, no question about that.

  • But unfortunately it's also sometimes used to rationalize some of these behaviors.

  • And while we're getting better, we still

  • look at someone who seems different and instantly label as THEM.

  • So why do we do this? Why do we see others through this lens of THEM?

  • Historically THEM

  • helped to differentiate families, tribes for protection, bonding, to secure scarce resources.

  • helped to differentiate families, tribes for protection, bonding, to secure scarce resources.

  • Today though, we continue to use THEM to identify with

  • our group excluding others.

  • But why? An important reason is that the world is overwhelming,

  • full of confusing, complicated information. To simplify this complexity

  • and to reduce and protect us from ambiguity, which is a very uncomfortable

  • feeling

  • we label, categorize,

  • and stereotype. It's also efficient

  • to label as THEM, but when we do that

  • we lose much of our ability to reason,

  • to feel, and to empathize. We also, at that point,

  • begin to only seek,

  • see, and hear what we want and expect to find, and what psychologists call

  • confirmation bias. And it doesn't help that the media,

  • which we love to blame but really

  • is just a magnifying glass and mirror for our own biases,

  • reinforces THEMification.

  • How often do we hear the words Islamist, Muslim, terrorist, Arab, suicide bomber,

  • al Qaeda

  • used as a synonyms?

  • This creates fear and a powerful

  • filter through which we are taught to see the world.

  • Fear is created by THEM. Fear

  • is often false expectations appearing real.

  • We're hard-wired - when the amygdala in our brain senses danger,

  • it's designed to protect us. It immediately hijacks

  • our prefrontal cortex, or our intellect, and our limbic thinking,

  • our emotional brain. We go into fight or flight, survival mode.

  • This comes at a huge cost. We sacrifice

  • our openness, our willingness to hear,

  • see others, our liberties. We sacrifice our humanity

  • every time we allow this automatic THEMification filter

  • to operate.

  • It's time to eliminate the use and mindset

  • of THEM. But it takes sustained,

  • conscious effort to get past THEM, and it takes courage.

  • We all want to believe we're good and admitting,

  • even to ourselves, that we stereotype and exclude others

  • is painful. But it is possible. One of the most powerful ways,

  • which I've seen work hundreds of times, is through individual stories.

  • When we really learn someone's story, THEY become more than a stereotype,

  • a living, real, nuanced human being.

  • An exercise I've led many times over the past decade,

  • In The Other's Shoes, has each side retelling

  • in the first person the story they've just heard from the other;

  • a real-life role play stepping into their shoes.

  • Try to imagine, a Palestinian

  • becomes an Israeli and says,

  • 'I come out of a cafe in Tel Aviv and hear a loud explosion.

  • I see my brother-in-law's blood and body parts all

  • over the street, another Palestinian attack.'

  • And then the Israeli mirrors back what he's heard

  • from the Palestinian. 'In the middle of the night

  • the soldiers storm in to occupy our home. They're screaming at us,

  • humiliating me in front my family. We're terrified, locked in a small room,

  • and we've done nothing wrong.'

  • In The Other's Shoes really works

  • because once we learn someone's story,

  • once we understand how they see their truth,

  • their reality, we don't have to accept that

  • as our truth, but just by hearing their story

  • we're changed. So getting past THEM

  • obviously is critical on a global and national level,

  • but it's also really in our enlightened self-interest.

  • We can improve all of our relationships, including our personal relationships,

  • by getting past THEM. We manage to turn our spouses and partners

  • into THEM. Has anyone here ever

  • call their spouse or partner, gone into this mode of

  • 'he always', 'she never'. We just created

  • THEM. So just imagine how much better our most important

  • relationships would be, free of THEMification.

  • Mark Twain said, 'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness'

  • which is why I go to places we think we know everything about

  • and are often wrong. But we don't have to get on a plane to travel,

  • we can travel every day in our communities,

  • schools, offices. Make an effort to really get to know

  • people, get to know those around us. We can go

  • from THEM

  • to US. Can we interact with one

  • new person a day? Maybe someone

  • behind us at the supermarket, with us in the elevator, the barista at Starbucks,

  • maybe the homeless person on the street.

  • By doing that, are we able to get to a place

  • where when we see someone who seems different,

  • maybe wearing a sari, a headscarf,

  • a kippah, a cross, a hoodie,

  • we stop, we talk to that person, find out who they really are

  • as fellow individuals. Learn about their life, their family,

  • beyond that apparent difference.

  • This is also critical when we travel overseas.

  • Some friends here in Boston chastised me for spending time with terrorists

  • when they saw this at a photo exhibition of my work from the Middle East.

  • Well Abdulsalaam is a Bedouin entrepreneur

  • who welcomed my family into his home. His name actually means 'servant of peace',

  • yet he was labeled by some a terrorist, a criminal, a

  • THEM, simply because he's wearing an Arab headdress.

  • We can get past THEM with four simple steps.

  • I call them the 4 C's. First we've got to be Conscious,

  • be aware of that stereotypical phrase 'THEY

  • always'. We can only change something once we're aware of it.

  • Second be Curious. Let curiosity replace our biases,

  • our judgments. What's it really like

  • in their shoes? Third

  • be Compassionate toward ourselves, toward others.

  • Brain research shows that we're much happier

  • and more open when we're compassionate. And finally

  • Challenge everything we see, believe, and are told.

  • Challenge media reports about THEM, challenge everything we've always known

  • about THEM. Fight the urge to support and defend

  • our positions. And when we catch others THEMifying,

  • challenge. The 4 C's really work

  • and I've seen this many many times. For years

  • India and Pakistan had no diplomatic relations and risked nuclear war.

  • I helped catalyze a group of 133 top Indian business leaders, who

  • walked across the Wagah border to meet with their Pakistani counterparts.

  • The Indians were expecting to step into a terrorist hell hole,

  • the ultimate THEM, but with ample security.

  • After we spent three days together

  • all the participants became conscious of their stereotypes,

  • curious about the other's narrative, compassionate,

  • and challenged their preconceived notions.

  • This allowed them to really see their similarities,

  • that the Indians and Pakistanis look the same,

  • have a shared cultural heritage, and are one people.

  • THEM had been overcome.

  • The 4 C's also work on a personal level.

  • I try very hard to be aware of and get past my THEM prejudices and it's not

  • easy.

  • Three years ago I was in Syria with my family.

  • We're walking and hear a loud mob chanting. Well I'm triggered.

  • I go into fear, freak out, I've got to protect my family we're in Syria.

  • But I'm curious and I feel really foolish

  • when we go closer and find that it's a promotion for giving chocolate on

  • Mother's Day.

  • My curiosity and willingness to challenge my fears

  • means I didn't come back here with the story of escaping something horrible in

  • dreaded Syria, but instead

  • join the festivities and am hoisted on the shoulders

  • of THEM.

  • THEM, my new friends.

  • We all have a long way to go including me

  • but every step forward is significant.

  • Be conscious, be curious, be compassionate

  • and challenge challenge challenge. And remember,

  • there is NO THEM

  • once you KNOW THEM. Thank you very much.

I come

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B1 syria challenge compassionate palestinian stereotype conscious

【TEDx】The most dangerous four-letter word: Dick Simon at TEDxBeaconStreet

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    阿多賓 posted on 2014/03/08
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