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The antidote to apathy | Dave Meslin | TEDxToronto

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    How often do we hear
    that people just don't care?
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    How many times have you been told
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    that real, substantial change
    isn't possible
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    because most people are too selfish,
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    too stupid or too lazy
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    to try to make a difference
    in their community?
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    I propose to you today
    that apathy as we think we know it
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    doesn't actually exist;
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    but rather, that people do care,
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    but that we live in a world
    that actively discourages engagement
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    by constantly putting obstacles
    and barriers in our way.
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    I'll give you some
    examples of what I mean.
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    Let's start with city hall.
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    You ever see one of these before?
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    This is a newspaper ad.
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    It's a notice of a zoning application
    change for a new office building
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    so the neighborhood
    knows what's happening.
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    As you can see, it's impossible to read.
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    You need to get halfway down
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    to even find out which address
    they're talking about,
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    and then further down,
    in tiny 10-point font,
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    to find out how to actually get involved.
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    Imagine if the private sector
    advertised in the same way...
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    If Nike wanted to sell a pair of shoes...
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    (Laughter)
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    And put an ad in the paper like that.
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    (Applause)
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    Now, that would never happen.
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    You'll never see an ad like that,
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    because Nike actually wants
    you to buy their shoes,
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    whereas the city of Toronto
    clearly doesn't want you involved
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    with the planning process,
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    otherwise their ads would look
    something like this,
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    with all the information laid out clearly.
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    although the font has changed
    on the PowerPoint
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    so it's not as clear as I thought
    it would look in the ad,
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    but you know what I'm saying.
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    As long as the city's putting out
    notices like this
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    to try to get people engaged,
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    then of course people
    aren't going to be engaged.
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    But that's not apathy;
    that's intentional exclusion.
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    Public space.
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    (Applause)
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    The manner in which we mistreat
    our public spaces
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    is a huge obstacle towards any type
    of progressive political change,
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    because we've essentially put a price tag
    on freedom of expression.
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    Whoever has the most money
    gets the loudest voice,
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    dominating the visual
    and mental environment.
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    The problem with this model
    is there are some amazing messages
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    that need to be said,
    that aren't profitable to say.
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    So you're never going
    to see them on a billboard.
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    I'll move on to the next one -
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    There was a closing line there.
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    It will come back to me later.
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    The media plays an important role
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    in developing our relationship
    with political change,
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    mainly by ignoring politics and focusing
    on celebrities and scandals,
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    but even when they do talk
    about important political issues,
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    they do it in a way that I feel
    discourages engagement.
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    I'll give you an example.
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    The "Now" magazine from last week:
    progressive, downtown weekly in Toronto.
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    This is the cover story.
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    It's an article
    about a theater performance,
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    and it starts with basic
    information about where it is,
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    in case you actually want to go and see
    it after you've read the article...
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    Where, the time, the website.
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    Same with this... it's a movie review.
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    An art review.
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    A book review... where the reading
    is in case you want to go.
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    A restaurant... you might not
    want to just read about it,
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    maybe you want to go there.
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    So they tell you where it is, the prices,
    the address, the phone number, etc.
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    Then you get to their political articles.
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    Here's a great article about an important
    election race that's happening.
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    It talks about the candidates,
    written very well,
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    but no information, no follow-up,
    no websites for the campaigns,
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    no information about when the debates
    are, where the campaign offices are.
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    Here's another good article,
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    about a new campaign
    opposing privatization of transit,
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    without any contact information
    for the campaign.
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    The message seems to be
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    that the readers are most likely
    to want to eat, maybe read a book,
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    maybe see a movie, but not be engaged
    in their community.
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    You might think this is a small thing,
    but I think it's important,
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    because it sets a tone
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    and it reinforces the dangerous idea
    that politics is a spectator sport.
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    Heroes: How do we view leadership?
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    Look at these 10 movies.
    What do they have in common?
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    Anyone?
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    They all have heroes who were chosen.
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    Someone came up to them and said,
    "You're the chosen one.
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    There's a prophecy.
    You have to save the world."
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    And then they go off and save the world
    because they've been told to,
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    with a few people tagging along.
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    This helps me understand
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    why a lot of people have trouble
    seeing themselves as leaders...
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    Because it sends all the wrong messages
    about what leadership is about.
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    A heroic effort is a collective effort,
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    number one.
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    Number two, it's imperfect;
    it's not very glamorous,
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    and doesn't suddenly start
    and suddenly end.
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    It's an ongoing process your whole life.
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    But most importantly, it's voluntary.
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    It's voluntary.
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    As long as we're teaching our kids
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    that heroism starts when someone
    scratches a mark on your forehead,
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    or someone tells you
    you're part of a prophecy,
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    they're missing the most important
    characteristic of leadership,
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    which is that it comes from within.
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    It's about following
    your own dreams, uninvited,
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    and then working with others
    to make those dreams come true.
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    Political parties: oh, boy.
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    Political parties could and should be
    one of the basic entry points
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    for people to get engaged in politics.
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    Instead, they've become, sadly,
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    uninspiring and uncreative organizations
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    that rely so heavily on market research
    and polling and focus groups
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    that they end up all saying
    the same thing,
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    pretty much regurgitating back
    to us what we already want to hear
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    at the expense of putting forward
    bold and creative ideas.
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    And people can smell that,
    and it feeds cynicism.
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    (Applause)
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    Charitable status.
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    Groups who have charitable status
    in Canada aren't allowed to do advocacy.
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    This is a huge problem
    and a huge obstacle to change,
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    because it means that some
    of the most passionate and informed voices
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    are completely silenced,
    especially during election time.
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    Which leads us to the last one,
    which is: our elections.
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    As you may have noticed,
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    our elections in Canada
    are a complete joke.
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    We use out-of-date systems
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    that are unfair and create random results.
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    Canada's currently led by a party
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    that most Canadians didn't actually want.
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    How can we honestly and genuinely
    encourage more people to vote
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    when votes don't count in Canada?
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    You add all this up together,
    and of course people are apathetic.
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    It's like trying to run into a brick wall.
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    Now, I'm not trying to be negative
    by throwing all these obstacles out
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    and explaining what's in our way.
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    Quite the opposite...
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    I actually think people are amazing
    and smart and that they do care,
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    but that, as I said,
    we live in this environment
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    where all these obstacles
    are being put in our way.
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    As long as we believe
    that people, our own neighbors,
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    are selfish, stupid or lazy,
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    then there's no hope.
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    But we can change
    all those things I mentioned.
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    We can open up city hall.
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    We can reform our electoral systems.
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    We can democratize our public spaces.
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    My main message is:
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    if we can redefine apathy,
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    not as some kind of internal syndrome,
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    but as a complex web of cultural barriers
    that reinforces disengagement,
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    and if we can clearly define,
    clearly identify what those obstacles are,
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    and then if we can work together
    collectively to dismantle those obstacles,
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    then anything is possible.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
The antidote to apathy | Dave Meslin | TEDxToronto
Description:

Local politics -- schools, zoning, council elections -- hit us where we live. So why don't more of us actually get involved? Is it apathy? Dave Meslin says no. He identifies 7 barriers that keep us from taking part in our communities, even when we truly care.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
07:38

English subtitles

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