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tv   TED Talks  PBS  May 30, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT

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[cheering and applause] the theme is "war and peace." i loved being a marine. it's one of the things i'm most proud of having done in my life. all: whoa! singh: many of us go in the military because we may not be able to afford to make ends meet. woman: i understand that somebody has to do it. i'm proud that it's you. junger: and for the first time in my life, i knew real fear. it is easier to get access to an automatic rifle than to clean drinking water. the greatest hope for humanity lies in making violence obsolete. i now have to live with the extreme pain of knowing that i will never see or hug my son again.
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announcer: "ted talks war and peace" was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. please welcome your host, baratunde thurston. [applause] welcome, everybody. i am so excited to be hosting "ted live" here at the town hall in new york city. the theme is "war and peace," and before we continue any further, i just want to acknowledge the men and women who have served or are currently serving in our armed services. you and your families are especially welcome tonight, so thank you. [applause] he grew up wanting to be an actor, but his path to the stage was anything but direct. please welcome actor and veteran adam driver. [applause]
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i was a marine with 1/1 weapons company, 81st platoon out in camp pendleton, california. rah. audience: rah! i joined a few months after september 11th, feeling like i think most people in the country did at the time, filled with a sense of patriotism and retribution and the desire to do something, that coupled with the fact that i wasn't doing anything. i was 17, just graduated from high school that past summer, living in the back room of my parents' house paying rent in the small town i was raised in northern indiana called mishawaka. i could spell that later for people who are interested. mishawaka is many good things, but cultural hub of the world it is not, so my only exposure to theater and film was limited to the plays i did in high school and--and blockbuster video, may she rest in peace. i was serious enough about acting that i auditioned for julliard when i was a senior in high school, didn't get in,
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determined college wasn't for me, and applied nowhere else, which was a genius move, so... this was my world going into september 2001. so after the 11th and feeling an overwhelming sense of duty and just being pissed off in general at myself, my parents, the government, you know, not having confidence, not having a respectable job, i joined the marine corps, and i loved it, i loved being a marine. it's one of the things i'm most proud of having done in my life. firing weapons was cool, driving and detonating expensive things was great, but i found that i loved the marine corps the most for the thing that i was looking for the least when i joined, which was the people, these weird dudes, a--a motley crew of characters from a cross section of the united states that on the surface i had nothing in common with, and over time all the political and personal bravado that led me to the military dissolved, and for me, the marine corps became synonymous with my friends, and then a few years into my service and months away from deploying to iraq, i dislocated my sternum in a mountain biking accident, and it had to be medically separated,
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and for those who were never in the military, they find this hard to understand, but then being told i wasn't getting deployed to iraq or afghanistan was very devastating for me, and then suddenly i was a civilian again. i knew i wanted to give acting another shot, because--again, this is me-- i thought all civilian problems are small compared to the military. i mean, what could you really bitch about now? you know, "it's hot. someone should turn on the air conditioner," you know, "this coffee line is too long." i--i was a marine, i knew how to survive, i would go to new york and become an actor, and if things didn't work out, i'd--i'd live in central park and dumpster dive behind panera bread. so i--i re-auditioned for julliard, and this time i was lucky enough i got in, but i was surprised by how complex the transition was from military to civilian, and i was relatively healthy. i can't imagine going through that process on top of a mental or physical injury, but regardless, it was difficult, in part because i was in acting school. i couldn't justify going to voice and speech class, throwing imaginary balls of energy at the back of the room, doing acting exercises where i gave birth to myself,
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while my friends were serving without me oversees, but also because i didn't know how to apply the things i learned in the military to a civilian context. i mean that both practically and emotionally. practically, i had to get a job, and i was an infantry marine, where you're shooting machine guns and firing mortars. there's not a lot of places you can put those skills in the civilian world, and emotionally, in that i struggled to find meaning. in the military, everything has meaning. everything you do is either steeped into tradition or has a practical purpose, and you can't smoke in the field because you don't want to give away your position, you don't touch your face because you have to maintain a personal level of health and hygiene, you face this way when "colors" plays out of respect of those people that went before you, you walk this way because of this, you talk this way because of that. how often in the civilian world are you put in a life-or-death situation with your closest friends, and they constantly demonstrate that they're not going to abandon you? and meanwhile in acting school... [laughter] i was really for the first time discovering playwrights and characters and plays
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that had nothing to do with the military but were somehow describing my military experience in a way that before to me was indescribable, and i felt myself becoming less aggressive as i was able to put words to feelings for the first time and realizing what a valuable tool that was, and when i was reflecting on my time in the military, i wasn't first thinking on the stereotypical drills and discipline and pain of it, but rather these small, intimate human moments, these moments of great feeling, your friends going awol because they missed their families, friends getting divorced, grieving together, celebrating together, all within the backdrop of the military, and i saw my friends battling these circumstances, and i watched the anxiety it produced in them and me not being able to express our feelings about it. and--and the military and theater communities are actually very similar. you have a group of people trying to accomplish a mission greater than themselves, it is not about you, you have a role, you have to know your role within that team, every team has a leader or a director, sometimes they're smart, sometimes they're not, you're forced to be intimate with--with complete strangers
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in a short amount of time, the--the self-discipline, the self-maintenance. i thought how great would it be to create a space that combined these two seemingly dissimilar communities that brought entertainment to a group of people that, considering their occupation, could handle something a bit more thought provoking than the typical mandatory fun events that i remember being "volun-told" to go to in the military, all well intended, but slightly offensive events, like "win a date with a san diego chargers cheerleader," where you answer a question about pop culture, and if you get it right, you win a date, which was a chaperoned walk around the parade deck with this, you know, already married, pregnant cheerleader-- nothing against cheerleaders, i love cheerleaders. the--the point is more how great would it be to have theater presented through characters that were accessible without being condescending. so we started this non-profit called arts in the armed forces where--where we tried to do that, tried to join these two seemingly dissimilar communities. we--we pick a play or select monologues from contemporary american plays that are diverse in age and race like a military audience is,
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grab a group of incredible theater-trained actors, arm them with incredible material, keep production value as minimal as possible-- no sets, no costumes, no lights, just reading it-- to throw all the emphasis on the language and to show that theater can be created in any setting. and it's a powerful thing, getting in a room with complete strangers and reminding us-- ourselves of our humanity, and that self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder, and i can think of no better community to arm with the new means of self-expression than those protecting our country. so we have gone all over the united states and the world from walter reade in bethesda, maryland, to camp pendleton, to camp arifjan in kuwait, to usag bavaria, on- and off-broadway theaters in new york. and for the performing artists we bring, you know, it's a window into a culture that they otherwise would not have had exposure to, and for the military it's the exact same. and in doing this for the past 6 years, i'm always reminded that acting is many things. it's a craft, it's a political act,
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it's a business, it's, um, whatever adjective, i guess, is most applicable to you, but it's also a service. i didn't get to finish mine, so whenever i get to be of service to this ultimate service industry, the military, for me, again, there is not many things better than that. thank you. [applause] how do you talk to children about war? acclaimed filmmaker geeta gandbhir and distinguished journalist perri peltz had that exact question in mind when they made this film, "talk of war." [applause] man: some civilians, you know, go on trips and whatnot, but they're not always going on trips overseas putting their life on the line, so it's--it's tough being gone, uh, not knowing if you're going to see your children again. when my dad told me he was being deployed, i--i was--i was very sad.
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i, uh--i didn't know how long he-- how long he was going to be gone because he didn't tell me yet. i--i--i didn't know why. sometimes they're ok with it, sometimes it's just a-- it's a big ordeal, so i think that's what people don't understand about the military is sometimes we just got to get up and--and leave, and there's no notice. i worry that she, um, is going to get deployed again to, like, some other place that does have to go through, like, war and everything. i told them that it was going to be ok, that, you know, we were going to do this together, and, um, i would be home when it was time to come home. i was ok with the monthly drills and, you know, keeping it in the country, but knowing that you had to go so far away to some place so dangerous, i--that was most worried i've ever been in my life. there's a part of me that doesn't want to tell them everything that their dad is doing or going through. we also didn't talk about negative things
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that were going on at home. we always just would keep it very positive and talk about the positive things. we tend not to watch the news just because we don't want to worry. we want our everyday life to continue as it is, and i wanted things to be normal for them. you basically just have to let them know as their father that what you say is what they need to focus on, not the chatter, not the--the rumor mill, not what they hear on the news. you just let them know that mom's going to be fine, you know. "mom's going to be back, don't worry. "it's going to be soon. it's not going to be too much longer," you know, "you can be strong." i just want to make sure that my kids don't-- don't think that they're-- that my job is more important than they are. even though you are far away, and, like, you have to go through hard things at work, i think it's just really amazing that you can, like, help our country. i understand, you know? i understand that somebody has to do it, and sometimes i'm mad that it's you,
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sometimes i'm sad that it's you, but i'm proud that it's you. i'm proud that i can say that my dad does those things. [applause] we have with us this evening one of the finest journalists in the country. he has experienced war firsthand and expressed his stories in articles, documentary film, and his latest book, "tribe." sebastian junger. [applause] thank you so much. it's a real honor to be here with you tonight. i worked as a war reporter for 15 years before i realized that i really had a problem. there was something really wrong with me. this is about a year before 9/11, and america wasn't at war yet. i'd been in afghanistan for a couple of months
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with the northern alliances, they were fighting the taliban, and at that point the taliban had an air force, they had fighter planes, they had tanks, they had artillery, and we really got hammered pretty badly a couple of times. we saw some very ugly things. but i didn't really think it affected me; i didn't think much about it. i came home to new york where i live, and then one day i went down into the subway, and for the first time in my life, i knew real fear. i had a massive panic attack. i was way more scared than i'd ever been in afghanistan. everything i was looking at seemed like it was going to kill me, but i couldn't explain why. the trains were going too fast, there were too many people, the lights were too bright, everything was too loud, everything was moving too quickly, and when i couldn't take it any longer, i ran out of the subway station and walked wherever i was going. later i found out that what i had was short-term ptsd,
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post-traumatic stress disorder. we evolved as animals, as primates, to survive periods of danger, and if your life has been in danger, you want to react to unfamiliar noises, you want to sleep lightly, wake up easily, you want to be angry because it makes you predisposed to fight or depressed because it keeps you out of circulation a little bit, keeps you safe. most people recover from that pretty quickly, like, for--takes a few weeks, a few months. i kept having panic attacks, but they eventually went away. i had no idea it was connected to the war that i'd seen. about 20% of people, however, wind up with chronic long-term ptsd. they are not adapted to temporary danger; they are maladapted for everyday life, unless they get help. we know that the people who are vulnerable to long-term ptsd are people who were abused as children, who suffered trauma as children, people who have low education levels, people who have psychiatric disorders in their family.
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if you served in vietnam, and your brother is schizophrenic, you're way more likely to get long-term ptsd from vietnam. so i--i started to study this as a journalist, and i realized that there was something really strange going on. the numbers seem to be going in the wrong direction. every war that we have fought as a country, starting with the civil war, the intensity of the combat has gone down. as a result, the casualty rates have gone down, but disability rates have gone up. they should be going in the same direction, but they're going in different directions. the recent wars in iraq and afghanistan have produced, thank god, a casualty rate of about 1/3 of what it was in vietnam, but they've also produced 3 times the disability rates. around 10% of the u.s. military is actively engaged in combat. they're shooting at people, they're killing people,
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they're getting shot at, they're seeing their friends get killed. it's incredibly traumatic, and it's only about 10% of our military, but about half of our military has filed for some kind of ptsd compensation from the government. so about 40% of veterans really were not traumatized overseas, but have come home to discover that they are dangerously alienated and depressed. what is happening with them? maybe it's this: maybe they had an experience of sort of tribal closeness in their unit when they were overseas. they were eating together, sleeping together, doing tasks and missions together, they were trusting each other with their lives, and then they come home, and they have to give all that up, and they're coming back to a society, a modern society, which is hard on people who weren't even in the military, it's just hard on everybody,
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and we keep focusing on trauma, ptsd, but for a lot of these people, maybe it's not trauma. maybe what's bothering them is actually a kind of alienation. i mean, maybe we just have the wrong word for some of it, and just changing our language, our understanding would help a little bit. post-deployment alienation disorder. maybe even just calling it that for some of these people, would allow them to stop imagining, trying to imagine a trauma that didn't really happen, in order to explain a feeling that really is happening, and, in fact, it's an extremely dangerous feeling. that alienation and depression can lead to suicide. these people are in danger. it's very important to understand why. the israeli military has a ptsd rate of around 1%. the theory is that everyone in israel is supposed to serve in the military. when soldiers come back from the front line, they're not going from a military environment
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to a civilian environment. they're coming back to a community where everyone--everyone understands about the military. everyone's been in it or is going to be in it. everyone understands the situation they're all in. it's as if they're all in one big tribe. after 9/11, the murder rate in new york city went down by 40%. the suicide rate went down. the violent crime rate in new york went down. even combat veterans of previous wars who suffered from ptsd said that their symptoms went down after 9/11 happened. the reason is that if you traumatize an entire society, we don't fall apart and turn on one another, we come together, we unify, basically we tribalize, and that process of unifying feels so good and is so good for us that it even helps people who are struggling with mental health issues. now american soldiers, american veterans
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are coming back to a country that is so bitterly divided, that the two political parties are literally accusing each other of treason, of being an enemy of the state, of trying to undermine the security and the welfare of their own country. the gap between rich and poor is the biggest it's ever been, it's just getting worse, race relations are terrible, and veterans know that any platoon that treated itself that way would never survive. veterans have gone away and are coming back and seeing their own country with fresh eyes, and they see what's going on. this is the country they fought for, no wonder they're depressed, no wonder they're scared. sometimes we ask ourselves if we can save the vets. i think the real question is if we can save ourselves. if we can, i think the vets are going to be fine.
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it's time for this country to unite... if only to help the men and women who fought to protect us. thank you very much. [applause] iginal albums, composed an opera, set shakespeare sonnets to song. he is ridiculously talented, and we are ridiculously lucky to have him here. please welcome rufus wainwright. [applause] [music playing] ♪ the birds they sang ♪ at the break of day
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♪ start again ♪ i heard them say ♪ don't dwell on what has passed away ♪ ♪ or what is yet to be ♪ all the wars ♪ they will be fought again ♪ the holy dove ♪ she will be caught again ♪ bought and sold ♪ and bought again ♪ the dove is never free ♪ ring the bells that still can ring ♪
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♪ forget your perfect offering ♪ there's a crack ♪ a crack in everything ♪ that's how the light gets in ♪ that's how the light gets in ♪ ♪ we asked for signs ♪ the signs were sent ♪ the birth betrayed ♪ the marriage spent ♪ yeah, the widowhood of every government ♪ ♪ signs for all to see ♪ i can run no more ♪ with that lawless crowd
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♪ while the killers in high places ♪ ♪ say their prayers out loud ♪ but they've summoned ♪ they've summoned a thundercloud ♪ ♪ and they're gonna hear from me ♪ ♪ you can add up the parts ♪ but you won't have the sum ♪ you can strike up the march ♪ there is no drum ♪ every heart, every heart to love will come ♪ ♪ like a refugee
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[applause] i am very excited to introduce this next film, which is brought to us by joe brewster and michele stephenson. it chronicles the journey of major general linda singh, a journey in which "all roads point to home." let's look. male cadets: dedicated, dedicated, downright dedicated, you can check us out, you can check us, whoa! woman: [indistinct] are you motivated? female cadets: motivated, motivated, downright motivated, you can check us out, you can check us out, whoa! are you motivated? yes, ma'am. yeah? yes, ma'am. that didn't seem like it. what's wrong? nothing, ma'am. ah, didn't think i was watching you.
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big difference from when i was here the last time. you guys are looking really, really, really, really good. some of you are still a little slack. do you think that i'm not going to call you out on it when i see it? cadet: no, ma'am! oh, "no, ma'am"? cadets: no, ma'am! singh: yes, ma'am. i'm going to call you out on it. singh, voiceover: people look at senior officers in the military and think that we went to west point, and we've had a very privileged life. many of us go in the military because we may not be able to afford to make ends meet. i left home at age 16. i actually had someone that offered for me to be a prostitute, and i thought, "if i don't get away from here, "i'm going to end up even in a worse place than just being sexually abused," which is what caused me to leave home to begin with. a recruiter in the mall said that "not only are we going to pay you, "we give you 3 meals a day,
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and you're going to have a roof over your head." i signed up june 3rd. i did not want to be on the streets in the winter. it was a big community. the military really did save my life. hogan: i have declared a state of emergency at the request of baltimore city. this order deploys the maryland national guard. the national guard represents a last resort. man: he's a photographer! he's press! photographer! singh: i would highly recommend that we all go in and take cover for the night and actually get some rest and let things settle down. if there are any questions about martial law, we are not at that point. i repeat, not at that point. singh, voiceover: in some countries, we think that we can make 300 years of change over night. if i relate that back to what we're seeing in baltimore, i just don't think we've gotten the recipe right. what we need to look at
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is in the event that we have to come in, we should be talking to the community leaders in advance. man: yes. we need to ask them, do they need anything from us? singh, voice-over: i think the misunderstood piece is that the military comes in firing our weapons, and that's not every single unit in the military. our first mission is to really win the hearts and minds of the people. we're there to serve our community. we have to ensure that we're not trying to impart what we think their community should look like. we need them telling us what do they want to see their community be. if it wasn't right yesterday, change it today. you're going to make me proud. whoa? cadets: whoa! and i guarantee you, i'll hug every single one of you when you come across the stage. whoa? cadets: whoa! singh, voice-over: just as much as baltimore has to heal, my soldiers have to heal because they're also a part of those communities. i'm just asking them to do more community engagement as an individual, as a person,
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as a social responsibility. [applause] we have a bonus honor tonight. major general linda singh is in the house with us tonight. major general, would you mind standing and allowing us to acknowledge you with your bad self? [applause] coming to the stage, we have a real life peacemaker. she has spent the past 10-plus years working hard to find nonviolent solutions to some of the largest conflicts around the world-- jamila raqib. [applause]
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war has been a part of my life since i can remember. i was born in afghanistan, just 6 months after the soviets invaded, and even though i was too young to understand what was happening, i had a deep sense of the suffering and the fear around me. those early experiences had a major impact on how i now think about war and conflict. i learned that when people have a fundamental issue at stake, for most of them, giving in is not an option. for these types of conflicts, when people's rights are violated, when their countries are occupied, when they're oppressed and humiliated, they need a powerful way to resist and to fight back, which means that no matter how destructive and terrible violence is, if people see it as their only choice, they will use it. most of us are concerned with the level of violence in the world, but we're not going to end war by telling people that violence is morally wrong, instead we must offer them a tool that's at least as powerful and as effective as violence.
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for the past 13 years, i've been teaching people in some of the most difficult situations around the world how they can use nonviolent struggle to conduct conflict. most people associate this type of action with gandhi and martin luther king, but people have been using nonviolent action for thousands of years. in fact, most of the rights that we have today in this country, as women, as minorities, as workers, as people of different sexual orientations, and citizens concerned with the environment. these rights weren't handed to us. they were won by people who fought for them and who sacrificed for them, but because we haven't learned from this history, nonviolent struggle as a technique is widely misunderstood. i met recently with a group of ethiopian activists, and they told me something that i hear a lot. they said they'd already tried nonviolent action,
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and it hadn't worked. years ago, they held a protest, the government arrested everyone, and that was the end of that. the idea that nonviolent struggle is equivalent to street protests is a real problem, because although protests can be a great way to show that people want change, on their own, they don't actually create change, at least change that is fundamental. powerful opponents are not going to give people what they want just because they asked nicely or even not so nicely. [laughter] nonviolent struggle works by destroying an opponent, not physically, but by identifying the institutions that an opponent needs to survive and then denying them those sources of power. nonviolent activists can neutralize the military by causing soldiers to defect, they can disrupt the economy through strikes and boycotts, and they can challenge government propaganda
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by creating alternative media. there are a variety of methods that can be used to do this. my colleague and mentor gene sharp has identified 198 methods of nonviolent action, and protest is only one. let me give you a recent example. until a few months ago, guatemala was ruled by corrupt former military officials with ties to organized crime. people were generally aware of this, but most of them felt powerless to do anything about it, until one group of citizens, just 12 regular people, put out a call on facebook to their friends to meet in the central plaza holding signs with a message, "renuncia ya," "resign already." to their surprise, 30,000 people showed up. they stayed there for months as protests spread throughout the country. at one point, organizers delivered hundreds of eggs
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to various government buildings with the message, "if you don't have the huevos," the balls, "to stop corrupt candidates from running for office, you can borrow ours." [laughter and applause] president molina responded by vowing that he would never step down, and the activists realized that they couldn't just keep protesting and ask the president to resign. they needed to leave him no choice, so they organized a general strike in which people throughout the country refused to work. in guatemala city alone, over 400 businesses and schools shut their doors. meanwhile, farmers throughout the country blocked major roads. within 5 days, the president, along with dozens of other government officials, resigned already. [applause] nonviolent struggle is just as complex as military warfare,
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if not more. its participants must be well trained and have clear objectives, and its leaders must have a strategy of how to achieve those objectives. the technique of war has been developed over thousands of years with massive resources and some of our best minds dedicated to understanding and improving how it works. the us government recently admitted that it's in a stalemate in its war against isis, but what most people don't know is that people have stood up to isis using nonviolent action. when isis captured mosul in june 2014, they announced that they were putting in place a new public school curriculum based on their own extremist ideology, but on the first day of school, not a single child showed up. parents simply refused to send them, and they told journalists they would rather home school their children rather than to have them brainwashed.
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this is an example of just one act of defiance in just one city. but what if it was coordinated with the dozens of other acts of nonviolent resistance that have taken place against isis? what if the parents' boycott was part of a larger strategy to identify and cut off the resources that isis needs to function. the skilled labor needed to produce food, the engineers needed to extract and refine oil, the media infrastructure and communications networks and transportation systems, and the local businesses that isis relies on. it may be difficult to imagine defeating isis with action that is nonviolent, but it's time that we challenge the way we think about conflict and the choices we have in facing it. here's an idea worth spreading: let's learn more about where nonviolent action has worked and how we can make it more powerful, just like we do with other systems and technologies that are constantly being refined
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to better meet human needs. it may be that we can improve nonviolent action to a point where it is increasingly used in place of war. we can make nonviolent struggle more powerful than the newest and latest technologies of war. the greatest hope for humanity lies not in condemning violence but in making violence obsolete. thank you. [applause] filmmakers mark manucci, jonathan halperin, and anna bowers visited the m.i.t. media lab to glimpse the future of bionic technology. gadsby: before i went to the marine corps, i looked at amputees in a negative light. i--honestly, i was totally creeped out by them.
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i got wounded in a town called karma outside of fallujah. [laughs] maybe--maybe that's karma, you know, maybe i got what i deserved. i brought the war home, you know, i would just spend a lot of time laying in bed, angry and looking to pick a fight, and then my war started becoming my wife's war and my son's war. herr: we humans are physical, and that physicality, of course, is directly coupled to our emotional state. as an engineer, we ask can we build limbs that fully emulate natural biological limbs. gadsby: the first time i put the biom on, it was like, wow, what the hell is this? this is like robocop and terminator. it's amazing. herr: the prosthetic has sensors,
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like the sensors in the bottom of your foot for touch. it has a motor that emulates the lost muscle. it has 3 very small computers, enabling the person to control the muscle-like motor system. i think we built the first powered foot ankle device in 2003, and, of course, i was the guinea pig. i mean, i've tested so many prototype electromechanical systems, i've lost count. in the struggle, in the battle, of what comes after something as dramatic and acute as one's limb being amputated, one can think of bionics as resolving that battle into peace. gadsby: the war did take away things that i could never get back again.
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the prosthetic can only go so far, because it's not the-- the leg i was born with, but, you know, as far as the war at home, it kind of helps reduce the intensity of the despair you feel when you think back to those days. it doesn't have blood in it, it doesn't have bones, but i literally feel like it is a part of me. this is who i am. [applause] when we think of war, canada isn't the first country that comes to mind. let's be honest, canada isn't in the top 50 of countries that comes to mind for most of us, but that didn't stop canadian samantha nutt from putting herself on the frontline of conflicts in africa and the middle east. she has devoted her life's work to aiding families and children, not who chose war, but who found themselves nonetheless in its path.
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please welcome samantha nutt. [applause] thank you very much. good evening. some of you may have noticed that my last name is nutt, and if you did, you are forgiven for wondering how a nutt managed to end up in a war zone. uh, i actually was offered right out of medical school and accepted a volunteer contract to work with unicef in war-torn somalia that was worth $1.00, and, you see, i had to be paid this dollar in the event that the u.n. needed to issue an evacuation order so that i would be covered. i ended up in baidoa, somalia. journalists called it "the city of death," and they called it the city of death because 300,000 people had lost their lives there, mostly as a result of war-related famine and disease. i was part of a team that was tasked with trying to figure out how best to respond
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to this humanitarian catastrophe. i remember very distinctly a couple of days after my arrival, i went up to a feeding clinic, and there were dozens of women who were standing in line, and they were clutching their infants very close. and about 20 minutes into this conversation i was having with this one young woman, i leaned forward, and i tried to put my finger in the palm of her baby's hand, and when i did this, i discovered that her baby was already in rigor, and she had died hours before of malnutrition and dehydration. i later learned that as her baby was dying, this young woman had been held for two days by some teenage boys who were armed with kalashnikov rifles, and they were trying to shake her down for more money, money she very clearly did not have,
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and this is a scene that i have confronted in war zones the world over. places where kids, some as young as 8, they are this big, and those kids, they have never been to school, but they have fought, and they have killed with automatic rifles. i will tell you that i have seen the absolute worst of what we, as human beings, are capable of doing to one another, and yet i still believe a different outcome is possible. there are at least 800 million small arms and light weapons in circulation in the world today. the vast majority of civilians like that young baby who are dying in war zones around the world, they are dying at the hands of various armed groups who rely on a near infinite supply of cheap, easy and efficient weapons
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to rape, threaten, intimidate and brutalize those civilians at every turn. how cheap? well, in some parts of the world you can buy an ak47 for as little as $10. in many places in which i have worked, it is easier to get access to an automatic rifle than it is to get access to clean drinking water. let's take a look at this map of the world, and now let's add in all the countries that are currently at war and the number of people who have either died or been displaced as a result of that violence. it is a staggering number, more than 40 million people. but you'll also notice something else about this map. you will notice that most of those countries are in the global south. now let's look at the countries that are the world's top 20 exporters of small arms in the world.
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you will notice that those are mostly countries in the global north. this tells us that most of the people who are dying in war are living in poor countries, and yet most of the people who are profiting from war are living in rich countries. what if we look at all weapons in circulation in the world? who does the biggest business? well, roughly 80% of those weapons come from none other than the 5 permanent members of the united nations security council plus germany, but you might be saying to yourselves, you know, all of these weapons in war zones, they're not a cause, but an effect of the violence that plagues them each and every single day. places like iraq and afghanistan, where they need these weapons to be able to maintain law and order, promote peace and security, to combat terror groups. so let's take a look at that assumption for just one moment, because, you see, there has been a boom in these small arms trade since the start of the war on terror. in fact, it is a business that has grown threefold
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over the past 15 years, and now let's compare that to the number of people who have directly died in armed conflict around the world in that same period. well, you notice that, in fact, that also goes up roughly three- to fourfold. they basically go up and end at the same point. this a relationship that is worth scrutinizing, especially when you consider that small arms that were shipped to iraq for use by the iraqi army or to syria for so-called moderate opposition fighters, that those arms, many of them are now in the hands of isis, and therein lies the problem, because, you see, small arms anywhere are a menace everywhere, because their first stop is rarely their last. spending on war per person per year now amounts to about $249,
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which is roughly 12 times what we spend on foreign aid, money that is used to educate and vaccinate children and combat malnutrition in the global south, but we can shift that balance. how do we do this? well, it is essentially a problem of both supply and demand, so we can tackle it from both sides. on the supply side, we can push our governments to adopt international arms transparency mechanisms like the arms trade treaty, which makes it so that rich countries have to be more accountable for where their arms are going and what the arms might be used for. what about on the-- on the demand side? you know, there are generations around the world who are being lost to war. it is possible to disrupt that cycle of violence with investments in education, in strengthening the rule of law, and in economic development, especially for women, and i have personally seen just how incredibly powerful
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those kinds of efforts can be around the world. war is ours as human beings. we buy it, sell it, spread it and wage it. we are therefore not powerless to solve it; on the contrary, we are the only ones who can. thank you very much, and i want to wish you the greatest success. [applause] thurston: i want to welcome cellist wolfram koessel from the american string quartet. [playing cello] our next speaker launched the mothers for life network to help bring together mothers around the world who have been affected by violence. she is incredibly courageous, and we are so thankful she is here with us tonight.
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please welcome christianne boudreau. growing up as a youngster, my biggest dream was to become a mom. i felt so blessed the day my son damien was born. he was a compassionate young man, always a sparkle in his eyes. he grew up wanting to accomplish so much. as a teenager, that's when the struggles began. he felt that there was so much going on in the world, he should be able to help and make a difference. over time, depression started setting in. it was such a lonely place for him. he began seeking a new path in life. that's when he found islam, a faith that would help him move in a direction of purpose.
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he started bringing new friends home, lovely, kind, and warm friends. he got a full-time job. then things began to change. damien became very private and secretive. his happy and easygoing nature was replaced with an intensity and seriousness that was daunting. damien became very rigid in his thoughts and his beliefs. he began planning to go to school to learn arabic, linguistics, and become an imam. this would never be the path that he would end up really taking. my last hug to him was on november 11, 2012.
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on november 12, 2012, he boarded a plane, a plane that never made it to egypt. instead, it took him to turkey. fast forward to january 2014. my heart is now disintegrated into a million pieces. i now have to live with the extreme pain of knowing that i will never see or hug my son again. he was killed in syria by the free syrian army fighting alongside who we now know as isis.
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i will never be able to tell him how much i love him again. how does a mother go on living when the purpose of her life is her children? what my son set out to do was to save women and children from the tortures of bashar al-assad. what he thought he was a part of turned out to be a lie, nothing but greed and senseless killing. as the media sensationalizes everything happening with the war on isis, a lot of people forget that these young men and women have or had families. these families come from every walk of life.
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they are left behind in this senseless war. they experience trauma, extreme emotions, and the struggle of trying to continue on. another thing that a lot of people don't realize is that on the most part, these families don't blame religion or certain cultures or certain people. they don't point a finger of bitterness or resentment. instead, they ask everyone to show compassion and to reach out to one another. these families that are left behind with permanent holes in their hearts are standing strong for peace. we can only hope that by standing strong
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and sharing our stories, people will be--learn to be kind to one another again. stop, wave, smile at a neighbor or a stranger passing on the street, come out from behind our computer screens. enjoy the company of a real human being. take the time to get to know who they are in the inside, rather than judging them right away from what they are on the outside. that's the message that we mothers and fathers of our fallen children really want to send out today. let's learn from our mistakes and have hope that we can make it all better. [applause]
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we have had such an emotional journey, and the next step is to share what we have learned here with someone else, through a screen or face-to-face. i want to thank our musical director and renown film composer paul cantelon with cellist wolfram koessel from the american string quartet. [applause, music begins] thank you, "ted," thank you, everyone here at town hall, thank you, new york city, and good night. [applause]
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announcer: to learn more about this program and for links to more "ted talks," visit
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i want to know who i am. did her ancestors walk the trail of tears? amazing and heartbreaking. did his relative fight for the confederacy? wow! man! genealogy roadshow travels to houston... - i think we found what we're looking for. - wow! reveal family connections. - it's amazing. - incredible. it's taken him from a name and made him a relative. - so are you ready? - i'm ready! genealogy roadshow . tomorrow at 8/7 central. only on pbs. s made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting.
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thousands of veterans are haunted by traumatic memories long after they return home. -when you come back, you feel like, you know, you should have died over there. -see how they attempt to make peace with the past, their loved ones, and themselves. -rage carried me through -- anger carried me through everything. -whatever happens to you, i'll still love you. -"of men and war," only on "pov." ♪ -stay tuned to hear from the filmmakerm and to find out how you can share your point of view.


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