Gillian Caldwell
Exec. Director, Witness; Human Rights Advocate
02:24

Re: What is human nature?

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People are capable of both tremendous good and tremendous evil, says Caldwell.


Gillian Caldwell

Gillian Caldwell is the Executive Director of WITNESS, an international human rights organization that provides training and support to local groups to use video in their human rights advocacy capaigns. Caldwell was a Co-Director of the Global Survival Network (now WildAid), where she coordinated the two-year undercover investigation into the trafficking of women in Russia that culminated in her 1997 film, Bought and Sold. She is the leader of the Witness to Truth video project in Sierra Leone that urges the government of Sierra Leone to implement TRC recommendations. Caldwell was the reipient of the 2000 Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership award and has been named one of 40 Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs by the Schwab Foundation, a 2003 Tech Laureate by the Tech Museum, and a Special Partner by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Caldwell received her BA from Harvard University and her JD in human rights law from Georgetown University. Her videos have been shown as evidence in legal proceedings, such as the international war crimes investigation against Slobodan Milosevic, in the Sierra Leone Truth Commission proceedings, and at the UN. Ideas recorded on: 8/13/07

Transcript
Yeah, I was thinking about worldview on the way here, because I think on some level at its essence, what’s really most fundamentally distinct about people’s worldviews is whether they believe people are fundamentally good or fundamentally not good. Or put differently, evil, lazy, self-interested as many philosophers have suggested . . . western philosophers, often white men. And I must confess that I . . . I am motivated by a belief that people are capable of goodness; that everybody is capable of goodness and tremendous evil; and that who we are and how we manifest ourselves in the world depends entirely on the circumstances that surround us. And that what . . . what’s most important for that very reason is living each and every moment of our lives with as much integrity, and as much love, and as much clarity as we can muster. Because it is in each and every one of those moments that we manifest our potential to be fully human, which is to be fully good. I don’t . . . I don’t believe that people are ultimately self-interested. I think they become that way out of fear. And I don’t believe that people are evil. I think they become that way in response to threats or perceived threats. And that . . . I think that really is critical to who I am and how I am in the world. And I think if I were cynical about people, and who they are, and how they are, I wouldn’t be able to do what it is that I’m doing. Because I do believe that we can tap into what is universal in all of us, which is, you know, a desire to be loved and cared for; and to love and to care for other people. And that stories we’re telling enables us to tap into that potential, and that power, and that beauty.

Recorded on: 8/13/07


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