Who are we?

Topic: Human Nature.

Anna Deavere Smith: Well I’m working on a project now about the human body. And I’ve been interviewing people who are dying. And I’ve been interviewing doctors. And I went to Rwanda and talked to some people 10 years after the genocide. I went to South Africa and talked to people about the pandemic of HIV/AIDS there. And on the other hand, I talked to people who are very, very talented, vibrant people with their bodies, like Lance Armstrong, for example.

I have come to the conclusion that it’s just not fair that some people get certain burdens, and some people get certain gifts. But that, as somebody said to me the other day, these gifts are randomly delivered. And so then that leaves me with a bigger question. And it looks like we’ll be going into a period now where people who have resources will be able to genetically, through genetic therapies, they can enhance things that they may not have. But not everybody will do that. And so that could set up how we started that.

The lens through which I’ve seen the world for so long is about making a level playing field. I think we’re going to move away from that very far. And then it’s kind of like if it’s not fair, what do we do? What should we do? What should we do personally? Will the desire to have things be fair and be equal go away as a human enterprise? You know we look to the law to help us figure out about fairness. On the other hand, we see it all over the world. And we saw in this country [USA] that the law can justify misdeeds. So I’ve learned about human nature.

The good news is that throughout history, even though it hasn’t been fair, there have been people who have worked hard to try to make a situation where many people could thrive when they could have chosen to make a situation where nobody could thrive but them. So it’s good news and it’s bad news. The bad news is that some are more vulnerable than others. The good news is that occasionally, powerful human beings have used their power to make it okay for everybody.

Recorded on: 08/22/2007

 

 

 

 

Anna Deavere Smith on the balance between the gifts of nature, and their just distribution.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

10 books to check out from Jordan Peterson's 'Great Books' list

The Canadian professor has an extensive collection posted on his site.

Jordan Peterson with Carl Jung and the cover art of Jaak Panksepp's 'Affective Neuroscience' (Image: Chris Williamson/Getty Images/Big Think)
Personal Growth
  • Peterson's Great Books list features classics by Orwell, Jung, Huxley, and Dostoevsky.
  • Categories include literature, neuroscience, religion, and systems analysis.
  • Having recently left Patreon for "freedom of speech" reasons, Peterson is taking direct donations through Paypal (and Bitcoin).
Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

Should you invest in China's stock market? Know this one thing first.

Despite incredible economic growth, it is not necessarily an investor's paradise.

Videos
  • China's stock market is just 27 years old. It's economy has grown 30x over that time.
  • Imagine if you had invested early and gotten in on the ground floor.
  • Actually, you would have lost money. Here's how that's possible.