Here’s the fourth and final update to the TEDxTelAviv conference.
Martin Rappaport – “Fair Trade: An End to Exploitation”
Martin Rapaport was a diamond guy, until he quit to industry after learning about the exploitation that occurs in Africa, primarily Sierra Leone. There are amputee camps in Sierra Leone, with little children missing arms, thanks to the local violence. 28% of children do not reach the age of 5 in Sierra Leone. But, its not just diamonds. 80% of the world’s Coltan* comes from the Congo. This resource is used in cell phones, hearing aids, pacemakers, etc. It’s a situation in which “poor people are killing each other so that rich people can have” the resources their country possesses. They don’t want charity; they want jobs, grass roots programs, and to have a local economy of their own, in which their children can prosper. According to the statistics he presented, government civil society spends $107 billion in aid to Africa (2001-2008), $5.7 billion on peacekeeping in 2009 alone. The West, instead of creating an environment which helps, and encourages prosperity, has created an environment which enables the current situation. Rapaport warns that we must all be careful with our intentions. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Recognize that by changing the environment, you may not always be helping. “No good deed goes unpunished.” Economic environmentalism must be integrated with sustainable development. If you increase life span and decrease mortality rights, you are keeping people alive. But what are they going to eat? Where are they going to work? The golden rule – “He who has the gold, rules.” We must all be responsible with our spending – “for what you buy and what you don’t buy.” So what’s the solution? Well, one is fair trade. Fair trade is composed of 1. fair wages, 2. community benefit, 3. do no harm, and 4. monitoring and branding (pay more for a product which is branded as being one which does not exploit the poor). Rapaport closed with a secret from the diamond industry – They don’t sell diamonds; they sell the idea behind the diamond.
*Thanks to Cabel for commenting with the correct name, despite the less than friendly way in which s/he did it. 🙂
Sign Language Lesson
Members of the Nalagaat center taught a short lesson in English sign language. Pretty cool!
Itay Talgam – “The Art of Letting Go”
[Let me preface this by saying that I know I am about to butcher the names of some of these conductors. So please, feel free to comment with the correct spelling].
There’s a saying in Israel, that Israelis don’t get stage fright, only audience fright. Itay Talgam spoke about what makes a good conductor. Often, a conductor is superfluous. The orchestra known the piece of music of music, has performed it dozens of times, so the conductor isn’t really needed. Two “semi-Israeli” conductors faced this challenge, with the same orchestra, and the same piece of music, Daniel Barenboim and Zubin Mehta, while, respectively, conducting in Berlin. Zubin Mehta was the director of the Israeli philharmonic. He noted that in his orchestra, “I am the only Indian; everyone else is the chief.” Mehta, tried to joke around, even losing his baton, but wouldn’t leave his orchestra. Barenboim, on the other hand, felt that the community spirit could continue without him leading, and left the stage for the orchestra to continue on its own. (Talgam explained that it is community spirit which, for example, drives music or singing in football/soccer matches). The problem is that of being redundant. For Riccardo Muti, according to Talgam, the dilemma is sincere. “He wants to let go, but doesn’t know how. Either he’s in full control or he’s redundant.” However, as result of either option, the musicians suffer. The burnout rate of musicians is extremely high, Talgam believes that it is likely higher that those of teachers and prison wardens. Becoming a professional musician, he argued, is like marrying your lover, stating that institutional love is difficult. He shared a story of a player in Muti’s orchestra who, when asked how the concert went, replied “Good. It could have been better, but he [Muti] wouldn’t let us.” Showing a clip of a conductor-less orchestra, he explained that conductors can only be good if they are great or idiots. If they are idiots, then you are free from their constraints, but if they are geniuses, they force you to better than yourself. So what can conductors do to unleash the power of the orchestra? Talgam explained that there are two types of great conductors. The first type is like Georg Szell, who was a great trainer/teacher. The second option is being larger than life, like Wilhelm Furtwangler or Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein, Talgam said, came up with the idea of setting people free through commitment. Rehearsal, according to Bernstein, is not an exercise; it is not “coordinated playing” but rather “an individual singing his heart out” as one. Bernstein tried to describe a piece of Jewish music. He described it as having a strangled sob, and as being “Jewish in the most universal sense.” Talgam concluded by saying, “You can only let go when you are so sure of your own identity and your relations with the outside world… and music becomes a world view… not playing for the sake of playing, but playing for the sake of delivering a universal message, playing so the music can fly.”
Ehud Shapiro – “Uncovering the Human cell lineage tree: the next grand scientific challenge”
Ehud Shapiro, of the Weizmann Institute, discussed the process of mapping the tree of a human being from its first cell. The zygote is the root, there are branches for each time the cell divides, and the leaves are the daughter cells. Scientists have succeeded in mapping the tree of the c. elegans, a 1 mm, 1000 cell, transparent worm. It is the only creature, so far, which science knows the entire tree. It was plotted through a movie of its development, which won the Nobel Prize. A new born mouse has 1 billion cells, and an adult human has 100 trillion cells (that’s 100 followed by 12 zeros). Why should scientists pursue this? Shapiro argues that knowing it would answer central questions in biology and medicine. For example, if we were able to make a tree of cancer cells, we could prove the cause of a relapse. A relapse could be caused by cancer cells that escaped the chemo-therapy, or by new cancer cell. If the cause is the former, then we would know that we need stronger chemicals. However, if the cause is the latter, then we would know that we can make chemicals as strong as we’d like, but ultimately, they wouldn’t solve the problem, because its targeting the wrong thing. Another example is that of diabetes; through mapping the Human cell lineage tree, scientists could determine whether beta cells can be renewed. A third example is in the realm of fertility. Dogma maintains that women are born with a fixed number of eggs. Yet, there have been cases of women who have given birth after having chemo-therapy which had destroyed their eggs. Where did those new eggs come from? Why is it appropriate that this research be started in Israel? Israel is a country which crosses boundaries, challenges dogmas, and may cause turmoil for challenging those dogmas.
Noa Wertheim – “Vertigo Vision”
Noa Wertheim is the Co-Founder and artistic director of Vertigo Jerusalem Dance Company. She discussed her history, and the concepts of of breaking systems, asking questions, and existing in the moment. Vertigo, she explained, is about having the “guts to lose direction, sensation” and to “create yourself again and again; create a real vertigo.” She then presented five minutes of the dance piece “White Noise,” a critic of the “modern, capitalistic world.” In response to her view of the world, she and her family established the Vertigo Edo Art Village in the Ella Valley, which is built upon the concept of sustainable living, with mud walls, recycled water, solar energy, rain-collected water, and compost toilets. Last, she presented four minutes of the dance piece “Mana,” about the Zohar and Kabala concept of a “vessel of light,” breathe and soul.