I’ve been fortunate enough to go to some TEDx events and I have to admit I enjoyed myself. However, I think I enjoyed myself in the same way I did when I was a kid going to church with my parents. There were smiles all around, mock pleasantries, lots of people who looked like me and had my tastes while we all got to marvel at the moral uprightness or genius of the speakers.
Debate of the matter at hand would have been inappropriate and shoo’d away like poor behavior at a dinner party. The speakers were sincere and trying to communicate an idea, a business model, or whatever, to those of us who were willing listeners. It wasn’t pretentious or insincere but it really wasn’t challenging either. Who isn’t against novel ideas of ending poverty? Who wouldn’t like to see a mildly disturbing (but not too disturbing) academic discussion on sexual tastes? It must be a comfortable venue for der letzte Mensch to enjoy.
The problem is that the presentation and milieu has all the authenticity of a dinner party taken out of an Oscar Wilde script. I sense that behind the utmost sincerity is something of an evangelical spirit that technology, right politics, and right reason are the way to the promised land. That seems particularly evident in the drama surrounding three talks that were banned. All three of them are unique and actually challenge the audience. They make us think and question some of the preconceived worldviews with which we entered the arena of ideas. I wish we had more of these.
One special talk I had the chance to see live was extraordinarily well done while also being challenging. It was Rick Steves’s on travel. Marvelous and bold.
The three that were banned call us to question some basic presuppositions. Like them or not, they are great representations of the type of discussion we should be having in the public square. Here they are: