This is a must listen speech of Mr. Simon Anholt, who delivered this speech for TED Talks. Incredible thoughts you should not miss out.
Simon Anholt is an independent policy advisor who has worked to help develop and implement strategies for enhanced economic, political and cultural engagement with other countries.
Here is the transcript of his speech.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the world recently and how it’s changed over the last 20, 30, 40 years twenty or thirty years ago if it chicken caught a cold and sneezed and died in a remote village in East Asia it would’ve been a tragedy for the chicken and his closest relatives, But I don’t think there was much possibility of us fearing a global pandemic and the deaths of millions. Twenty or thirty years ago if a bank in North America lent too much money to some people who couldn’t afford to pay it back. And the back went bust It was bad for the lender and bad for the borrower. We didn’t imagine it would bring the global economic system to its knees for nearly a decade.
This is globalization this is the miracle that has enabled us to transshipment bodies on our minds and our words and our pictures in our ideas and our teaching, our learning around the planet ever faster and ever cheaper. It’s put a lot of bad stuff like the stuff that i just described, but it’s also brought a lot of good stuff. A lot of us are not aware of the extraordinary successes have the Millennium Development Goals, several of which have achieved that targets long before the due date. That proves that this species humanity is capable of achieving extraordinary progress, if it really act together and it really tries hard.
But if I had to put it in a nutshell these days I sort of feel the globalization has taken us by surprise and we’ve been slow to respond to it. If you look at the downside of globalization it really does seem to be sometimes overwhelming. All of the grand challenges that we face today like climate change and human rights and demographics and terrorism and pandemics and trafficking and human slavery and species loss; I could go on.
We’re not making an awful lot of progress against an awful lot of those challenges. So in a nutshell that’s the challenge that we all face today at this interesting point in history. That’s clearly what we’ve got to do next. We’ve somehow got to get our act together and we’ve gotta figure out how to globalize the solutions better. So that we don’t simply become the species which is the victim of the ‘globalization of problems’.
Why are we so slow at achieving these advances? What’s the reason for it? Well, there are of course a number of reasons but, perhaps the primary reason is because we still organized as a species in the same way that we were organized two or three hundred years ago. This one superpower left on the planet and that is the seven billion people, the seven billion of us who caused all these problems the same seven billion. By the way who will resolve them all. But how those seven billion organized? the still organized in 200 also nation-states and the nations have governments, make rules, can cause us to behave in certain ways and that’s a pretty efficient system. But the problem is, the way that those laws are made and the way those governments think is absolutely wrong for the solution to global problems; because, it all looks inwards. The politicians that we elect on the politicians we don’t elect on the whole have minds that microscope they don’t have minds that telescope.
They lookin they pretend they behave as if they believed that every country was an island. That existed quite happily independently of all the others on its own little planet in its own little solar system. This is the problem. Countries competing against each other, countries fighting against each other this week as any week you care to look, at you’ll find people actually trying to kill each other; from country to country.
But even when that’s not going on this competition between countries each one trying to shaft the next. This is clearly not a good arrangement, we clearly need to change it. We clearly need to find ways of encouraging countries to start working together a little bit better and why won’t they do that? Why is it that our leaders still persisted looking inwards?
Well, the first and most obvious reason is because that’s what we asked them to do. That’s what we tell them to do. When we elect government so when we tolerate on elected governments, with effectively telling them the what we want is for them to deliver us in our country, a certain number of things. We want to deliver prosperity, growth, competitiveness, transparency, justice and all those things. So unless we start asking our government’s to think outside a little bit to consider the global problems will finish us all if ,we don’t start considering them.
Then we can hardly blame them before they carry on doing is looking inwards if they still have mines that microscope rather than mines the telescope.
That’s the first reason why things tend not to change.
The second reason is that Turner these governments just like all the rest of us a cultural psychopaths. I don’t mean to be rude, but you know what a psychopath is a psychopath is a person who unfortunately for him or her lacks the ability to really empathize with other human beings. When they look around they don’t see other human beings with deep rich three-dimensional personal lives and aims and ambitions. What they see is cardboard cutouts and it’s very sad and it’s very lonely, and it’s very rare fortunately.
But actually, almost a bus not really so very good empathy or show with very good empathy when it’s a question of dealing with people who kind of look like us and kind of walk and talk a neat and pray and wear I like us. But when it comes to people who don’t do that who don’t quite dress like us and don’t quite pray like us, don’t quite talk like us, do we not also have a tendency to see them ever so slightly as cardboard cutouts too.
And this is a question we need to ask ourselves I think constantly we have to monitor it. Are we and our politicians to a degree cultural psychopaths?
The third reason is hardly worth mentioning, because it’s so silly. But, there’s a belief amongst government the domestic agenda and the international agenda are incompatible and always will be. This is just nonsense. My day job has a policy adviser, I’ve spent the last 15 years also advising governments around the world and in all that time I have never once seen a single domestic policy issue that could not be more imaginatively effectively and rapidly resolved and by treating it as an international problem. Looking at the international context, comparing what others have done, bringing in others working externally, instead of working internally.
And so you may say well given all of that; why then doesn’t work why can we not make our politicians checked? Why can’t we demand them? Well I like a lot of us spend a lot of time complaining about how hard it is to make people change and I don’t think we should fuss about it I think we should just accept that we are an inherently conservative species. We don’t like to change. It exists a very sensible evolutionary reasons we probably wouldn’t still be here today if we want so resistant to change. It’s very simple. Many thousands of years ago we discovered that if we carry on doing the same things we wouldn’t die.
Because the things that we’ve done before by definition didn’t kill us and therefore as long as we carry on doing them will be okay. And it’s very sensible not to do anything new, because it might kill you!
But of course there are exceptions to that otherwise would never get anywhere. And one of the exceptions, the interesting exception is when you can show to people that there might be some self-interest in the making that leap of faith and changing a little bit.
So I spent a lot of the last ten to fifteen years trying to find out what could be that self-interest that would encourage; not just politicians but also businesses and general population’s all of us; start to think a little more outwardly, to think in a bigger picture. Not always to look inwards, sometimes to look outward.
And this is where I discovered something quite important 20 5 2005 I launched a study called “The Nation Brand index” what it is a very large scale study the polls a very large sample of the world’s population; a sample that represents about seventy percent of the of the that the planet’s population and I started asking them a series of questions about how they perceive other countries.
And the nation brands index over the years has grown to be a very very large data bases about $200 billion data points. Tracking what ordinary people think about other countries and why? Why did I do this? Well because the governments that I advise a very very keen on knowing how they are regarded!
They’ve known partly because I’ve encouraged them to realize it; that countries depend enormously on their reputations in order to survive and prosper in the world. If a country has a great positive image like Germany has, or Sweden or Switzerland everything is easy and everything is cheap. You get more tourists, you get more investors, you sell your products more expensive lead.
If on the other hand you have a country with a very weak or a very negative image. Everything is difficult and everything is expensive. So governments care desperately about the image of their country. Because it makes direct difference to how much money they can make and that’s what they’ve promised their populations that gonna deliver.
So couple years ago I thought I would take some time out and speak to that gigantic database and ask it why do some people prefer come one country more than another and the answer that the database gave me completely staggered me. It was 6.8! I have no time to explain in detail. Basically what I told me was fishing.
The kinds of countries we prefer are good countries. We don’t admire countries primarily because they’re rich because they’re powerful because they’re successful, because their modern, because that technologically advanced. We primarily admire countries that a good what do we mean by good we mean countries that seem to contribute something to the world in which we live.
Countries that actually make the world safer or better or richer or fairer. Those are the countries we like. This is a discovery of significant importance you see where I’m going. Because its squares the circle I can now say and often due to any government. In order to do well you need to do good, if you want to sell more products, if you want to get more investment , if you want to become more competitive, then you need to stop behaving. Because that’s why people will respect you and do business with you and therefore the more you collaborate the more competitive you become.
This is quite an important discovery and as soon as I discovered this I felt another index coming on. I swear that as I get older my ideas become simpler and more and more childish. This one is called the good country index. And it does it does exactly what it says on the tin, it measures or at least two tries to measure, exactly how much each country on earth contributes not which own population, but to the rest of humanity.
Bizarrely nobody had ever thought of measuring this before so my colleague doctor Robert and I spent the best part of the last two years with the help of a large number a very serious and clever people. Cramming together, all the time reliable data in the world we could find about what countries give to the world.
And you’re waiting for me to tell you which one comes top. I’m gonna tell you the first of all I want to tell you precisely, what I mean, when I say a good country.
I do not mean morally good. When I say that country X is the goodest country on earth and I mean good is that I mean best, best is something. Different when you’re talking about a good country you can be good, gooder and goodest. Tt’s not the same thing is good, better and best!
This is a country which simply gives more humanity than anything any other country.
I don’t talk about how they behave at home, because that’s measured elsewhere and the winner is Ireland.
According to the data here no country on earth per head of population per dollar of GDP contributes more to the world that we live and than Ireland.
What does this mean this means? That we go to sleep at night all of us, in the last 15 seconds before we drift off to sleep, Our final thought should be got damn it i’m glad that Ireland exists. In the Depth of a very severe economic recession I think that’s a really important lesson that, but if you can remember your international obligations once you’re trying to rebuild your own economy.
That’s really something. Finland ranks pretty much the same the other is much below island is, because its lowest score is lower than Ireland’s lowest score. Now the other thing you’ll notice about the top 10 there is a course they’re all apart from NewZealand western European nations, they’re also all rich.
This depressed me. Because one of the things that I did not want to discover with this index, is that is purely the province of the rich countries to help poor countries.
This is not what it’s all about and indeed if you look further down the list, I don’t have the slide here you will see something that made me very happy indeed the Kenya is in the top 30 and that demonstrates one very very important thing, this is not about money; this is about attitude; this is about culture; this is about a government and people the care about the rest of the world and have the imagination and the courage to think outwards instead of only thinking selfishly.
I’m gonna whip through the other slides just so you can see some other low-lying countries that’s Germany at thirteenth, the US comes 21st,Mexico come 66th and then we have some other big developing countries like Russia ninety-fifth, China the hundred and seventh. Countries like China, and Russia and India which is down in the same sorta part of the index. Well, in some ways it’s not surprising they spent a great deal of time over the last decades, building their own economy, building their own society in their own polity. But it is to be hoped that the second phase of their growth will be somewhat more outward-looking and the first phase has been so far.
And then you can break down each country in terms of the actual datasets, that build into it. I allow you to do that from midnight tonight it’s going to be on good country.org and you can look at the country you can look right down to the level of the individual data sets.
Now that’s the good country index what it therefore? Well it’s they’re really because I want to try to introduce this word or reintroduce this word; into the discourse. I’ve had enough hearing about competitive countries have had enough hearing about prosperous, wealthy, fast-growing countries. I’ve even had enough hearing about happy countries because in the end that’s still selfish but still about us and if we carry on thinking about us we are in deep deep trouble!
I think we all know what it is that we want to hear about. We want to hear about good countries and so I want to ask you a favor. I’m not asking a lot; is something that you might find easy to do and you might even find enjoyable and even helpful to do. And that’s simply to start using the word good in this context. When you think about your own country, when you think about other people’s countries, when you think about companies, when you talk about the world that we live in today, start using that word.
In the way that I’ve talked about this evening not good the opposite a bad, because that’s an argument that never finishes. Good at the opposite a selfish. Good being a country, that thinks about all of us. That’s what I would like you to do and I’d like you to use it as a stick with which to beat your politicians. When you elect them, when you reelect, when you vote for them, when you listen to what they’re offering you, use that word “good” and ask yourself is that what a good country would do and if the answer is no be very suspicious.
Ask yourself is that the behavior of my country do I want to come from a country?, where the government in my name is doing things like that? or do I on the other hand prefer the idea of walking around the world with my head held high thinking yeah I’m proud to come from a good country! And everybody will welcome you and everybody in the last 15 seconds before they drift off to sleep at night will say gosh I’m glad that person’s country exists!
Ultimately, that I think is what will make the change. That word good and the number 6.8 and the discovery that’s behind did have changed my life.
I think they can change your life and I think that we can use it to change the way that our politicians in our companies behave and in doing so we can change the world. I started thinking very differently about my own country since I’ve been thinking about these things. I used to think that I wanted to live in a rich country, and then I started thinking I want to live in a happy country. But I began to realize it’s not enough I don’t want to live in a rich country. I don’t wanna live in a fast-growing a competitive country. I want to live in a good country and I so so hope that you do too.
Courtesy : TED via YouTube, Simon Anholt