What is the Relationship Between Angst and Freedom? | Damiaan Denys | TEDxAmsterdam

Translator: Peter van de Ven
Reviewer: Els De Keyser Be careful with wish balloons! Are you aware of the new guidelines
for wish balloons in the Netherlands? Does anyone know what a wish balloon is? The peaceful paper lantern, invented in China approximately AD 200 and in use there ever since. It is not allowed to be launched
in the Netherlands when the wind is stronger
than Beaufort force two — that’s when the wind
just about rustles the leaves. It can not be launched on a rainy day, not on a dry day and not on wet day. It is also not allowed to be launched
in the vicinity of tall objects, like there are in the Netherlands: trees and houses. But if you would succeed anyway, on that rare semi-dry, semi-humid when-the-wind-doesn’t-rustle-the-leaves
kind of day, on that one particular spot in Holland, about 2 miles from Bekkums-Poepershoek, close to Zwolle, Overijssel, then still, according to regulation, it requires at least two people
to launch the wish balloon, hold it for at least two minutes
before letting it go, and solemnly promise to watch
the balloon as long as possible, so that you can intervene
should it become dangerous. (Laughter) And finally you should make certain that it adheres to the regulations
of the food and merchandise authorities, of which I am sure
that you have a copy on you today, in case it would all go awry. Danger seems to have become
our main focus. Not to be accused of negligence regarding
Dutch balloon regulations, I do have to add — since we are in Amsterdam anyway — that even launching regular balloons
has recently been prohibited in Amsterdam. People are objecting because birds
may eat the deflated balloons. Deflated balloons. I can’t offer you a scientific definition, but it’s what is left
after a balloon explodes. That pitiful, lone remainder
of the once so swollen pride. You can of course imagine
how these deflated balloons can cause quite an impediment to the gastrointestinal system
of such a bird. How that dry, rubber object
just can’t make it past the throat. Or worse yet, maybe the balloon
does go down the bird’s throat, but it gets stuck between the esophagus and the stomach, making the bird —
totally oblivious of the danger — after first having enjoyed
some measly breadcrumbs, throw up the odd meal after all. But I wonder, why would a bird eat a deflated balloon? How stupid do birds get? I’d say, let it die, serves them right. (Laughter) Besides, we don’t really need
such a bird species in our evolution. Isn’t that the principle
of natural selection, Darwin’s survival of the fittest? The strong, smarter birds survive, and the silly, dumb ones
who eat balloons, become extinct. Well, not in Amsterdam, they don’t! Oh no, because animal activists
in Amsterdam have objected against this million-year-old
refined evolution. In Amsterdam, stupid birds
are protected from eating fatal balloons. You’ll see that in a number of years Amsterdam will have — the stupidest birds in all of Holland! (Laughter) Of Europe, no, the world. In Amsterdam, of all places,
Holland’s knowledge center — TEDxAmsterdam — the knowledge center
of Europe, of the world. The question is, are balloons so dangerous
or do we make them so dangerous? Danger seems to have become
our main focus because we’re living in a society of fear. We are scared of nutrition. Many people think our food
is full of E-additives and pesticides, that meat and eggs contain antibiotics, that aspartame will poison us. Newspaper headlines scream,
“Sugar, the sweet enemy!” We’ve become afraid
of sugars, of carbohydrates. It even has a name, carbophobia, fear of carbohydrates. Some people are even scared
of dangerous food combinations, such as — bread with cheese or muesli with milk. (Laughter) According to scientific research,
eighty percent of our food’s ingredients can be related to cancer,
premature death and disease. I’m talking about ordinary things
that we all eat at breakfast, bread, butter, milk — major research study in Sweden last year:
“Milk shortens life” — and only two weeks ago — did we forget already? — red meat, sausages, salami, paté. And every summer, the athletic types
among us would know this — beet juice! In winter, in December,
they’re probably on their way now — (Laughter) mandarin orange! We have messed up
our relationship with food so bad that nowadays rich kids are too skinny,
and poor kids are too fat. Well-off children
are hospitalized for malnutrition because their orthorexic parents
are only feeding them goji berries, quinoa and coconut water. (Laughter) We’re also scared of technology. This is already so since the Middle Ages. Back then, people
were scared of spectacles. Later, when the steam engine
was invented, some critics warned that people would not be able
to breathe at such high speeds. Time and time again, at the introduction
of the printing press, of comics, of the bike, the car, the train, of the radio, the tv, the microwave,
and yes, even of the dishwasher, people were warned
for disastrous consequences. We have been afraid
of machines for 200 years! Things that we have made ourselves. Danger seems to have become
our main focus because we’re living in a society of fear. Of course, nowadays we’re scared of — terrorism. After the Paris attacks in January,
the word “fear” is burned into our souls. Then two weeks ago, again. We’re scared of terrorism.
We’re living in a society of fear. These days we’re quick to experience
emotions after attacks and disasters. Especially when it comes
to resentment, fear and disgust. That is, as long as the news
touches my own precious individual life. Nowadays, this happens all too easily, for we have exaggerated
our individualization to such an extent that we always seem to feel
addressed personally by any global event. It’s not only the world
that has globalized, but also me, myself,
my own identity has been globalized, it has lost its borderlines. So we think that every single event
is happening for me, is taking place
in my living room, on my phone, and so we all claim
the right to be a victim. Because I’m also
emotionally touched, right? Like, when Maxima starts to cry during her wedding ceremony,
for an Argentinian bandoneon player. Because it moves me too, right? When after MH-17, I gaze
at that long procession of coffins winding through the Netherlands
like a black ribbon, because it is my grief too, right? Or when three idiots,
back then in January in Paris, and again two weeks ago,
are murdering people with machine guns, because they are attacking
my freedom too, right? But where is our emotion when terrorism is not threatening
my inflated Western identity? Like, when Boko Haram,
on that very same day in January, massacres hundreds of people in Nigeria — — I wonder. They say that they lost count
when counting the dead. How reasonable are we, really? Of course, 130 people died in Paris. Terrible, terrorist attack. And 9/11, everybody is full of 9/11, when 3,000 Americans died
in a terrorist attack. Devastating. But look at it this way, in that same year, 30,000 Americans died by accidents with firearms; 20,000 Americans died
in traffic accidents, half of which caused by drunk drivers; and 1100 Americans died
in that very same year because they were shot
by their own police force. Terrorism’s succes isn’t terrorism, terrorism’s succes
is the fear of terrorism. The Netherlands are spending
13 billion euros per year on security. 13 billion per year. What if we would agree not to be afraid. Let’s say for one week. We could start here, Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. Suppose we could convince the Dutch people
not to be afraid for a week. That would save the national treasury
250 million euros. Not afraid for a month, a billion. Not afraid for a thousand days,
36 billion euros. Farewell economic crisis! (Applause) Of course, there are
these attacks in Paris, but still — Research studies show
that we have never been safer. Yet, every day we imagine that we’re exposed
to more and more dangers, dangers more acute and frequent than ever. Reality is that most of us, people like you and me, will just die at around 80, at home, in bed, after a reasonably normal, simple, not too impressive, (Laughter) and for some even quite insignificant, boring life! (Applause) So, you’re in your car in the morning, anxiously trying to relax, to become “mindful” of course, nowadays. After a hectic breakfast with your kids, who forgot to make their lunch, and your wife who is complaining, that you work too hard, and you’re neglecting your kids, and by now you should know
how to aim straight in the toilet. Ready for a new day, and you forgot to brush your teeth. There’s this nagging piece of bread
between your gums, that is bleeding lightly,
and you just can’t get it out. With a finger that is just too thick, of which the nail
has been cut just too short, exactly that finger, of course. So there you are, one hand on the wheel
and the other one in your mouth, slowly merging into the A1’s traffic jam, as always, next to all the other drivers, each in his own solitary tin can,
finger in their mouth. Says some bloke on Radio 1 after the news, in a commercial that runs
every thirty minutes, and that has had the same tune
for the last 30 years — “Did you know that every three minutes
someone breaks into a house in Holland?” No, I didn’t! And I’d like to keep it that way! I don’t want to know
there’s a break-in every three minutes. I don’t want to know that the barbecue set that I use for dinner parties sometimes, carries eight times
more bacteria than my anus. And I don’t want to know
that my Gmail is being monitored, or that waterlevels will rise
because of climate change, of which one says it will
and another says it won’t. And I don’t want to know
that the fatality rate in surgery is 50% higher on Fridays
than it is on Mondays because — on Fridays I work at home — (Laughter) and that would probably be my day
for surgery if something goes wrong. I just don’t want to hear. I don’t want to know and still
I have to hear this crap every day because of the media’s extensive coverage
of all the negative news. News about deadly viruses,
aggressive teenagers, Bulgarian gangs, giant undiscovered sharks in Australia, enormous fishes in African lakes, about pedophile gym teachers,
pedophile swimming instructors, pedophile hockey girls janitors. (Laughter) Because fear sells. News has to be immediately relevant. That’s why they preach
the most dramatic scenario’s. Negative messages just reach more people
than positive messages do because we’re wired
to focus on the negative. “Olive oil not likely to induce cancer.” Who thinks this stands a chance
of making the headlines? Of course not. News has become entertainment. And recently, entertainment
means you have to bring fear. Fear has become entertainment. Because of the media
we are continuously misjudging risk, and we think we’re going to die in terrorist attacks,
or to be murdered or poisoned, rather than just die
of asthma, diabetes or lung cancer. Since modern society
hardly has any real dangers, we have a lot of time
to indulge in imaginary ones. Modern society just doesn’t
present too many real threats, like in the past, a good old traditional wolf in the forest. So we start to confuse
potential dangers with actual ones. In the old days, society was organized
around fear for thunder and lightening. When everybody runs
for thunder and lightening, you create this feel of togetherness. We found each other in our common fear. But now, now society is organized
around the fear for each other. Fear for inter-communal violence
has become the base of our solidarity. Think about those attacks
in Paris, twice this year. How we stood together,
for two or three days. We don’t help each other
for the love of one another, we help each other
for the fear of one another. Fear is the emotion
that keeps our society together, that regulates it, that directs it. Fear shapes our society,
each and every day, with rules, regulations,
parliament, politicians, and police. We have organized our actions around fear. We have organized society around fear. Beware though, fear secretly undermines
our fundamental trust, our inborn faith
in the good nature of things, which is a basic requirement
to lead a ‘normal’ life. I want to be able
to just jump into a canal, naked, on a hot afternoon with my children, make a wild bike ride through Amsterdam, my mouth full of Turkish delight, or raid the candy store
on the main square with toy guns. (Laughter) But in a society of fear, where terrorists are always and everywhere
lurking in the background, where invisible viruses
can invade my skin, and where aggressive teenagers
can beat my grandmother to death, we are actually all victims. Secretly, we swap our trust, our surrender, our spontaneity, for vigilance, suspicion,
control and fear. When I came to Holland,
quite a while ago now, I was surprised, honestly surprised. Of course I knew there was
a lot of water in Holland, but still. All those rivers, canals, ditches. Endless shiny ribbons of possibilities — to drown. (Laughter) And yet, no fences. Grass-green polders, an open ditch
every 40 yards: no fence. Canals in Amsterdam, go ahead,
park right at the edge: no fence. The Netherlands have told
their people to learn how to swim. Their swimming certificate
is the first thing to hang over their bed. So, sometimes someone drowns. (Laughter) And yet, no fences. There is faith, faith that people will swim. Faith is being bold enough
to forget yourself. Fear is not being able to escape yourself. (Applaus)

12 thoughts on “What is the Relationship Between Angst and Freedom? | Damiaan Denys | TEDxAmsterdam

  • Slechte TED talk wat mij betreft. Suiker, terrorisme? Wat is de link? En wij zijn zoveel meer suiker gaan eten dat het inderdaad ook ongezond is. Melk wordt alleen in het Westen zoveel gedronken dankzij de vele berichten vanuit de melk industrie. Bewust worden van wat we eten en drinken heeft niks met terrorisme te maken. Wat mij betreft geen TEDx talk die ik serieus kan nemen. Misschien moet Damiaan Denys cabaretier worden?

    Hey guys, you can choose preferred subtitles from the ”Settings” icon under the video, then click on the small arrow from ”Subtitles/CC” and pick from the available languages.

  • Gewoon de krant niet lezen en niet naar het nieuws luisteren, ik doe het al twintig jaar en dat bevalt me goed. 🙂  Rousseau schreef het al: man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Tussen 2 (), angst in het Engels is niet hetzelfde als angst in het NL. Angst=Fear.

  • Beste kijkers,

    Daniaan Denys bekritiseert terecht de angstcultuur en onze gangbare niet gebalanceerde emotionele reacties op actualiteiten. Angst is inderdaad diep doorgedrongen tot in onze cultuur, wat hij vooral op het eind goed naar voren brengt. Echter, wanneer men kiest afstand te nemen van dit concept van wantrouwen, angst en negativiteit, wat men dan nog doen om gevaar te vermijden of voorkomen?

    En het is dit aspect waar Denys de plank mis slaat. Want, de verschillende gevaren die hij oppervlakkig teniet doet als overdreven kletspraat, blijven zeer reëel en relevant voor ons welzijn. Plastic verziekt zeker de natuur. Suiker (inclusief andere soorten voedsel) is zonder meer een boosdoener voor de gezondheid. Terrorisme is helaas op dit moment bezig de samenleving te verscheuren.

    Betekent dit dat angst en negativisme de enige optie is? Niet noodzakelijkerwijs. Men kan voorzichtig blijven zonder bang te zijn. Het is mogelijk je gevoel te betrekken bij het objectief beoordelen van een situatie, zonder je sentimenten op hol te laten slaan. De redelijkheid hoeft niet weggelaten te worden wanneer wij intuïtief handelen. Gevaren, zoals de vernoemde gezondheidsrisico's en terrorisme, kunnen we prima veroordelen en relativeren zonder irreële angst of haat te koesteren, maar wel onze moraliteit te laten gelden welke zich binnen in ons roert als een gevoelsstroom die naar buiten wil.

    Helaas kiest deze filosoof ervoor zijn publiek te overtuigen het kind met het badwater weg te gooien. Hij geeft het publiek de keus tussen de angstcultuur en naïef positivisme, terwijl het onvermijdelijk is dat in beide gevallen wij slachtoffers blijven van terrorisme, slechte voeding en misschien zelfs van ballonnen. De verklaring voor dit incomplete en immorele keuzeregister brengt Denys zelf ons al snel: hij wil niet weten van de gevaren die ons door allerlei media wordt voorgeschoteld. Hij wenst liever onbezorgd de gevaren van het dagelijks leven te ontkennen dan zonder angst aan een verbetering te werken, met als nadeel dat met geconfronteerd wordt met de uitdaging gevoel niet irrationeel te laten worden en redelijkheid non-sentimenteel te houden.

    Kortom, ik stel het op prijs wanneer dramatische, overdreven en confronterende informatiestromen worden gerelativeerd, want zij kunnen inderdaad veel kwaad doen. Maar wij zullen niettemin de consequentie van onze onbezorgdheid ondervinden wanneer wij verkiezen de angstcultuur af te stoten. Ik zie deze TED talk meer als een uitlaatklep voor de frustraties van Denys, die overigens begrijpelijk zijn, maar van weinige logica getuigen. De retorische kracht van Denys en zijn spreekkunst verdienen echter natuurlijk alleen een groot compliment.


  • Balonnen zijn milieuvervuilend, suiker is troep (suikerlobby actief op TED ?), etc. Maar de media en politiek proberen zeker angst te creeren. Een keertje naar het journaal kijken zegt genoeg. Mooi dat er internet is, kun je opzoeken dat veel aanslagen en problemen in scene zijn gezet. Zonder oorlogen immers geen omzetten voor bepaalde bedrijven. En drama trekt mensen naar die oh zo belangrijke tv. Als je weet hoe het werkt …

  • Wat een ontzettend goede talk van Damiaan Denys! Ik vind hem een erg goede spreker en hij weet het echt heel goed te brengen! Ik ken deze ted talk nu zo'n twee jaar en heb hem al iets van 5-6 keer gezien en leer elke keer weer wat nieuws! Ik
    vind Damiaan een erg wijs mens en het is heel goed dat hij deze boodschap verspreid! Ik heb zelf veel geleerd van Damiaan en deze talk en zijn andere interviews en ben mede door hem geïnspireerd wat gaan doen tegen de angst cultuur. Ik verstuur namelijk sinds januari 2016 elke dag naar iemand anders een dank je wel via de e-mail. In zon bericht bedank ik iemand en geef ik complimenten. Ik type een paar minuten. Het voelt voor mij erg goed en ik maak er elke dag iemand van over heel de wereld blij mee. Ik hoop dat meer mensen dat gaan doen en dat we zo samen meer vertrouwen in elkaar krijgen en ons beter voelen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *