Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness | Jarrod Brown | TEDxACU
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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness | Jarrod Brown | TEDxACU

November 27, 2019

Translator: Peter van de Ven
Reviewer: Denise RQ By the end of 2016, more than 5,000 people had drowned
crossing the Mediterranean Sea. While indeed a large number of them
were fleeing conflict, an overwhelming number of them were fleeing for their lives
of trying to survive in extreme poverty. By the end of 2016, more than a million people
had tried to enter the US illegally, and while indeed a large number of them were fleeing gang warfare
in their barrios, an overwhelming number of them
were fleeing for their lives of trying to survive
on two dollars and 50 cents a day, or what 50% of the world’s
population survives on. So we’ve been found out. Our wealth, our lifestyle, this fairy tale that we live in our land,
we’ve been found out. And the world is coming for it, whether it’s Sub-Saharan Africa,
or whether it’s Latin America. I’m not here today to talk
about an immigration ban, I’m not here to talk
about a bigger or better wall. I’m here to talk about capitalism. Because I believe that capitalism is the number one tool
that we have to transform the world. See, I am a product of capitalism. The life that’s been afforded to me
is directly related to capitalism. Today, the way I spend my money,
the way I live my life, the things I say, the things I do are directly related to capitalism. I’ve been to socialist countries;
I’ve been in social run hospitals. I don’t want anything
to do with socialism. I’ve been to communist countries;
I’ve been in a communist jail. I don’t want anything
to do with communism. I believe that capitalism is the number one tool
that we have in the 21st century to transform the globe,
both spiritually, as well as physically. But likewise, I also believe if we’d take the words of the Apostle Paul
from 1 Corinthians. 10.23, where he said, “All things are permitted,
but not all things are beneficial,” if we’d apply those words to capitalism, I believe that the world we live in today
would be a different place. The last decade, the numbers of people
living in extreme poverty around the globe have been cut dramatically. During that same time span, there’s been incredible advancements
in technology and globalization. So today, now more than ever, those masses still living in poverty are aware more than ever of just exactly what
they’re missing out on, living in the Global South. Honduras, for example. Honduras has the largest population
of immigrants coming to the US illegally, per capita, more so than any other country
in the world right now. But this don’t really make sense. In 2005, Honduras signed CAFTA,
the Central America Free Trade Agreement. Before that time, Honduras was considered
the breadbasket of Central America, exporting food throughout the region
and beyond, in the late 80s and early 90s. But with Honduras
having this push for development, like many countries around the globe, the protections
on the farmer were removed. Protections that guaranteed
the prices of key commodities, essential for the local economy; protections that many farmers
in our land still enjoy today; protections that my family
has benefited from, directly. Without these protections, tens of thousands
fled the local family farm. This is exactly what the the owners
of the ‘maquilas’ or the large sweatshops, this is what they were after when they were pushing this legislation
to remove these protections. See, for CAFTA to be successful,
there had to be production, production of goods to ship to the US. And for there to be production,
there had to be labor, and for there to be labor,
there had to be a source. And that source was the family farm. Over 500,000 people have migrated from across Honduras to the industrial capital
of Puerto Cortes, in just the past recent years. The impact on the GDP of Honduras,
the gross domestic product, the value of all the goods
produced in the country, it’s been phenomenal. If we take a snapshot
of the total GDP of Honduras from five years before CAFTA
and five years after CAFTA was signed, from 2000-2010, it’s remarkable what we can find out. In 2000, the total GDP sat
at just under eight billion dollars, but by 2010, that number had risen,
more than doubling, to 16 billion dollars. By any student of Economics measure,
things are looking up for Honduras. Total imports fell right in line, growing from three
to nine billion dollars, and total exports followed that nicely,
from two to six billion dollars. Any economist would tell you
that the massive investment made by institutions like the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund, the massive loans to help Honduras
climb out of poverty: it had paid off. Honduras was generating wealth,
and things were changing. But if we look a little bit closer, and look at the total population
living at or below the poverty line during those same ten years, it’s quite remarkable what we see. In 2000, the total percent of Honduras
living below the poverty line was 51.9%. And in those ten years
of really incredible wealth that was being generated
in this little Central American country, we would expect that number to be dropping dramatically
or at least staying stagnant. But it didn’t, rather it rose
a full eight percentage points by 2010, coming in at 60% of the total population
living below the poverty line. Folks, something’s wrong if total GDP,
total imports, and total exports are increasing dramatically, and at the same time, the total numbers
of people living in poverty are increasing as well. So, here’s the problem: life on the farm wasn’t easy,
but you had three squares a day. You didn’t have the latest technology
or a new pair of Nike’s, but your family unit was strong, and you didn’t worry
about your kids’ safety. Now you find yourself
working in a large industrial park, the pay isn’t
what you thought it would be, the work is hard, the days are long. To keep up, you leave
your kids at home alone, and since you struggle to make ends meet,
you live in a marginal neighborhood. Pretty soon, your kids at home,
alone, found a new family, and that are the gangs. And after a while, you’re overworked, you’re worn out, and you can’t take it, and you quit. And embarrassed,
you don’t go back home either, so you stay in, and that place that once seemed
like this beautiful urban sprawl, now feels just like urban squalor, and that gang ridden barrio you live in
leaves much to be desired. It doesn’t take long before it feels like
the only option available is to set off on a very dangerous journey, in search of an ever elusive
American dream to the north. This situation is
being played out around the globe, and while more and more
free trade agreements are being signed, the world has experienced
a technological enlightenment. Over the last decade, the number of folks
with access to a mobile device has exploded around the world. On the continent of Africa alone,
the growth has been exponential. Ghana, for example, from 2002 to 2015, saw a rise in mobile phone users
from 8% to 83% of the population. Similar numbers are reported
from across the continent of Africa, according to the Pew Research Center. In 1998, I made my first trip to Honduras, and at that time, only a few major cities
had mobile phone coverage. But by 2005, the entire country
was connected, and today, remarkably, it’s reported that 90% of all Hondurans
own a mobile device. Telecommunications pioneers
realized that these places where at one time, it had been
impossible to be connected, now it’s really easy to connect. It can be made affordable
yet profitable at the same time. One of those telecommunications giants, Digicel, is owned
by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien. Digicel operates in 33 markets, globally. Digicel, along with other telecommunications
companies with similar strategies, perfected their approach
to the developing world: mass marketing tied to giveaways
of simple mobile phones that quickly hooked the inhabitants
of those poverty stricken slums, as well as open the eyes
for the first time to that rural subsistence farmer, to just exactly what he was
missing out on in the Global South. Then by 2010, the same
telecommunications companies expanded their portfolios
to include affordable satellite TV. Now, for about 15 dollars a month, you can have a little,
simple, red satellite dish stuck on the side of your mud hut
in your remote jungle village of Honduras, where every day, you can enjoy the local news
as well as international news. But also, you can enjoy the pop culture
reality show phenomena that we export from our land, like Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty. Folks, if what we’re exporting
from our land around the globe, conveniently dubbed
into French and Spanish, if what we’re exporting as reality consists of a trailer-park beauty queen
and a couple of bearded good old boys, who wouldn’t want to come
to be a part of this reality? (Laughter) Who wouldn’t want to be here? Then in 2013, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
announced a new endeavor. Free Basics was the name of it; this partnership
with technology manufacturers and telecommunication companies
around the globe, with the goal to connect
the two thirds of the world’s population to the Internet,
that were still unconnected. Today, more than 15 million people have accessed the Internet
for the first time, through the Free Basics program. Statistics say that one in ten that accessed
the Internet for the first time are able to climb out of poverty. It wasn’t entirely about helping
the impoverished escape poverty that was motivating Zuckerberg. The white paper that he released in 2013
that detailed this new endeavor, it might read like an incredible gesture
of humanitarian aid through access to technology, but in reality, it was going to achieve
some very different goals. Facebook was going to have
a very captive audience to advertise to in new and emerging markets, in particular since the Internet was
only accessible through the Facebook app. Remarkably, it’s reported
that more than half of all first-time users of the Internet
through the Free Basics program had signed up to pay for full data
on their devices, within 30 days. So what might have sounded like an incredible gesture
of humanitarian aid was for all practical purposes
very wise marketing. And for an enormous reality check, a large number of the countries
participating in the Free Basics plan are located on the continent of Africa. Now a continent plagued with conflict,
famine, and failed aid programs had access, like never before, to what life really was like
in the Global North. If access to a simple mobile device
had left any doubt in that disenfranchised,
unemployed slum dweller, if it left any doubt
what they’re missing out on, now, access to affordable satellite TV or free Internet was surely to open their eyes. What we’re talking about here is a case
of planetary haves and have-nots. On this planet called Earth
and in a country called the USA, our poverty line is set at about 64 dollars a day
or about 25,000 dollars a year. That’s more money than most doctors,
lawyers, and upper level management earn in a year, in the developing world. And on that same planet Earth, the World Bank sets the poverty line
for the developing nations at 2 dollars a day. From 1991 to 2005, the numbers of people living
in extreme poverty around the globe were cut in half, except in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa,
home to many of those same countries from the Free Basics program
from Facebook; Sub-Saharan Africa,
home to the overwhelming majority of the economic refugees
fleeing out of North Africa risking their lives
in the Mediterranean to enter Europe. Sub-Saharan Africa,
in those same 14 years, saw the number of people living
in extreme poverty rise from 11% to 28%. Social and economic
development programs were failing. Meanwhile, large multinational corporations
continue to increase their profits from endeavors in many
of the same countries whose poverty lines continue to rise. We live in a fallen world,
and we’re imperfect people, we tend to our own best interest
as individuals and as people groups. And we’re apt to repeat the same mistakes when we disregard our fallen condition
and ignore our history. In 1776, we made great claims
of equality for all men, yet, we enslaved our own, until the Civil War,
almost 100 years later. And then, after the Civil War, with an increased workforce of both
African American and white workers, they got together to fight
poor conditions, poor pay, and long hours until eventually, new laws were enacted. And as production
was growing across the US, the cost of production
was growing as well, in particularly
because of these new labor laws. Until then we realized we could still get cheap labor
beyond our borders. We didn’t realize
exactly how cheap just yet, but we were going to get
addicted really quick. Over the course of 150 years,
we went from enslaving our own to outsourcing our slavery
around the globe – to developing nations, and in spite of eventual recognition that “all men” included
both African Americans and women, we still fail to honor the very Declaration
that our country was founded on through willful ignorance
of its application to other people groups around the globe. We failed to secure the workforce
beyond our borders; we failed to acknowledge
who we shake hands with; we’ve turned a blind eye
to those who we do business with in order to achieve the prices we want
on the products we want. While many American corporations continue to profit intentionally
at the expense of others, the world’s receiving a wake-up call
to the dire need of others. You know, when we make poor choices
out of corporate self-interest, there’s often unintended consequences. The current rising tide
of immigration in our land is not sustainable. The rising tide of the Global South
to the Global North is not sustainable. But isolation is not the answer,
rather it’s innovation. We’ve tried to keep everyone out, it doesn’t work! Because even the finest castle
with the best walls will eventually fail
when they’re besieged by the masses. But what if we innovate
the way we do business around the globe so the rest of the world
would want to stay at home? What if we innovate
the way we do business so the rest of the globe
could thrive at home, so the rest of the world
could chase after that same life to the fullest, that you and I all want, at home? This innovation will require
a dramatic commitment to humane wages that allow workers
to not only survive but to thrive. If you want to protect your country,
the future of your country, if you want to continue
to enjoy capitalism and its benefits, then we must take steps to protect and to secure
the sustainable future of the overseas workforce. The social entrepreneurial endeavors
of our organization, Mission Lazarus, are proof that you can run
a profitable business paying great wages and earn a profit at the same time. We’re creating jobs in employment deprived communities
in both Honduras and Haiti that are also generating valuable revenue that we’re able to put directly back
into our development initiatives. I get it. During your weekly
grocery shopping at Whole Foods, it’s not practical for most of us. But I believe that knowledge is power, and when we, the people, have the power,
then we can change the world. The choices that you guys make today will directly affect the futures
of your children and your grandchildren. But if we fail to act, because, one: it’s not going to be easy, two: the shareholders
drive the bottom line, and three, “You know what?
It’s my company. I worked hard to build it, it’s my money,
I’m going to use it how I want to;” if we fail to act,
then life as we know it, in Western Europe and the US, will not continue. I believe that as savvy
business men and women, we may be able to have the market
cornered in many areas for a long time, but nobody can have monopoly on life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness, and have it last for forever. Thank you. (Applause)

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  1. Ask Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, How her coup d'etat worked out for the Hondurans, especially for the farmers? According to Hillary, not so good! The coup d'etat on Libya, "We came, We saw, He died", has left Libya in the hands of ISIS militants and depressingly worse. People are fleeing their homeland and the ones who can't afford to are being abused, trafficked, used for slavery or used for organ harvesting. Same situation in Syria, Yemen, Iraq Afghanistan Lebanon and many other places where the United States Gov't decides to invade a sovereign Nation!

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