6 things from TEDxYouth@Sydney you probably should’ve written down
TED talks are the greatest addition to YouTube since lyric music videos. FACT. These bite-sized educations allow us to procrastinate without ever feeling like we’re wasting our lives, because hey, I’m actually learning something. BY CHOICE.
But when you’re 7 speakers deep at TEDxYouth@Sydney (that’s TEDx for young people, by young people) there’s no pause button, so it’s easy to let those nuggets of wisdom and inspiration fall into the crowd. Luckily, I wrote all the good stuff down for you. Think of it like the CliffsNotes to that lecture you slept through, or never attended. Anyway, you’re welcome.
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
If you want to do anything that gets the people going, you have to know who you’re talking to. People in advertising know this, but perhaps Joe Blow over there didn’t get the memo. In her TED talk, Ollie Henderson, a self-classified slashie (model/activist) discussed the rise of her brand, House of Riot and the impact it’s had on the fashion world, and the peasants world (that’s us FYI). She knew that Gen Y were socially conscious, and she also knew many followed celebrities and models like a bad smell. So she did a Vivienne Westwood and turned fashion into activism, creating T-shirts with prints like ‘Sexism Sucks’ and ‘Save the Reef’. They’re cool, oh-so-en-point and as a Gen-Yer I really want one so I guess Henderson’s doing something right.
2. DON’T LEAVE THE ECONOMY TO ECONOMISTS
Comedian and professional eye-opener Eliza Owen was both parts hilarious and terrifying in her talk about why Gen Y should learn about the property market themselves, and not leave it to what their parents or morning show economists tell them. The average house in Sydney costs a sneaky $945,500. Good god. But according to our parents, that’s nothing, because in the early 90s their property boom was even bigger than the one we’re experiencing now, and look at them. They own property (or multiple properties) and they’re basking in how much their red-brick nothing is worth now. The problem, as Owen points out, is that property analysts (and the general public) think in percentages. Property growing by 20% in 1992, is not the same as property growing by 20% in 2015 because homes are worth much more today. 20% of 1 million is a lot higher than 20% of $350,000. So tell your mum, tell your dad, tell the government. Life’s not all Snapchats and retweets. #renting4life
3. LOOK TO THE LEFT
That was about as doom and gloom as it got, because then it got really, really shitty. In a good way. Hamish Skermer is awesome. Not only because he rapped for the first 5 minutes of his talk about poop, but because he’s doing something really different with the loveable waste. He’s taken a terrible product (portaloos) and changed it for the better, creating a cleaner, more eco-friendly portable toilet that composts your festival shit and helps the environment. His company, Natural Event travels to festivals around Australia, and has just been commissioned to send over 170,000 of these loos to the Holy Grail of shitting-en-masse to tunes, Glastonbury. Skermer proves that just looking at a subject in a new way, can change shit for the better.
4. HATERS GONNA HATE
Abdul Abdullah is an Australian artist, well-known for his Archibald winning portrait of Anthony Mundine. His work is often confronting and confrontational, particularly his series exploring Australian and Muslim identity. Through his photographs, Abdullah challenged the media’s depiction of Islam as radicalised monsters, and of course, many people took it the wrong way, calling it propaganda and offensive while Abdullah claimed it was just an exploration of ideas. But hey, that’s art (and Australia) for you. The biggest take out of Abdullah’s talk was that if you’re ever going to push boundaries and make people feel uncomfortable, prepare for backlash. Because when people are scared, they get aggressive, no matter how often you try to explain yourself. It’s always going to be an uphill battle when people expect sweeping landscapes and you give them harsh social commentary.
5. YOU’RE OVERTHINKING IT
Mark Twain once said, ‘some of the worst things in my life never happened’ and as a habitual overthinker, nothing has ever rung as true to me as that quote, or Dylan Alcott’s high school drama. Alcott talked about his early life, growing up as a chubby, awkward kid, who was also in a wheelchair. It didn’t affect him too much, until he didn’t receive an invite to his friend’s birthday party. For weeks Alcott despaired about not being invited, and for the first time, felt like his disability was a burden. Fast forward to the party night, and Alcott decided he’s going to attend, balloon invitation or not. Turns out, the friend was delighted Alcott turned up. Apparently the friend was nervous about all the stairs in his house and didn’t want Alcott to felt bad.
LESSON TIME: It’s so easy to be sucked into your brain’s doomsday way of thinking, and I guess the best way to combat that is to ask questions, no matter how personal. Just like Alcott wants more people to ask questions about disability to clear up the stigma and awkwardness people feel about their situation.
Also if you’ve ever seen a guy in a wheelchair crowd surfing at a festival, it was probably Alcott. What a hero.
6. NO SCRUBS IS THE TINY DANCER OF OUR GENERATION
I dare any Gen Y-er to hear TLC’s classic ‘No Scrubs’ on the radio and not turn it up. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a hit – a catchy chorus, constant repetition in case you missed the chorus and loads of ‘I’m not taking your shit boy’ sass. It was the perfect end to TEDxYouth@Sydney, so thank you Bad Bitch Choir for your finger-wagging, empowering rendition of a 90s epic.
Georgie McCarthy - Copywriter by day, jouster by night
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Cramming for the test on the survival of mankind
Of all the amazing talks at this year’s TedX Youth talks, the phrase that really resonated with me subconsciously was that of chronophobia: “the fear of time”, as discussed by design theorist Tony Fry. Though this was mainly relating to the broader notion that as a species we are not preparing for the earth’s imminent and transforming landscapes, this illusion of permanence is something that seems pertinent still in day-to-day life.
We all tend to hold on to the present and pine for the past through different forms; I listen to soppy, reminiscent music, others consume as much as their cards can handle and some even have their buttocks lifted. In our own ways we don’t want to consider losing another day which means that hardly anyone is looking past the next day, or even their next birthday, to a point where we have to relocate total cities in response to rising sea levels.
The personal application of this information is as yet unclear, especially in countries that don’t already have to start building reactionary/preventative sea walls, like in Jakarta. Obviously, not everyone is going to have the means or the skill set to help strategise and provide solutions for this changing landscape – not many people have ‘one thousand billion dollars’ in their vocabulary. However, it’s a reality with which people will have to deal in the next 50 odd years so we’re going to need to start comprehending it and realising its impact on our future economies.
The relocation of one city in Florida has been estimated to cost three and a half thousand billion dollars for example, thus we are going to have to start forecasting and accommodating for the impact it will have on our economies globally. We can't blindly avoid acknowledging it and wait till the sea is knocking at our doorstep to start cramming for financial and mobilisation solutions. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so similarly, it can’t be moved in a day.
Identifying and challenging the human flaw of chronophobia in ourselves is not only a way to become more open-minded towards current planning and financial forecasts relating to future city relocation globally, but it will help us to simply be better people, fundamentally. If we realise how insignificant and impermanent we are as a species, we may not put as much emphasis on timeless beauty and rather accept the sagging backside. We may just be that tiniest bit nicer because in 50 years that shitty parking spot you’re fighting tooth and nail over may be 10 metres under water. In which case, even if the sea levels stay put, the world is a better place.
Thomas Frazer, Intern & Official man of many words