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TED2015

Kailash Satyarthi: How to make peace? Get angry

March 25, 2015

How did a young man born into a high caste in India come to free 83,000 children from slavery? Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi offers a surprising piece of advice to anyone who wants to change the world for the better: Get angry at injustice. In this powerful talk, he shows how a lifetime of peace-making sprang from a lifetime of outrage.

Kailash Satyarthi - Children’s rights activist
2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi is a tireless activist fighting to protect the rights of voiceless children everywhere. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Today, I am going to talk about anger.
00:12
When I was 11,
00:20
seeing some of my friends
leaving the school
00:22
because their parents
could not afford textbooks
00:26
made me angry.
00:30
When I was 27,
00:35
hearing the plight
of a desperate slave father
00:37
whose daughter was
about to be sold to a brothel
00:43
made me angry.
00:48
At the age of 50,
00:52
lying on the street,
in a pool of blood,
00:54
along with my own son,
00:59
made me angry.
01:02
Dear friends, for centuries
we were taught anger is bad.
01:07
Our parents, teachers, priests --
01:13
everyone taught us how to control
and suppress our anger.
01:15
But I ask why?
01:24
Why can't we convert our anger
for the larger good of society?
01:27
Why can't we use our anger
01:32
to challenge and change
the evils of the world?
01:33
That I tried to do.
01:41
Friends,
01:45
most of the brightest ideas
came to my mind out of anger.
01:49
Like when I was 35 and sat
in a locked-up, tiny prison.
01:55
The whole night, I was angry.
02:06
But it has given birth to a new idea.
02:09
But I will come to that later on.
02:12
Let me begin with the story
of how I got a name for myself.
02:15
I had been a big admirer
of Mahatma Gandhi since my childhood.
02:25
Gandhi fought and lead
India's freedom movement.
02:30
But more importantly,
02:37
he taught us how to treat
the most vulnerable sections,
02:39
the most deprived people,
with dignity and respect.
02:45
And so, when India was celebrating
02:51
Mahatma Gandhi's
birth centenary in 1969 --
02:56
at that time I was 15 --
02:59
an idea came to my mind.
03:01
Why can't we celebrate it differently?
03:05
I knew, as perhaps
many of you might know,
03:09
that in India, a large number of people
are born in the lowest segment of caste.
03:14
And they are treated as untouchables.
03:24
These are the people --
03:27
forget about allowing them
to go to the temples,
03:28
they cannot even go into the houses
and shops of high-caste people.
03:32
So I was very impressed with
the leaders of my town
03:40
who were speaking very highly against
the caste system and untouchability
03:45
and talking of Gandhian ideals.
03:49
So inspired by that, I thought,
let us set an example
03:53
by inviting these people to eat food
cooked and served
03:56
by the untouchable community.
04:03
I went to some low-caste,
so-called untouchable, people,
04:06
tried to convince them,
but it was unthinkable for them.
04:13
They told me, "No, no. It's not possible.
It never happened."
04:17
I said, "Look at these leaders,
04:22
they are so great,
they are against untouchability.
04:24
They will come. If nobody comes,
we can set an example."
04:27
These people thought that I was too naive.
04:32
Finally, they were convinced.
04:39
My friends and I took our bicycles
and invited political leaders.
04:42
And I was so thrilled, rather, empowered
04:49
to see that each one of them
agreed to come.
04:52
I thought, "Great idea.
We can set an example.
04:59
We can bring about change in the society."
05:01
The day has come.
05:07
All these untouchables,
three women and two men,
05:09
they agreed to come.
05:15
I could recall that they had used
the best of their clothes.
05:19
They brought new utensils.
05:26
They had taken baths
hundreds of times
05:29
because it was unthinkable
for them to do.
05:32
It was the moment of change.
05:35
They gathered. Food was cooked.
05:39
It was 7 o'clock.
05:42
By 8 o'clock, we kept on waiting,
05:44
because it's not very uncommon
that the leaders become late,
05:47
for an hour or so.
05:52
So after 8 o'clock, we took our bicycles
and went to these leaders' homes,
05:55
just to remind them.
06:01
One of the leader's wives told me,
06:06
"Sorry, he is having some headache,
perhaps he cannot come."
06:10
I went to another leader
06:15
and his wife told me,
"Okay, you go, he will definitely join."
06:17
So I thought that the dinner
will take place,
06:23
though not at that large a scale.
06:27
I went back to the venue, which was
a newly built Mahatma Gandhi Park.
06:33
It was 10 o'clock.
06:40
None of the leaders showed up.
06:43
That made me angry.
06:47
I was standing, leaning against
Mahatma Gandhi's statue.
06:52
I was emotionally drained,
rather exhausted.
07:01
Then I sat down where
the food was lying.
07:08
I kept my emotions on hold.
07:17
But then, when I took the first bite,
07:19
I broke down in tears.
07:24
And suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder.
07:27
And it was the healing, motherly touch
of an untouchable woman.
07:31
And she told me,
"Kailash, why are you crying?
07:37
You have done your bit.
07:43
You have eaten the food
cooked by untouchables,
07:45
which has never happened in our memory."
07:48
She said, "You won today."
07:53
And my friends, she was right.
07:57
I came back home, a little after midnight,
08:03
shocked to see that several
high-caste elderly people
08:07
were sitting in my courtyard.
08:12
I saw my mother and
elderly women were crying
08:14
and they were pleading
to these elderly people
08:17
because they had threatened
to outcaste my whole family.
08:21
And you know, outcasting the family
is the biggest social punishment
08:26
one can think of.
08:31
Somehow they agreed to punish only me,
and the punishment was purification.
08:35
That means I had to go 600 miles
away from my hometown
08:40
to the River Ganges to take a holy dip.
08:45
And after that, I should organize a feast
for priests, 101 priests,
08:49
wash their feet and drink that water.
08:53
It was total nonsense,
08:58
and I refused to accept that punishment.
09:01
How did they punish me?
09:05
I was barred from entering into my own
kitchen and my own dining room,
09:07
my utensils were separated.
09:13
But the night when I was angry,
they wanted to outcaste me.
09:16
But I decided to outcaste
the entire caste system.
09:22
(Applause)
09:27
And that was possible because
the beginning would have been
09:32
to change the family name, or surname,
09:37
because in India, most of the
family names are caste names.
09:39
So I decided to drop my name.
09:43
And then, later on, I gave
a new name to myself: Satyarthi,
09:46
that means, "seeker of truth."
09:52
(Applause)
09:57
And that was the beginning
of my transformative anger.
10:01
Friends, maybe one of you can tell me,
10:05
what was I doing before becoming
a children's rights activist?
10:08
Does anybody know?
10:14
No.
10:16
I was an engineer, an electrical engineer.
10:17
And then I learned how the energy
10:24
of burning fire, coal,
10:29
the nuclear blast inside the chambers,
10:33
raging river currents,
10:38
fierce winds,
10:41
could be converted into the light
and lives of millions.
10:44
I also learned how the most
uncontrollable form of energy
10:50
could be harnessed for good
and making society better.
10:55
So I'll come back to the story of
when I was caught in the prison:
11:04
I was very happy freeing
a dozen children from slavery,
11:11
handing them over to their parents.
11:15
I cannot explain my joy
when I free a child.
11:18
I was so happy.
11:23
But when I was waiting for my train
to come back to my hometown, Delhi,
11:25
I saw that dozens of children
were arriving;
11:30
they were being trafficked by someone.
11:34
I stopped them, those people.
11:37
I complained to the police.
11:40
So the policemen, instead of helping me,
11:42
they threw me in this small,
tiny shell, like an animal.
11:46
And that was the night of anger
11:53
when one of the brightest
and biggest ideas was born.
11:54
I thought that if I keep on freeing 10
children, and 50 more will join,
11:59
that's not done.
12:04
And I believed in the power of consumers,
12:06
and let me tell you that this
was the first time
12:09
when a campaign was launched by me
or anywhere in the world,
12:12
to educate and sensitize the consumers
12:17
to create a demand
for child-labor-free rugs.
12:21
In Europe and America,
we have been successful.
12:27
And it has resulted
in a fall in child labor
12:30
in South Asian countries by 80 percent.
12:35
(Applause)
12:38
Not only that, but this first-ever
consumer's power, or consumer's campaign
12:44
has grown in other countries
and other industries,
12:51
maybe chocolate, maybe apparel,
maybe shoes -- it has gone beyond.
12:55
My anger at the age of 11,
13:03
when I realized how important
education is for every child,
13:04
I got an idea to collect used books
and help the poorest children.
13:09
I created a book bank at the age of 11.
13:17
But I did not stop.
13:22
Later on, I cofounded
13:23
the world's single largest civil society
campaign for education
13:25
that is the Global Campaign for Education.
13:30
That has helped in changing
the whole thinking towards education
13:34
from the charity mode
to the human rights mode,
13:38
and that has concretely helped
the reduction of out-of-school children
13:41
by half in the last 15 years.
13:45
(Applause)
13:49
My anger at the age of 27,
13:55
to free that girl who was about
to be sold to a brothel,
13:58
has given me an idea
14:04
to go for a new strategy
of raid and rescue,
14:08
freeing children from slavery.
14:13
And I am so lucky and proud to say
that it is not one or 10 or 20,
14:16
but my colleagues and I have been able
to physically liberate 83,000 child slaves
14:22
and hand them over
back to their families and mothers.
14:28
(Applause)
14:31
I knew that we needed global policies.
14:37
We organized the worldwide marches
against child labor
14:39
and that has also resulted in
a new international convention
14:42
to protect the children
who are in the worst forms.
14:48
And the concrete result was that
the number of child laborers globally
14:54
has gone down by one third
in the last 15 years.
14:58
(Applause)
15:03
So, in each case,
15:08
it began from anger,
15:11
turned into an idea,
15:15
and action.
15:17
So anger, what next?
15:21
Idea, and --
15:24
Audience: Action
15:26
Kailash Satyarthi: Anger, idea, action.
Which I tried to do.
15:28
Anger is a power, anger is an energy,
15:34
and the law of nature is that energy
15:36
can never be created and never
be vanished, can never be destroyed.
15:39
So why can't the energy of anger
be translated and harnessed
15:44
to create a better and beautiful world,
a more just and equitable world?
15:51
Anger is within each one of you,
15:56
and I will share a secret
for a few seconds:
15:59
that if we are confined in
the narrow shells of egos,
16:05
and the circles of selfishness,
16:12
then the anger will turn out to be
hatred, violence, revenge, destruction.
16:17
But if we are able to break the circles,
16:25
then the same anger could turn
into a great power.
16:28
We can break the circles
by using our inherent compassion
16:34
and connect with the world through
compassion to make this world better.
16:38
That same anger could be
transformed into it.
16:42
So dear friends, sisters and brothers,
again, as a Nobel Laureate,
16:46
I am urging you to become angry.
16:51
I am urging you to become angry.
16:55
And the angriest among us
16:59
is the one who can transform his anger
into idea and action.
17:04
Thank you so much.
17:12
(Applause)
17:14
Chris Anderson: For many years,
you've been an inspiration to others.
17:26
Who or what inspires you and why?
17:30
KS: Good question.
17:34
Chris, let me tell you,
and that is the truth,
17:36
each time when I free a child,
17:40
the child who has lost all his hope
that he will ever come back to his mother,
17:44
the first smile of freedom,
17:48
and the mother who has lost all hope
17:53
that the son or daughter
can ever come back and sit in her lap,
17:55
they become so emotional
18:02
and the first tear of joy
rolls down on her cheek,
18:04
I see the glimpse of God in it --
this is my biggest inspiration.
18:09
And I am so lucky that not once,
as I said before, but thousands of times,
18:12
I have been able to witness my God
in the faces of those children
18:17
and they are my biggest inspirations.
18:21
Thank you.
18:23
(Applause)
18:25

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Kailash Satyarthi - Children’s rights activist
2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi is a tireless activist fighting to protect the rights of voiceless children everywhere.

Why you should listen
Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi has been leading the global fight against child slavery for over three decades.  As the founder of a grassroots nonprofit, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save Childhood Movement, he has rescued more than 80,000 Indian children to date from various forms of exploitation from child labor to child trafficking.

Kailash’s work has involved organizing almost weekly raid, rescue and recovery missions on workplaces that employ and enslave children. Since 2001, Satyarthi’s has risked his own life to rescue these children and has convinced families in more than 300 Indian villages to avoid sending their children to work, and instead putting them in school.
 
Satyarthi’s has also managed to grab and retain the world’s attention on the problem. He organized the Global March Against Child Labor in the 1990s to raise awareness and free millions of children shackled in various forms of modern slavery. His activism was also instrumental in the adoption of Convention No. 182 by the International Labour Organization, a statue that's become a guideline for many governments on child labor.
 
In 2014, he and Malala Yousafzai were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

The original video is available on TED.com
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