The Changed Conditions of Critical Thinking | Halleh Ghorashi | TEDxAUCollege



the first time I came in contact with critical thinking I was 16 years old in Iran it was a year before the Iranian Revolution of 1979 in our house politics was a topic of the talk I also read a lot about the history of Iran the history of separation in Iran and also historical books about different revolutions in French Revolution Russian Revolution so revolution and the fever of revolution got me I became a revolutionary during the revolution the first half and one and a half years there was a temporary freedom in Iran just imagine people who have been living under suppression dictatorship for years 3035 years got the space to be free the boost of energy in the streets of Tehran when I was living was amazing they were discussing in the streets of Tehran all the books that were forbidden for years they came to the market and we the youth of that time they're reading buying and reading these books it's a lot of thirst as sometimes thought that I was eating the books I wasn't just reading them it was amazing to be part of that kind of atmosphere Latin American poetry inspired me and the music of Victor Jara was he heard that on the streets everybody was reciting them I think that was the best period of my life to be part of something so energetic so beautiful so much ideals so many belief in change was amazing but then those day that's we called spring of freedom some people even refer to it as paradise on earth change to hell when the people started actually people who were part of the volution started to stand against each other when the years of suppression came from that active person I became a depressive person they couldn't do anything fear and despair replaced hope and believing in ideals ideals just died people were killing each other people were attacking each other many of my friends got arrested and more for me it was like the turn of Paradise to hell I was like losing life feeling that there was nothing else to live for in those years I was made and other being a Marxist I was a Marxist believer in a revolution that became an Islamic Revolution made me an other so at the age of 26 I had to leave Iran because of my political convictions I came to the Netherlands as an asylum seeker the end of 80s didn't my study here at the University I met beautiful people people who were interested in me in my stories I became good friends with them they helped me to go through difficult years of adjustment and I was I am very happy to have have had that kind of friendships but also I felt being an other again I was seen as this woman coming from an Islamic society so I must have been on emancipated and suppressed by the men of my family I was a refugee so probably pitiful somebody who needs help and not much to offer to society a problem rather than part of the solution so I was feeling like okay this is not new to me I was ordered in Iran and it still was painful but it was something different about this time I didn't I couldn't find an enemy that ordered me there was no enemy the people who did that it came from the images they had for me no more people normal conversations they were like me so they were not no dictators intentionally excluding me so I was confused in the years I in Iran being others being made and other having enemies to fight against very crucial for me but also it was solely the power source of power was solid was clear source of solidarity was clear here it was confused people whom I had just normal conversation ordered me how can it be so after life passing and I became successful in this country did my degree and became a professor I forgot about those moments of being uttered in the Netherlands till I met Sarah and heard her story within the research I invited different stakeholders refugees who were searching for a job HR managers in organizations who were working about diversity policy makers who have been working about the issues of migrants and refugees and members of NGOs who were working with refugees I brought them together to discuss about the possibilities to include refugees delayed blanket the first thing he asked of everybody was to share their stories the moments that in their life they felt the most powerful the strength when were those moments shared with us I remember vividly sowing sorrow entering the room and I thought who is this person she came in but as if she was present and absent at the same time she looked at me but it was as if there was this fog in front of her eyes that I couldn't see her and she couldn't reach me there was this distance I was amazed so when they asked everybody to tell their stories refugees in the group they remain silent they didn't say anything the first day pass second day the same silence at one point then they asked why don't you share your stories Sara said I don't know if I have such a story to share I told everybody please be patient and let's just ask here and others to share their stories repeatedly and after some patience the story came Sara shared her story she said I was in Eritrea born there and have been part of armed struggle they're fighting for human rights and human rights when I was a from a young age was an activist and because of that I lost many things because of that I had to come to the Netherlands as a refugee so people were shocked said ok you had such a powerful story what happens why did you say that you don't have anything to share and she said I was actually amazed by it myself and realized when I taught about it that's from the moment ten years ago when I came to Netherlands the only thing I heard was know your language is not good enough your papers are not good enough your cultural competence does not fit our organization's is not good enough and I realized that a repetition of nose actually made me to lose my self-confidence but today I also realized that a petition of those noise nose made me to forget my story and now here I was able to rediscover it and when she said that I literally saw that the light in her eyes came back as if there was a boost of life went into her body rediscovery of her story made her to live again and that was an amazing amazing experience that was this policymaker who was busy with migration issues for years she shared with the group that she has been in in her work mainly focusing on the deficits and the lags of migrants and refugees so much that they were fixating on that wanting to help them to make them equal to make the life better but fixation on lack actually was so much that she almost forgot that these people also have qualities they have something to offer to this society so what happens was that truth sharing those stories people became aware of these images that we have from each other that images we take for granted and by doing so without realizing the best intentions we make the other the other and in doing so maybe interrupt shishun of that they actually make the other completely passive but something else also became very clear that people do that with the best intentions so the enemy is not a dictator there's not there anymore actually the the power is not in the positions of suppression the power is in all those images that we have of another and all those images that become so normalized in our daily life that we don't think about it we don't take questioning we take that for granted so if we want to think about change we need to think about how to unsettle this powerful these powerful images chain of images that influences our selves but mainly others contribute to other ins of the people exclusion in society sharing stories as this story of Sarah shows is a very powerful instrument to do that but sharing stories from points of difference from people who are actually disconnected becomes even more powerful because this creates mirroring effects the story of the other becomes a mirror for you to realize that the routines that you are part of and you take for granted they are your routines but still very powerful sometimes we need routines to function but sometimes routines blinds us and the mirror is assist is necessary to again be aware of those blind spots but for these sharing stories from points of difference to be impactful or connected there are some conditions necessary the two conditions in this case that were essential we're taking time and space so by delay act of delay and patience we can create space to see and listen to the other create space and time to see the other from the position of the other from the perspective of the other but that's not enough you know when Sarah shared her story the fact that to share it with us was because she felt safe that space needs to be safe and the safety of their space happens when we temporarily are able to suspend our own judgments to make the space empty of judgment not all the time temporarily so that we can hear what the other story is about we can feel it and these are the conditions to create spaces for shared stories that can unsettle the taken-for-granted assumptions we have of ourselves and others mainly of others and these are the connections that enrich our lives but also can bring about change of lives of many people like Sarah that are already lost their self-confidence and this is the core of my talk what is the changed condition of critical thinking when the power is not the visible power of position of dictators will fight against but power is in the process of daily interactions when we take our own assumptions for granted and exclude others without realizing that we are doing that so one may ask ok story like SARS how can such a story change a system revolution change the system how can we change a system structures macro structures how can we change them I would say the only way to go about change and think about change in this time and the power is in the normalization practices the only way to go about it is to invest in interpersonal relationships and make them more thoughtful those thoughtful relationships creates waves of influence can travel all around the world and inspire others to do the same thing this example of Sarah can you imagine how impactful that can be and has been for many people who were part of that space most of these people shared the way that they took that story with them to their organizations to their ministries they were working to the municipalities they were part of that story has been repeated by many and that is the kind of impact and change that stories can bring and the repetition of these small small stories small-scale stories can be essential in thinking big so we do not start with a revolution that the power is so subtle and invisible we do not start the revolution we started investing in each other and giving the relationship and the conversations we have more color and multiplicity and maybe if the waves they become go through the waves of influence then we can have some kind of revolution by just deconstructing the blind spots in our art in our own thoughts and by doing so make a change that could be the kind of change we can imagine when we think of critical thinking at a time that power doesn't work in the old-fashioned way but through our own taken for granted normalized practices thank you very much [Applause]

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