Simply, the Most Profound Ted Talk I have Experienced

This Ted talk by Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli author, and historian, offers a very powerful framework that I’d not encountered or thought of before.

For my colleagues at BC360°, whether it resonates with you or even if you watch it and go “Pfft – that’s bs,” I think it will provide long-term food for thought.

The video begins with definitions – the difference between Fascism and Nationalism.  Per Harari, nationalism presents the country as unique, with special obligations to the county.  Fascism, he says, presents the country as supreme, with obligations exclusively to the country.

Nationalism, he says, promotes obligations across the spectrum, in addition to the country – to family, to neighborhood, my profession.  This creates tension and conflict, so we look for easy.

Harari says, “Whoever told you life is easy.  Life is complicated.  Deal with it.”

The talk is entitled “Why Fascism is so Tempting.”  His explanation:  Because we present the conceptual picture as beautiful and easy.

But the real crux, at least to me, is his historical explanation of politics.  Politics began over land.  “Land was concentrated with the government or the small elite.”  Then came equipment, which was again concentrated in the hand of a few.

Today, it isn’t land or equipment that drives our politics or the determination to concentrate power.  It is data.  That’s a bit frightening.

With those few teasers, I invite you to watch it. 

I would love to hear what you think.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Andersonhttp://andersonperformancepartners.com
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.


  1. Carol – Thank you for sharing this video. I found it very thought provoking, and while I found his explanation of Fascism spot on relative to what I know, I’m struggling a bit with his “was, now is” delineation of land / machines / data as political drivers.

    • We still see “land” as an irritating political wedge between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and India and Pakistan.

    • And we still see “machines” in the form of our own military industrial complex – a bloated $700b military budget with no overt accountability – that President Eisenhower warned us about some 65 years ago. We are still building and selling arms to the world, “frenemies” included.

    • But the biggest issue I had was with “data,” which I found to be a limiting concept. It’s not that data isn’t a concern. But the larger issue for me is what happens to data: it’s used to create information, and information is used to create “truth.” We only have to look at the run-up to our last election as evidence that it is. The issue for me is who controls information and who “owns” truth.

    We live in a time when there are facts and “alternate” facts. We live in a time where there is a rejection of science, and instead a reliance on ego and gut to explain what is going on with the world’s climate, for example. (Worse, there is little political appetite to actually talk about our disagreement.) We live in a time when our “leader” tells people “I alone can solve your problems.” The media is denounced as fake and ultimate “truth” is held by one individual.

    “Information and truth,” of course, were also the driving engines of the 1930s incarnation of Fascism. Hitler had an enormous state-operated agency manipulating information, and defining and distributing “truth.” And it was led by someone who didn’t even attempt to disguise his purpose. Josef Goebbels was openly referred to as the “Reich Minister of Propaganda.”

    So I am with Mark on this. Our current situation comes down to a large smorgasbord of “psychology and gullibility,” but hold the historical knowledge. (Why, after all did Hitler mandate the burning of books?) Mark Twain is reported to have said that “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” and we are teetering on the brink of rhyming.

    Not that Hollywood is ever the paragon of “truth,” but there is a great scene at the end of the movie “Sneakers” that speaks to the above. Great dialogue. Great acting. A great musical score. And a great message.


  2. @Carol Anderson, truth doesn’t need a mirror but Fascism does!

    Mr Harari very prudently cautions us against the charms of Fascism.
    Democracy remains one of the toughest forms of government (circa 2020), yet we seem to take it for granted. Democracy is inherited as a constitutional prerogative and not as something that we had to fight for.

    Socrates classified democracy as the most perverted form of anarchy in his table of governments. Indeed he was referring to mobocracy and not the democracy that we all know of today.

    Being aware of others Freedom and Liberties as much as one is aware of theirs remains the crux of Enlightenednlightened Democracy.

    Many thanks for sharing this fantastic Ted talk!

    (Don’t forget to read the comments page: Work Vs The War Psyche)

    • I have become entranced by the founding of our country (thanks to my fascination with Hamilton) – I’ve read just about everything I could get my hands on in the last few months, and realize that what we’re seeing now isn’t new. George Washington is the only President without a partisan agenda. Not sure why that has been such a surprise to me.

      Your statement about Socrates saying government is a perverted form of anarchy makes sense, even today because, as Harari says in the TED talk, it’s complicated.

      Love the statement about truth not needing a mirror. Thanks for your comment. I did respond earlier today, but will go over and look.

  3. Carol, this is a fascinating study in human psychology and gullibility: It really makes me wonder who thinks they’re supporting what interests in the United States. It also makes me wonder how many people can see beyond their most immediate interests and to think about implications, ramifications, and consequences. It does not make me wonder, however, why there’s a Law of Unintended Consequences.

    Thank you for sharing this video.

    • Oh man, Mark – you got my point! Yes, I couldn’t say it better – none of us really know what we are supporting. We throw out words and don’t even know the definition or think about the context. The more I dive deep, study and learn on this point, the more concerned I become. That said, I also have faith it will all work out – it just might not be how some of us would prefer and we won’t know that until we know it.

      I thought the speaker’s point about John Lennon’s Imagine was right on target. Sure, it sounds good, but it is structure that brings a diverse group of people together. And it needs leadership to be sufficiently transparent and authentic (I know you don’t like that word, but…) to point the way.