Big Ideas from TED 2011: Attendees Weigh in on the New Middle East

From messages of bountiful optimism to warnings about the work let to come, what the TEDsters most intimately familiar with the Middle East think.

Most of the time, when people talk about changing the world, it's either marketing, aspiration, or both. But during last few months in the Middle East, world-changing talk has been made manifest. In countries like Tunisia and Egypt, a generation has awoken from its uncomfortable slumber to cast off tyranny in hope of a better future.

At this year's TED conference in Long Beach, the Middle East loomed large in the minds of attendees and speakers alike. TED Fellows such as Esra'a Al Shafei and Yara Shaban work on issues of education, access, and rights in the Middle East. TED speakers who touched on the region included U.S. General Stanley McChrystal and late additions to the program Wael Ghonim (the ex-Googler who helped instigate the Egyptian revolution) and Wadah Khanfar, Director General of Al Jazeera. Across this cohort, there were many '"big ideas."

On the Importance of Presence: Wadah Khanfar talked about receiving emotional calls from protestors in Egypt's Tahrir (or "Liberation") Square, begging Al Jazeera to stay because they feared that if the world weren't watching, they would be slaughtered, and the role media played in enabling the will of the people to flourish.

On the Hero-less Revolution: Wael Ghonim, speaking at a special TEDxCairo event the night before, talked about how the Egyptian revolution was remarkable because no one and everyone was the leader, and no one and everyone was the hero.

On the Biggest Losers in the Revolutions: When asked by session host and TED Community Manager Tom Rielly about what he thought about the political tidal wave in the Middle East, General Stanley McChrystal—a former commander in Afghanistan—said that the biggest losers are the terrorists and extremists who have a much harder time recruiting when people have legitimate avenues to express their believes.

On the Work Yet to Come: Esra'a Al Shafei, founder of, urged fellow TEDsters to recognize just how much work there was to be done to ensure that everyone in the Middle East had the ability to enjoy the fruits of the newly won freedom.

Photo: Wadah Khanfar, Media executive, in Session 1: Monumental, on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at TED2011, in Long Beach, California. Credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

via David Leavitt / Twitter and RealTargetTori / Twitter

Last Friday, GOOD reported on an infuriating incident that went down at a Massachusetts Target.

A Target manager who's come to be known as "Target Tori," was harassed by Twitter troll David Leavitt for not selling him an $89 Oral-B Pro 5000 toothbrush for a penny.

He describes himself as a "multimedia journalist who has worked for CBS, AXS, Yahoo, and others."

Keep Reading
via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading
via Haldean Brown / Flickr

In a typical work day, people who smoke take more breaks than those who do not. Every few hours they pop outside to have a smoke and usually take a coworker with them.

Don Bryden, Managing director at KCJ Training and Employment Solutions in Swindon, England, thinks that nonsmokers and smokers should be treated equally, so he's giving those who refrain from smoking four extra days to compensate.

Funny enough, Bryden is a smoker himself.

Keep Reading