Christian Long

Isabel Allende: Tells Tales of Passion

In TED Talks on April 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Reflection by MEIGHAN A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Isabel Allende:  Tells Tales of Passion

Allende begins her tale in a humble manner, a way to make her listeners more comfortable and familiar with her speech and ideas. She lists topics that appear again and again in her books. Due to her past we can trust her judgment on how to incorporate these themes in the stories in a way we can all understand. She gives justice to her tales, and authenticity to the struggles of her characters. Perhaps it is because of her own struggles that her characters struggles don’t have to be overly theatrical for us to care and sympathize. Her incorporation of magic and power of nature can be linked to her feminism. Most ancient cultures would have some view of women as magical because of their ability to give life. This also, unfortunately, led to many women being burned as witches.

Allende goes on to explain how she carried a flag during the Winter Olympics in Italy and how it made people aware of her on a larger scale than her books had. This was the first time an all women group would be flag-bearers, and she was honored to be chosen as one of the five representatives. Allende respects all those competing in the Olympics and their sacrifices to become the best they can be at their sport and represent their countries. She grants that the elements play a role in who wins, but states that it is what is in ones heart that allows them to win. She says, echoing the Olympic slogan “Passion lives here” because to win one must have passion. In order to do anything well or pursue our dreams we must have passion. She goes on to commemorate the passionate women who have so much for their countries and families. Like Wangari Maathai who won the Nobel Prize for planting 30 million trees that enriched the soil which benefited the farmers, economy, and weather. As well as Somaly Mam, who fights against child prostitution in Cambodia.

She begins her first tale of passion about Tutsi refugees in the Congo in a prison camp in 1998. Rose Mapendo, pregnant and a widow due to soldiers torturing and killing her husband in front of her is the champion. She manages to keep her seven children alive and give birth to twins. When soldiers try to rape her eldest daughter, she holds on to her and doesn’t giver her up even with a gun to her head. The family manages to survive for 16 months and then because of a young American man named Sasha Chanoff with a passionate heart, they are saved. He puts the family in a U.S. rescue plane and Rose Mapendo with her nine children now thrives in Arizona. In Swahili Mapendo means “great love” and we can see just how true that is in Rose Mapendo. Isabel Allende reminds us that her passionate and charismatic female characters are not made up – they don’t need to be – she has plenty of models for characters in our own world.

Allende explains how she became a feminist at a young age, due to the patriarchy of her Chilean family. In a Latin society one rarely hears of feminists because women usually don’t even know anything besides a patriarchal society exists. Feminists are strange and disrupt the society. Women cook and clean and take care of children while men work and that’s that. When your father, brothers, husband, cousins, sons, or any male relation comes home from work it is your job to have supper on the table waiting for them. You serve them and then you usually eat last, making sure there is enough for all the guys first. As a daughter you are raised by your mother to be as good a wife as she is and make your family proud. Once you are married your husband and children to come are your new family and sole focus.

This didn’t settle well with Allende, so she followed her own beliefs.

In a patriarchal society a girl turns to other females in her family for support and comfort, her male relatives usually won’t be as supportive and are only there to protect them and make sure they make the family proud. Close male relatives usually have good intentions but simply do not know how to relate to women. It’s not always a terrible situation, fathers can be loving and protective of their little girls, brothers can be just as protective of sisters, but they always have this expectation that she is weaker, less intelligent thus she should be told what to do, and needs to stay at home and fill her role. The women have their own family inside the family, an imaginary energy link between girls. If a girl is sad she can rely on her sisters, mother, grandmother, aunts, or nieces to uplift her and give her what help she needs. If one girl suffers then all her female relatives will sympathize and be there for her. Because they all feel like they are separated from the ‘male world’ women create their own ‘world’.

In our more modern world we expect that all people have the same rights and are treated as equals. Women still get paid less than men, and many men still like to treat women like they are weaker. Sometimes women are guilty of supporting this theory, we might be too lazy to help carry heavy boxes etc, and then whichever guy helps us develops the belief that we are indeed weaker. By standing by outdated beliefs women think they can ‘worm’ their way out of situations. We often don’t realize the harm we do ourselves. Sometimes the box really is too heavy, but sometimes we just want an excuse not to do something.

Outside of our sight there are many women who suffer because of these beliefs that we haven’t completely rid ourselves of yet. Their suffering is, however, on a far greater scale. Imagine your husband beat you because you didn’t get his dinner to him on time, or you didn’t prepare the meal just as he would have liked. Would you think this justified? Would you stand there and take it, or would you fight back? When you fought back, what kind of as chance would you have to be seen as acting in self-defense in a society ruled by men? All the men would sympathize with your abusive husband and you might end up in an even worse situation. In this kind of society it takes a lot of heart and a lot of bravery to be able to stand up to men. Often you won’t succeed and your struggle will pass unnoticed by others. That is why we who are privileged should help these women stand up for what they and we believe is right. If they cannot do it on their own, shouldn’t we give them our support?

One of the biggest things we can do to help people stuck in such societies is offer education. Education can help eradicate close-minded beliefs and give people freedom. Once educated, all people will have more power and more impact, but the likeliness of their power being used to do good is even more likely. If men see that women can be treated as equals without society going to ruins and women ruling men instead, they may be more willing to stop their prejudice. When a woman is educated even if her children cannot go to school they learn by copying their mother. By empowering women we empower the next generation.

Women are not perfect, and I do not believe putting more women in political offices will solve the world’s problems, but I do believe having more women in power will help somewhat.

One gender is not better than the other. Men cannot rule us, and we cannot be ruled by women. If we can come to a balance of power then we might be able to find some form of peace. We shouldn’t judge who can rule by race, gender, or religion, but by who can have the greatest positive impact on the world. Until we stop judging why what or who you are and judge by what you want to do for the world, our problems cannot be solved. In order to get closer to this goal of real equality we have to start small and then get bigger. Without a solid foundation, anything we build up will just collapse on itself. Giving more rights and more education, empower those who do not have power. It will be a long difficult process but the end result is worth the struggle.

Allende’s passionate men and women in her stories and whom she has spoken of are all glimpses of the type of people we should strive to be. Their success is greater because they put all they had into reaching their goals, and their failures along the way are forgotten and forgiven because they gave their all trying to succeed. As George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said, “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”


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