Global Public Square


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Identity & Action In The 21st Century
By Francis Sealey

ISBN: 978-1-84747-503-9
Published: 2009
Pages: 236
Key Themes: politics, humanity, debate, global networks


The 21st Century is one of the most turbulent and critical in our history. When the blueprints that guided us through the last two centuries have been torn up or found wanting there is a great need to recreate our future through thought discussion and action. Well-being is about being happy with ourselves and comfortable with our environment and without the public space to create that and forge new maps and purpose then we are in danger of an intellectual and emotional void.

This book is about creating and expanding the public sphere or square where this can happen and where we can make connections that will make a difference. But the public square in the 21st century is both local and global and based around constantly changing networks. How we give public space to these new networks is central to the theme of this book.

This book emphasises that it is these local and global networks that have the power to shape our future by bringing into focus the need to change both our environment and ourselves. It is the connections made that are the engines and energy of networks and relationships created between individual and organisations can become the effective agents of change and reinvigorate our political life.

The 21st century has to be about making the connections that will simultaneously change both our environment and ourselves. It is in the global public square of the present century that we can recreate our future in a sustainable way when faced with constant diversity and change.

About the Author

Francis Sealey was born in 1944 and was a Producer and Executive Producer for many years working for both the BBC Open University and the Community Programmes Unit. He has been active in politics and community action for most of his life, being a Parliamentary Candidate in 1974 and founder and activist in a number of social & community networks. Since 1993 he has been a freelance producer working with a number of training, public and voluntary organisations. In 2007 he founded 21st Century Network to help recreate public space and bring genuine debate back to public life.

Book Extract

As we move through the years from youth to maturity and then old age, most of us like to think we make sense out of life. When we look back after many years, it is reassuring to know that there is some sort of pattern in the way we have led our life. For most of us, life without purpose is a life that is meaningless, and so to give purpose to our lives we often create it in our imagination. The problem with a life lead in our imagination is that we live a constant delusion or we come face to face with that delusion as reality checks our fantasy and changes it. And for some of us, we have moments in our life when our fantasy has had that reality check; but that does not necessarily mean we have discovered life in its objective reality: It usually means that we substitute one imaginative fantasy for another.

There must be times in all our lives when suddenly there is a shift in our perception of reality – when the world no longer appears as we once thought it was. Many people ignore those moments and carry on as usual. But perhaps two or three times in my life I have had such moments when it seemed almost impossible to carry on as usual.

One of these moments was in February 1974. I was addressing an eve of poll meeting in the February General Election of that year in the United Kingdom as a Parliamentary candidate. It had been a very active campaign and the controversy of that period together with the excitement that it generated made meetings well attended and well informed. I remember standing before a packed audience and making my eve of poll speech with what I hoped would be a passion and enthusiasm that could be transferred to the critical yet listening audience. But as I was speaking, I almost had an “out of body experience” and for a few seconds or maybe more, it felt as if I were an observer of my own performance and of the audience surrounding me. And as I observed, I imagined I was watching a game rather than a real exercise in democratic choice between competing ideas. Suddenly, the whole exercise became unreal. Those few seconds of reality check made me deeply disturbed. My mind was in turmoil because I began questioning in those few seconds the relevance of what I was doing. Most of us at times during our life question the relevance of what we do, but we carry on regardless. For me it became difficult to carry on as usual after looking almost surreally at the ritual performance that evening because what I observed made me doubt that it would change the world and make a difference. I knew at that moment I had to rethink my attitude towards personal and social change because the “game” was no longer sufficient. Enjoyable it might have been, but effective it certainly was not.

At that time, I was 30 years old and full of ambition and hope for the future. I had become a Parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party and was fighting an election during the time of the coal miner’s strike and the three-day week. In many ways, it was the last campaign of the old industrial age. It was a classic confrontation in the minds of many of us between capital and labour. And it was a classic confrontation at a time when the world was fast changing and when the old industrial world was gradually collapsing before our eyes. All around us were signs of the New World that was beginning to emerge. We had just gone through the cultural revolution of the 1960s when all seemed possible. Suddenly the world began to appear small, as young people developed their own ideas across the globe and those ideas seem to have more similarity than those held by a parent generation. The economy was changing fast from an industrial production to a service based one, and economic growth was making a working class increasingly prosperous. And the year before in 1973 an oil crisis saw oil prices rise worldwide because of the power of the oil producers in the Middle East. In a way, this was a sign of the times to come, when resource shortages and the predictions of those shortages in the future would make our seemingly abundant planet suddenly become finite. Scarcity in a world of plenty now became a future possibility in the modern world.

And yet here I was fighting an election as if the old world was still upon us. Of course I knew it wasn’t, because I had been part of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s; but during my teenage years I had been brought up in the atmosphere of the Post War world, where normality meant going back to that period before the war, but without the economic depression that had then swept the world. I had been brought up in a childhood world of people who wanted to return to “normality,” and that meant not only forgetting the old world of war and depression but also ignoring the new world of change and uncertainty. The decade or so following the Second World War was a period caught in a time warp. That was understandable for those people who went through the war and whose formative years were in that period between the two world wars. But for some of us, who were brought up after the war, somehow that concept of “normality” did not ring true. All of us, at that time, and in our own way, must have experienced the sensation of somehow moving from one world to the next as the years following the War progressed into the 1960s and beyond.

However, it was strange that that should happen when I was on a public platform fighting the battles of the past and trying to make them relevant to the present. When the realisation and understanding of change confronts you in such a dramatic way, then it can shake the ground of all your being, and from there on, in your imagination, you have to create a different world. I suppose since that time I have spent my life trying to create that different world and, in doing so, hoping that it would be possible to make a difference. However, as time goes by every world you create in your imagination to effect change comes under question, as you wonder if you have had any effect at all; or whether at every step of your life you have still been playing an imaginable game and simply muddling through.


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