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Al Jazeera's Mark Seddon

Heading up the political segment of PUSH 2008, "Leaders in Reverse: Playing Short-Term Gains against Long-Term Needs," U.N. correspondent for Al Jazeera English Mark Seddon decided to speak from the platform of personal experience to help understand a bigger, hopeful political picture.

Seddon's off-putting experience with Britain's Labour Party led him to drop out of politics and into Al Jazeera, a network created to help educate people by closing North-South news divides and erasing existing geo-political and cultural stereotypes. Seddon's intention today, drawing from rarely seen examples, resembled the network's philosophy as he challenged individual political complacency and asked for proactive thought and action.

Unfortunately, the special, symbiotic relationship between Britain and the United States allows for minimal cross pollination of new ideas and therefore an unchanging, unchallenged, and dumbed-down political process in which people believe in the inherent superiority of the Western system of political organization. For example, people seem to think that free market economics is the best and most effective system, since that's what we've been told and are most accustomed to. The decline of representative democracy and of political accountability is something that needs to be challenged and is not specific to government. A place to start would be the media: Al Jazeera is minimally available in the United States, largely as a result of the self-imposed (or ordained) censorship that large media corporations practice.

Seddon's advice stems from the belief that change can be seen in both a constructive and a destructive light; it has been a Western luxury to believe that change is stagnant. The current decline in activism must be answered, not necessarily by an involvement in politics. Seddon rallied the audience to take it all on, to get organized and involved again. Today's climate portends change, especially with the presidential election looming, and we have to start to think again. With the return of the idea and the power to think, so too will return the real power of democracy.

Posted by Anna Wool