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The Health of the Public and Private Spheres Published: Sunday, August 28, 2005 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

The public life of our time is often so frantic and fragmenting that it does not readily support the condition of social and human unity. Also, the secularization of our society means that the public realm has been stripped of those ventures which might remind us of our God-given relatedness to one another, and which are so important for creating a civic culture, an environment of respect, reciprocity and solidarity. In the face of these public discouragements, more and more people are looking and finding the private spaces for knowing themselves and sharing with each other the sweetness of being one with humanity. We are so much alike, yet we are so different. We have an urgent need of personal and social accord, agreement and harmony.

For years, I have been researching, lecturing and making the peaceful point that the private experience, far from being the enemy of public life, may be the place in which we can rediscover our commonality, and creating the possibility of taking that discovery back to the public life. We have the challenge of constructively defining the public life and giving the private life its proper due, acknowledging that these two domains are closely related.

We need to realize that in a healthy society the private and the public are not antagonistic or mutually exclusive, not in competition with each other. They are two core components of the social and economic whole and they can and should work together to create and nurture each other. The individual who performs an active public leadership life needs a perspective and a nurturing of a private life.

Public life alone has to much paradoxical forces, that spins us away from our priorities and can cause personal and social fragmentation. It needs to be balanced by the healthy contribution of the private experience which brings us back to the core processes of which the wholeness come. This refers to a wholeness which is not ours alone, but which always embraces the others. The same occurs with problems regarded as strictly private that in reality and almost always they have important public dimensions in their solutions. The clear point is that the health of the private realm depends on the health of the public sphere, and vice-versa. THE PUBLIC IS THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THE PRIVATE EXISTS. If that environment is hostile or antagonistic the private life will greatly suffer, creating fertile conditions for a shipwrecked ethical system. Then an increasingly number of people will want to escape…

When people don’t care about the public life, when they strive for the war of all against all, there is no way private life can offer security for the individual against anything from crime and violence to erosion of interpersonal commitments and loyalties.

The public and private domains are interdependent. When their synergy is off, or misunderstood, when the dynamic of working together between them fails, both will suffer.

In a democratic society, in an age of participation, we cannot allow the public life to withered away and private life become anxious, skeptical or pessimistic. We should all work together to rediscover and recreate the public realm. In doing so we have to acknowledge that this will not only be a victory to the public, but will bring new vitality to the private life as well. The coupling of the public and private coupling is increasingly being accepted as the governance system that we need for the social fabric today. The forces that want to keep these two spheres apart are weakening and an emerging knowledge is accelerating this new reality. But is does take courage, will, and understanding of the growing body of wisdom about how complex social systems break loose from traditional and old patterns.


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