This is a video of a talk given on 26 August 2012 at the Sydney Opera House.
The reference to the 'empty chair' on the stage during the opening remarks is in recognition of Chinese author Liu Xiaobo who remains incarcerated by the Chinese government for voicing a desire for political reform.
John Ralston Saul is president of PEN International, which is a global association of writers, and one of the world's oldest human rights organizations.
In his talk Saul refers to NGO's. A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any form of government.
The talk gets rather 'conceptual' at times, so do not be too concerned if you struggle with it. I did as well. About the time he said, "you probably think that I am being rather vague and romantic" the engineering and managerial side of my brain was saying, 'that's an affirmative.'
But I think a few times he was trying to demonstrate our ability to make choices and 'think out of the box,' and that sort of thing does not always mix or segway well in a public lecture where hard issues and potential solutions are intermingled with abstractions.
But overall his talk is brilliantly insightful, and worth listening.
John Ralston Saul, CC (born June 19, 1947) is a Canadian author, essayist, and President of PEN International.
As an essayist, Saul is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of manager-led, or more precisely technocrat-led, societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role of freedom of speech and culture; and his critique of contemporary economic arguments.
As an author he is best known for the 'philosophical trilogy' Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense, and The Unconscious Civilization.