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Stateside with Rosalea: Tuesday, sandy Tuesday

Stateside with Rosalea: Tuesday, sandy Tuesday

By Rosalea Barker

Hi Tony. Before you meet with your friend today (yes, you *do* have a friend, G!), could you please give Helen a tinkle and ask her who was elected PM in 1935? Then do a web search on his first and last name. You're bound to come up with the website of the pus you have drawn forth from this nation with your war poultice. Oh, and if you see Colin, let him know his son should be listening to the evening drive-time radio show this guy hosts, cos I'm sure there's nothing in the FCC regulations that permits inciting race hatred. (No way am I going to give the guy traction by putting his URL here.)

You see Tony, this is a not the kind of democracy that you and I grew up in. For one thing, the US doesn't have a history of the type of debate where everyone has a chance to thrash things out. Instead, it has two main models of public discourse: the town hall meeting (which originated on the East Coast in the first colonies), and the barn-raising (which originated in the West).

At a town hall meeting, a panel of chosen speakers sit at a table in front of the meeting and have their say one by one. The audience gets to write their questions on cards for answer if they're chosen by the moderator. Or you can join a line at the microphone and have your say. It's not considered polite to interact with the panel; nor does the panel engage each other. They just state their case.

The barn-raising model originated from the occupation of the West when labour was scarce and communities were scattered. In a barn-raising, valuable knowledge and skills were passed on from one new settler to the next. At the same time, a sense of community was built and an obligation was created that was fulfilled by helping the next new settler build their barn. If you were that new settler, you'd better fit in with what the community already thinks or be sure you could build your barn on your own.

Both models are based on the premise that Someone Else Knows Best. Did you, Tony? Did you, George? I must say there's one thing my vitriolic radio show host is right about: the word to use in describing Operation Iraqi Fiefdom is "Chechnya". What kind of barn did you think you were going to build?

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