Sunday, April 20, 2008

Need Maltese advice for a talk

I'm giving a talk on the US elections this Th (Ap 24) at the la Valette Rotary Club at the Intercontinental.

My talk is in good draft, but I want to make sure it hits things that interest and or confuse the citizens of Malta. Please send me your questions via the comment function on the blog. That way I can improve my talk.

Thank you


joe said...

Following the caucuses for the first time (via NPR) and really grasping what goes on there, sort of struck a nerve. You don’t usually admire American politics too much, but listening to these debates was inspiring and nearly heart-warming. I guess you'd hit something there.

Mary said...

Thanks Joe. I was going to mention them, but perhaps I'll explain them a bit more. Small(er) groups of people actually debating with each other on the virtues of the candidates are pretty cool.

The American system was designed for a population spread over a long distance and with poor communication. It was designed to shift power from being held by the individual states to being held by a national government. The US Constitution is the oldest living written constitution in the world. It was also an effort to balance governance with democracy. All those practical matters figure into how the US does things even today.

joe said...

Hi Mary, good luck for your talk tomorrow..
If time allows you to go back to the origins of democracy you could remind your audience that the Spartans voted by shouting. Now that’s something they really should be able to relate to ;)

When I was a kid growing up in Malta (in the mid-eighties) you could watch parliament debates on TV. My sister and I would sit down with a packet of Twistees and enjoy the spectacle. Sometimes they would nearly jump over the benches and go for each other. When I moved to France my host family were completely struck by the fascination of this Maltese 11 year old with political debates. A few years later in retrospect I guessed - well we had just lived a hard-gained autonomy from Britain – the French (as all Northern European states) had nothing left to fight for (besides details of national economy) and now become so disconnected with politics and politicians. We, however, just >had< to engage ourselves with politics. Now looking back once again I might also attribute some of the fervour to an innate Maltese trait which makes us find it so difficult to accept that somebody might be of a different opinion.

All this isn’t really useful for your talk.. However I’ll be glad to read your transcript

p.s. I really enjoy reading your blog :))

Mary said...

Maltese passionate about politics? I never noticed (GRIN).

Americans used to love to talk politics--back when we were a young nation. Tocqueville noted that our free press led to a capacity to organize ourselves for any possible purpose. We still do, but we don't do it with the fervor we once did.

Our press is increasingly unable to promote democracy, unfortunately. There are few competing political views. It used to be that each good-sized town had two newspapers, one a Democrat paper and one Republican. No more. There are variations, but not typically two in one town. They focus on selling ads, with news as the bait, so they don't talk (even in newspapers) much about policy. In foreign affairs, they just take material from the White House and repeat it. It's only months later that they start to critique and do some good. TV news is a wasteland and you can literally measure the decline in the amount of time TV spends on news.