Sheriff’s Story: life in open country

On wednesday this week I was in the "Open Country" symposium at ALT-C that I trailed in a previous post. I think video will be available of the whole session, including the much more articulate and evidence-informed colleagues Dave White and Helen Beetham. And of course, David Kernohan preachin and playing the banjo 😉

But I can't wait for the video before I share my career-limiting escapade.

Below are the words I delivered in the character of a Sheriff. Picture a third rate Reese Witherspoon who's eaten too many pies. There's a rough audio recording here too, thanks to Lou McGill, who also supplied the banjo. My character's speech comes first and is about 3 minutes long, after which I seem to have stepped back from the mic!

James Clay recorded an ALT-C beta interview with us afterwards.

David Kernohan's reflections are here (including a photo, yes). I'm still chewing over a better way to articulate my thoughts that sustainable infrastructure comes out of compromises, that the interactivity of the content is not really what's important to OER: its more about a trading balance between what people want to produce and what people want to use. One thing I feel strongly about is that its important for purists to preach their vision, but the real adoption of new practices is the story of the pragmatists. Unlike some, I don't find that depressing at all. I see it as social history vs the great men theory of history. Deep change takes time and its worth waiting for, but it also requires lots of compromises along the way.


Sheriff's Story

Howdy folks.

I’m the sheriff of this town. The keeper of law‘n’order. The boss.

There are two surprising things about me one is that I'm a lady sheriff the other is that my accent wonders all around the Americas like a stray dawg so I'll try to keep it a o k.

Anyhows, I'm here to tell y'all a bit about life in the wild west All you’ll mainly hear about are the outlaws and the cowboys. The heroes, the explorers, the ones who head off on their horses into the mountains armed only with a rifle. They come back with their stories, their reputations. They get the glory. I was a pioneer once. I shared their dreams. I’ve seen a lot of people lose their way, I’ve seen ambushes, I’ve seen in-fighting.

What I want now is stability and sustainability. You can’t build a community without compromise.

Stability. A stable town means somewhere people can live and work. We came here, following the promises of the gold rush, the oil prospectors, the preachers, in search of a better life And we find ourselves thousands of miles from home, from anything familiar. We create communities, we nurture our children, we raise oir cattle. We can’t all chase the gold rush. Only the strong and the brave have the appetite for adventure. Where would we be without our elders advising caution or our women keeping the children safe?

Sustainability. They head off into the open, seeking riches. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, who ensures the gloryboys families don’t starve over the winter? Who’s left to till the fields and mill the flour? The novelty wears off after the first failed harvest. The townspeople, that’s who. we learn again how to plant and harvest and cook in this barren land. There is a world to be built, and I’m here to keep the peace, to keep our fragile community safe within these foreign hills.

So, what do we need to keep Law n order?

I have to have a notion of the public good. Individuals will often want more than our little community can give them. There will be conflict, there will be deserters. Sometimes they will take people with them, I will let them go.

The goldrush is over. I have to manage the community. Their fighting. Their stealing. And I have to be thinking towards the future. I have to think about food production, trade and railroads.

I'll leave the outlaws and preachers to their work.

I have my own problems to deal with.



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