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04 May 2012


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Michael - Democratic socialism at the village or district level should be able to operate despite the globalist and/or capitalist agents at the national level, if the LLG level forms the power base for PNG politicians and there is a set of rules in place that explains how the money must not go to people in power or their cronies.

It is not the "correct way" of doing business and never was and never will be! If people now accept it as the "correct way" then all I can say is that they have a big problem.

OK, we have corruption down here! But there are forces down here that are working hard to uncover it. When the culprit is found, off they go to some court, including the ICAC, who sorts it out and the culprits usually end up spending time in prison which helps them sort themselves out.

John Fowke seems to believe that corruption would not have grown so much if power over the money was given to LLG. I wonder! An ICAC would help.

The PNG climate and its associated medical conditions, probably has a debilitating effect on PNG people. Not everyone can work in air-conditioned comfort!

One could expect things to happen more slowly in PNG, but there needs to be a set of rules, correct procedures, in place that see that people's rights are respected.

Government workers have a responsibility to show managerial discipline and use their reasoning powers for the good of all.

Also a reverence for the 10 Commandments wouldn't go amiss!

Is there any reason why democratic socialism at the village and district level, i.e., local level government, should not work despite the influence of globalist and/or capitalist agents at the national level, if in fact it is the LLG level that form the power base of PNG politicians?

If political leaders had the courage and the conviction to return the power to the people at that very fundamental level, it may even be the most viable and progressive way forward - in fact one might even say that it would be a return to the Melanesian Way.

I'm sure that Narakobi had it right, but perhaps our founding fathers also overestimated the strength of our family bonds and the safety net of PNG's wantok system, at least as far as social needs go.

I don't whether this is true, or what may have been lost in translation, or cultural misunderstanding.

But when I was in Simbu an old Auntie walked with me a way up the Wara Simbu valley, and pointed to a distant mountain with a steep cliff off one side.

She said "in the old days, we used to take our very sick or old or disabled up the mountain there when their time had come, and they either jumped or were pushed off that cliff."

I make no judgements, other than to say this was related to me in good faith.

We do somethng similar in nursing homes and hospitals in Australia. Except it is an overdose of morpheine to 'stop the pain.'

If this is so, Michael, then I suppose John Fowke's idea that Local Area Government needs to be given more power, is the way to go.

But surely this will just lead to a break-down in PNG nationalism.

A "correct way" should be a way that has been worked out carefully so that it involves no corruption.

I've had limited experience with the PNG corruption scene but enough to know a little about how it works.

But "correct way" can also be applied to the way the government needs to eventually provide healthcare, education etc for every village person, no matter how isolated they are.

As Phil has pointed out, the Melanesian Way, this looking after the people at the village level, (a correct way), could be called "democratic socialism", but it is under attack from the type of capitalism followed by the "globalist" companies who have the money to develop PNG's oil, gas and minerals.

By comparison AusAid money is "small cheese".

I've reminded you that Narokobi saw the problem right at the start. PNG adopted a legal and economic system from Australia without adopting our Welfare System.

Our PM has just announced huge handouts to parents with school-age children to help cover their rising education costs. And so it goes on!

Agreed Barbara - Unfortunately the way government and big business works in every democracy and at every level is that development contracts, like schools and roads etc, go out to the cronies of those in power. So the money stays 'in the group'.

Australia is famous for boomerang aid!

There are voices that argue this to be the 'correct way' of doing business. In fact sometimes it makes sense to do this, e.g. to keep the peace between warring factions a DA woul award building contracts to both sides, instead of a more competent and trusted service provider from outside.

In the people's eyes this is seen as the 'correct way' to get development.

Historically, the government sent public servants from different provinces to work in places other than their own home province.

Today the trend is to get 'our own people working in our own province', wantok system, eh laka?

Teachers, nurses, public servants all end up being related in one way or another.

This too is seen as the 'correct wa' to get development.

If I was teaching a Uni class, I would probably say this: recommended reading for this week - 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen R Covey (Simon & Schuster 1992).

Also 'Random Acts of Courage' by Niall Doherty.

We all have circles of concern surrounding our perceptions and driving our motivations. From the immediate family, to the tribe, the nation, the region, and the world - and all usually in decreasing importance.

I believe this is derived from Maslow's theory of a 'hierachy of needs.'

The trick for great leaders is to telescope the hierarchy so that your family's needs become the same focus as your province, your nation and your region.

I think people like Mandela and Gandhi managed this.

Yes Phil, what I am actually talking about is concentrating or accentuating the positives of PNG becoming a united nation rather than providing an easy target for outsiders to divide and conquer as has been the case for some time.

The Australian states had the luxury of many years to discuss and agree on federation. That opportunity was never afforded the PNG people as I intimated previously.

It’s about time the discussions and debates are lifted out of the negative. Debate now needs to progress onto a constructive and positive way ahead. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy otherwise everyone would be doing it.

Logic, in whatever form, knows no ethnic or cultural boundaries. I have never seen myself as being any different from the next bloke, whoever he is or wherever I am.

I also like non feral rabbits however as an adopted Queenslander, I must accept the local, parochial viewpoint.

"Until and unless PNG starts thinking in ‘national’ terms and not in tribal and ethnic terms, no real advances can be made in government and leadership."

I'm not sure that's quite right, Paul.

Starting to think in national terms might be just giving the globalists what they want.

As Martyn points out, there are many more agrarian / democratic socialists out in the rural areas than there are capitalist nationalists in the cities.

Why should they be forced to change a system that has looked after them for thousands of years anyway?

Rather than change they should be getting themselves organised.

I think this is what you are really talking about - a united PNG.

Does it really matter whether PNG gets itself organised as a capitalist state or a socialist state?

Hell, yeah, say the capitalists; how else are we going to be able to milk the country dry?

It all seems so hard. And have you noticed that its just a bunch of ancient whitefellas rabbiting on about all this?

In a distinctly egocentric and yet prophetic statement to ex kiap Peter Ryan, ex PM Whitlam reportedly said: “Always remember Comrade, it was I who liberated PNG.”

Yet did Whitlam really liberate PNG or in fact ‘liberate’ Australia from a ‘White Man’s Burden’ and at the same time, actually enslave future generations of PNG people to the inevitable and increasing contemptible scramble by the so called ‘elite’ opportunists for power and riches?

Removing Australian guidance and control from PNG in 1975 prevented any real anti-colonial movement from developing and gaining a foothold and becoming a unifying force that might have brought all (well mostly all), PNGians together to create a nation. Numerous examples of this nation building aspect have happened elsewhere.

Until and unless PNG starts thinking in ‘national’ terms and not in tribal and ethnic terms, no real advances can be made in government and leadership.

‘Whinging’ about the problems might provide a temporary safety valve but will not generate any lasting solutions.

Bernard Narokobi described the Melanesian Way as "a total cosmic vision of life in which every event within human consciousness has its personal, communal, spiritual, economic, political and social dimensions, and they are inherently open to change."

He noted that PNG had adopted a "harsh legal and economic order (from Australia) without the cushioning elements of a welfare system."

This may be behind the "every man for himself" approach we see taking place with 4,000 standing for the elections in the hope that they will become politicians and become rich.

To me, this lack of a "welfare system" has to be looked at, and, until it is addressed, PNG will be in trouble.

In Australia, if you are unemployed, sick, handicapped, single mother, old and infirm with no private income, etc etc.. then you will be looked after by the state and receive an income.

You will not have to pay to get help from the hospitals and doctors when you are sick, you will get help with your housing needs, and so on...

But in PNG today the government income is probably not large enough to set up such a welfare scheme.

Certain aspects of a government run welfare system no doubt already exist in PNG but there will be other aspects which do not exist and the "welfare system" that does exist is something that has to be provided by the village people, for the sick, the old, the unemployed etc of their village.

O'Neill was on the right track when he offered "free education" up to some level.

PNG needs politicians who will have a heart for the people in the village. e.g. -

They will check to see the SABLs do not deprive the village of land that is needed to grow food for survival.

They will check that the mining companies do not spoil the water supply for the village.

They will check that every village person in PNG has access to health services.

They will check that the school curriculum is working and is helping their village children to grow in their understanding of the world today.

But it is now up to the village person to elect representatives to the parliament who will "remember the people of the village" and who are not going into parliament to "make themselves richer".

This is the only way I can see for PNG to have an appropriate "welfare system" for this day and age. The money from the mining and forestry royalties etc etc must be used to support the village welfare system.

"Social dimensions" in PNG need closer attention!

Just one further point and in deference to John Fowke.

One way of giving the democratic socialists out in the rural areas a fighting chance against these rampant global capitalists would be to affect a shift in the balance of power.

The way to do this, of course, is to empower Local Level Government.

In this sense John has been offering people like Martyn a possible solution to their concerns.

Nobody seems to be listening, however.

If you analyse the so-called Melanesian Way you come up with a scenario which is not unlike socialism.

In PNG this socialism is still very much enacted in the rural areas.

However it is not enacted in one large rural constituency but rather within small clan structures.

Where there is a commonality of custom between adjacent clans it is possible to say that it has a tribal base. This is as big as it gets however and there are hundreds of tribes in PNG.

In a modern democracy the expectation is that there will be a common purpose and set of ideals. This is explained and detailed in the constitution.

What PNG's constitution appears to have done is to take the ideals of numerous fragmented groups and meld them into a single common one.

This is the so-called Melanesian Way. In political lingo it tried to create a form of democratic socialism.

What the people who framed the constitution didn't realise was that PNG would become subject to a savage new form of capitalism driven by the phenomenon of globalisation.

One of the major features of globalisation is that it tramples over democratic socialism, even when it is as big as China.

So what you now have in PNG is a bunch of ravaging globalists aided and abetted by cohorts from overseas running roughshod over a large and confused population of basically democratic socialists.

I think I know who is going to win.

This doesn't mean that those democratic socialists out in the bush haven't got the right to protest.

It also doesn't mean that they cannot hold out the hope that against all odds they can modify the ravages of global capital and instil a little humanity into the process.

One way of doing this might be to elect politicians who have the interests of the people at heart.

Then again, pigs might fly.

KJ - You and I both have strong ideals; they are diferently-focussed in important aspects, but they are both positive and real.This also applies to those of Martyn.

We are all three idealists. This is not a matter of semantics; ones ideals may change as one learns, gains experience, and/or ages; but once an idealist always an idealist. That is not the question here.

In the archives of Attitude there are two pieces I contributed about the nature of the Melanesian Way and tribalist culture and its underpinning assumptions as these affect the progress of a very quickly modernising society.

The Way, as espoused by many including Martyn and the late bernard Narakobi is tribalist, and basically defensive, inward-looking and chauvinist, all of which conflicts with the emergence of nationhood and nationalistic philosophy.

Like Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, parts of the Balkans and many nations in Africa, tribalism is at the basis of both logic and everyday ethics in PNG and this is where its problems as a proto-democracy and a fair society arise.

The positive facets of The Way provide a level of safety and social security throughout life for those who comply with its rules, and this is a blessing for most PNG'ans as no other institution except the mainstream Christian denominations is at all concerned for their welfare and advancement.

But adherence to the tenets of The Way is not the way to a fair, free and sustainably prosperous society, a future which PNG may realistically aspire to and achieve if the concept of nationhood, equality, and honesty in both public and private life were to become prevalent.

As things are, thes elemnts are demonstrably not present, and they may only arise with the combined full enlightenment and excercise of the willpower of the people.

Martyn - Whilst I admire your spirit and energy and your first-rate powers of expression, I think you should look hard at your analysis of PNG's failure to establish fair shares of common wealth and acceptable access to health, education and impartial justice for its citizens.

As shown here, your analysis and conclusions, whilst typical of a young idealistic man, are not a good foundation for your exposition of what is wrong and what might be done in PNG to restore rights and equity.

Many in your soon-to-be Australian audience will dismiss much of your argument, not because they are arrogant or ignorant, but because it is so obviously shallow and driven by wrongly-focussed frustration and an unrealistic understanding of what constitutes the Melanesian Way..

Good luck and dont hate me too much. PNG lives in the present and it must find solutions for its difficulties from within the wisdom of this age, not from that of a distant and very different past.

Logic is not a constant; it is a product of the ruling social environment.

I think, as with much of what John writes, that is more than a little harsh. Without idealism, we all wither. Without youth, we all die - KJ

Just one example of a "correct way", Michael.

If the government is planning on some "development" e.g. school, road, hospital, etc, then the relevant government department should call for tenders, and the best tender is accepted.

The job doesn't just go to the wantok of the local member who gets his percentage. The relevant department oversees the work and the money is not paid until the job is done.

I meant things should follow the correct procedure so there is no corruption, the job is well done and the benefits flow to the grassroots.

A sixth R, Rules.

Semantics are sometimes a useful sticking point, especially in the hands of a lawyer, which I'm not, and, although I don't like to run a nit-picking agenda, I think Barbara may find this louse to be reasonably irritating to have done with: what do we mean by 'development must be carried out in a correct way...'?

I think that the idea of 'correct' development is at the heart of our resource misuse, the very bone of contention between governments, industry/developers, communities/landowners, NGO's, activists, etc and us irregulars of the blogoshere.

Perhaps we are all trying too hard, each in our own way, to achieve something that may infact be unattainable - correct development - by whatever or more importantly whoever's definition.

After all, man's actions towards development always have some kind of downside or negative impact whether we see it or not, from something as basic as access to running water and flushing your toilet to burning fossil fuels or eating Big Mac's in Japan.

Methinks that 'appropriate and agreeable' development are what we really want to achieve, because appreciating that reality enables all parties to be better prepared to meet at the dealing table with the awareness that some kind of consensus and rational talk about what we are willing to compromise (or how much/far e.g. environmental effects vs damage) must be the outcome and not our own railroaded, tunnel visioned idea of 'what do I get out of this'.

That is, our own ideas of correct development, e.g., villagers want roads and access to services, logging company gives them unsealed roads and temporary clinics, government expects company to seal roads and tells people that, but developer says otherwise, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

This unclear thinking that 'it's all about what I get from development' is part of the reason why there are hidden agenda's, companies use divide and rule tactics, the MP's misinform their constituents and the whole development plan goes awry from the start (social problems and criminal acts aside!).

Some reasoned thinking is needed.

In my mind that is the one of five R's needed in a working democracy; Rights, Respect, Reason, Responsibility and Reverence.

If only the politicians could have your brains and the love you have for helping the grassroots, life would be so much better, God bless you, keep up the good work.

Yes, well said. And you have stated your case.

You represent the grassroots, the People's Party.

You no doubt understand that to help the people you need money and economic development can bring money.

But development must be carried out in a correct way and the benefits must flow on to the grassroots.

Well said.

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