PAUL OATES / with a comment from David Kitchnoge
AUSTRALIAN COMMENTATORS AND JOURNALISTS have recently identified a large island immediately to our north.
This may well have something to do with the Papua New Guinea general elections that seem to generate a predicable array of corruption and maladministration stories so beloved of the Australian media.
Yet the real issues should be starting to polarize for anyone who has spent more than a modicum of thought about our nearest neighbour.
Put simply, why would the same or similar system of government apparently being practised in both Australia and PNG seemingly work in one country and not another? The answer is quite simply: Tribalism.
One could quickly point out that tribalism is alive and well and actively practised in Australia. Go to any State of Origin NRL match and see it on show.
Look at the sales of football jerseys in tribal colours being offered for sale and being snapped up by avid supporters of either the Blues or the Maroons who are often seen with multi coloured paint on their faces.
Cane toads and Cockroaches are tame labels when the competitive juices start flowing.
Try going to Melbourne when any AFL match is on and ignoring the tribal colours on show or girls at the stadium in skimpy skirts and bunches of streamers stirring up the emotions of the crowd prior to the match.
The ancient Romans would have appreciated the spectacle as being very familiar but probably wonder why there were referees and rules for stopping the bloodshed before too many deaths occurred.
However concerning national issues, these primordial emotions are able to be put aside when it comes time to vote in general elections or defend our country in time of war. So why is this possible in Australia but not apparently so in today’s PNG?
The issue is simply one of perspective. If a PNG person is fortunate enough to receive an education and enter a larger world, that person’s perspectives change and they become able to see the forest and without concentrating on the trees.
They themselves and their influence are then unfortunately often liable to be dismissed by the ne’er do well and labelled ‘elite’. The opportunity to use positions of power to assist tribal associates then becomes a powerful force in order not to be completely isolated from the tribe.
The problem is that the vast majority of PNG’s population has been trapped in a time warp where they still live in an underdeveloped, mostly unserviced, rural environment with very little hope of improving their everyday lives.
Old habits die hard. The tribe has been the source of communal wealth and solidarity. Why would they ignore this traditionally important aspect since there is no real alternative being offered to them?
So perhaps the question should really be asked: ‘What can Australia do?’
David Kitchnoge responds:
INDEED PAUL OATES is right in saying that the chaos and madness we are seeing in the Highlands has its roots in tribalism.
But what is the difference in the PNG sense of tribalism and the Australian sense of tribalism? Australia is a country of settlers whereas we are a country of indigenous people.
It follows then that when a Papua New Guinean talks tribalism, we are talking about our own flesh and blood and not some neighbour who has no connection whatsoever to us other than the physical proximity of where we live.
So to answer Paul’s question: What can Australia do? The honest answer is "nothing".
One would expect the so called educated people to lead the way in changing their people’s perspectives and world views. But these are the same people who are perpetuating the raw and primordial tribal emotions.
It's a hopeless situation. Sigh…I feel beaten.