IN THE NOSTALGIC DAYS OF OLD, Simbu fathers used to be hard working. This culture of hard work was kept intact and passed from one generation to the next until Christianity and western influences destroyed the hausman in the Simbu.
The men’s house was the central forum where all abled bodied men and their male offspring convened to listen to Simbu versions of the Roman and Greek philosophers, the Socrates and Aristotles, in the evenings.
Ethics and morality, planning and budgeting, warfare and peace, weather patterns and astronomy, and much else were all diligently taught to the youths in the twilight of the glowing embers of the fireplace. The girls had similar formations in the women’s house.
The outcome was that all youths 15 -24 became men by definition. They were able to cultivate land, build houses for their mothers, craft war shields, bows and arrows, and hunt long into the night in the forests and return with hauls of possum, cassowary and pig.
No one was a liability to the clan or tribe unless they had a disability. Each person was productive. If you check old missionary and patrol records and diaries you will see black and white pictures of grand feasts of pigs and garden produce.
The bride price ceremonies were aesthetic masterpieces imbued with dignity and beauty. They were the sum of the thoroughness of the teaching in the men’s and women’s houses.
The late 1980s saw a mass influx of small matchbox houses spring up all over Simbu, over-shadowing the men’s houses. Youths congregated into these matchboxes and hung posters of Kylie Minogue, Tom Cruise and Mal Meninga. They refused to listen to the sages.
They saw the men’s houses as shitholes. They assumed that their Grade 10 or 12 education was bigger than the collective knowledge of the sages, who in both the peaks and troughs of Simbu life stood tall like the great landmarks of Porol Scarp or Dik Pe.
In these matchbox houses, the boys and girls now try the father- and-mother game before they are ritually eligible.
Most sleep until 10 in the morning escaping the ideal time to go to the garden. If they do go, they work for only 10 minutes or so and seldom think of cultivating new land.
If you cook a lamb flap, these lazy buggers and their consorts devour the bones as well but if you tell them to go to the pigsty or lead the goats to the shade, they refuse outright.
Some youths disrespectfully shun the advice of illiterate parents by speaking to them in English or Pidgin.
The sum of this disobedience is a sprouting number of unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate children, HIV infection, failure in school, addiction to marijuana and marriage without knowing how to cultivate land and feed offspring.
As life wears on and they realise they cannot cope, they run to Kundiawa, Lae, Madang or Port Moresby to sit on their bums and play with mobile phones all day while selling betel nut and smokes. They are lucky that most people chew and smoke.
Others decide to walk the streets and traffic lights selling Chinese fake goods. A few become the henchmen of intending political candidates and get free feeds from the campaign houses and sleep on beds loaned to them for the night. If they are lucky they have a sex worker as a blanket.
If, in the midst of this chaos, an honest working class Simbu man comes home on leave from wherever he works in PNG or abroad, the lazy buggers will converge on him like flies.
One will say: “We are already agreed that you will stand for the coming national elections. We have all planted the cordyline (tanget) in your name.”
Another will say: “The Councillor’s daughter, who has just finished high school, asked for you.”
Someone else will say: “You have won in spirit. All you need to do is nominate and stand for the election.”
No matter that they have said the same to every working man who has come home to Simbu for a break. Whilst this flattery abounds, more people converge and add to and affirm the previous remarks. They are unified in this demagogy business and they know what words to spit out.
If he goes to the bank or the store, there is a mob outside waiting to escort him, saying that with them he will be safe. This for someone who should be safe in his home province anyway.
The poor guy, if not strong in mind, will fall for the flattery and forget about his plans for his time with family.
The spur of the moment now controls most Simbu men. The guy will soar to cloud nine. “Folks, 10 cartons of beer, drink, sing my name and before the sun sets you will have 10 more cartons.”
At this announcement, the con men will squeeze each other’s hands and wink in celebration of trapping the poor guy.
At dawn, the one-day millionaire will sleep like a dead rokrok (frog) facing the sky in the drenching rain without his clothes. The con men will have disappeared taking his belt, shoes and shorts.
They will never return with sugar cane or bananas for the guy and his family. They are off to find their next victim. The poor guy will awake and look in his wallet and realise all his money has disappeared and his bank account balance is in the vicinity of zero.
His wife and children will starve and wither. The one-day millionaire has travelled back to reality. He will have to run up to Mt Hagen and apply for a loan to sustain his leave in Simbu.
Many Simbu men, even though they are very well educated, succumb to these con men in Kundiawa and the villages. Consequently, very few Simbus become businessmen, let alone owning a house or land in the city to house themselves.
They live in cramped ghettos in Port Moresby or elsewhere with wantoks or tambus because of their own gullibility and inability to decipher flattery from good discourse.
On the other hand, as the numbers of lazy buggers grows exponentially in Simbu, one wonders at the ability of Simbu to produce enough garden produce and animals to sustain them all.
As it is, even the gardens and animals of the hard working ones are not safe due to the increment in thievery perpetrated by these lazy individuals.