LEON TROTSKY, who famously met his death by ice pick, reckoned you can only trigger a revolution after an acute changes in people’s consciousness when a bunch of social and economic rocks drop from the sky, deeply upsetting everyone.
Well, he probably said it better than that.
In his book Revolutions and Revolutionary Movements, academic James DeFronzo identifies five crucial factors in the development and success of a revolutionary movement.
DeFronzo says there has to be mass discontent leading to popular revolt; dissident political movements with elite participation; a strong unifying motivation across a large part of society; a major political crisis which reduces the state’s ability to deal with opposition; and external support (or at least, lack of interference).
Papua New Guinea doesn’t tick most of those boxes. It is fragmented, there is no sign of widespread discontent that might change the status quo, the majority of the population is insulated from the political process (and probably is not interested in it or understanding of it) and there is no focal point of massive discontent – certainly Belden Namah’s shrunken Opposition does not offer that at present.
Thus the dissidents’ squeaks and squawks aimed at the body politic can be safely ignored by those who govern Papua New Guinea.
(By the way, despite what Gabriel Ramoi argues, the venal and selfish behaviour of many politicians is not an expression of the people's will - the people would be aghast at what politicians do in their name.)
Unlike in countries which have a strong and penetrating media and a well-educated and action-oriented population, public opinion means nothing in PNG. It’s just background noise. Most PNG politicians would not be distracted by it in the slightest.
So when I look at where PNG might be headed, I do not see revolution, I see fission. Breakaway influences rather than a revolutionary mood.
I believe fragmentation represents a real and future danger to a centralised body politic that sees public office as a route to personal enrichment and not as a means of addressing the needs of its people who are increasingly starved of even the most basic services.
As Phil Fitzpatrick said in his original article, Australia’s role in this quagmire of social impoverishment has been scandalous.
There have been many billions of dollars in aid since Independence but PNG remains a country where, apart from some transitory impact, the benefits of aid seem to dissipate like water on dry sand.
That said, despite the antics of its politicians from time to time, Australia is PNG’s closest and staunchest ally and a source of considerable influence.
It should be more energetic in expressing that influence.
Perhaps Australia can learn something from the Chinese and their soft power diplomacy.