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22 December 2013


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G'day Phil, With the greatest of respect, I think that you may just be kidding yourself about PNG. While I think that I understand and sympathise with the sentiments you have expressed, I doubt that you or any of us who were kiaps will ever truly be over it.

It seems to me that ex-kiaps are, in some ways, rather like veterans who have been in a war zone: we'd like to think that our experiences can be rationalised, categorised and filed away as is the case for so much else that happens to us in life.

Then we become older and for some reason these experiences come back to "haunt" us. They are too vivid, too confronting and, sometimes at least, too traumatic to ever stay filed away in a cerebral "box' labelled PNG.

These memories also are the siren songs of our youth, melodies that linger in the air, muted but never forgotten. They can neither be denied, wished away or otherwise cast out. They are us.

All the youthful, optimistic dreams that we may have dreamt about how PNG could be or might be or should be in the future are still with us too. This is why so many of us feel the sort of existential dismay that you seem to feel about how things have turned out. The sometimes crushing weight of disappointment intrudes into even the most pleasant memories of a country and people that most of us have a deep affection for and wish, above all, to reach its full but as yet unrealised potential.

So, while I think I know how you feel, I don't think that I can say that I'm over it, at least not in this life.

"The problem is very much the same as what happened when we, the ‘outside men’ arrived and brought new ideas to PNG. Suddenly the old men in the village and their knowledge became irrelevant".

That's a very interesting thought Paul. Was that the genesis of PNG's current problems? Were we the base cause?

Sil Bolkin and others decry the demise of the men's houses and suggest that life had more meaning when they flourished.

However, when I thought a bit more about it and reflected on the state of villagers in remote areas still practising a traditional lifestyle when I was there I don't recall seeing anything especially attractive.

In a few areas life was idyllic but in most places life was positively Hobbsian. In 1651 Hobbes, an atheist, said that humanity's natural condition is a state of perpetual war, with life being "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". That pretty much sums up what pre-contact PNG life was like.

I have these bi-annual dummy spits with PNG but this latest one, influenced by the idiot Speaker and his cohorts, seems to be somehow more serious.

Is it possible to yell at a country and say, "For goodness sake, grow up and get your act together?"

Probably not.

In my previous ramblings I wandered off he path of my original thoughts relating to he pertinent matters in Phil’s article, i.e. Old Age and Wisdom.

One of the more recent social developments in this strange old world we inhabit has been the development of the Men’s Shed movement.

Started some years ago as an initiative of Beyond Blue and Rotary this organisation has blossomed profusely throughout Australia with some 900 clubs now registered and links to similar organisations overseas.

The popularity of this movement is reflective of the redundant nature of our contemporary our society and how older male folk have struggled to find their identity post working life.

Although I am not a member of any Men’s Shed it is interesting to note that in my patch the local men’s shed has some 260 members and growing.

Understandable as Buderim has always been a popular retirement area for previous interstate residents who, because of the tyranny of distances, in later years find themselves isolated from their extended family members.

For anyone interested in this matter check out the following link

Phil, A very philosophical piece I thought.

My good wife reckons I am turning into my father.
Initially annoyed I have become quite comfortable in my old skin and can always come back to the rejoinder” Well you did take me for better or worse”.

In reality, however, I sometimes feel that at time I am returning to my childhood especially in the physical sense that I have become a skinny and scrawny old codger similar to my appearance when a nipper.

There is nothing wrong with being a grumpy old man especially when one is confronted by TV shows bearing the banner of the same name which masquerade as humour and whose participants, although trying to espouse wisdom, are far to young to have acquired the hidden secrets of life.

Life’s pathways take all us in strange directions but for most of us lead only to empty cul de sacs and dry gullies littered with empty rum bottles.

One’s aspects on life is more than likely influenced by past events and our memories of the past are firmly fixed on mostly pleasant memories that offer solace in our later old age reflections.

My recollections on my early days in PNG seem limited to odd circumstances that remain permanently fixed in my memory.

When I first ventured to PNG as a young man the first shock to the system was the culture clash I experienced on landing.

Although partially educated in the cultures of the new society I was about to encounter nothing was ever mentioned at ASOPA about the expatriate culture on offer.

When I eventually arrived in my first appointment in the wilds of West New Britain, my first impressions was I had returned to a time warp where the European culture of the 1950’s predominated and social interactions revolved around social events and partying.

This was quite alien to a young fella who had been brought up in the fast moving cosmopolitan life style of Sydney in the late 1960s.

A couple of years later I warmed to the friendship on offer although at time when I returned to Australia on leave I again had to readjust to a society on the move both philosophically and economically then only to return the lotus land that was PNG in those days.

That was the conundrum I guess. Leaving the participant covered in mud from both cultures.

I agree with you. I have felt and feel the same as you have described.

Well lapun Phil, you have just enunciated THE paradox of our current times. The issue of what is happening in today’s PNG is merely symptomatic of a greater issue that is plaguing society.
Human society is at a cross roads and yet no one dares to take a ‘helicopter’ view of why?

Throughout human history those who have managed to live to an elderly age have been venerated and respected. Younger people were trained to be aware that seniors were the repository of knowledge based on actual experience. Those who wanted to succeed in their ambitions felt that before they started their journey, they consulted those who had already been there and tried to learn from the mistakes others may have made.

For you and me and our peers, that tradition has now been turned on its head. Why would anyone take the time and effort to consult with their parents or seniors they know if you can instantly check via your mobile phone whatever you need via the internet? Age and experience count for very little these days so the lessons of history are subsequently often ignored.

The problem is very much the same as what happened when we, the ‘outside men’ arrived and brought new ideas to PNG. Suddenly the old men in the village and their knowledge became irrelevant.

The real problem is that the wonders of the human brain have yet to be fully replicated by machines. This is because there is a subtle difference between obtaining information from the impersonal internet and obtaining information from people who actually have specialised knowledge about the issue AND may have a genetic makeup similar to your own. That amalgam has previously allowed human beings to empirically benefit and evolve to the point where we can send humans into outer space. Yet we also today can’t seem to stop wars and the overpopulation that is constantly causing misery and ruining our planet.

We therefore have quite a bit to get grumpy about don’t we?
What we really have to do is to put our thinking caps on and work out a way around this current impasse. Maybe we have to learn to how to effectively promote the amalgam of a senior’s experience and knowledge, blend it with the available knowledge on line and then get the younger generation to understand the benefits so achieved if they are consulted?

Whoever succeeds in that quantum leap may well end up creating the next crop of world leaders.

Bai yumi inap lo lukim displa samting ikamap bihain oa bai yumi stap pinis lo matmat? Husat i savi wantok?

Phil, I loved your piece. You get to the heart of the matter.

Season's Greetings and the best of wishes to Keith and all associated with PNG ATTITUDE!

Funny thing that, Phil. I have the same, exactly identical symptoms.

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