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14 January 2014


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I apologise if I have upset any Japanese people by calling them Japs but I was using the name in reference to World War II, when, as a child I can remember they were usually referred to as the Japs in my family.

My father loathed the Japanese for what they did during World War II but during my life time I have had good friendships with Japanese people. We have to remember the bad things that took place in the past and try not to let them be repeated.

You mentioned my reference to the Indonesians being "short of land". I taught Indonesian geography and history over many years and can remember the transmigrations schemes, especially the ones into Irian Jaya.

I also travelled through Java and lived with the local people and visited the farms and helped to plant out the rice. I knew what I was talking about in my geography lessons in those days!

Phil's article referred a lot to various religions causing troubles.

The people of PNG should study the history of Indonesia and read of their great empire in the past when they were Buddhists. And they need to study the religion of Bali which I seem to remember is Hindu.

I remember on one of my trips to Bali in the early 1970s, before it was spoilt by tourism, having some interesting discussions with an Indonesian scholar on the differences between their religion and Christianity. He was keen to point out the similarities.

I think it is good that the teachers from some of these new Schools of Excellence in PNG are visiting top schools in Indonesia to share their ideas on curriculum development and other school matters.

There is so much that Papua New Guinea could learn from Indonesia e.g. informal economy, small to medium businesses, small hydro-electricity schemes, appropriate technology etc. They have a lot of skills that would be excellent to pass on to the people of PNG.

In the 1970s I visited the slums of Djakarta where families were living in appalling conditions and there were many malnourished children. I see on TV programs that Djakarta is now a much improved city but from other programs I can see that there are still areas where poverty is rife.

In a few months Australians and New Zealanders will be again commemorating Anzac Day. That's the battlefield where we as two previous colonial nations were supposed to have 'come of age'.

Yet we were in reality merely colonial cannon fodder for at least one disreputable Anglo Irish commander (Phil, please note) who, after 50,000 men under his so called command had died and another nearly 150,000 wounded, went home to die in bed some two decades afterwards.

What are we really commemorating therefore? It is the sacrifice that others have made of our behalf whether we were around at the time or not.

However in the greater picture of human nature, and since every human has the same genetic make up having come from the same East African origins, we are in effect prisoners of our own genes.

Warfare, plague, famine, natural disasters are the only effective way of reducing overpopulation. In this grand exercise of human folly, we have to be motivated by some external threat in order to unleash the latent forces withing us.

Religion is merely one tool that can be used by those who seek to further their own ambitions. Look at the thousands who follow football and paint their faces, wear coloured uniforms and scream about their team? Have we progressed past the Roman mob? I don't think so.

Politicians are unable or unwilling to confront the real problem. Bread and circus's rule. Are we any better?

Will PNG start commemorating Tony Huai as the Victor of Vanuatu in the future as a diversion from reality? Husat isavi?

You're right, of course, Peter: we all have particular terms to describe the 'other', some friendly, jocular even, and some outright derogatory. And even formerly derogatory terms (e.g. 'wog' in Australia) can become 'acceptable' over time.

We can also be woefully unaware of how certain terms can cause offence. I remember when, as Editor of the PNG School Papers back in the late '60s, I wrote (plagiarised, if I'm honest with myself) a story called 'Ah Sam the Chinaman' - and received a number of complaints from outraged members of the PNG Chinese community. I had had no idea that 'Chinaman' was considered offensive. In similar vein, it was only recently that I was advised, in no uncertain fashion, that Caucasian South Africans objected being called 'yarpies'. I had thought that it was almost a term of endearment!

The crux of my post regarding 'Jap' was that we need to be sensitive to, and respectful of the feelings of the 'other'. Sometimes, as we all know, we can cause offence without even realising it ….

Ed - like Pom or Skip? All cultures have their terms for the perceived 'other'.

In PNG it seems to be 'bus kanaka'. In the past it was Simbu. I've scared a few Papuans and Islanders by declaring that my fiancée was a Simbu. It used to denote the worst of primitive Highlanders.

Rose finds this funny.

Phil: I fail to see, in one sense at least, how Indonesia would be 'worried' that the PNG government has declared that PNG is a Christian nation.

Indonesian authorities are already well aware that a preponderance of PNG citizens profess to be Christians and will see that the Christian state/nation declaration is, in some respects, simply an acknowledgement of that state of affairs.

Indonesian authorities will be, like me, more disappointed and puzzled that PNG has not adopted a more liberal, embracing and ecumenical national philosophical/spiritual foundation more akin to their own Pancasila philosophy.

That said, Indonesian authorities will be worried, (again like me), if the PNG declaration encourages and fosters militant Christian fundamentalism and a policy of intolerance towards those of other faiths (or no faith).

(The Indonesian government already takes a very hard line against militant Islamic militants whose intolerance breaches the Pancasila code (and, sadly, those who profess to have no religious faith.)

One can but hope that the actions and blatant intolerance of a few zealots in the PNG Parliament are not supported by the majority of PNGeans, and that those zealots are held in check by the moderate and tolerant majority. Otherwise, as you suggest, Indonesia will be worried …. as we all should be.

Keith, Barbara: I cannot allow the use of the term 'Jap' to pass without comment. Japanese people take great offence at the use of this term to describe them, in much the same way that Afro-Americans are offended by the use of the term 'n..g..r'. Allowing the term to be used on PNG Attitude is most unbecoming, unprofessional and offensive.

I'm puzzled, also, by Barbara's assertion that Indonesia might need a one child policy because Indonesians 'seem to be always short of land'. Are they short of land or not? Or does it just seem that they are?

If they are short of land, then it makes absolute sense and serves their interests for them to seek to acquire our cattle stations.

The English, Americans, Japanese, Norwegians and, more recently, the Chinese, along with the likes of Macquarie Bank and who knows who else have been acquiring 'our' cattle stations for years. What difference will it make if the Indonesians do likewise?

"Jap (ジャップ) is an English abbreviation of the word "Japanese." Today it is generally regarded as an ethnic slur among Japanese minority populations in other countries, although English-speaking countries differ in the degree to which they consider the term offensive." - Wikipedia

Thanks Phil, nice over-reaction.

Papua New Guineans know and understand (to the very core) that 98% of her population is Christian - whether in deed, character and strict adherence is up to anyone's guess.

What one must also learn to appreciate is that, the nation's people and its leaders will at some times decide issues of national destiny and aspiration on her own - without the thoughtful counsel and wisdom of others.

What Papua New Guinea is mindful of is "the fear of doing nothing" and always succumbing to experts opinions and judgements.

Australia has its own issues to deal with Indonesia. We will not lecture her on how to deal with the boat loads of foreigners and all.

West Papua deserves international attention - and rightly so from Australia, New Zealand and all her Melanesian sister countries.

The genocide and theft of natural resources in West Papua is a crying shame for the UN and the "free and democratic countries" of the world.

Thanks for the Big Picture, Phil.
But we won't be here to do anything about it!

But it really isn't that long since 1942 with the coming of the Japs! And look how the Fuzzy Wuzzy angels and the Aussies coped.

The Indonesians seem to always be short of land. I hear they want our cattle stations! Maybe they need a one child policy like the Chinese.

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