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25 July 2014


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Are not all idealists yearning and wanting a better society for all of us?

We may be idealists but if one cares to look at the recent political drama, some people have stood up more than others for what they thought was right, and some paid the price for it.

Students have raised their concerns and spoken against certain decisions that they thought were wrong.

NGOs have organised protests and individuals have written to the media and on social media.

Many commentators on this blog have expressed their concerns and so forth.

We may be idealists but let us take courage from the fact that others have come out to stand for what is right for this country.

The explosive social media development in recent years, have given tooth to people's voice - still a development but there is hope.

No noticeable dent made yet but nevertheless many people have stood up. A good thing for a start.

The changes happening in our society are like a landslide - everything in its path is being moved and even trees with deep roots succumb to the weight of the mass. A single tree is unable to contain the movement.

A big stand of trees can reduce the impact, but when it comes to Papua New Guineans faithfully standing up for a cause, it is as scarce as finding chicken with teeth.

As individuals we believe we have the answer but collectively we think it is someone else's job.

We are unwilling to pay the price for what we believe and that is why we will remain just that - idealists - as we watch our people getting more and more lost in this transition from village to cities as our leaders continue to take advantage of the situation and con us some more.

Thank you Michael, Maureen and Sil. Appreciate your responses.

Countryman, old sages died away gradually whilst we were still in school. The sages died with all their wealth of knowledge and experience, leaving a little bit to those who were beside them during their old age. But all is lost, it seems.

I have seen highlanders in Port Moresby who are born at 3 Mile and are now becoming bubus. Some have not seen Simbu yet.

Do they and their children have a culture or were they given informal lessons in Port Moresby on when the Papuan Blacks come out in the night, when they retreat so hunters can go barefoot into the savannah grassland hunting magani, what is the bush herbal remedy for curing snakebite, etc. I don't think so.

The diaspora and internal migration dilutes all cultures. We are fast becoming pseudo-whites. Mi wari tru.

Thanks, John, for the article and your responses.

I think a simple answer to your question of which development model to follow is to take rural agrarian development as the focus.

Allowing village people to continue to sustain their livelihoods by making real contributions through samall-scale agriculture as well as cash crops.

I don't believe we have done everything we can in those sectors.

The national economy may be built on extractive industries, but the 'people's economy' is growing stuff and selling it.

As long as consumerism and materialism are embraced in the cities and towns, their effect will trickle into the villages.

I see villages with solar panels on sago-thatched roofs, I see electricity flowing into bush material houses, I see roots rice and ox and palm replacing kaukau or yams and pork or fish, panadol replacing kawawar, and pistols replacing good old 'stretim toktok'.

There is no way these 'introduced' materials or food will be kept out of the reach of those not in cities or towns.

Change is happening and it is inevitable.

The fact that there is little or no encouragement by leading authorities (correct me if I'm wrong) on sustainable means of living/traditional lifestyle where a villager is relied on for transport (canoe) or accommodation (house) and food (taro, yam, kaukau, kainkain kumu), medicine (knowledge of medicinal plants, herbs and spices) and more importantly mutual ways of resolving conflicts and oral history.

These traditions steeped in culture will change too. And in the case of this article, some of the practices will die with their custodians.

True that tourism can promote and preserve the culture, but is it in for the long haul or is it random?

Our people will put their time and energy more into what will sustain them over a long period than a one-day or a one-month event.

And long after all the buzz, award-winning documentaries and flashing lights have gone, they will still practice what they have been doing for generations, most of the time without outside help.

It is sustainable development now that we must pursue and encourage over most other options to help all of us, time travellers, to move on with time and still move with our time-tested knowledge and skills.

Michael and Chris - Thanks for the responses. I provide my feedback below.

I am providing a perspective predicated on the reality of change being the only thing that seem to be constant – change in all its forms.

While we are being sucked into them, once in a while I think it is wise and prudent to develop a perspective. This is mine, and I do not intend to impose it on others.

Among all that is going on, cultivating a perspective can be a good thing. I have touched on the need to combine what we have through our heritage with what we are experiencing so that we become better cultured people.

Apart and beyond that it does not matter what you want or how much of something you want, as long as some acquires something and materials within the bounds of law, why not.

I have learnt many things from my grandparents. One of them is to eat protein sparingly, especially modern processed meat such as chicken and lamb. Many young Papua New Guineans are dying young from lifestyle diseases, so that perspective proved worthwhile to me.

Mr grandparents also told me that the younger generations are getting lazier. Bush knives, spades and forks and axes have replaced the stone tools that but he still thought that younger generations were more lazy in using these tools to till the land.

We are in a very culturally diverse society so let there be as many perspectives and views as there are the societies and cultures!

Michael made a point about our societies and the 700 cultures coming under enormous pressures to the lure of consumerism, western entertainment, education and employment and search for a better life.

While I agree that there is such a pressure, I do not agree that these pressures have affected all societies and cultures at the same level and intensity.

You find that some societies and cultures in the very remote and rural areas have given up being part of mainstream societies and they have different priorities because of the model of development we are currently pursuing.

A superfluous and incompatible development model will probably put us under pressure – some of the point Michael put forward probably fall under this category.

There is nothing wrong in wanting material things, but probably wanting everything and more and now may pose a problem. For example, too much of a good thing like processed foods and a certain lifestyle have killed many of our people.

Sadly we will continue to lose more of our young, educated and bright people to lifestyle diseases – is this then the result of having too much of the good thing.

I do not pretend to be blind to the things that are happening all around us. We are not locked away in a prehistoric community with all its primitive trappings.

Change therefore is inevitable. We are being introduced to them. But instead of being sucked into them completely I can be like the eagle and have a bird’s eye view of society. All of should do that and let no one stand in judgement of others.

Yes we all want to have material things but those of you who have travelled the length and breadth of this country will know and admit that the tools and means to attract and access them must be provided.

One of the surest means for some may be through an education. Others will work the land and grow crops and commodities. Nothing wrong with those choices only that they are found in different situations and contexts.

People will continue to shift to the urban areas, towns and cities, and back and this will probably become a process for a long time to come. That is part of the process of urbanization and modernization.

But my point is that what sort of model? Do we pursue and adopt a western capitalist model and is that realistic.

I did not even touch on some of the other points Michael presented and I will not pretend to command sufficient energy to respond to them. I think many other commentators have touched on similar points elsewhere in this same forum.

But in the pursuit of life and development, for this country maybe for another thousand years, not everyone will have the same standard of living, not everyone will be educated, not everyone will be healthy and not everyone will have all the things he or she requires to live a comfortable life.

This among other things are the reasons why my point to combine the good of both worlds.

So my question is what development model should we pursue that identifies us as unique country and sets us apart from others so that our people will be truly healthy, wealthy, and wise?

John Kaupa Kamasua is quite right: we are all time travellers really.

Western civilisation (I use the latter word advisedly) is not a destination but an ongoing, self modifying process. It is thus not fixed in time at all and certainly has not attained a state even approaching perfection.

As John notes, there are elements of the Western or capitalist model that encourage behaviours that, in many people's judgement anyway, are clearly not sustainable.

In particular, the post World War 2 phenomenon of regarding people as economic units called "consumers" encourages disturbingly high levels of resource consumption to drive an endless cycle of growth.

Underlying this growth has been a whole range of strategies including mass marketing to create "need" where none previously existed, built in obsolescence to facilitate healthy turnover and the extension of credit to just about anyone who is vertical and breathing so as to create demand.

Somehow, I suspect that this is going to end badly for us all but, in the meantime, we are constantly being encouraged to enjoy the ride.

Hopefully, PNG will pick the bits of the capitalist model that will work for it, not the bits others may seek to impose.

Importantly, there are parts of PNG culture, notably land rights and the associated traditional uses of the land, that need to be protected and retained.

Most Papua New Guineans are likely to be reliant upon subsistence farming and hunting for a good while yet, so a move to a consumption based economy should be tightly managed in order to avoid being sucked into the capitalist maelstrom.

While I support the notion of holding on to our cultural roots, we need to be conscious of the archaic mentalities that may at times bring us down.

One such mentality is the dual notions of 'igat/nogat'.

For example, igat Toyota Landcruiser, nogat piped water. So we think its alright for our MP's to rock up to the village in the latest Five-door, but we go to the bush for a shit and our women fetch drinking water from the good stream way off in the bush. Yeah smart.

Another is, 'lusim ol kisim' - igat planti moa stap. So, don't worry we have lots of trees...that's the idea, right? Besides, what do trees have to do with our culture? And who really cares about the lintel above the Haus of Parliament doors?

And another is 'giraun i stap iet'.

For example, lusim ol kisim diwai/gol na salim, bihain bai mipela igo bek long gaten.

For example, the notion that 'giraun bilong mi stap iet na bai mi go bek long ples sampela taim' is no longer tenable for many people. What does this mean about their culture 30 years from now?

I believe we are mistaken to believe that our cultures which were moulded over thousands of years for very different constraints, challenges, opportunities and philosphies will necessarily help to maintain us in the 21st century.

Let's be realistic.

The very societies from which our 700 plus cultures emerged are under enormous pressures, both externally apparent, e.g. consumerism, Western entertainment and etcetera and internally, education, employment and the search for a better life.

We have pride in our cultures, but lets not be blind about the realities in today's society.

What we need to be concious of is that our village lifestyles need to be improved and maintained by: better roads and health services and schools, basic needs such as clean running water or tanks, affordable transport and shipping for commodities.

While we want to promote our cultures, we seem to forget that these cultures essentially developed 'in the bush'.

If we want to maintain our cultures, we have to protect and provide for our bush, our land and the people who still thrive there.

John Kaupa well stated. I realise the fundamental impacts of my heritage which I shall not deny.

A modern approach in an educational perspective will communicate appreciating and preserving the heritage.

Thanks Robin and Bomai. Your comments are well noted.


Good thoughts, John. You reinforce the need to maintain connection with heritage practices for the purpose of avoiding dependency on uncertain receipts and income sources.

I listened, last night, to an explanation of an emerging technology related to gasoline (petrol) derived from processing natural gas now in abundant supply the world over.

The importance of that is pertinent to its cost of production and ease of insertion into the market chain. They claim production costs of US $33 per barrel which is approximately half of the current production cost of crude oil refined petrol.

Not only that but the commercial availability is such that one plant can effectively produce over 90,000 barrels per day of petrol right from the start. The current sale price is expected to be around US$1.70 per gal (4 litres)

It is probably important to foment discussion and research into these aspects of technology as their availability in terms of utility is likely to be of great benefit to a cash strapped economy but one nonetheless possessed of great natural resources - fast being dissipated into the stream of world commerce with little to show -yet- in way of benefit.

Food security for PNG is really important. The heritage aspects of village life generally harbour the body of knowledge most associated with food production.
With the drift to urban sprawl of the younger generation, society is adapting to a dependent style of "tinpis" imported goods mentality.

This is not helpful to long term survival, physically or culturally.

John, we need to spread such gospel often and intensively for the current and future generation of PNGans to embrace what makes us as a people with noble and deep cultural heritage.

The way we choose to live now will change the future orientation of our children. Wakai wo.

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