I am thinking that I am a time traveller not a change traveller.
Commentators may say that Papua New Guinea is a country in transition, that we have not learned anything from our forefathers and that we are trying our very best to emulate the western way of life.
Those Papua New Guineans who think that way will most likely lose their sense of heritage and their ancient connections.
I am not in transition. I feel my heritage steeped deep in the past.
Those who preach “transition” and say we are caught in it imply that we are on our way to something and somewhere grander and better, perhaps even becoming a developed country.
I do not think moving from the village to the city is a serious structural change, although people may argue that it is in the sense of village and communities are fading away ceding to other collective forms.
But, no, I do not think I am caught in a transition at all. Rather, I would like to think that changes have latched themselves to me as I have travelled through time. I am a time traveller, not a change traveller.
Therefore, while I live my allocated life in terms of space and time, I can choose to embrace the kind of changes I want and reject the changes I do not want.
I am saying this asking whether we want to become a western nation, assuming its socio-economic and political outlook and characteristics.
We are a unique country, so that if we want to develop and progress it has to be on a path we can manage and at a pace we are able to cope with. It is OK to be different; being different can be good.
To pursue development so we become like the western countries is a flawed dream. And I don’t think we should model our progress along those lines.
I think our forefathers have left many legacies for us to follow and learn from. I have learnt so many good things from grandparents that have seen me in good stead on my journey so far.
PNG can and should be a unique country in which the avalanche of change does not destroy us or reconstruct us. We can learn the western ways but we must also retain the foundation knowledge and wisdom that has been passed on to us.
We must promote our own model of development. It is possible to do it and we can.
The Western model compels us to squander our natural resources: we need to have stuff; no one wants to be left behind or miss the action. But after our trees are cut down, our indigenous knowledge destroyed, endemic flora and fauna gone, the mineral resources drained from the earth’s belly, fish stock and marine life depleted, what will we be left with?
We must take the reins of our destiny now and plot our path. It is fundamental to who we are. Indeed, our very existence may depend on it.
Then we can be a proud, free and progressive but, more importantly, a unique country. A country in which education does not corrupt and transform us into something we are not, and in which the best of both worlds can be combined.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that we have always learnt to adjust and adapt without losing our identity and heritage.
That is the future I aspire to because I am moving forward on a time journey with my feet firmly planted in my heritage and identity.