SELF-preservation and self-worth begin when we admit and deal with the overarching presence of the demon “masta” planted in our collective psyche.
In every facet of our lives, we are seeking approval and acceptance of our conduct, both consciously and unconsciously, by our internal masta who is ever present in our minds.
This was evident when I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a newly constructed bridge on a rural road in Papua New Guinea.
A government minister was speaking to the singsing bilas-adorned villagers and a handful of educated elites from the ministerial party.
As the minister addressed the crowd in English, I stood there scratching my head. Why didn’t he deliver the speech in Pidgin, a language all the people in attendance understood?
A minor incident, I agree, yet it spoke volumes about how we continue to enable the internal masta.
The Minster, a high office holder, felt obliged to demonstrate his great achievement to his internal masta, talking, and posturing as if to say ‘how well am I doing?’
This sad example was the manifestation of the inferiority complex buried in our collective psyche.
It was an attempt to show the achievement of the masta’s skillsets, however inappropriate it was in this rural location.
The outsiders officially left PNG on Independence Day. Yet the scars of their psychological footprints were left behind to become part of our psyche and forever haunt us.
This is seen throughout the fabric of PNG society. A security officer gives a pass to an expatriate but not to a local fellow, irrespective of the local’s qualifications or status in the community.
Local women are assumed to be shoplifters or at least untrustworthy. Their bilums are searched harshly, but not so the shopping bag of the expatriate lady.
Expats who are ill are reluctant to consult a local doctor, or forcefully second guess their considered medical opinion.
Such less preferential treatment is a regular experience of our people. But we accept it as normal.
We internalise it as our fault and feel obliged to apologise, mi sori tru boss, as if we had done something wrong.
And these are our own people treating fellow locals as if we were less worthy.
Such perverse behaviour is reinforced by the continuing presence of expatriate consultants of dubious expertise; their presence alone perpetuating the notion that locals are not good enough.
Many organisations spend a fortune hiring experts to continue to subjugate local knowledge and expertise.
That said, some of our own countrymen are the worst. They feel they have made it, so they project themselves like a masta.
Employment processes and system are used to validate the concept that Papua New Guineans can never measure up. Locals are confined to a junior status, to be managed by and answerable to expatriates of often unwarranted rank.
Promotion seems to be based on arbitrary standards, subjectively established to keep qualified locals away from upward mobility. In every profession, many Papua New Guineans experience such double standards.
And so we have riveted in our psyche the masta-kanaka relationship. It looks like it will require generations to detox ourselves and get it out of our systems forever.
The internal masta, who we constantly feel we have to please and which generate misplaced arrogance has to be understood.
Because it is about understanding ourselves, our self-worth, our dignity and our self-esteem.
We must embrace values grounded in the Melanesian virtues of humility, identity and peoplehood.