I’M busily following along behind Inspector Metau as he brings his latest case to a conclusion in my third book on the inimitable detective’s pursuit of justice and a good life.
(You can download the first two Inspector Metau sagas here.)
The beauty of long-form writing is that it allows time for contemplation and reflection. The process also sparks satellite spot fires all over the place which I can then use to annoy the readers of PNG Attitude.
One of those little fires that has been smouldering for a while is the ongoing failure of Papua New Guinea to register significantly on the Australian consciousness.
This is something we have been discussing and deploring on PNG Attitude for what seems like forever.
In all those discussions the assumption has been made that it is somehow the fault of the Australian public.
I’m not sure that is wholly true.
I was reminded of this when I recently caught up with a friend with whom I had worked in post-independent Papua New Guinea.
One of his favourite lines whenever anything went wrong was, “It wouldn’t happen in a real country.”
He may have had something there.
I also recently came across a reference by Kiwi poet Allen Curnow written in 1945. He said New Zealand “remains to be created – should I say invented – by writers, musicians, architects, publishers; even a politician might help – and how many generations does that take?”
I think we can say the same thing about Papua New Guinea. It surely exists as a physical place of great beauty but that is not enough.
Curnow also said, “Triumphs in the fields of art, music and literature form nothing less than an emotional history, a kind of story-truth that cloaks itself around the skeleton of fact.”
Is Papua New Guinea still such a skeleton? I think so.
Why do America and the United Kingdom figure so prominently in our minds if not through their literature, art and music, much of it translated into the modern forms of film and television?
Curnow is right. It is those things that have contributed to America and Britain’s greatness, the greatness that Brexit voters and, just recently, Donald Trump think is slipping away.
But Trump is a businessman. He hasn’t got the sense to see beyond the deal. He doesn’t realise that America’s greatness first required a consciousness of itself. That is what spurred it to become the industrial, military and cultural powerhouse it is today.
Curnow died in 2001 but he would be pleased to know that his small country, through its literature, art and music, has now found the reality he thought was missing in 1945.
Papua New Guinea and its politicians could learn a valuable lesson by observing America, Britain, New Zealand and Australia and display a bit more interest in its writers, artists and musicians.
But I guess, like Trump, most of them see themselves as businessmen.