Mood of hopelessness descends on PNG
Port Moresby wired for change

Gimme, gimme, gimme; or stay at home

BY PHIL FITZPATRICK

I HAVE A NUMBER of relatives, mostly on the other half’s side, who think that money makes the world go round.  One sister-in-law thinks it is impossible to live without the stuff and I can’t convince her otherwise.

I suppose in her narrow and insulated little north shore world that might be the case.  However, if you’ve lived in a place like Papua New Guinea you know that people can happily subsist without money.

This week I heard an expert from James Cook University say that someone on the minimum wage in Australia is still reckoned to be in the top 5% of the world’s salary range.  Makes you wonder how the other 95% get by.

I’ll admit that money is a useful medium of exchange.  Among other things it obviates the need to haul around heavy loads of items to trade.

But, like other religions, some appalling things have been done while worshipping it.  When you subvert that convenient means of exchange with greed and avarice, things tend to get nasty.  I believe the phenomenon is called Capitalism.

What Capitalism tends to do is aggregate societies into towns and cities where there is no space to plant the food you need to survive.  In those situations, greedy money comes into its own.  When it struts its stuff, it puts on a dazzling and alluring display and makes people want things they never knew they needed.

I’m being wildly simplistic you might say.  A tad Hobbesian with a touch of Rousseau. Typical baby boomer hippy type. That aside, however, I think the creation of the ever expanding squatter settlements in places like Port Moresby owe a lot to the theory.

Just consider: you live in a village in a comfortable bush material house.  You have a plot of land where you can grow all you need to eat.  The nearby forest with its meandering rivers supplies you with the occasional piece of meat or fish.

If you need to repair or rebuild your house the bush supplies the materials for that too.  If you get sick, you’ve got a closely knit extended family to help you. 

Why on earth would you go to live in a place like Port Moresby?  Because you’re young and bored perhaps?

The answer of course is greed.  And once you get there it becomes such an affliction that you can’t leave.  You see great bloated politicians and businessmen in their flash cars with the grease from chewing up their fellow man dribbling down their chins and you think, I want to be like that!

Stay in your village.  Life is much sweeter there.  You might not have a satellite TV or even a decent school or hospital but the alternative in the town or city is not worth it.

But you’re not listening are you?  You don’t have access to the internet.  You probably don’t even have electricity.

Comments

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Dan Claasen

Ah, Phil, my sentiments exactly. However, in the words of one of the last century's songs, "how are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree!"

The conditions you describe are only too obvious here in Nairobi. I am not sure it is just capitalistic greed though, village life can be very harsh too.

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