GRUMPY BAY - One of the hidden delights of PNG Attitude over the years has been the contributions of articles and comments by a venerable coterie of grumpy old men.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned grumpy old women. I’m sure they exist but I’m not sure I really want to go there. Call me sexist or cowardly but there are some possums not worth poking with a stick. So back to the men.
They are, of course, a fairly elite group. You don’t become a grumpy old man unless you’ve earned it. You have to be able to exhibit the scars of battle to gain membership. Not even bribery will get you there.
So what makes this band of brothers so unique?
I think Chris Overland, himself a fine example of the genre, defined it quite well when he said: “Sixty or more years of experience can confer a degree of wisdom and, unless you are truly delusional, you mostly see the world as it is, not as you might wish it to be.
“Also, your concerns about what others may think of you diminish with age. You give yourself permission to say what you really think. You do not tend to hold back for fear of upsetting someone.”
I thought that was inspiring, so much so that I’ve pinched it for a memoir I’m about to publish about being a migrant kid in Australia.
So who are these grumpy old men? There are actually too many to count but here’s a sampler.
There’s Paul Oates, a grumpy old kiap, who has been banging his head against a brick wall for years.
His particular beef is the antics of both the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments. Paul just can’t understand why things that are so simple and obvious, like good governance, disappear from view when those political guys get within cooee.
Then there’s Francis Nii. If anyone’s battered and scarred it’s Francis, and not just in body. Francis casts his scathing net wide, but Papua New Guinea’s errant politicians and public servants particularly provoke his ire. From the misty heights of Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital in Kundiawa he pounces with amazing alacrity on hapless felons.
And we mustn’t forget music and film aficionado Peter Kranz. Backed up by Simbu bubus and his lovely wife Rose, Peter takes to task the more harebrained schemes of government, be it the shonky Pacific workers deal or the concentration camp run by Australia on beautiful Manus Island.
Up in the mountains of Enga there’s Daniel Kumbon, indefatigable promoter of Papua New Guinean literature and a veteran journalist who is nobody’s fool. He recently sat out the carnage of the 2017 elections in Wabag and Kandep and kept us all apprised of the stupidity of mixing clan allegiances with politics.
And if you need a quote for any season there’s the perspicacious Bernard Corden. His comments are short, sharp and straight to the point. Bernard just loves casino capitalism and examples of neoliberalism underpinned by unilateral doctrines of laissez faire. According to Bernard there’s plenty of malevolent freedoms to do harm in this casino. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly which is a good gig as there are a lot of fools out there to suffer.
I could go on to mention Mathias Kin, William Dunlop, Terry Shelley, Philip Kai Morre, Arthur Williams and Michael Dom – and I just have.
Then there are the polite ones, the grumpy old men lurking behind a façade of good manners.
I’m thinking of Robin Lillicrapp, Ed Brumby, Father Garry Roche, Corney Alone, Richard Jones and Lindsay Bond - gentlemen of the keyboard whose benignity is but skin deep.
And of course, there’s our esteemed KJ. He can get quite prickly if you rub him up the wrong way. Usually remarkably tolerant, he’s been known to cut transgressor’s water off pretty smartly.
As I said, just a few examples. Trawl through the archives of PNG Attitude and you’ll stumble across loads more. Just be careful not to step on their toes unless you first distract them with a parcel of praise.
There are others of this loyal band we haven’t heard from in a while (although many grump on using PNG Attitude’s Twitter and Facebook varieties). Wherever they are, you can be assured they are shovelling away bullshit whenever they find it.
There is also a crop of grumpy old men in training.
People like Michael Dom, Jakub Majewski, Martyn Namorong and Leonard Fong Roka to name but three. One day they’ll take up the baton, transform it into a battle axe and do us all proud beating hypocrisy and venality over the head.