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02 July 2018


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I'll meet you half way Phil.

The new breed is new in the sense that the motivations are different but not so new in their willingness to assert power over others by exercising an assumed prerogative to kill them.

I cannot see us humans mastering our nastier impulses any time soon, whether in PNG or Syria or Eastern Ukraine or Iraq or Afghanistan or the Yemen or the good old US of A or anywhere else.

I'm not sure they are the 'same old breed of killers', Chris.

For one thing their motives are different. They are not about tribal animosities or conquest but about robbery and personal gain via violence.

This sort of motive was socially constrained in the past. Now that 'community' has broken down these people are now free to enact their violent inclinations.

The raskol culture has many attractions for young men, notoriety and gain among others, that weren't available or condoned in the past. The entertainment industry certainly doesn't help either.

As is the wont of conservative governments Australia is now spending vast amounts of money on defence equipment that could be better employed on health and education.

Thankfully most of the toys they buy for the boys in the military will never be used and will quickly become obsolete.

One day we will all wake up to this pointless glorification of violence.

As the world continues to regress towards an approximation of the state of affairs that existed at the end of the 19th century, Phil has rightly drawn attention to one of the dubious blessings that modernity has given to the developing countries such as PNG.

It is a sad fact of human existence that our aggressive nature, inherent fear of the other and instinct towards tribalism frequently combines to create a state of war.

Worse still, we have proved marvellously adept at creating new technologies with to wage war more efficiently and effectively.

The developed world has now achieved mastery over technologies for killing that are capable of threatening the very survival of our species.

Fortunately, thus far at least, we have felt constrained from using those technologies, mostly owing to the fear of mutually assured destruction, which has generated the exceedingly apt acronym MAD.

Less fortunately, we have enthusiastically provided vast numbers of lesser weapons to societies such as PNG's.

This means that people whose culture and world view is, quite frankly, hardly different to their ancestors, possess not bows and arrows but Armalite rifles and similar weapons.

Such weapons are exponentially more capable of doing harm than any traditional weapon. Their mere possession is deemed to confer power and authority upon the bearer in a way that no traditional weapon ever could.

The problem with seeking to use a weapon to make others submit to your will is that, in the event of non-compliance, you have to make a decision about whether to actually use it.

My cousin is a very senior police officer. He has said that amongst Australia's criminal classes, any threats that are issued are meaningless if those threatened believe that they will not be acted upon. Thus a threat to kill has to be, in fact, a promise.

This is the logic that led to the lethal gang warfare that overtook Melbourne's criminal world for much of the 1990's and early 2000's.

Now PNG's criminal classes have both the weapons and the will to use them. Traditional PNG cultures valued "fight leaders' who were willing and able to use lethal force, although usually only in certain defined circumstances.

These men were, in practice, ruthless killers. Pre-colonial PNG was no more some sort of Arcadian idyll where people always lived in harmony than was medieval Europe. Power was exerted by force to achieve both personal and tribal ends.

It is a very small step from that culture into the sort of the tribalism that is an intrinsic feature of criminal gangs.

So, I would contend, the only really new thing about what is happening in PNG is that men who imagine themselves to be the true heirs of a warrior culture now have access to modern weapons.

These men are, in fact, the same old breed of killers, not a new one.

They blight all societies and, if their malignant energy can be harnessed by political means, they can turn into ravening killers and destroyers of any viable rules based society.

There is much to fear in these gun wielding thugs and a failure to deal ruthlessly with them will do untold harm to PNG.

Timely note, Phil.
Timeless as a tale.
Timidity it ain't.

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