TUMBY BAY - The purchase of 40 very expensive Italian motorcars to be used for a few days during APEC and then sold off seems to be an incredibly stupid and callous act on the part of the Papua New Guinean government.
It makes you wonder what they are trying to prove with such unabashed extravagance.
“Maserati eh! Emi samting nating, olgeta man meri blong PNG save raun long dispel kain kar. Ol tisa, dokta na olgeta raun olosem, pasin blong mipela tasol.”
["Nah, Maserati! They're nothing, everyone in PNG travels in this kind of vehicle. Teachers, doctors, everyone travels like this, it's the way we do things here."]
Perhaps more than anything else, this episode aptly illustrates the irrationality and chaos that characterises Papua New Guinean politics and governance.
Is it any wonder that democracy and the Westminster system of government has failed so miserably in such a place?
When logic and order comes up against the irrational and the chaotic it stands no chance at all.
Not that logic and order don’t have their own problems, especially if they are overdone like we in the west tend to do.
Running a country that is based on irrationality and chaos by trying to impose on it the sort of regimentation that passes for governance in the west doesn’t sound like a very good idea at all.
It’s a pity we didn’t realise this before 1975.
When the vast majority of people in Papua New Guinea get up in the morning they probably have only a vague idea about what they are going to do for the rest of the day.
Go to the garden? Try a bit of fishing? Laze about in the sun? Who knows? Let the day decide. Whatever needs doing will get done, one way or another.
Contrast that to someone in the west. Wake at precisely 6am, wolf down a hasty breakfast, get to the office at 9am, check the diary, work your way steadily through all your predetermined tasks and knock off at 5pm. A quick beer at the pub, watch telly and then into bed so you can do it all again tomorrow.
How can a society that is attuned to the rhythms of the day hope to transform itself into a society that sees everything in black and white and abhors anything that even hints at nuance?
We in the west are obsessed with order. We have to categorise, analyse and name everything and put it into little boxes before we can deal with it.
It’s a system that just won’t work in a society that is based on subsistence living where flexibility means the difference between success and failure.
You just can’t put subsistence societies in special uniforms, assign them a suitable acronym, design a set of forms for them to use and expect them to function.
But we’ll keep trying no doubt. We’ll repeat the same formula over and over again hoping for a different outcome and never learn.
Papua New Guinea doesn’t need a whole squadron of expensive cars to prove anything. It doesn’t need a flash conference centre on an artificial island and it doesn’t need a horde of five star hotels to impress anyone.
Papua New Guinea is Papua New Guinea.
It is a subsistence society in a fabulous setting with a few mod cons, no more and no less.
When everyone learns to accept that fact maybe things will improve.