TUMBY BAY - I attended my first political protest in late 1969 while home on leave from Papua New Guinea. It was an anti-Vietnam war rally.
Somehow I managed to get caught up in a group that was carted off to the city watch house by the police.
Most of my co-arrestees were either long haired, bearded types or women who made a point of not wearing a bra. They were all colourfully dressed in the hippy fashions of the time. By contrast I was short-haired, beardless and conventionally dressed.
Thus disguised I simply took advantage of the confusion and walked out the door. Luckily no one stopped me. I had no desire to answer any awkward questions when I got back to work in Papua New Guinea.
The experience nevertheless jarred something in my consciousness and it led to a lifelong interest in politics and prompted me to add a politics major to my already erratic and eclectic curriculum vitae.
Among other subjects, I studied political ideology, social policy and administration, the politics of labour, political perspectives of mining, the politics of non-violence and women’s studies.
I managed to get some reasonable marks, including a couple of high distinctions. I mention this not to brag but to establish my bona fides as a political nerd.
You can only take this sort of stuff so far however.
While I generally understand political motivations in Australia and other western democracies like the USA and the UK, my theoretical knowledge and experiences simply don’t work when it comes to places like Papua New Guinea.
Even though I think I’ve got a fair handle on what makes people tick in our nearest neighbour, their politics leave me baffled.
Papua New Guinea is not only an economic swamp but a political quagmire that seems to defy all logic.
If what has happened and is happening in Papua New Guinea occurred anywhere else in the world it would set off a chain of fairly predictable reactions, chief among them political activism.
Where you have corporate pirates with unlimited resources, money and influence, as in Papua New Guinea, the only weapon the public has is outrage expressed through activism.
Public outrage and activism eventually ended the Vietnam War for instance. If it can do that a bunch of ravenous businessmen and politicians should be chicken feed.
Outrage and activism normally arrives when the bad guys have been exposed and there is widespread awareness of their activities.
That’s when outrage explodes into life and changes begin to happen.
And yet in Papua New Guinea, where the nefarious and corrupt activities of big business and their lackeys in government have repeatedly been exposed, there has been no big bang.
What is going on?
What on earth is wrong with the people that they can’t even get organised to fight back?
There have been a few wimpy demonstrations in Port Moresby that ultimately fizzled and which the government has buried but that’s about it.
Except for a few cops demanding their cut of APEC why hasn’t parliament house been stormed?
Where are all the firebrands, the movers and shakers, the organisers and the dedicated? Where are the patriots?
Where are all the people with the guts to take on the big guys instead of just whining about them on social media?
Maybe they’ve gone fishing?