NORTHUMBRIA - This photograph was taken deep in Papua New Guinea’s interior in 1974 – and it is a metaphor.
I was a bush administrator, a kiap, and I was on patrol.
The image underlines how young I was, and conveys something of my apprehension about the drop below.
But its underlying message is that I was alone, bridging two philosophical fixed points, and so in a cultural no-man’s land.
These contrasting pivots were the chasm that lay between two realities.
The global economic, political, and administrative ideals that my work required me to encourage isolated village people to adopt.
And the difficulty I had in helping them to understand, and accept, the radical changes their government wanted them to make to the way they had always organised their lives.
I tried hard to be successful but nothing could disguise the yawning gap between the rapidly expanding global culture I represented and the many different, long established cultures that faced me in the villages I visited.
When I first saw this picture I was surprised at how vulnerable and hesitant I looked as I crossed that bridge on the way to meet yet another group of people – on this occasion, four days walk from the nearest government station.
I cover this subject in my book length account of that period, “The Northumbrian Kiap”. https://rforster.com/shop/northumbrian-kiap/
I often wonder whether these observations are familiar to people who elect to pathfind radical change in other spheres today.
Instead of feeling tough and adventurous, do they sometimes feel they too are alone?