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A further word for those who sit and write


TO BE NOTICED by Keith is gratifying; to be patronised by him is sublime. I am grateful for the opportunity given to take up my blunt axe once more.

I am sad that my words seem to have inspired no immediate riposte, no cutting put-down from the class of contributors I addressed. Perhaps familiarity with Fowke breeds contempt rather than a righteous or contentious response.

No matter. In peril of being called a one-track-minded old fool, I should like to go further along a pathway which, as Keith says, is well-established; a pathway I have pursued at length through all four daily and weekly papers published in PNG as well as upon the pages of PNG Attitude over the past twelve months.

In a country such as PNG, we who have ideas and who like to put them out for consideration have only the press, augmented by the electronic media, within which to express our ideas. Radio of course provides another and very valuable medium but one doesn’t hear much in terms of real ideas here, more’s the pity.

TV is not a valuable tool for us as it is driven by commercial considerations and without any tradition of truth such as is maintained by PNG’s relatively free daily press and its senior practitioners.

As inferred by Keith, the pen is mightier than the sword, and it is hoped that in our case and in regard to our concerns it will be the pen and the minds and mouths of those who wield pens which shape the future, rather than a violent alternative.

My desire is to see mouths begin to spread the word, though, rather than offerings made to the various media where there is a limited audience. Preaching to the already-converte  may be enjoyable as an exercise, but it is a waste of good time and talent.

As acknowledged by men much wiser than I, PNG hovers daily on the brink of anarchy, a situation of precarious balance maintained only by the fact that apart from the nation’s criminals, those driven to violent acts are anchored by concerns linked to clan-owned land, in widely-dispersed trouble-spots.

Concerns over matters of principle and communal equity are necessarily tribal ones, and not nationalistic, nor especially idealistic in nature. Thus PNG’s innate tribalism, aided by something like 75% illiteracy, militates against any binding alliance based on a sense of nationhood and driven by the pen alone.

This is the bone which supports the body of my contention against “those who only write.”

Read John Fowke’s full article here: More for those who only sit and write


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Reginald Renagi

Keith Jackson's blog is a very good forum where anyone can express an opinion. Or make a general statement calling for action .

This can be taken up by anyone, in whatever capacity they are able to influence change, which can come in many different ways. From within PNG and abroad.

On the latter, especially in Canberra where appropriate Federal government policies can reshape the way Australia and Australians engage with PNG.

The PNG middle-class is still very small. But at some point in future, when it’s grown to be a fairly sizeable broad-based one, than it will be a force to be reckoned with.

It can exert pressure on the powers-that-be to do the right thing by the people. Only then we can hope to see some good changes in our system of politics and government.

For now, many people write and also do something in their own way to influence the thinking of others in authority. This will hopefully make them, over time, review their strategic thinking and decision-making.

So those PNG Attitude "critics" who write are indeed doing something to change events in whatever small way.

Most well-intentioned critics here just want to see matters in a typical western way of effecting some 'fast changes' within PNG.

But you yourself know very well that it cannot happen overnight for very many complex reasons. But it will happen in a matter of time.

Be patient, John 'Moses' Fowke. PNG will see change for the better in future.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I suspect that John may have fallen into his own trap here.

It is difficult to see his suggestion for the formation of citizen welfare associations having any more promise of direct action than similar suggestions from those other commentators he criticises.

Realistically, who is going to set them up, where and at what time?

PNG has multitudinous problems, just like many other countries of the same size. One of them happens to be a corrupt and inept government. The exploitation of its resources by foreigners (who are in cahoots, if you believe Robin) is another.

I’m also not sure that taking the power and money away from the politicians in Moresby and feeding it out to LLGs will really help either.

As John has often pointed out, loyalty to the clan rather than the state causes disunity. Redirecting funds to the LLGs might help out local economies but it will only serve to entrench the disunity of the coutry, which will be detrimental in the long term.

Who's to say the LLGs, with all that new loot, will not become corrupted anyway

There are only a few things that might help with some of PNG’s problems. The first is the election of an honest and progressive government in 2012 – highly unlikely based on past experience.

The second is some sort of popular uprising by the common people – also highly unlikely in such a fragmented and disorganised society.

The third is a military coup and the installation of a benign dictator – again unlikely because the military is so under-resourced and doesn’t have a dynamic figurehead.

The last and most improbable, is direct intervention from Australia (send in the Kiaps) – very unlikely given its timidity in regional affairs.

Perhaps there are no solutions for PNG’s woes. There certainly isn’t a silver bullet. Change will only occur over the long term. This is why the debate, no matter how ineffectual it sounds, must go on.

Watching a bunch of corrupt politicians, public servants and business people stuff up a perfectly good country is never easy.

The best we can do is watch and comment, no matter how maddening and frustrating it becomes.

To quote T E Lawrence, "It's their country, their war, and our time is limited".

Paul Oates

There is an old saying about the world being made up of three kinds of people: Those that make it happen, those that watch it happen and those that wonder 'What happened?'

It is abundantly clear that until those who are currently watching it happen or wondering what is happening don't overcome their innate inertia, nothing will change.

While it's always 'someone' else's responsibility and 'somebody' has to do 'something' about the situation, clearly 'nobody' will.

Robin Lillicrapp

Read your article, John. Thank you for the insight within.

While not as PNG experienced as many regular contributors, I do observe that many PNGeans who regularly contribute only venture so far in comment before shyly retreating.

You mention the cultural reluctance to be too overt. Such may draw unwanted and violent reaction from the broader community.

Herein lies the nub of your criticism, I think, of the educated middle class. And, herein also, I think, lies the wisdom of your approaches re strengthening local governments.

It is probably in those institutions that some cohesion may be regained by family, community, and province to counter the erosive influences of the past generation of national governance.

Today's middle class are victims of the lifestyle they have attained. Not because of any avarice on their part so much as their status makes them extremely vulnerable within their culture you describe so well.

They are able to go only so far in protest re their understanding national needs and focus before coming into contact with real violent and abusive deterrence.

I'd be interested on your take on today's post on PNG Exposed of a seeming reversal of opinion on the Super Hospital project by PM Somare.

Is this an example of reality setting in on what otherwise was intransigence on a grand and continuing scale?

Are we expats and sympathisers with PNG's needs bolstering needed efforts by PNG'ns toward political and societal changes?

Are we too impatient at times with the pace of things? I know I can be.

I notice the education furor has gone off the front page. Perhaps the issues therein are still shocking to comprehend.

I think the net result of the curriculum failure has rendered a generation of students less capable of addressing many of the issues you raise.

All the more reason then for a strategic retreat to the eminence of local domains as opposed to broad brush strokes at a national level.

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