Bob shares tales of that great PNG adventure
Constitutional meltdown looms in PNG stand-off

PNG’s dilemma: A common sense Catch 22 govt


I’VE ALWAYS BEEN WARY of common sense.  It is a refuge of the redneck, the fundamentalist and the simple minded.

Common sense is subjective.  It is an expression of thoughts and feelings which largely ignore reality.  Shock jocks are big on common sense.  Its opposite is the objective, which deals with things that are real and external to the mind.

Common sense can be very dangerous in the wrong hands.  It should not be confused with pragmatism, which simply assesses things on their practical relevance.

At the same time I’m also a fan of Catch 22.  This transcendental law of humanity was developed by Joseph Heller in his 1961 novel of the same name.

The novel was about bomber pilots in World War II in Europe.  These guys had an appalling casualty rate and the main character in the novel uses every means possible to stay alive by avoiding more flying missions. 

There was only one catch and that was Catch 22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. 

Orr (a pilot) was crazy and could be grounded.  All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions…..

Think about it.  It is an interesting concept.  This is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Catch 22 by the way.

It seems to me that the current standoff between the Supreme Court and the O’Neill government is a classic Catch 22 situation.

The government wants to stifle the court enquiry into its constitutional legality by sacking the judge hearing the case.  However, if it does that the court can zap it for contempt and call it unconstitutional.  What would a smart politician do?

In this case the smart politician is overseas and the running has been made by his mates at home who have applied a common sense approach.

Peter O’Neill must be fuming in his Hawaiian shirt.  As soon as he tries to duck out on an international junket some twit in his government takes the opportunity to screw everything up again.

Last time it was that dopey statement by Byron Chan about giving the Huli all the government’s oil and gas reserves - and now this.

This one might be a bit more serious I think.  Instead of just sending the profits of the resource sector into a downward spiral this one could send the government itself into a spiral.

Michael Somare must be chuckling into his beard.

I’ve always thought that the Grand Chief's wealth and seeming tolerance of corruption was less a product of stupidity and porcine gobbling and more a case of the slow realisation that ruling such a fractious nation as Papua New Guinea was impossible.  He just decided he might as well be comfortable while doing it.

The size of one’s girth is a good measure of greed, and by extension, corruption.  Sir Michael has lost a lot of weight just lately.


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Harry Topham

Well crafted, Phil, a clever analogy of events in PNG.
I agree with you that Catch 22 was one of the great novels of modern times.

One has to admire writers like Heller who can manage to input irony into what must have been a most terrible experience endured.

It is said that Heller used his story to placate his demons eventuating his recall as a cathartic journey to eventual healing.

I think from memory that Heller wrote that story from personal experiences during WW2 as a pilot with the US Air Force and after publishing did not write another novel for 28 years...

I particularly liked the episode of one of his characters - Major Major who through a typographical error was promoted from a mere private with surname major to that of Major Major.

Obviously drawn from the Peter Principle whereby persons are promoted to their level of incompetence and Major Major, unable to handle any responsibility, using the ploy of having a sign posted on his door reading: “When I am in I am out and when I am out I am in”.

A novelist using similar irony and black humour is Joseph Wambaugh who wrote The Choir Boys, drawing his story lines from similar dark experiences when he worked as a policeman in New York.

I particularly liked the clever way he crafted the general story lines by interlinking separate stories of characters he had met in the past with biting one line summary grabs at the end of each chapter interweaving same into the overall plot.

This was, very simply, that at the end of each week a group of policemen would attend choir practice which although intended to be a debrief always degenerated into a general drunken melee in the local park.

A similar debriefing was enjoyed yesterday at the biannual Kiaps reunion.

You missed a great day Phil; I am still recovering from overdoing the joviality of the occasion.


Fighting words Phil.

I'm liking it!

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