Reform & good management is the middle class role
Peter O’Neill is confident of forming government

Development - or what do our people really want?


WE SAY THAT WHAT OUR PEOPLE WANT is development. But are we providing a convenient title to argue a process and an end which is a natural desire of all human societies, traditional and modern; to move towards a better state of existence within the bounds of their own cultural identity?

By Martyn Namorong's analogy it made common sense that we should obtain a steel axe when our fathers saw the use of it.

This may not in itself have created an inferiority complex because, in their context, a better axe was a necessity for survival.

What may have created the inferiority complex, and perpetuate it today, was an inability to understand and appreciate the changes - and therefore be prepared for the impact to human society and our cultural lifestyles.

The point of conflict is not technology per se and what we assume to be ‘development’, but how we have made use of technology in the natural progress that all society’s experience, and which we in our modern intellect may wrongly call development.

In the axe-trading fiasco, the resulting unacknowledged changes that the use of such a technology created were not anticipated, although it seemed only logical that a better tool was needed to make chopping up trees a little easier.

The steel axe was an advance in our technology, a development which was very relevant in the traditional intellect to how we lived our lives.

But eventually village men found themselves with more time on their hands and quite likely no idea what to do with it.

Perhaps at the time no one appreciated what might happen to our cultural ways when this simple but very useful tool, the steel axe, came into the hands of village men and thus freed up time which was now spent in idleness that we were, culturally at least, unprepared for.

Questioning if such changes or associated interferences into traditional society are perpetuated by the white folk who first traded us steel axes will essentially lead us backwards.

And I think that if given a choice today, our ancestors would still go for the steel axe, so let’s not regress.

The best use we can make of history is to see how and where the mistakes were made in the past so that we can plan to minimise our own mistakes in the future. Now is the right time to decide.

Today we are still trading for ‘better’ technologies that improve our lives but we should now be able to understand and appreciate what those simple changes in technology of any kind (or development as we like to call the process) can do to our culture and the way we want to live our lives.

The challenge we face is having, for the most part, dishonourable leaders who take the power of decision making away from the people for their own greedy benefit.

The problem with many of PNG’s political leaders is that they assumed that they should dictate how we live our lives, how we develop and progress as a society.

We allowed them to do this, by the Western forms of government that we had been taught and indeed that our forefathers had accepted by default.

The self aggrandizement of the position of leader at the sacrifice of the community did not happen to such an extreme in our traditional societies, where the leaders were also bound by customary laws. Not so today.

Political leaders should be a reflection of the values of society which gives them mandate and right to rule and not vice versa.

The characteristics of democracy also existed in our traditional egalitarian tribal systems and perhaps it was not too farfetched to believe that those ideals could be sustained and transmogrified into a new political model.

So what our people want, and what we would term development, is that which allows our culture to continue to take its natural course of history, albeit with external influences/technologies/ideas that our society also finds acceptable and/or beneficial for all: Utopia?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Michael Dom

Disagreeing is all right.

Not everyone was a sailor, nor was everyone good at carving and those who knew about traditional medicine did not pass knowledge on to just anyone.

Specialization creates class barriers - shait happens.

But a tool is as useful as the hands it is placed in. So again, in the steel axe fiasco, some used it to chop wood, others hacked their enemies (or family) to death still others made beautiful carvings.

It is not for us to feel insulted that our people, as isolated societies, never had the chance to merge into a larger community on their own, before we were 'discovered'.

I concede that some traditional communities had made great advances. But the nation was non existent.

We may need to embrace that reality before we start to advocate 'doing things by our PNG ways', a 'way' which until we were colonized did not in fact exist - collectively.

The rhetoric of it ('PNG ways') is the present disunity of political parties, the diverse party groups, with no apparent ideals nor policy agenda separating them, except the character, charisma and cheque book of the charlatans in charge.

And what appear to be PNG ways is actually, according to our leaders, 'my way or the highway'.

Martyn Namorong

I don't agree with the last comment by Michael.

I think it is an insult to the artists of the Sepiks, the gardeners of Kuk valley and the seafarers of the lapita trade as well as the Hiri trade.

We had our own development path and someone else's model of development has been imposed upon us. I'm not saying we reject it entirely but we do not paddle our canoe on one side only.

And the National Goals and Directive Principles are an expression of our model of our model of development

Michael Dom

On another key point Martyn, "the pursuit of knowledge, art and technology" was by those of better smarts, higher intelligence - almost a separate class altogether - and with greater knowledge comes greater status and/or power.

We may have had this in our elders and chief system or more crudely during initiation and through the herbal bush doctors and magic men/women.

But to the majority of our anacestors the world was still shrouded in darkness and mystery - we were still emerging into the light, developing our conciousness of the world and our place in it.

All of a sudden the rest of the world rocked up to our front door and gave us a steel axe.

What I'm concerned about is your average Joe; when he had chopped down his tree, and had nada mucho to do, what did he get up to? And, what does Joe get up to today?

Michael Dom

On that point Martyn, perhaps what you have advocated earlier about making the 5 Directive Principles enforceable by law, which I believe is impractical, should rather be to have them inculcated in the minds of our school children throughout the education system.

We are willing to memorize an oath well enough, but what about the core of what we swear to - what do we beleive in, where are we going, how do we each intend to contribute to getting there.

It's about winning hearts & minds.

Martyn Namorong

I agree almost entirely with the contents of this article.

Michael writes about being "culturally unprepared" I believe that leads to a loss of control or not being in charge of development, thus vulnerable to exploitation.

So as Michael puts its, with the advent of the steel axe men may have had free time which they didn't know what to do with...perhaps get drunk.

In societies that grew grain, the free time they had after harvesting grain was used in the pursuit of knowledge, art and technology. They were in control of the development of their societies.

That is not the case for PNG. And in order to understand the lack of control, one has to understand the historical circumstances that produced this dependency.

I am highlighting that historical context so that we understand the disempowerment of our people and figure out how we can move forward - this time, on our own terms.

I believe the template for moving forward is set in Papua New Guineas 5 National Goals and Directive Principles written in the Constitution.

Mrs Barbara Short

Well said, Michael.

You mention the idleness of many men. John F also mentions this. We've been hearing about these PNG men not having anything to fill in their time due to some form of "progress'. The women, the carers of society, still have plenty to do!

I guess many problems have arisen in PNG society since I left at the end of 1983, which have caused massive problems and not enough thought has been given to working out ways to solve them.

As you say, solutions must be worked out in a way that allows PNG culture to take its natural course in history.

In Australia we now have many retired people, men and women, and its going to grow. But do they sit around being idle?

Some may, but over the years there has been the growth of plenty of activities for them to join. There are the local Probus clubs with visiting speakers, bush walks, educational trips,etc There has been the rise of The Men's Shed where men can join together and share their skills e.g. in carpentry etc.

The list of activities for the retired is growing by the day. In our culture, people like to socialize and they don't really like being idle. Many become involved with volunteer charity work of various kinds, and Martyn saw that in action in Brisbane.

I hope the new parliament will have thinking members who will be observant of all the small local problems and will try to work out ways to solve them.

I fear that too much time has been spent on thinking about how rich the country will become if it has all these mines and gas wells etc. The ordinary people at the grass-roots level have many problems which can be solved, often without much money, but with a "charge of heart".

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)