What lies beneath the deep waters of the forbidden lake

The philosophy of the ‘sori cup’ – national unity in a bottle

Hands-together (Garamut)FELIX BARAKA

SORI cup is an idea often used by youthful Papua New Guineans when meeting together to share a few substances based on alcohol.

If I am accurate, many young people in Papua New Guinea today are alcoholically savvy.

A large number of alcoholic substances are not factory made but, manmade: yawa, white soup, ombru and steam are among many choices. Probably not names familiar to you.

They’re concocted either by people producing for their own consumption or by others looking to earn some easy money.

Now let me get to the idea of sori cup.

When someone produces a container of, say, yawa, he will call upon his young friends and they sit in a circle with one person in the middle.

The one in the middle will supervise a container or more of these home-brewed drinks along with a little cup normally cut from the neck of the container.

He then pours some precious liquid into that small cup which is passed around the circle for each member to drink.

“The term sori cup implies you are sorry to give such a small amount of something (alcohol), because if there were more you would give them enough,” one participant told me.

Another said: “We cannot afford the industrially processed alcohol, so whatever we get we share among each other to sustain our connections.”

An interesting thing about the sori cup is the unity of the youths despite their different cultures - they share what little they have.

This set me thinking about our recent political origins. At independence, our forefathers had constructed the basis of statecraft, the Constitution, which we look upon as our common ground.

The Constitution rebuilt our political thinking after the colonial experience. In this noble document, wepledged to stand as one people and one nation.

But it seems to me these fine words have lost their true meaning. Our fundamental principle as a nation is contaminated by the challenges we face, and which force us to take refuge in our own individualistic culture.

As a young educated and proud Papua New Guinean, I believe young people nowadays are clever enough to teach leaders how to be innovative and how to embrace our culture for greater national unity.

Looking at the economic aspect of the sori cup, I think our leaders theorise but these young adults understand well the practical ideas of economics.

Resources are scarce and needs and wants unlimited. This they understand. So, whatever little these young men get, the sori cups ensure everyone is satisfied. Cultural differences matter not because they are dependent upon each other.

The person in the middle of the sori cup shows what a leader must do. He is central to everyone and, while everyone watches, he distributes the cup until all the alcohol in the container or bottle is finished.

I think this is what our national and local leaders should be doing. The national budget for the year should be announced, the provincial budgets should be announced, the local level government budgets should be announced and the ward development budgets should be announced with their priorities clear.

Back in my electorate, so far as I know, there is projected funding for priority areas, but no one has the accessibility to this money. The reason being the people with the sori cup (the leaders) don’t want to pass the cup around.

Leaders know that we have scarce resources yet they misuse them and think of themselves. They forget our common humanity and connectedness.

Melanesian society has survived a very long time through collective effort. It is true that we are diverse in our cultural heritage but we find shells from the distant coast even in the rugged interior highlands of New Guinea. We have long been in touch with each other.

This is the lesson that we must learn. Long before you and me, our ancestors had travelled across seas, rivers, mountains and valleys to trade using the barter system.

Before they travelled and traded, they worked collectively. They gathered products together to exchange. Upon arriving back, a leader called upon the community to share what they have received from the trade.

This is how we lived and the method has survived in our Melanesian society as it has in modern society: no nation can survive without assistance from others. This practice of exchange and sharing that is part of our common humanity.

We must adopt the philosophy of the sori cup. We have little but whatever little we have we will share. Each individual’s efforts will ensure the survival of the many. This is what the sori cup ideology is all about.

The sori cup ideology is that an individual’s gain lies in the survival of our people. If we understand this, we will not abuse the position of responsibility we are entrusted with.

PNG leaders! Do you understand what I am saying?


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Bernard Yegiora

Thank you Felix. Jesus is a classic example.

Felix Baraka

Thanks Elvis. I think the most important thing that you have contemplated a lot here is the leadership. I am 100% agreeing with you. My reason being that nothing happens without a leader, and nothing change without a leader.

But let us ask ourselves, what is or who is the leader. This is what I think many people are lacking.

Many people said this person is the leader because he is popular or many people follow or he is strong.

For example, you might say Peter O'Neill is a leader because many people followed him. My analysis is Hitler is a strategist in that he conceived how to manipulate people and systems. That is not the same as leadership.

I believe the redemption to the modern leadership crisis is to go far back to God as the source of the true definition of leadership.

Remember in Genesis God gave the authority to man to lead; that mandate implies that everyone has the capacity to lead. The problem now is the mentality is still missing.

We all are born with the ability to become leaders but the mentality is the way you see yourself as a leader in the society.

I think the mentality of becoming a leader is very clear with Jesus. He, said, if you want to become great you must be a servant. This means that, true leadership is not measured by how many people follows you but by how many people you serve.

Elvis Dennis

To the simplicity of my mind, many of the ethical issues seen in the youths today as portrayed from the idea of sori-cup happens for a cause and reason because some of these of youths are talented with hidden potential, but maybe due to other factors in life, like lower socio-economic and educational background, they are unable to articulate their needs the way their actions do.

So, such cohorts of youths hold no objection to regionalism nor either do they enclave to tribal groupings and discriminate each others on ethical or ethnic credentials. They have a leader who has this ability to form allies and find solutions more than the puzzle they faced.

Therefore, any forms of ingenuity, creativity and innovation they brought up is a genuine expression of their enthusiasm, trust and dynamic expansion of their way of life in building their units to enhance social relations and so forth.

They have a strong and fair leader who create trust but also provide vision, direction, purpose, and a sense of mission around which the whole members of the group felt they are unite to their allies as in the idea of Sori-Cup

And looking at the PNG contemporary leadership style, its obvious there is a lack of trust to create great leadership.

Trust is something that has to be earned. All the PNG strong leaders must create trust but also provide vision, direction, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment in the fair distribution of the country’s economic wealth in which citizens fell they are unite.

And by all means, any forms of practice that breeds racial tension, regionalism or ethnic discrimination that same old devil, should and must be buried.

Strong leadership tools only work when vision is clear, and strategy is accepted as the way forward to accomplishment. Otherwise citizens starting from the bureaucratic level become demotivated, lack focus and deviate from the priorities of the leadership, which will then have an impact upon the citizens.

In addition, PNG Leadership styles and tools must manage the risk and seize opportunity leading the people in unstable times and thrive with stability despite economic chaos or crisis. Leadership should prepare for great open doors, focus on what really matter, and recovery.

Focus on your most important people and connect with passion to invest for the best of the people (citizens).

Felix Baraka

Hi Keith, "the stronger the nation is, the toughest it mist make the decision based, based on the challenges it faces and the experience that it faces.

Knowledge to make decision without experience is talking without knowing what to do.

A philosophy therefore is what we know and experience, and that enable us to walk with common sense to reach desires.

Thanks, Felix, well put - KJ

John Kaupa Kamasua

Just responding to the second last line. I don't think we have very little. There is enough to deliver services for all the districts. Members get K10 million a year for the DSIP component.

With good planning and priority spending we should get all the districts rolling; then there can be some sense of national movement.

Felix Baraka

Yes, Mr Yegiora, I am convinced that a nation can survive only when it developed something out of nothing but curiosity.

That is the philosophy through the challenges it faces to reach its destiny.

Not entirely clear what you mean, Felix. That one needs more thought - KJ

Bernard Yegiora

Good student, so you analyzed my crazy ideas.

Keep on writing!

Ray Aroxx

Very good analogy. I've never thought of it that way before. Makes you wonder whether some of our leaders are in parliament to serve the people or for their own benefit.

Jimmy Awagl

Well said. The concept of 'wari cup' philosophically and psychologically conveys a message to leaders to share and distribute what they are entrusted with for the benefit of the marginalised, deprived, and voiceless majority of Papua New Guineans struggling to survive in the remotest parts of PNG.

Here is youth shifting the 'wari cup' as an example of real unity and the reality of sharing their 'wealth' of K5 or K10.

Compare this with the leaders diverting the state's millions of kina for their personal gain and ignoring their prime obligation to share the economic wealth of the nation so youths need not use the 'wari kap' any longer.

The wari cup continues because misuse of funds continues.

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