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Respect for one another: the basis of a good society


An entry in the Rivers Prize for
Writing on Peace & Harmony

A good living relationship in communities can be achieved by having respect for fellow members, their property and territory.

This has been our way of life in the past and is useful now as it will be for the future. The reasons why community members respected one another in the past were based on maintaining friendship, the need to be treated equally and the spiritual status of another person.

In the past people lived in an era where fighting, sorcery and witchcraft were the norm. There was fear that, if disrespected, a person may be provoked to retaliate aggressively.

Sorcery or witchcraft may also be used to punish perpetrators. People feared their family members may be killed by sorcery if they did not respect another person.

People did not touch, take or go near something belonging to another person. It was believed that the owners may have cast their evil spell over it. People avoided trespassing. They did not walk over boundaries without the knowledge of the owner.

Members of the community made sure they were not quarrelsome or involved in baseless gossip or insult. It was believed that when scorned or insulted, a person may use magical powers to punish the person responsible.

Littering in another person’s village or elsewhere was regarded as disrespectful.

When Christianity brought light, the darkness surrounding sorcery was largely extinguished. People turned to focus their belief in God and no longer feared the power of sorcery and witchcraft.

These days those who feel wronged may take the perpetrator to be dealt with by the law.

Respect is given knowing that anything bad that is done against another person is sin. In the sight of God, it is the breaking of his commandments and is punishable by him.

Respect in the past was crucial among people because of their fear of sorcery and witchcraft. In this Christian era, respect is given because it is required of everyone by God.

I honour my God / respect the laws / of my culture and country / I salute the flag. The pledge recited in primary schools when the flag is raised. The essentials required for a better living relationship with one another in Papua New Guinea. 


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Phil Fitzpatrick

I'm buggered if I know how he does it either Paul.

Something new everyday - hard yacka and true dedication.

Paul Oates

Thanks Phil. That's exactly what I believe has happened and in truth, it was initially hard for me to accept. The Australian perception of what is ethical and reasonable is or was based on many hundreds of years of evolution of trial and error. The basic mistake was that we automatically expected PNG people to see the value of what we were promoting and accept it without understanding historically how those systems and laws evolved.

Even Christianity has some fairly horrific examples of what we would now consider to be totally unacceptable behaviour and some of these happened not too long ago. It is true however that the ethical basis of our legislation, and which formed the basis of PNG's legislation, is based on nominated New Testament Christian principles.

The essence of the dilemma for people is to decide what the desired norms of society the majority people want to live under and to evaluate how those who already live within these precepts were able to achieve these results.

If it was that easy however, why everyone would already be doing it wouldn't they?

This is the value of blogs like the Attitude where ideas and views can be discussed and information shared. Sometimes I don't think Keith gets enough pats on the back for the huge amount of effort and time to keep the blog going for the benefits of all contributors and PNG. O'nya mate!

John Kaupa Kamasua

Thank you Phil. I like your reasoning here, particularly to do with having Christianity as the foundation and basis for building the nation.

This is in line with What the Speaker of Parliament is promoting through the Moderniaztion of Parliament.

Please visit the site here and see what he is driving.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Paul has often pointed out the disparities of time in the evolution of democratic societies in the West and PNG. He points out that what was expected was for an evolution that had taken hundreds of years to evolve in Europe to be achieved in less than a century in PNG - a dubious proposition at best and one that was bound to be fraught with many unforseen and seen problems.

I'm a practising atheist but I've come to the conclusion that what PNG needs is a healthy dose of old fashioned Christianity (or like religion) to guide it on its way.

By old fashioned I don't mean the Bible-thumping of fundamentalists nor the violence perpetrated in its god's name in the not too recent past, nor the greed and self-righteousness preached by its protestant adherents. What I mean is the good old ethical, non-smiting, do unto others etc. of the new testament.

What happens after that will come naturally, we secularists will just have to wait a bit longer.

Paul Oates

Therein lies PNG's problem Doreen. What happens if people lose track of the past but do not follow ethical and responsible religious beliefs?

That's the issue of today.

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