Are western democracy and the Melanesian Way the same thing?
The human canines of Chimbu stalk working class men & women

The double standard


An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

I was told that I am a Papua New Guinean
I must live like a Papua New Guinean and die like a Papua New Guinean
I was told to maintain unity in diversity
but promote my identity through tribalism, regionalism, and nationalism.
The Papua New Guinean way.

Taught in school to think like a white man;
out of school demanded to behave like a Papua New Guinean.
I was taught to change my world but, when I came home,
my world changed me.
I’m an educated Papua New Guinean.

In Church I was told to live like a child of God
yet criticised and condemned for not living like a Papua New Guinean.
I was told to love my enemies
but my people taught me to hate my enemies.
The Papua New Guinean gospel.

At work I was hired to perform like a master
but I performed like a kanaka to please my wantoks.
I was told to apply my work ethic
but instead I applied my cultural ethic.
The Papua New Guinean way.

When I needed foreign aid, foreigners came to help me.
Yet I demanded that they understand me before they could help.
When they offered to help,
I wanted them to compensate me before they could serve me.
The Papua New Guinean way.

I became a leader to lead my people.
Instead I was led by my people.
I had my policies and leadership codes
 but my people told me,
“Lead our way.” The Papua New Guinean way.

The eye glasses I grew up wearing
had a double vision that got me confused.
I ended up talking one thing and living another.
Mi drinkim save blo waitman tasol
spak olsem kanaka blo ples!*

All I need is to change my glasses so I can see with one vision.
Yesterday’s thoughts, today’s life.
Today’s thoughts, tomorrow’s life.

*I drink like a white man / and get drunk like a kanaka


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Philip G Kaupa

August, you've got the talent and this piece is a sensitive PNG stuff. I agree with Wardley. Keep it coming brother!

August Berita

Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm not a writer but am trying to learn to become one. Both positive and negative comments are very helpful to me. I appreciate you guys. Would also be much grateful for anyone to offer writing tips to coach me to become a better PNG writer.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I think you're right Michael. I missed that 'save' in the first part of the metaphor.

With all the weird versions of Tok Pisin around I tend to go straight to the English translation.

Maybe the second part should be 'get drunk like a simple villager'.

Either way it's a compelling metaphor.

Wardley Barry

If I'm correct, i think this poem insinuates something's wrong with the PNG culture. I wonder which glass one should wear to rate one culture better than another. Is it the one given to us by the West or that which is handed down by our fathers from Melanesia? PNG is caught in the pandamonium of rapid cultural shift and the challenges we face are so real.

Congratulations Berita for capturing that struggle in such precise and profound manner. We need more writings of this sort.


Michael Dom

Nicely crafted prose August.

I think the translation of the modified Tok Pisin metaphor;

"Mi drinkim save blo waitman tasol / spak olsem kanaka blo ples!"

is more correctly;

"I drink the knowledge of white men but / I get drunk like the village idiot".

Phil Fitzpatrick

It sure is a confusing world August.

I'm not especially enamoured of the world I'm forced to live in but what can you do?

Just get on with it I guess.

Some nice lines in there. I especially like "I drink like a white man/I get drunk like a kanaka' and 'I was told to love my enemies/But my people taught me to hate my enemies'.

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