I do believe I owe an Ulga man some small compensation
PNG political parties must promote more women in politics

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

PHIL FITZPATRICK

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
‘Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

(Joni Mitchell, 1970)

I SPENT most of the first eight years of my life in a small village in the southeast of England. A motor car in the village was an unusual sight.

It was an insular existence; there was no television then and the local shop didn’t sell newspapers. Our knowledge of the outside world came mainly from the wireless.

At school we studied the large world map on the wall and marvelled at the vast expanses of pink, denoting the mighty British Commonwealth of Nations.

My parents bought a set of encyclopaedia, the Waverley Book of Knowledge, which I’ve still got. Through its pages I explored the outside world.

There was no immediacy about what we learned of those distant, mysterious and exotic places.

Not like now when we can watch the carnage in Aleppo in Syria or Kim Kardashian’s anguish at having her jewellery stolen in Paris. And we know of such matters just hours, if not minutes, after they happen.

In reflecting on these contrasts, I realised that my young, insular life wasn’t really unusual. It was commonplace in those times. And it wasn’t really that long ago.

Most people throughout the world lived in equal ignorance of what was going on beyond the confines of their small communities.

Even in the industrialised cities, insularity was the norm. For most people urbanisation was a concept not a reality.

We think of those times with a degree of fondness and nostalgia but, of course, life wasn’t all good. Children died of preventable diseases, hard physical work was common currency and there was a pervasive and smothering social rigidity.

There are not too many places left in the world that experience the consequences of isolation and insularity. In such places, suffering is generally the watchword.

And of the places still enjoying their isolation, many are in Papua New Guinea. People with no idea what’s going on outside their narrow communities.

If you wanted to be unkind you could call their state one of blissful ignorance and deride them as bush kanakas.

But a part of you might also wonder whether they might have something good; something better; something that we have lost.

In our hectic and information-saturated world we often feel overwhelmed and the simplicity of those communities can seem attractive.

However, yearn as we might, it is a world beyond our grasp. We have sold our souls to something more powerful and there is no going back.

For us, there will never be comforting embers glowing on an earthen floor, the smoke filtering through thatch. And, even if there was, I suspect we could not cope.

Instead we will have to make do with the electric glow of Kim Kardashian’s anguish.

Comments

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Philip Fitzpatrick

John Denver did a nice version of that song Bernard. I noticed that Mr Peabody has recently filed for bankruptcy. Although bankruptcy in the USA is not the same as it is in other countries, just ask Donald Trump. It's simply a way of writing off debt so you can set up a new company.

We had a great demonstration of the moral swamp in the USA today too in the second presidential debate. Although how you can call that sort of debate 'presidential' is beyond me.

Good point about the media highlighting only the bad news Garry. Most reporting about PNG in Australia is about bad stuff and there are a lot of good news stories that are ignored.

It would be interesting to analyse the mix of positive and negative stories (and comment) on PNG Attitude. I like to think of PNG Attitude's articles as constructive criticism rather than sensationalism.

Bernard Corden

This piece also reminded me of a fabulous track by John Prine entitled Paradise, which featured the following chorus:

"Daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenburg County
Down by the Green River, where paradise lay
I'm sorry my son but you are too late in askin'
Mr Peabody's coal train has hauled it away"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEy6EuZp9IY

Peabody Energy initiated legal action to have their name removed from the lyrics:

http://www.ecowatch.com/peabody-energy-asks-judge-to-strike-lyrics-of-john-prine-song-from-fed-1882065103.html

It seems quite appropriate after watching Eric Tlozek on ABC yesterday:

http://myinforms.com/en-au/a/42420812-png-villagers-teach-ancient-practices-to-protect-environment/

Bernard Corden

Hi Phil,

There is an excellent book by Theodore Dalrymple entitled "Our Culture, What's Left Of It - The Mandarins and The Masses"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Culture,_What%27s_Left_of_It

It evaluates the moral swamp of contemporary Britain.

I went to listen to him at a IPA function at the Brisbane State Library several months ago. His critics often accuse him of being a malanthropist and wallowing in other's misery and whist he is undoubtedly right wing, his articles are always thought provoking and worth reading.


Garry Roche

Phil, there is a lot of truth in what you write. One problem in the world today is that the media does not portray a true image of the world. There are good things happening, but the media highlights all the bad news. We get swamped by bad news. I am not blaming the media, they answer to customer demand. Watching the news on TV or Internet can be depressing.
Good advice I heard for newcomers to PNG, “Look for the good in the people and the land and you will find the good. Only look for the bad and you will find the bad.”

Francis Nii

It's so true, Phil. So much have changed so fast in our time that what were used to be of insularity to our people faded away or lost their significance in the process of transformation and adaptation of the changes that they only remain as fond memories of the good old time before. Even simplicity and blissfulness of bush kanakas are infected and afflicted with the anguish of irreversible modernity of things. Sori tru!

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