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Some learnings for PNG from the philosophers of Star Trek


"The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilisation, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous" -  Jean-Luc Picard, Symbiosis

AS well as Mr Charles Dickens and Mr Arthur Conan Doyle, I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Gene Roddenberry for helping to further my education as an aficionado of Star Trek.

I must confess to being a closet Trekkie.

Now you’re reading this, and please stay with me, I want to introduce you to the Prime Directive, the guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets.

This conceptual law applies particularly to civilisations which are below a certain threshold of technological, scientific and cultural development.

It prevents starship crews from using the UFP’s superior technology. And the directive is enthusiastically breached in just about every Star Trek episode I’ve ever seen.

It is a law of quantum mechanics that the very act of observation changes what is being observed. And this is no simple trick of script-writing. 

Consider the case of European interaction with the people and culture of Papua New Guinea.

Ever since Queensland bullied the United Kingdom into stretching the union flag over the pristine forests of the Owen Stanleys, we have been interfering with the Melanesian people in every imaginable way.

From gold to god, from rubber to rubbers, we’ve been imposing western European values on a people who had been largely unscathed for thousands of years.

And what is the result? We’re seeing a generation of people corrupted by capitalism, commercialism and consumerism. Values have been lost, customs eroded and beliefs battered. As Wordsworth said, “getting and spending we lay waste our means”.

Girls want to look white. Men want to gamble. Politicians want to play games with democracy. At the same time people die of TB and AIDS in derelict hospitals.

It doesn't take a great anthropologist like Malinowski or Mead to demonstrate the point.

Whatever happened to karim lek? How come bride price has been so corrupted? Why is the obligation to look after wantoks, bubus and pikininis dying out?

Just look at the impact of ‘get rich now’ theology on the peoples of PNG. Joyce Meyer wants you to give her K100 to spread the word of God amongst the heathens. At least the Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans weren't out to graft a quick buck from impoverished locals.

And then we have the impossible wealth of LNG, oil, gold, silver and copper. How much wealth from these godsends has benefited local people?

And don't talk about SABLs, that legal trickery by which the government can steal land from its rightful owners and earn millions in royalties from which the people get nothing.

For God's sake think about the Prime Directive. Put in its simplest form it says, "don't fuck the locals". And we westerners have been doing that in PNG for 200 years or more.


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John K Kamasua

We in PNG have lost some of our stuff big time: We will soon lose all our grounding, sense of rootedness and finally our soul!

Peter Sandery

So, Peter what is the answer now? Fortress Australia?

William Dunlop

What about Cathay, good old China, we sucked at them and Hong Kong for a long time. And along came Mao the great helmsman who stuffed things even more.

With his successors continuing the pillaging.

Now it's Peter's turn in PNG.

Where are all the billions in US$ from the sale of highlands gas.

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