World leaders should ask O'Neill about corruption failure
Truth telling and cultural amnesia in Australia

The new world & the old – where modernity can be a kerosene lamp


TUMBY BAY - My children were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

By the time they reached the truly cognitive stage of their lives, we had already swapped a Commodore 64 computer for an Amstrad that ran on floppy disks - and when I say ‘floppy’ I mean things as big as saucers that actually flopped when you picked them up.

My son and daughter were part of the first generation of children born into the digital age and they haven’t looked back since.

I can remember going to the local chippy and buying fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper but they’ve had no experience of anything like that. Chicken and chips come in little cardboard boxes that nowadays you order online.

Sometimes I feel sorry for them but they just laugh in their ignorance and call me an old fogey.

What they don’t seem to appreciate is that a lot of people in the world don’t yet live in the digital age and have little hope of ever doing so.

For large numbers of people, computers and digital gadgetry are just modern novelties that have no relevance at all.

A lot of those people live in Papua New Guinea. They live ‘in the village’ as the smart young things in the city are apt to say in slightly disparaging tones.

For those ‘villagers’, modernity is measured by kerosene lanterns, nylon fishing line, shortwave radios, the occasional newspaper and, if they can get them, books with paper covers and pages - things that are perfectly adequate additions to their traditional lifestyles.

We in the West see fit to close down things like shortwave radio because we think it is obsolete.

We talk about the end of books and tell everyone that digital readers are the way to go.

We watch newspapers and magazines go out of circulation and just shrug and consult our iPhone for the latest news.

What we don’t realise is that those things we dismiss as old and obsolete are actually very important to a large part of the world.

We also don’t realise that many people are perfectly happy with their obsolete things and have no desire for anything more modern.

While shortwave radios and books fit nicely into the simple rhythms of their lives, a lot of the digital stuff we take for granted can have a jarring and confusing effect.

This is something that a lot of our aid agencies have yet to learn.

Introducing whiz bang digital technologies into some of these communities, even with the best of intentions, can often be a lot more unsettling and even destructive than we realise.

Instead of making life easier for these communities there is a huge chance we will actually make their lives more stressful, intimidating, confusing and unpleasant.

While we might think that shortwave radio services are obsolete there are a lot of people out there who don’t. The same applies to newspapers, books and other old fashioned ideas.

What we need to do is think these things through before we assume that just because we don’t use them and there are more modern alternatives they can be arbitrarily discontinued.

This is clearly what happened with Radio Australia’s shortwave service.

That the Australian government cut the funds to the ABC to the extent that they decided to abandon the service speaks volumes about their lack of understanding of such issues.

While the world might be embracing technology, places like Papua New Guinea still largely need the old stuff. They still need shortwave radio and they still need books and newspapers, just like they still need kerosene to put in their lamps.

No smart app will ever change that fact.


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Paul Oates

I dunno about that Phillip. Having just returned from a visit to the 'old world' it seems very much like the 'new' world you describe.

Humans really remain the same no matter where they live but just adapt to the surroundings they live in and the culture and constraints imposed upon them by other humans.

We are a tribal people and simply label or dress up our tribal instincts with fancy names and coloured clothing.

Adults are really only children with more experience that is sometimes put to good use.

The more we look for differences between various ethnic groups the more we find similarities.

The expression 'The good old days' might be true in some aspects however in order to enjoy the so called benefits of modern life we have had to give up many benefits of a more simpler existence where life was a lot less complicated and hectic.

Liklik tok save blo displa lapun ipinis nau. Mi go sigarapim sit pai. Em asples blo mi kol tumas na paia klostu idai.

Philip Kai Morre

Born in the transitional period, I experienced both the old and the new worlds.

The old world is centred around cultural values and norms, spirituality and traditional laws and tambus. Human beings are valued as priceless (even before the declaration of UN Convention on Human Rights).

In the new world we became technocrats, much concerned about material and technology. The value of human beings as embodied spirits was just thrown out as they became objectified.

In the old world people were more religious, more affirming and self actualising. Modernisation and technology is drifting away human dignity with increased secular humanism and a materialistic outlook on life.

We can embrace change but also keep looking back to get insights and noble ideas from the past that will guide us to determine our future.

In few remote places of PNG, people still want to live the old ways in the forest as hunters. They remain part of nature and do not accept technology and change.

Bernard Corden

I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Treasury Casino in Brisbane and expect it will have a commemorative statue of Russ Hinze in the concourse.

Lindsay F Bond

Powerball and PM whatsinaname? Both score a word-of-mouth 'double ewe'. PM by a short wave?

Arthuresque, Cordenesque, Paulesque, Philiscus, all renoun, to whom blog and readers are indebted.

Paul Oates

That about sums it up Phil. Occasionally one gets a glimmer of real intelligence making its way to the surface where it will probably be snuffed out by those who feel threatened by its appearance.

Recently, retired General and now Senator Jim Molan was quoted as saying: "I've spent all my life making rubbish policy work."

There is clearly a distinct aroma of desperation starting to make its presence felt without anyone being prepared to open a window and let some fresh air in.

Perhaps its the fear of the cold Canberra 'winter of discontent' preventing the odd 'kapukpuk' from being actively dissipated?

Philip Fitzpatrick

Paul - The leading article on the commercial television and radio station news in Australia at the moment is the result of 'Powerball' - which, if I understand it correctly, is some kind of lottery.

Well it certainly doesn't sound like anything in the possession of Malcolm Turnbull - KJ

Paul Oates

There is a old syndrome that goes along these lines: 'We never knew what we had until someone came and took it away from us'

Having just returned from that opposite antipodes, UK and Western Europe the political system there doesn't seem any different to the one we've just come home to.

No one seems to know what to do and any leadership is only apparently interested in such trivial matters as to make you wonder wherever they don't have any idea what to do or don't dare tell their constituency what dire straights they have allowed their nation to lapse into.

In humanitarian terms, no one ever fixed a problem by exporting it to another country. It must be fixed at the source. It seemed to us that the final straw that led to Brexit was the threat of forced immigration from the EU. Now no one has any real idea of what the plan might be after it happens.

Yet visiting the Channel Islands, one finds they are part of the UK but not English and were never part of the EU. They have their own arrangements with the EU. Even produce their own currency as do Scotland and Northern Ireland even though the Brits will grudgingly accept but only in the country it is produced in.

Why, oh why don't the Brits simply extend the Channel Islands type of arrangement rather than let the French etc. lead them on a merry path?

Our current crop of so called leaders on both sides of the house are arguing over such important matters as electricity costs when everyone knows it's all about income being received by the States and if the States can't get that they'll cry poor us to the Feds who are in such a muddle they couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

The world is teetering on chaos and no one seems to have any idea about how to stop the rot.

The biggest fear is that the traditional human 'leveler' is a war. If that starts due to the crumbling Turkish lire making a run on the World financial credit stupidity or the trade wars between the US and China, Europe or anyone else, people everywhere will suddenly start feeling the pinch and really start looking at what they will lose as opposed to what they already had.

Taking the Chunnel back from Paris to London we traveled at around 300 km and the journey took around 2.5 hours. With that type of transport, why the hell are we still flying aircraft and using scarce hydrocarbons?

Arthur Williams

When i was last in Lavongai in 2007-08, I was amazed to see that many homes no longer were able to afford a Dietz or cheaper brand of keorsene lamp.

The island had three of the illegal SABL clear felling timber projects. It had also for 20 years hosted the Lihir gold mine one of world's largest with over 40 million ounces of gold reserves - as well as the smaller Simberi gold mine,

It was also surrounded by one the world's most tuna prolific bodies of water.

'Trickle down economics' is the catchphrase of the ex-spurts. I saw trickle down when my kids were babies. Sori tumas mi belhat na ai-wara taim mi lukim province na ailan bilong mipela.

Anyway, my friends and relatives had mostly been reduced to using old coffee jars as homemade lanterns. they needed to improvise metal wicks holders using string as their wicks.

I think of the 'fake news' ethos of the 21st century and surely those 'lamp bilong ol kalabus' I saw are symbols of the crap gurgitated from our economic imperialists in their demeaning of not only the poor people of the 3rd world but of the very nations themselves where their filthy slimy tentacles feed their stinking maws on the God given resources buried in the soil, growing on the land or thriving in our seas.

This week I smiled when i read how lovable Exxon is going to help Huli and Hela tribesmen produce food for commercial sale.

What a bold innovative step - after all it was 33 years ago in 1985 that MP for Kopiago Aruru Matiabe's Inu Morobe Ltd in Tari was buying veggies for Ok Tedi.

I landed at Fugwa to find a mountain of cabbages the like of which I had never seen before or since.

I have been a worker for a charity assisting mostly poor Romanians and a couple of the drivers have reported that when they overnight with some of families they have been told, "Life under Nicolae Ceaușescu was better than now!" What an indictment of free marketeering albeit lately under the EU

As lapuns once told me, 'Taim bilong German emi bin gutpela'. Is that also a sad indictment of modernity or was it merely the lovely Biblical phrase 'kicking against pricks' what a lovely useful double entendre.

Bernard Corden

The technopoly has created legions of socially autistic ruminants infatuated by a passive vicarious entertainment with little remaining mental energy to address real world problems and tackle risk.......How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t.

An omnipresent fusion of humans with technology via ubiquitous iProsthetic smartphones flourishes across every high street and throughout that Hades of collective solipsism, the suburban shopping mall. Incoming calls are invariably screened via voicemail with its impersonal automated response, which creates an exponential increase in inertia and maladaptive anxiety.

Technology is a patient and contiguous assassin that merely replicates its friendship towards mankind. The forces of mechanisation restrict our ability to make choices or process information. It ignores diverse learning styles and the unique human traits of empathy and free will, which allows mistakes to be confronted with honesty. This enables us to experience reality from different perspectives, which acknowledges fallibility and inspires each other to repent, recover and learn with dignity.

We are surrendering any remaining skerrick of culture to technology.

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