TUMBY BAY - Most mornings I check a range of websites including PNG Attitude, the ABC & BBC, the local Weather Zone, Amazon’s KDP, and the Ex Kiap website.
The last mentioned has lately been creating in me a distinct feeling of unease.
The major preoccupations of contributors seem to be centred around medals and gongs, the construction of memorials and reunions.
Underlying these preoccupations there appears to be great umbrage that Australia and the world at large have failed to recognise what wonderful people kiaps once were.
As I’ve realised recently, that sort of recognition will probably only come when we are safely dead and unable to add to the debate. It will probably occur shortly after the movie is released.
Australia has a long history of memorials and medals but in recent years this has accelerated to unprecedented levels.
These days there is an award for just about everything and commemorations like Anzac Day have been turned into major industries.
We live in the age of the celebrity. Celebrity is public recognition of a certain type of vacuity that seems to dominate the public consciousness.
I’m not sure what is driving this excess. I suspect it stems from feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Then again, maybe it is just a marketing ploy.
I’ve always been suspicious about public servants and politicians being given awards simply for doing their job. These people were paid for their services so why should they be glorified like conquering heroes?
In Papua New Guinea knighthoods have long been handed out to corrupt politicians, business people, the judiciary and public servants. I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if Peter O’Neill appears in the next honours list.
I’m also mindful of the lack of balance about who gets an award.
This includes awarding medals to non-combatant officers rather than the soldiers who actually fought on the ground at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam and ludicrous cases like Tony Abbott’s knighthood for Prince Philip.
It seems that it’s not what you do that determines whether you get an award but who you know. Although perhaps Phil the Greek does deserve an award for putting up with Tin Lizzy for so long.
That aside, the shonky nature of the selection process and the plethora of awards have undoubtedly cheapened the whole purpose of recognising individuals who have selflessly contributed to the betterment of humanity.
These days when you see someone with a row of medals on their chest or a string of acronyms after their name it’s hard not to wonder who they know or who they paid for the privilege.
A similar thought occurs when encountering any of the thousands of monuments scattered across the countryside.
Some of them celebrate obscure events in our history and others honour people who lost their lives for one reason or another. I’ve got no problem with marking particular places where something interesting occurred or some tragedy took place but I do wonder about others.
Just about every little town in Australia has got a World War I memorial with the names of locals who served or died in that ghastly affair. What they essentially represent is the monumental stupidity of that war and all wars thereafter.
If they were to serve a useful purpose it would be as a warning not to repeat such folly but history tells us that we seem compelled to repeat such mistakes ad infinitum.
I’m also not sure about what purpose interminable reunions serve. Sure it’s nice to occasionally get together to share a beer and a bit of nostalgia but you can do that at any old time.
The debate about the kiap memorial died off for a while but is now in the process of being resurrected.
During its first iteration there was a suggestion that a scholarship program for Papua New Guinean students would be a useful memorial but that seems to have been forgotten and something more physically solid seems to be on the cards.
I think that is a shame and I also think that it is a shame that more of the kiaps don’t get involved in direct activities of benefit to Papua New Guinea.
I know that many of them have given up in disgust at the current state of the country and harbour a deep sense of futility and a feeling that they wasted a great part of their lives there.
That is indeed unfortunate and it may very well be why the idea of a memorial is now uppermost in their minds.
Footnote: I have to admit that I’m the recipient of an unsolicited RPNGC Service Medal and an unsolicited Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal, the reason for the latter being unclear.
They turned up out of the blue one day and now reside in the bottom drawer of my desk. I suspect that Peter Turner is the culprit and they are an obscure joke of some sort.