TUMBY BAY - The response of Papua New Guinea’s intellectuals to the celebration of its 44th year of independence have been very interesting if comments on PNG Attitude are any sort of guide.
On the one hand the response has been low-key and on the other it has generated a questioning of the whole concept of independence and what it means.
The muted response seems to be a result of the turbulent and disastrous O’Neill years and the uncertain expectations surrounding the Marape ascension.
In the case of Mr Marape, people appear to be holding their breath in the hope that what he has promised will come to fruition.
Their caution is tempered by the knowledge that O’Neill promised so much and failed to deliver on most of it.
By destroying optimism about PNG’s future, O’Neill effectively took the joy out of celebrating independence. Time will tell whether Marape can reinstate that spirit.
The questioning of the concept of independence seems to be tied up with a strident nationalism emanating from a few critics.
Corney Korokan Alone is one of them, but his insistence that PNG as a sovereign nation can make its own future without interference from outside influences is admirable but difficult to conceive.
Corney’s view is essentially a reaction to the hangover of colonialism and the insidious nature of neo-colonialism and he is striving to make the point that, for Papua New Guinea, independence means exactly that.
He maintains that the people of PNG have always been independent. As proof of this he refers to the systems of governance that existed prior to colonisation.
Although this point has been made before, it is well-worth revisiting. There is now an emerging body of literature from indigenous writers throughout the world exploring this same theme.
In Australia, two Aboriginal writers, Bruce Pascoe and Tyson Yunkaporta, have published books describing indigenous systems of land management and governance with the suggestion that they have the ability to solve many of the problems we now face.
Both books contain convincing arguments. Pascoe takes up the theme introduced by Bill Gammage in his book ‘The Greatest Estate on Earth’ and points out that the English colonists, and Australians since, were remiss in not acknowledging and learning from the practices of the Aboriginal people.
Much of Pascoe’s proof comes from archival sources, notably the journals of the early explorers describing what they saw.
Pascoe argues that disparaging indigenous lifestyles and practices was a method of asserting colonial superiority and justifying the seizure of land. Unfortunately this attitude precluded the adoption of sustainable indigenous methods and replaced it with many damaging European ideas.
One of the major points he makes is the relative absence of savage forms of violence and conquest inherent in Aboriginal society.
He puts the constant war-mongering among Western peoples down to the lack of community and the promotion of individualism, both tenets of capitalism, as well as the narcissism of ownership and the obsession with economic growth.
Both Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture’ and Yunkaporta’s ‘Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World’ make the point that indigenous systems require reconsideration and re-evaluation in these dire times and may hold lessons for the future.
As such, the ideas of both writers seem to align well with the thinking of commentators like Corney Korokan Alone and David Kitchnoge.
Whether politicians are prepared to take notice of such views is an entirely different matter of course.