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Take literature out of the pending basket

BooksPHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Papua New Guinea has a myriad of problems. Most of them are self-inflicted, caused through either ignorance or greed.

Politicians have played a large part in creating this parlous state. So too have the so-called elite, especially those involved in business.

It may be convenient to blame outsiders, especially mining companies and loggers, but the fact that these companies have all been invited into the country and given free rein to exploit its resources cannot be avoided or brushed under the carpet.

All that can be done now is wonder what a different sort of country Papua New Guinea might have been if its leaders had acted responsibly and intelligently.

The task of repairing 45 years of neglect and mismanagement is enormous. Turning that legacy around is probably well beyond the capacity of the present and any future governments.

If the Marape government is genuine about its reform platform it will need outside help. That help will have to be genuine.

Thinly disguised opportunism, whether from the corporate world, ideologically driven organisations or other nations, will not suffice.

That the attempt should be made, however, is beyond question.

The biggest losers in this sorry tale are the ordinary people.

They are the people whose traditional lands have been usurped and despoiled. They are the people whose health and educational needs have been ignored. They are the people whose reifying cultures have been trashed.

Any move to repair Papua New Guinea will need to take these ordinary people along with it. For positive change to happen they will have to be convinced of the necessity and the means to be employed.

With such a dire situation it is very tempting to ignore such apparently inconsequential elements as national literature.

Literature, like much of the arts, is something that usually goes into the ‘pending’ basket when a nation is faced with catastrophe and crisis.

This is what seems to be happening now in Papua New Guinea. Even the most enlightened politician is probably thinking that now is not the time to be worried about literature.

They will say that the writers and artists must wait until all of the economic, social and environmental woes are fixed before luxuries like literature and the arts can be addressed.

This is an understandable but misguided approach. If the politicians want to take the ordinary people along the road to recovery with them it has to be an all or nothing approach.

Nothing can be left behind to be fixed later, if and when that becomes possible.

A nation cannot regenerate itself while leaving its soul behind. It must recognise that its soul is bound up in its culture, its arts and its literature.

If it doesn’t recognise this then all its efforts at recovery will be in vain.

Comments

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Bernard Corden

Sport is frequently used to galvanise the laity but it is worth reiterating the findings of Professor Phil Scraton during his noble campaign for justice on behalf of the Hillsborough Family Support Group following the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989.

During the campaign the support group was required to hire meeting rooms from Liverpool Football Club, which was owned by the American Fenway Sports Group.

The business of America is business. It is hardly surprising that Phil Scraton declined the offer of an OBE

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