A matter of Attitude
10 April 2020
TUMBY BAY - Further to my article the other day about PNG Attitude’s old duffers chewing over world affairs (with apologies to Charles Duffer) it occurred to me that they represent a rare collection of thinkers.
I’ve been casting around for a term that describes them but haven’t come up with anything appropriate so far. PNG Attitudism doesn’t really cut it.
I guess they are progressive-leaning with an odd ginger of conservative input. Important too is that they are a mix of Australians and Papua New Guineans - rare in itself.
There is a strong ex-kiap element along with teachers and other professions, plus a bit of business and media influence.
When you look at some of the articles they write, the quality is impressive. A few of them have even attracted a personal following.
I always look forward to anything the meticulous Chris Overland contributes and also enjoy the acerbic Bernard Corden and, lately, Jim Moore. Paul Oates is always reliable for a level-headed view on most subjects.
From the Papua New Guinean side anything that Francis Nii writes is compulsory reading. So too are articles by Daniel Kumbon. And I look forward to new poems by Michael Dom and many others. And who would want to miss another short story from Baka Bina?
Two things have surprised me over the years. The first is the progressive mindset of the kiap writers. I had formed the view many years ago that most kiaps were of a conservative bent but I’ve since had to reassess that assumption.
The second thing also revolves around conservatism but in relation to the Papua New Guinean writers.
My notion that writers from a country with a strong Christian ethos would be predictable and boring was quickly put to rest. I now know that there is a strong secular streak alive and well up north and that Papua New Guinean Christians are not without wit.
In the absence of Australian media interest in Papua New Guinea those writers, Christian or secular, keep us informed about events we might not otherwise hear about.
And they are not afraid to criticise their government or call out bad behaviour. This is indeed refreshing and knits nicely with equally critical commentary by Australian writers about our government.
In my previous article I noted how, following the Covid-19 crisis, the views expressed on PNG Attitude match views among other people around the globe. This sort of prescience is a feature of PNG Attitude over a range of subjects ranging from Chinese influence through to more mundane issues of governance and accountability.
Another refreshing feature is the equality between the Australian and Papua New Guinean writers (and readers). It is a feature not so often obvious between our two governments.
Even if Australia is seen to have failed occasionally in its colonial role it appears to have succeeded at the personal level.
Could these commonly held views represent something like a PNG Attitude philosophy?
There once was a kiap philosophy. It was never written down in anything like a mission statement but it was always understood.
Perhaps elements of that early philosophy have lingered on and now inform some of the things that are written for PNG Attitude.
I don’t know whether tisas, didimen or mastamaks had similar philosophies but, if they did, maybe they have survived in a similar way.
A philosophy is generally accepted as a set of views and beliefs about life and the universe, which are often held uncritically.
Does that definition fit? There are certainly disagreements among the writers and commentators so I guess there isn’t really anything resembling a philosophy binding them together.
What about a school of thought?
A school of thought is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook. That sounds better I think.
But then again, why does whatever it is have to have a label? I’ve never liked labels much.
Putting people in boxes or squares is never a good idea and I cannot imagine the writers of PNG Attitude being that confined.
Lots of them think outside the square. In fact, that’s another feature that characterises many of the writers.
Perhaps I’m just trying to be too analytical. I’ll have to watch that, it could spoil the whole experience.
A good point Garry. I think the term is 'altered consciousness'. PNG certainly had that effect on many expatriates who worked there, particularly in professions that brought them into close contact with the local people. Some, of course, were impervious to such influence.
Perhaps the Papua New Guinean writers already inhabited that realm of consciousness and the expatriate thinkers have just fallen in line with them.
When you think about it that way it makes you wonder who colonised who.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 11 April 2020 at 09:46 AM
Break the yokes, Folks. Have a Happy Easter.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 11 April 2020 at 08:50 AM
Phil, could it be that the contrast of cultures is one of the reasons why many of those you list are, as you put it, 'a rare collection of thinkers'. Kiaps and chalkies were confronted with cultures that were in general very very different from the cultures they grew up in. This called for the abandonment of a lot of cultural presumptions and presuppositions, and called for serious rethinking about life itself. In a somewhat similar way, the emerging PNG writers also had to face new cultures, new audiences, new circumstances.
Posted by: Garry Roche | 11 April 2020 at 01:26 AM