Australian Pacific TV initiative lashed
Covid-19 & PNG international trade

Can coronavirus bring positive change?

Economic reform will be difficult if not impossible without PNG getting on top of corruption


TUMBY BAY - Just like it is naïve to assume that racism doesn’t exist in most societies, it is naïve to think that most societies are now classless.

The differentiation of classes is no longer simply based on wealth and inheritance but involves more subtle factors.

The definitions of class have changed to the extent that they are no longer recognisable in the simplistic terms of yesteryear.

Nowadays, educational levels can determine where one sits in terms of class. Someone with a graduate degree, even if they are poverty stricken, is now regarded as middle class for instance.

The same goes for people with a demonstrated high intellect, even if they don’t have the certificates to prove it.

History tells us that more often than not the educated middle class are the change agents in society.

This is why the Australian administration in Papua New Guinea was keen to establish an educated middle class prior to independence.

The theory goes that while the lower classes are busy concentrating on survival and the upper classes on protecting and increasing their wealth only the educated middle class has the inclination, wherewithal and time to think about social issues.

What is recognisable as the middle class actually contains two sub-sets, the educated and the aspirational.

The former is largely made up of the caring professions, doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists and the like, while the latter is made up of business people.

Aspirational thinkers among the middle class usually spend their days trying to climb up social ladders and tend not to be too concerned about social conditions except where they affect them directly.

It is unfortunate when the educated sub-set of the middle class becomes too comfortable and complacent because that makes change difficult.

This has become blazingly obvious in places like Papua New Guinea.

In Papua New Guinea the distinction between the educated and the economically aspirational disappeared very quickly.

The result is a single hybrid middle class whose main interest is looking after its own interests.

While many of the middle class elites in Papua New Guinea seem to have sold their souls to Mammon, this is not so much the case in other parts of the world.

This is important because the coronavirus pandemic, which has seriously disrupted the world economic order, has now created opportunities to develop a new way of organizing and managing society and its attendant political, economic, and social components.

The realisation that change is required has been highlighted by the rank inability of the established order in many parts of the world, but notably in the US and UK, to effectively deal with the crisis. 

This demonstration of the diabolical incompetence of the world’s ruling elites has created universal feelings of resentment and anger not seen since the great depression of the 1930s.

The pandemic has been accepted by many progressive thinkers as putatively providing an opportunity for transforming a system that is ridden with deep economic and political inequalities and is profoundly destabilizing the ecology of the world.

As Walden Bello, a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus observes, “the subjective element, the psychological critical mass, is there. It is a whirlwind that is waiting to be captured by contending political forces. The question is who will succeed in harnessing it”.

One would expect, given the counterproductive interests of the different classes in society, that the educated middle class will naturally lead any uptake of this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

However, there are powerful forces arraigned against change and it is not altogether clear whether they’ve got the backbone to carry it off.

Those forces include the powerful upper class and their aspirational acolytes who steadfastly adhere to the principals of neo-liberalism and want a simple return to business as usual.

Another powerful force is the inertia of the lower classes. They are the ones suffering the most from the disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis but motivating them to support change is always a problem.

Whether they are sufficiently moved by their suffering into positive supportive action is a trillion dollar question for anyone, middle class or otherwise, hoping to affect the positive social change the whole world needs.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bernard Corden

Anti-apartheid revolutionary and leader Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison.

It was there that he learned about patience and perseverance, and acquired a deep, complex understanding of freedom for both the oppressed and the oppressors.

In his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

If liberty is stifled by social distancing and face masks, then sadly it was not freedom to begin with. The Covid-19 crisis has not imposed limits on liberty; it has just exposed the limitations of the ideology of emancipation.

"Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently" - Rosa Luxemburg

"Even the birds are chained to the sky" - Bob Dylan

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

The majority of people will resume shopping but on credit.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I suspect that the vast majority of people are simply waiting until they can resume shopping.

Philip Kai Morre

In the time of crisis, there are always unintended benefits. Air and water pollution in China and elsewhere have diminished due to factories closure. Environmental effects generally have been reduced.

In towns there has been less rubbish and criminal activities have been reduced.

Farmers have sold produce to make more money due to the closure of stores.

There are also mixed feelings as some Christians question the presence of God. At times of disaster and calamity God seems to be far away, ignoring his people.

Some would say our prayers went in vain or ask was it a punishment. Many become agonistic and question whether God allows us to suffer or the devil is at work.

Bernard Corden

Maybe it is time to take seriously Theodor Adorno’s warning: “I consider the survival of National Socialism within democracy to be potentially more menacing than the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.”

Chris Overland

An old French saying is "plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes" (the more things change the more they stay the same).

Right now, various governments across the world are grimly determined that things will indeed stay the same.

They are bending their will and resources to exactly this end: a return to normality.

Normality means a neo-liberal world in which the interests of the powerful and the wealthy take precedence over those of the poor, the weak and the helpless.

The relentless exploitation of the environment and people must be allowed to proceed at all costs, so as to fulfill the endlessly repeated mantra of "jobs n' growth".

The startling thing is that political conservatives, so long associated with caution in all things, have thrown in their lot with genuine radicalism, whereby the role of the state is reduced to that of a referee, only blowing the proverbial whistle when things get out of hand on the socio-economic playing field.

The rules of the game are now set by the players, not by governments, most of which are utterly in thrall to the Masters of Money, who dominate in all things.

As for Phil's lower classes, their role is as menials and servants, even those who are highly paid. Most importantly, they are consumers. Beyond that, there is no role for them to play.

They leave governance to the great and the good, who routinely present themselves as far wiser and more knowledgeable than those who now constitute the commons.

The concept of being a citizen has now been so perverted that most people never even think of themselves as more than a taxpayer or consumer.

This very bleak view of the state of humanity is only leavened by the fact that increasing numbers of people appear to be slowly realising the true state of affairs. But they are few and the indifferent, ignorant and helpless are legion.

So, to answer Phil's question, things are not going to change, at least not yet.

As long as the Masters of Money and their political servants believe that their interests lie in the status quo, there can be no change and it will take more than COVID 19 to shift them out of their comfort zone.

Michael Dom

I've had a long standing suspicion that "hoping to affect the positive social change the whole world needs", is a false ideology for the mythological wide open road to destruction.

It is the alternative salvation promised by the left. The opposition be damned.

"Positive social change" sounds wonderful except for the profound efforts people will make in order to achieve it everywhere, for everyone, always and right now.

Even though the best solutions have usually been executed locally, that's never enough.

Witness the world today.

God is dead. We killed Him. We are gods now. And everywhere our will be done.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)