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Can we resurrect the house of wisdom

Joe herman
Joe Herman - "Is there anything left of those noble traditions that we can revisit as a source of strength as we recalibrate our journey?"


SEATTLE, USA - There are many similarities between the communities of Australia’s indigenous people and the people of Papua New Guinea in how we are dealing with the tension between the dreamtime and this modern era.

As you know, in PNG we have gullibly embraced almost all aspects of the western cultural values that landed on our shores.

One of the lasting outcomes of this embrace is how today’s young people regard formal schooling in the getting of wisdom. This change is evident and being played out in the classrooms.

For instance, many schoolchildren’s dramatic presentations depict a village lapun [old] man as "longlong kanaka em nogat save" [an ignorant primitive who understands nothing]. They project lapuns as being ‘stupid’ and ‘inogat save’.

Certainly schooling can teach students knowledge, but wisdom is also to be gained from the lapuns’ tutelage.

Growing up in Enga impacted my view of the world. Watching and hearing the lapuns helped me develop a dimension that is less apparent in formal schooling.

It helped me in navigating the tensions between two diametrically opposing value systems: a foreign system imposed on us and the Enga cultural value system.

I had the benefit of being immersed in the elders’ tutelage at the hausman [men’s house].

Those wisdoms that were passed down became my reliable source of strength as I navigated my way through a fast-changing world.

In today’s Enga, the hausman concept is of the past.

The few remaining lapuns have moved in with the grandkids with a diminished role.

Many live in makeshift shelters in the shanty town at the edge of Wabag town.

The young aimlessly spend each day at the buai [betel nut] and loose cigarette marketplaces along the only road that leads to Porgera gold mine.

As other people have asked, have we gone past the turning point to bring back the best of what was?

Is there anything left of those auu piuu petenge, auu piuu kitenge [gutpela sidaun pasin; noble traditions] that we can revisit as a source of strength, the go-to place, as we recalibrate our journey?


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Bernard Corden

Dear Joe and Lindsay,

Here is a link to a fascinating article from Henry Giroux entitled "Fascist Culture, Critical Pedagogy, and Resistance in Dark Times", which was recently published on Counterpunch:

Jim Moore

Western society really has no equivalent to the "hausman."
I've often wondered if the following might have any impact on how we learn and come to understand our world.

Prior to starting any university degree, every prospective student would be required to not only undertake, but pass with credit, a mandatory one year course in philosophy and logic, not just of the Aristotolean/western bent, but also encompassing philosophy rooted in other cultures, eg, Confucianism.

This might just impact on students' world view, and possibly lead to better cross-cultural awareness.

If a student can't answer the fundamentals precepts such as, "How do I know that I know something?", or understand that an argument is so flawed that it should not be considered, or have any ability to understand "How do I live a good life?", then they aren't going to gain much value from a degree in STEM subjects, such that would enable them to engage in productive and worthwhile work.

The recent change to degree costs bears out the failure of our society to value education, we only realise its cost.

Lindsay F Bond

Quite takes my breath away, to see such erudition set forth, Bernard.

In TP&NG of 1960s, such dialogue and this platform were of dreams.

As then was hardly thought possible, if even dreamt, arises yet hope.

There have been cultures where a manner of speaking that states two diametrically opposed concepts is to harness some (or all) possibilities that avail in the midst.

Exploration of encompassed concepts is afforded by Joe's proposal as a step to delineation.

How much is objectification required in any programming for result?

One example is the Iranian full size model of an aircraft carrier, for practicing underwater assault.

Another is a Chinese "1:500 scale terrain model of part of the disputed territory [said to be] built for wargaming".


Question is how much resourcing is required and how much is available for individuals (let alone societies) to develop meaningful constructs?

Bernard Corden

Dear Joe - Objectivism has subverted almost every contemporary education system across the globe to meet the needs and demands of industrialization, globalization and free market fundamentalism.

It favours natural sciences based on empirical evidence over social sciences, humanities and the arts.

This is further complicated by an internal hierarchy with a preference for art and music over drama and dance and the creative capacities of many aspiring adolescents are extirpated accordingly.

The late Pablo Picasso once proclaimed that all infants are born artists although as they mature, precious attributes such as imagination, originality and innovation are ruthlessly denigrated.

Unorthodox or different behaviour is often deemed wrong and typically ridiculed. Indeed, we don’t grow into creativity, we are educated out of it and any skerrick of defiance is chastised accordingly.

Moreover, education systems have mined our minds in a similar manner to the way strip-mining plunders the planet for a particular commodity.
A dystopian future beckons unless the fundamental principles of education are restructured, embodied and embrace a sophisticated ecoliterate and transdisciplinary approach.

In the industrial sector, most transnational corporate conglomerates drink from the Ayn Rand objectivism fountain and worship the Friedman doctrine or shareholder theory, which proclaims that the only duty of a corporation is to maximize profits accruing to its shareholders.

This is often exacerbated by an architecture of oppression using the Deming quality management cycle supplemented by the sophism of what gets measured gets managed.

It is frequently compounded by a relentless pursuit of perfection using a zero harm or defects fatwa and business improvement techniques such as Six Sigma.

This sacrifices rather than satisfies integrity and even minor errors are embellished and typically stigmatized via an auto da fé or Spanish Inquisition.

The humanities and arts are the engine room of creativity although our federal government recently announced a staggering increase in the cost of a social sciences degree.

Moreover funding for most education and research establishments remains parsimonious and the deficit has been bridged by sponsorship from numerous corporate brigands.

Many global conglomerates such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Chevron and Woodside Petroleum provide support to several tertiary education establishments, which include the University of Queensland Sustainable Minerals Institute, Central Queensland University and the University of Western Australia Business School.

The alumni or former students include many renowned philanthropists although the generosity is an ideal mechanism for promoting an avuncular public image whilst simultaneously laundering dirty money and other ill-gotten gains.

The power of social sciences, humanities and the arts and complementary studies including poetics, music, dance and drama must never be underestimated.

In the United Kingdom, most coal mining communities were represented by a colliery brass band, which established robust social relationships that enhanced community spirit amongst many oppressed miners and their beleaguered families.

The resilience was skilfully depicted in Mark Herman’s highly acclaimed movie Brassed Off, which portrayed the social consequences of widespread pit closures throughout northern England following the prolonged and bitter miners’ strike during the 1980s.

More recently, Billy Elliot, the fictitious British dance drama features a working class boy with a clandestine passion for ballet in a low provenance household amidst a rugged and masculinist Durham mining community.

Broken Hill in outback New South Wales is an eclectic cultural oasis and it became the first Australian city to be included on the National Heritage List.

It has many literary connections and was home to Pro Hart and Jack Absalom, and the Brushmen of the bush artists’ colony. Immediate environs include the Living Desert Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, which contains the internationally acclaimed Sculpture Symposium consisting of a dozen large red sandstone sculptures.

However, several city thoroughfares have the unenviable distinction of being the most contaminated residential streets in New South Wales and blood lead levels amongst many infants in the local community remains a significant public health issue.

The natural and social sciences dichotomy is hardly a new phenomenon and was raised by the late C. P. Snow during the controversial Rede Lecture entitled The Two Cultures at Cambridge University back in the late 1950s.

It lamented the chasm between scientists and literary intellectuals and a subsequent book offered a more detailed critical analysis of the polemic.

In 2010, the topic was rekindled by Baroness Onora O’Neill during the Aronui Lecture at Wellington in New Zealand. It continues generating extensive debate, which was recently aggravated by the Australian federal government’s decision to significantly increase fees for an arts degree and reduce costs for natural science related subjects.

The limitations, anomalies and constraints of the scientific method and technology (or more precisely technique), have been critically analyzed by several notable academics including Jacques Ellul, Paul Feyerabend, Thomas Kuhn and Neil Postman.

Notwithstanding Aldous Huxley’s scorn, the current global malaise and beckoning socioeconomic apocalypse cannot be solely attributed to exponential technological development, which includes artificial intelligence, internet use and addiction to social media platforms.

Indeed, most of the inherent failings emerge from dominant techniques that require established methods to achieve a desired outcome or conclusion much more efficiently, which is quite a different beast than the technology.

Despite the escalating condemnation, social media platforms have revolutionized communication and generated many intrinsic benefits.

It often provides a deeper insight into reality and enables some dissidents to explore and anatomize the ruthless behaviour of many corporate predators and our submissive governments.

During the Queensland resources boom the Lock the Gate Alliance and several independent journalists often resorted to social media and it allowed a few courageous whistleblowers to expose numerous examples of regulatory capture and corporate malfeasance.

This has generated a sinister paradox and the powerful tyrants at the helm of most social media corporations have responded accordingly.

Under a rubric of fake news, artificial intelligence algorithms are used to rapidly refine the dialogue, which enables editors to distinguish the baby from the bathwater much more efficiently and then throw away the baby.

This is reminiscent of sensationalist red top rag tabloid journalism or Murdochracy with its embarrassing, tactless and melodramatic slogans.

In May 1982, The Sun newspaper published its notorious Gotcha headline following the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands War.

Less than a decade later another callous caption entitled The Truth was emblazoned across its front page immediately following the Hillsborough stadium disaster.

An inordinate emphasis on positivism eventually entangles the system and its processes with many of the impurities it attempts to resolve.

It is a wicked problem and solutions that prove successful with simple linear cause effect relationships inadvertently generate many more toxic derivatives.

There can be no absolute prediction of the future and our inherent vulnerability with a propensity for risk and necessity to learn inevitably results in some pain and suffering.

Without any residual risk there is no learning or being and the denial of fallibility is a renunciation of wisdom. The prospects are somewhat daunting and often generate escalating psychosocial risks.

It is frequently exacerbated by black box psychology and a mechanistic behaviourist ideology with an extremely narrow, militaristic and didactic definition of culture as … the way we do things around here.

The rapid advances in technology or more precisely, the subsequent technique may well be contributing towards the current global malaise.

However, incalculable narcissism, escalating inequality and entrenched apathy are not contemporary phenomena and we have been on a dystopian trajectory over many decades, which was scornfully depicted in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Many of the negative aspects amongst most western democracies include social atomization, commodification, individualism, solipsism and consumerism.
An exponential increase in these undesirable traits over the past few decades has combined with population growth and several other unheeded events such as the great financial crisis, climate change with prolonged drought and devastating bush fires and the coronavirus pandemic.

This has generated a dysfunctional resonance amidst an unsustainable global economy, which is extremely dependent upon infinite growth on a constrained or finite planet and is accelerating the journey towards a socioeconomic Armageddon.

It is easy although somewhat naïve to jump aboard the carousel of culpability and disparage the Silicon Valley brigands and the socially autistic geeks within the Friends of O’Reilly cult.

They are no less predatory or rapacious than many of the ruthless insurgents across the resources and other industrial and commercial sectors.

These include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Alcoa, Exxon, British Petroleum, Boeing, Shell and numerous food and beverage manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies.

All of their senior executives deify the Chicago school of economics shareholder theory and drink from the McKinsey & Company fountain or prefer the anarcho-capitalist Austrian route and embark on Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom at the Mises Institute.

Social media and artificial intelligence are indeed one of the multiple crises we can no longer ignore as chronic catabolic capitalism with its ideology of free market fundamentalism spirals towards the end of its callous crusade.

In an era of casino capitalism that worships celebrity status, the accumulation of enormous wealth supplemented by trophy homes and luxury yachts has become the ultimate test of human achievement.

Indeed from an economic perspective, a forest is worth far more after it has been logged or a gam of whales has a significantly enhanced financial value if the mammals are hunted and killed….

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.

In an era of social media with supra-surveillance, which relentlessly strip-mines are minds, we have become the commodity just like the tree or the whale.

If we are texting on a new smartphone or transfixed by Angry Birds on the latest version of an Apple iPad, it provides greater value to the Silicon Valley brigands.

This fatally flawed ideology is nothing more than an enormous festering Ponzi scheme, which is underpinned by pyramid selling and aggressive telemarketing.

It merely resembles a house of cards built on estuarine mudflats and its fragility has been comprehensively exposed, especially during the recent global coronavirus pandemic.

Following the global financial crisis, the free market advocates admitted their entire intellectual edifice had collapsed and is time for their opponents to fill the vacuum.

This requires a fundamental review of the role of government and demands resetting market and state boundaries to establish how a civilised and democratic society must treat its people.

It involves a much more sophisticated, ecoliterate and transdisciplinary approach, which accepts the coexistence of multiple contradictions and realities and explores the existential dialectic between the objective and subjective components of risk.

This investigates the profound realities of complex wicked problems and attempts to liberate reason from a positivist domain. It tackles many issues that are beleaguered with paradox or ambiguity and often unfamiliar to the physical or natural sciences and aligns with Bertrand Russell’s maxim that the road to prosperity and happiness lies in an organized diminution of work.

The mask of social media’s kindliness disguises yet another ugly and sociopathic corporate culture and it does not require much critical thinking to envisage the sinister objectives of Apple or Amazon executives.

Both of the technology brigands are seizing control of the arts via their iTunes and Kindle social media platforms in collaboration with the incumbent government.

This determines which books get published and what music gets released and Orwell's dictum resonates: "Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past."

The following links are also worth a review:

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