I walked on bilums. I’m sorry
Marape to open Western Pacific University

Hard working men & village folk yet to eat


Introductory glossary: (1) Hard working men = those who claim to lead the MPs campaign; (2) Village folk yet to eat = those who may receive cash from the MP; (3) Men who are eating = those who do receive cash from the MP

PORT MORESBY - I occasionally travel to my tribal land for feasts and holidays to mingle with our village folk and talk to all and sundry.

After the 2017 general election I went home and the self-proclaimed hard working men bragged about their daring roles during that election that enabled our tribesman to win, which he did.

The hard working men are convinced that, with a tribesman now a member of parliament, they and the village folk will have bulging stacks of cash zipped shut in their bilums through courtesy of the district’s money vault.

Others believe the village folk will eat unrestrainedly until some die of farting diarrhoea, whilst others will get sick with noses badly clogged from the smell of cash fresh from the factory.

“Wait and you will see these things come to fruition,” they told me.

Four years on, I went home again and the excitement had diminished and the smiles were weak.

And they walked submissively in their rags, looking as if they had lost their appetite or had barely survived through a long drought.

But still they talked. This time, the most aesthetic music to their ears was the gossip about who was eating and who was not from the local MP.

The money economy has never served the village folks well.

But still they crave for any cash that may come their way and are eager to do dirty jobs for a pittance.

However, we are all human and, when life’s trials throw a challenge, the people will invent a strategy to counter it.

We know that because we have observed the long journey from huts to skyscrapers.

Politics is about making decisions about how to distribute scarce resources in the midst of unlimited needs.

But village folk have a way to indulge on the spoils of victory without using lobby groups, street protests or rational argument.

They campaign and vote; they con politicians and in turn are conned; they give and eat, or are yet to eat.

This has happened election upon election and they are now experts on local politics.

The village folk too believe they can play mind games and craft the politicians and the wannabes to succumb to their game plan.

Anyhow, be that true or not, their dreams to sleep on a bed of cash straight out of the cash factory drive some men to leave home and go sleep under the MP’s house.

From there they bask, chitchatting around, clogging up the MP’s rest room, shower space and inflating electricity bills playing card games until dawn or dusk depending on when they started.

There is no degree of guilt or shame. This is their politics.

These men adorn themselves with titles like HWM (hard working men) and frisk and then dictate to every visitor at the MP’s gate.

Some wives, like their indecorous husbands, announce that every evening they have carted steaming hot copper dishes of food (carried on to their heads) for the campaign house.

But to date, of course, are yet to eat anything provided by the MP.

The womenfolk sell betel nut and smokes to the mob of constituents who inundate the MP’s gate every day.

They then give betel nut and smokes to the constituents as a gesture of goodwill.

Then they charge the MP a high price on an inflated invoice and, when the bill has been paid from the MP’s pocket, they will dash to the open air market and feast on fried lamb flaps and scones, and brag about their scam.

Sadly, these folks have no iota of respect for the MP’s wife and children nor their privacy.

If the wife wants to apply rules for everyone to observe in the MP’s house the hard working men will scold her.

They say their hard work alone landed her husband his job and they need special respect from her.

At dawn, the hard working men go into town and forcefully tell people to come to the MP for help and they bring them to the house.

If the MP sees those constituents and helps, the person who scouts them and brought them will later get his rendezvous fees from the visitor.

One such hard working man left behind his wife and children in some unplanned ghetto to fend for themselves and flew to live with the MP.

He joined his father, who was already at the MP’s house and had spent a couple of years crouching underneath there in hope of becoming a man who is eating.

A couple of years passed and the younger man sent a text message to the MP directing that the MP buy some bags of rice, tinned food and deliver them to the wife and children he left behind.

He also threatened to chop the MP if he flew up to his electorate without doing that.

Another lazy bugger said he had given the MP the spear or kulak kokia, the baton of authority handed down from a chief to the next of kin (before the chief disappeared into the sunset).

He also said he had given the MP a gentleman’s suit and a cowboy hat during his candidacy and those were the powers that actually swept the MP to victory.

At this juncture, he thought the MP owed him a great deal of reciprocity and so he wanted crates of beer every time the MP appeared back home for electoral duties.

Though the man has not an iota of blessing or authority, the cooked up story to get closer to the MP did serve him well, and he has gargled a few good beers so far.

The hard working men have no inch of care about schools, roads, hospitals and peace.

They just demand cash handouts in return for their toil during campaign periods. They are willing to turn into howling dogs just to get something to eat.

They know the MP has a whole district to feed and will have nothing for them unless they bother him.

If the MP runs out of patience and punches one of the hard working men and inflicts a bloody nose or brow, the victim’s family will applaud the victim, mummify his head and carry him on a stretcher to the MP to seek cash compensation.

There is a craving for upper cuts on the chin primarily for cash compensation.

Behavioural scientists allude that dogs are not only the best friends of humans, but that humans and dogs share a genetic makeup.

This is said to explain why dogs act like humans and humans act like dogs.

Our locality already has a growing segment of dog-like humans scavenging for anything that they can lay their snouts on.

To sum up, these folk cook up their own governance theories on how MPs and bureaucrats should run a district.

Their theories are mostly influenced by the famous money rain and cargo cult movements.

A poor education system produces this mob of uncritical thinkers and bad analysts and leads to herd mentality followers, as I have expounded.

All this said, I feel for the current MP, and all the other MPs who will come into the office in future.

The education system and the churches have a duty to educate the masses on what are the real roles and responsibilities of the MP.

Unless the hard working men and the village folk demand good policies and sustainable development, the MPs will continue to contribute to funerals, grog and give cash to zip the howling snouts.

Just to evade the dog-like characteristics of the hard working men and the village folk yet to eat.


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Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

Thank you for the comments.

I think people were better off being subsistence farmers until the money economy controlled by the stratos-dwellers entered their doorsteps.

What is observed and told here is 'survival of the fittest' in motion; they are trying to find their fit in the money economy when they are devoid of knowledge and skills in both the agrarian and the secular worlds.

AG Satori - I could have made a mention of the 'kaikai man' but did not and it is true that the 'kaikai men' swindle, make deals, serve as pimps between firms and individuals, and get a much bigger cut than the village folks and the hard working men.

Mr Morre - I tend to lean towards the dogs than the pigs but these dog-like humans are pigs too.

PNG fat cats have learned a lot from the Anglo-Saxons and Uncle Sam, so the disbursement of contracts and jobs to their own kind or club boys (the 'spoils of victory') is well understood.

Daniel Kumbon

Good one, Sil. This situation you have accurately described is not only in Simbu but common in all the Highlands provinces.

You will find the haves and the have nots - those who are eating and those who are not - everywhere.

You will also find many overnight millionaires among supporters too. They have sprouted out of the ground like mushrooms.

You would think those who are not eating, mainly from within the tribe of the MP, will not vote for him in the next election.

But wait and see come 2021 - they will scream at the top of their voices for people to re-elect him. They want to maintain tribal pride. That’s more important.

Perhaps they will have the chance to eat or continue to complain only if their tribesman is in office.

They will say, "You can’t complain openly to somebody else but your own tribal brother. You can do so very easily. We must vote for our brother and keep him up there. Perhaps we will have our chance to eat next round."

But when unfortunate situations like election-related violence occur, these same supporters who sleep under the MP's house will die like dogs. They will be the first to take up arms and start the war cry.

And when they fall, they will lie on the battlefield, truly like homeless dogs.

Philip Kai Morre

If we have the same characteristics and behaviour as dogs, there is also some good innate behaviour in the dog's world we should follow.

Dogs are obedient to their masters and they are full of forgiveness, in which we human beings fall short, carrying our pain and resentment for many years.

Why should we carry on like this creating self injury and internal pain? We have to learn to forgive our enemies or people we hate, making reconciliation.

In the political context, hard work men are categorised as dogs but they could also be called pigs because pigs are worse than dogs. Except they bring you bigman prestige.

The MP is elected to bring services and hard work men are an integral part of political campaigns to make them win.

They have to appreciate them for what they have done, even risking their lives. We cannot blame hard work men and brand them as dogs but find some meaningful activities.

Most of the hard work men are youths and the MP should sign a memorandum of understanding with the National Youth Development Authority and establish youth councils in their respective districts.

Bring counter funding from the National Youth Development Authority and engage them in meaningful activities.

If we have a free and fair election process, there won't be many hand work men. Violent voting creates far more problems.

Brown Bolzy Gari

That's exactly what is happening to most Simbu MPs. They refuse to go to their electorates because of the claims and expectations of the hard work men.

They also avoid their own homes just to avoid such dogs under their houses.

That's the contributing factor to lack of development in our districts as MP's mind is disturb by these stupid fools.

The solution to this deadly culture is for the MPs to ignore the hard work men even to the extent of using the police on such persons disturbing his peace.

Ian Poole

Magnificent, Sil, best summary of our predicament for ages, told with a good dash of black humour.

I'm a tad sceptical about comparisons with the outside world by a number of commentators. I think we have to keep the focus on PNG because this malaise is totally undermining our society.

'Bigmen' maintain they have to give out, when the obvious problem to all is the giving-out of their waistlines.

Voters offer up their single votes but want to know what the 'bigman' will do for them in exchange. In reality, projects are largely out the window; person-to-person relationships prevail, despite the gris.

Sorry, the only cure for this rot is total abolition of slush funds, period.

How long do we have to put up with all the mauswara about this subject, it's a nonsense that turns us towards selfishness and away from virtues like sharing, as we scrabble for the fat man's favours (no women, you'll notice, they have to share, to provide for their families).

Robert Muka

Great observations Sil Bolkin. It’s so sad to witness this sort of behaviour in this time and age but I don’t blame them after witnessing the ignorance displayed by Donald Trump’s supporters in a powerful country like USA.

You’re right. The education system and the churches plus the MPs themselves have a duty to educate their cult-like followers to calm down.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Chris is right Sil - there is very little difference between what is going on in PNG politics to what is going on in Australian politics. You probably observed that when you were living in Canberra.

AG Satori

Yes hatwok mahnmeri istap tasol Kaikai mahnmeri lokim tru ya.
My end of the woods, the hard working people are there but we have a group of people called the kaikai mahnmeri who seems only to be the real and tangible beneficiaries.
Hatwok mahnmeri waits for the elections to then sells his support to the highest bidder.
He couldn't care less as he knows the prospect of him becoming a kaikai mahnmeri is very slim unless he has other attributes the politician will need. it

Chris Overland

This is as good a description as you could get about how traditional cultural practices in PNG impact upon the political process.

On the one hand, there is strong engagement at the village level in the electoral process and, on the other, there is the the belief that electoral success for the local member means there is a reciprocal obligation to deliver "cargo" to relatives and supporters.

This is the basic engine of political corruption as practiced across the world.

For PNG, the only real difference is how overt and accepted the process is although here in Australia conservative politicians have only recently given up even pretending that they do not use untied grant money to blatantly deliver "cargo" to their favoured electorates.

They seem to be taking a leaf out of a PNG politician's handbook.

Surely the distribution of lamb flaps and beer must shortly follow?

Norah Omen

Politics corruption in our district needs a private auditor to investigate the authorities.

Citizens of Ambunti and Dreikikir are suffering for the lack of service delivery. It is not like in the colonial period. Assistance services are needed in Ambunti. The citizens are desperate.

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