The businessman: The Toroama story
Wisdom needs to prevail in Alotau crisis

The futility of protest, and a footnote

Philip Fitzpatrick - "By all means read, listen and complain if it makes you feel good. Just don’t expect anything to change"


TUMBY BAY - You’re reasonably astute and a follower of what’s going on in your country and the rest of the world.

What you see is a horrible combination of ignorance, greed, corruption and incompetence.

What you feel is impending disaster.

When you read your regular sources of information in newspapers, on the internet or elsewhere you find commentators who have exactly the same concerns you have.

To you, and these people, the concerns are real, urgent and immediate. If something is not done about them the consequences will be catastrophic.

You know what the problems are and more than likely have a fair idea of what needs to be done to fix them.

You believe that once the obstructionists standing in the way of solutions are widely known, people will swing in behind action to remove them or convince them to change their behaviour.

You understand the demands for change will require public pressure, protest movements, expressions of anger and leaders who will see the obvious threat that, through the ballot box, you and others will ensure they lose their positions.

So, when teetering on the edge of social calamity, physical disaster and personal oblivion, leaders will listen, see sense, step back, take stock and fix the problems.

Then, breathing a sigh of relief, you can resume your normal life. The good life you, and everyone you know, wants.

And yet, far from taking the required action, leaders continue in their ways, nothing happens to clarify their vision or redirect their behaviour.

Perhaps you wonder why. Surely they are not so stupid as to not see what is happening. Surely other people are not so blind as to understand that things must change.

Here’s some bad news.

The world is full of stupid and gullible people led by the nose by equally stupid but devious individuals who don’t care what happens to anyone else or even the future of life on earth.

They don’t care.

And why should they care if they are comfortable in their mansions, fly around in executive jets, exploit people and resources at will, and generally feel they’re having a good time and deserve every second of it?

When our planet finally succumbs to their predations, they’ll be long dead. But their vision never extends that far. So what does it matter?

If great numbers of the people are so trusting to believe the lies these people tell that their cronies are happy to enable and a collusive media are willing to propagate, is that the fault of the perpetrators?

The perpetrators do not believe so.

Even though there is a moral duty to ensure other people are safe and OK, they do not care.

And if securing their position means paying bribes or favouring cronies or suppressing opposition, then they feel that’s fine.

And if you have the courage to challenge, you will be savaged.

It takes much courage to challenge. It takes discomfort and pain.

Often if you’re smart enough to do better, it’s easier to join them, and avoid the discomfort and pain.

So, given all this, are things likely to change?

It’s more likely that little or nothing will change.

So what to do?

From where I sit, there’s more bad news. There’s nothing you can do.

Humans dislike change and are wont to stumble on regardless. Only when sitting among the wreckage of what could have been prevented will they realise how stupid they have been.

And maybe not even then if there’s somebody they can blame.

That’s how humans do things. They stuff up and only if they survive the crisis do they think about changing things.

For a while at least.

When the collective memory fades, they do it all over again.

By all means read, listen and complain if it makes you feel good.

Just don’t expect anything to change.

If you do you’ll be disappointed.


Keith Jackson - "You must understand that change is always possible and that power is always there to be grabbed"

Keith Jackson writes:

I must add a redemptive editorial opinion. There is change, there can be change and there will ever be change.

We have all experienced change – and we have all benefited from it. But change is not always positive. It is not always progressive. It is not always the change we wanted. It does not always work as expected. However there is change.

If you really want change, you have to get out and work for it (or hope that others will do it for you). As we get old, as Phil and I are getting old, the sad corollaries are often infirmity and irrelevance and their accompanying disempowerment.

These consequences of ageing change the way we feel about our personal power and our ability to change things.

But, even though limited by how we can exert the power that might render change, we must be careful not to generalise from this to what others may be able do. Indeed, some of these others may listen to what we have to say and write, and learn from this.

Great minds have tasked themselves with the challenge of how things can be changed for the better. And there is considerable agreement on what Socrates probably was the first to say.

“Let him who would move the world first move himself.”

The boundless thinker Socrates was echoed by very many others down the centuries, like Leo Tolstoy who wrote that “true life is lived when tiny changes occur” or Margaret Mead who said “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

So we must understand that change is always possible and that power is always there to be grabbed. Yes, grabbed. Very rarely will it descend without effort.

If we give in to a mood that there is nothing we can do, and if others feel the same, the bad guys will always win.

But if we accept that change is possible, that power is there to be contested and that we can initiate the process whereby i can be contested, then we don’t have to accept what we're given  is our ordained place and surrender to what seems inevitable.

There is much we can do to ensure you leave this planet better than when we found it. And it has to start from us doing something to challenge as inadequate status quo, wherever we find it and whoever we are - KJ


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Philip Fitzpatrick

The capacity for change might lie with us as citizens but I fail to see what good that is going to do us. As an individual I have the capacity to do all sorts of things but I know I'm never going to actually use that capacity, particularly if it involves a modicum of discomfort. Similarly, just because the capacity for change lies within our national and global entities that doesn't mean that change will occur. That's probably the greatest irony of all, As I've already mentioned we know what's wrong and we know how to fix it. I'd also add that we have the capacity to make the changes required. But will we do it? I doubt it very much.

With respect to hinge points I would observe that such points in the past have nearly always been accompanied by significant upheaval and great costs to humanity. We might be at a new hinge point but its not going to happen as if by magic. More than likely this hinge point will result in war, revolution or something equally nasty. It's not something to look forward to as some people seem to be thinking.

My feeling is that the world will only decide that change is absolutely necessary when we are in an absolute state of desperation and distress. By then, of course, the situation will be so bad that any capacity for change we still have will be simply not up to the enormity of the task.

Chris Overland

While I sympathise with Phil and certainly agree with Michael, Keith is right to say that the capacity for change lies with us as citizens.

This is an especially fortunate state of affairs given the manifest failings of our erstwhile leaders, most of whom tend to fall short of our hopes and expectations.

History suggests that revolutionary change is impossible until the moment it is inevitable. There usually is a hinge point where this occurs and, right now, we seem to be at such a point.

The manifest failings of neo-liberal capitalism have been vividly on display for some time.

Within its dark heart lie the seeds of a great deal that is wrong in our world, for it promotes self interest, greed and avarice above all else.

This, in turn, helps perpetuate the despoliation, exploitation, hypocrisy and lies that are perverting and undermining our democracies.

The same forces are at work within the authoritarian regimes too, all of which rely upon the democratic world's venality, greed and stupidity to generate the cash flow that sustains them in power.

Those of us living in the rich world need to understand that our wealth is built largely upon the ruthless exploitation of others.

The multinational giants of our time are true predators, driven by the profit motive above everything and unhindered by morality or, sometimes, even by the law.

The mantra of endless economic growth at all costs is deeply pernicious and is, as Michael has noted, causing us to literally eat ourselves. We no longer live in a sensible relationship with the planet that sustains us.

Covid-19 is a warning to us all that we continue on this path at our mortal peril. Whether our leaders can actually recognise and respond to this and other warnings is an open question but they certainly will not do so unless and until we tell them, loudly and repeatedly, that things must change.

If they cannot or will not change then we must dispense with their services, preferably by use of a vote but by other means if all else fails.

Bernard Corden

In Place of Fear by Aneurin Bevan was first published back in 1952.

Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death - Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business was published a bit later in 1985 and is a good read:

Probably the most fascinating book on the subject of technology and technique comes from Jacques Ellul:

Michael Dom

Nope, Bevan is wrong.

We are social media cannibals.

If it's information we consume then we are already metaphorically eating ourselves.

Human evolution is almost complete.

Soon we will be live streaming the horrors of our inhumanity on Facebook and taking Instagram selfies in the carnage of war, famine and pestilence, while our Twitter commentaries provide the daily news updates.



We're already doing all that.

Bernard Corden

Let us not forget the four dead in Ohio at KSU campus on 04/05/1970:

Philip Fitzpatrick

What I'm talking about is large and fundamental change, like tackling climate change, creating social equity, reversing racism and sexism, putting an end to constant warmongering and issues like that Paul.

We can tinker at the edges all we like and do good things as Keith suggests but as experience tells us big things don't necessarily grow from small things.

What prompted me to think about this, apart from advancing senility, was reading the biography of David Dellinger (From Yale to Jail: The Life Story of a Moral Dissenter, Pantheon, New York, 1993).

Dave was a good friend of Martin Luther King Jnr and fought for human rights and change all his life. He was one of the famous Chicago Eight put on trial for protesting the Vietnam War.

In all of his causes he mobilised hundreds of thousands of people, as did Martin Luther King, but when he died nothing had changed. In fact, things were worse and continued to get even more worse.

Just to take racism as an example, America is now probably as racist as it has ever been. Martin Luther King, who was killed by a contract assassin, probably organised by the CIA, was a wonderful man but he wasted his life on a lost cause.

Our current crop of leaders all over the world are almost without exception moral degenerates. We've got one in Australia and so has Papua New Guinea.

I cannot see, despite what the optimists say, that anything is going to change anytime soon.

Paul Oates

On the subject of change, as in almost any other areas of human endeavours, assessment depends on your perspective.

If there is one subject that former Kiaps have a modicum of experience in talking about and effecting, it’s change.

We were warned by anthropologists at our training at ASOPA (Australian School of Pacific Admin.), that we would be ‘Agents of Change’. While we listened to their lectures, it was not until we actually started to work with PNG people that we gradually started to understand what changes we would put in place and take responsibility for.

Let’s start with my first patrol and how many other ‘liklik’ Kiaps initially found themselves in. After field training and arriving at my first Patrol Post, I was taken to a mountain top, introduced to about 2,000 people, given a plan of an airstrip on a foolscap sheet of paper and told, ‘Go ahead and start building an airstrip and Oh, by the way, learn to speak the local vernacular language at the same time. Come back when you’ve achieved something and report.’

Suppose we were to take a helicopter look at that situation. The local people wanted to build an airstrip so that they could sell their coffee beans to nearby trade stores and not have to carry the green beans a long way to distant buying centres. Clearly, they wanted change. There were energetic local leaders who motivated their people but they needed an impetus to start and carry through to finish what in objective terms, was a colossal exercise. Constructing an airstrip by hand.

What was missing? In reality, it was a belief that it really could be done. Placing a liklik Kiap with the people provided an indication that the Government had confidence in the people’s ability to actually achieve their stated aim. It told them that they had they truly power to achieve what they wanted.

Years later, the first aircraft landed on that airstrip.

When people put their minds to do something, all it requires is a proven plan, effective leadership and the will to get it done.

In his own way, Phil is laying down a challenge. If you really want change, you must be prepared to work hard achieve it. No one will hand it to you on a platter. Before you start work however, you must decide on a workable plan and choose and support leaders who will make it work.

This is the only way the human species has advanced over the last few thousand years.

Bernard Corden

“Soon, if we are not prudent, millions of people will be watching each other starve to death through expensive television sets” ― Aneurin Bevan (In Place of Fear)

"Rage rage against the dying of the light" - Dylan Thomas

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