Monday, June 28, 2010

It's time: the day of Papua New Guinea's middle class has dawned



The word of Christ was brought to Papua New Guinea in the 19th century.

Evangelists came armed with an ideal, both institutional and individual, which meant commitment to the task in hand above any other.

A task of conversion of a society and its fundamental belief-systems to a radically-different view of mankind’s origin, of the human race’s place in the world and the cosmos, and of individuals’ responsibilities, one to another.

Soon after the initial impact of the early missionaries another foreign force devoted to the imposition of new ways of social management and interaction arrived.

But these men were not driven by a long-term philosophy or objective.

The first colonial governors were driven by a simple imperative; a political one, primarily.

To occupy and to claim sovereignty.

Followed by a secondary concern for sources of trade and the management of what might follow.

The indigenous social-management systems which the foreigners, missionaries and governors alike, encountered were geared to the daily survival, within a situation of competition, of hundreds of mutually-antagonistic micro-societies.

To that extent the system worked well, but the level of enmity shown to outsiders would not permit of any assumption of sovereignty, of rule, without recourse to force, or at least of a demonstration of force.

This was accomplished simply by the aggressive or the defensive, or simply by the demonstrative deployment of the multi-chambered firearms which the newcomers possessed.

The existence of peace within society was thus procured.

 Within this altered situation new ideas grew and spread.

Nevertheless, more than a century later, in 2010, kastom tumbuna or its remnant ideals and attitudes are still manifestly present in all sorts of ways.

 In particular in terms of continuing tribalism- with its echoes of racism- so deeply imbedded that people often describe themselves as being “ of mixed Madang/East Sepik parentage” etc., etc.,. For heavens sake!

Are people so ashamed of their native country that they shy away from identifying as citizens of it, and instead cite the provinces in which their parents were born?

This feeling of being a member of a restricted ethnic group rather than a citizen of an independent constitutional national commonwealth has resulted in the confused, jealous and distrustful, and thus largely incoherent and weak society which exists in PNG today.

Is this because PNG’s modern leaders have never been able to empower the nation and drive it to any peak of widely-recognised achievement in social development or in living-standards, resulting in some sense of national pride?

 Is this why league football, the only international arena within which PNG has demonstrated any continuing level of talent and success, is almost a holy icon to the ordinary people of this nation?

Such an indecisive, weak society will never push and empower the triumphant raising of the democratic and independent nation of PNG as an exemplary developing peoples’ commonwealth where honesty and positivism governs the life and the rights of the multitude.

 But we do have a thriving, ambitious and largely-dissatisfied middle-class in PNG; a class consisting of the wage-and-salary earners, the professionals of all types, and the entrepreneurs in all areas of business from big to small.

These people, many of them in their 'fifties today, remember the sort of education and medical attention they received as kids forty years ago, and look at what is now available to their own children and grandchildren; services often to be paid for first, and then found to be wanting in performance and result.

These people are potentially the source of the emergence of a loud, unified and informed voice in the electorate.

A voice sounding from a great many throats across the nation, and a voice which by virtue of its issue from the educated members of each family, each clan, each community is a voice which will be respected, listened to.

A voice whose recommendations and evoked desires and principles will be taken up across the country among the villages, among the settlements, among the illiterate and the impoverished of each and every province as well as among the educated and aware.

 As I’ve said before, its time for the re-emergence of the LLGS as an effective community-based control over district resources, over planning and over the restoration of basic health and education systems in the provinces.

 But it’s also now time for a leader to step up and adopt the middle-class of PNG as his or her own constituency.





1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:15 PM


    True pla [article] hits the home run.

    And there's no one - or is there anyone? - at 3rd base to catch it...make it personal.

    The last sentence sums up the challenge neatly for us: "...its now time for a leader to step up and adopt the middle-class of PNG as his or her own constituency."

    Next comes the $100 million questions: Who, amongst us, is gonna rise up to the occasion, and take on this challenge?

    Or will we retreat into the comforts of our shells, and forever become a nation of whiners!

    Amos T. Wama
    Geneva, Switzerland