“It is circa 1973/74. We are gutting fish on the main village shore after returning home with a decent haul of tuna to share at the dinner table. The rest will be sold at the fish market. It was a good day out because we returned before sundown with a good amount of daylight still left to do other things.
John next to me in the photograph had recently commenced work and studies with a government entity in Port Moresby. I was almost nearing the end of my undergraduate studies at UPNG and eager to return to full time work with the House of Assembly. We met in the village at Christmas holidays.
These are some of the best times in the lives of our generation. We had just gotten one foot in the modern world in a country with everything going for it, and another foot still supplanted at home so that we combined and enjoyed the best of both worlds. “
PHOTO above : c1973/74: We are a sensible, sharing and giving society. Greed is incongruent to the values of social egalitarian societies where the community benefits, the family or clan shares from collective efforts of everyone.
It was the land of plenty everywhere in PNG. And it still is but it is not the same place with the same kind of regard it deserves any more. Bougainville, not unlike other provinces at the time, was a good example of an Island with abundance of resources more than enough to ably support its population.
Generally, then we could not falter people’s enthusiasm. I remember in the villages and in the towns and cities for example no one could falter the enthusiasm for education every child desired to better themselves or to land a good paid job in a government office or in a company business in the city. It was affordable to go to school.
Going back to fishing, we didn’t know, or had heard about overfishing. The fish around our Island waters were schooling around in large numbers. You did not have to go far as we do today to make a good catch before heading home. The migratory pelagic fish were plentiful in the harbour, other fish were good game around the the edges of the island’s shoals and shores.
It was worthwhile going out not because you expected to bring in a good catch all the time but because the sea was nice, in good heath, alive and vibrant and thus able to support a lot of sensible fishing. And we could swim as much and as long as we wanted.
It wasn’t just the sea that mattered and the subject of conversation of fishermen. Looking forward returning home the land looked very lush green with thriving forests. It always gave us a sense and appreciation that our world of the living was not just about our species but about a world where everything thrived all around us.
Our lives were intimated with the natural surroundings that we are very much a part of.
These kinds of memories and stories are rarer, and far and in between to tell. Why? Because we are no longer able to control the scripts and scenarios and tell the stories they represent. Instead we start our mornings reading gloomy stories that are carried on front page newspaper headlines.
These past weeks, instead of working and thinking things through together for the people and for the love of the country, the first love of those who we elect to represent us is self preservation, by and large.
May be all is not lost. Not yet anyway but we can’t say the scepticism and cynicism isn’t around. If we can go back to telling simple, perhaps unassuming, stories about where we have come from, where we are now and where we might be headed, perhaps some sense and sobriety will remain.
We expect leaders to make the hard decisions. But they must be sensible decisions. It is irrelevant who is making the decisions. What is important and relevant is the decisions are in the best interest and benefit of the People. Our leaders are like our trustees, we are the beneficiaries.
If we are not careful, the first thing we may lose is ourselves, our sense and sensibility of who we are and where we are at. The next thing we may lose is care, love and respect for the state. Beyond this starts to get a bit beyond the pale where only a handful of people care and we must wonder whether the leaders recognise or know where we are going and might end up.
When all is said and done the worst position to be in is to not realise or recognise or feel whether any of this may not be a self indictment of how little we care any more for the country.
There is rhyme, reason and ritual to hunting, gathering and fishing. Not so long ago the beneficiaries which is the community always recognised this knowing that their hunters, gatherers and fishers always brought home something to the dinner table for all to share.
After two adjournments and a third one yesterday after the intervention of the Judiciary I’m not sure what this House will bring anything to the dinner table that is beneficial and palatable to share with its people that are developing a growing concern (may be even fear) and a reason to be sceptical and cynical about leadership and governance in this country.