LAE – How do we return Papua Niugini to a culture of Melanesian cooperation and how can the common people make those in power behave responsibly?
I believe my own attitudes are inspired by democracy and also by independent thinking.
We Papua Niuginians need to learn to think better, and to think independently, because to do so may generate actions that can lead to improving our government.
That perhaps seems counterintuitive, to think independently to improve cooperation.
But I think counterintuitive ideas have an element of novelty that can trigger revised thinking, action and change.
Improving independent thinking is, for me, an important avenue by which improvement in our political system can be achieved.
The process of improving independent thinking is usually left to the education system, which is maintained largely by the government not by the people.
And, as we often find in practice, a good education doesn’t necessarily mean a person has learned anything useful about life.
Certainly education is important, but I think we can agree that there’s more to learning than schooling.
Culture and society also play a major role in shaping the attitudes people have to learning and in learning how to learn.
Education plays its role in nation building by providing the foundational processes and subsequent opportunities which enable people to maximise their contribution to society.
The results of an educational process are delivered within a society and that society forms the matrix through which people are nurtured and their talents expressed.
The actors in nation building need to be well prepared to take up the task.
Society is where rules and regulations, norms and values, morals and beliefs come into play.
Society needs to support nation building and the manner in which it finds unity.
So what unifying values does our society hold which may contribute to nation building?
And by what rules and regulations, and by what acceptable morals and beliefs, do we judge ourselves and our leaders?
This field of inquiry is where culture plays its active role in nation building, since some aspects of a culture may be conducive to positive advance and others may be regressive.
What do we consider to be a useful member of society?
Is the answer to that synonymous with a Member of Parliament?
And should it be?
What is our leadership culture and what does it reflect about our societies’ values?
These seemingly esoteric questions should not be left with academics and intellectuals.
Academics are part of the education system and have a vested interest in its successes and its failings.
How do we work with culture and society?
In my case, the solutions that I can work with directly include participating in national literature and promoting reading and writing skills.
This, for me, is the best least-cost strategy to create a critical mass of independent thinkers.
It cannot be entirely by chance that the vision that underpins PNG’s Vision 2050 and is emblazoned on its cover is, ‘We will be a Smart, Wise, Fair, Healthy and Happy Society by 2050’.
Note the order of those words.
Smart we can work on right away. By thinking independently. By thinking full stop.
Wisdom we can gain by formal education or by reading or through the media or by trial and error.
Fair is simply working for the best for everyone, and not taking unjust advantage of anyone.
Healthy is something that smart can figure out, wisdom secure and fairness distribute.
And if we do all that right, the chances of being genuinely Happy increase significantly.
This is a convoluted way for me to agree with Stephen Charteris that “nation building is a compact between the government and its people. Rather than government, it is actually the people who determine the outcomes”.
But people don’t live their daily lives in politics nor transform their society and ‘participate in nation building’ by merely taking part in politics.
People build their nation and transform their society by being active creators, observers and participants inside it.
That’s a cultural process.
Political pathways do not appear to be productive, in fact, as some commentators regularly tell us that some form of revolutionary action, potentially violent even if suggested otherwise, is required for meaningful political change to occur.
But the order of evolution is society, culture then politics, and we keep reversing it.
It’s the same way foolish people want to achieve happiness before wisdom – sorry, misery comes first because we have to be wise enough to know when the happiness that visits us is the real thing.
Reality doesn’t happen in reverse.
We can achieve political change without having to keep changing the soiled nappies of our politicians.
It would be the smart thing to do, to choose a wise pathway that is fair to people and which offers a healthier social outcome.
Maybe happiness is having less stress with politicians’ nappy mess.