Root Causes of Sorcery and Witchcraft in PNG: Part 3

Part 3 : Root causes – this section is informed by the late Dr Kemung – an eminent preacher and scholar in the Lutheran Church of PNG for over 35 years. 

 

Before we can find the solution to the sorcery issue, we have to know what we are dealing with.  Current efforts like death penalty and imprisonment are but our efforts to control the symptoms. To find a lasting solution requires us to identify the root causes. Only when we know the root causes can we then look for the solution.

In a seminar to the Lutheran Students Congregation, the late Dr Kemung identifies primary causes and secondary causes. Regardless, these causes are intertwined and to find a solution requires great wisdom and leadership.

A. Primary Causes

i. Satanic attack

The practice of sorcery has been in existence even before the birth of Jesus Christ and is still in existence after His death and resurrection. There is evidence in both New and Old Testament of both male and female involved in this craft. These sorcerers execute this powers through invisible spirits called demons.

As Christians, we believe that the devil Lucifer is working tirelessly to disrupt the establishment of the kingdom of God here on earth.  The kingdom of the evil one seeks to disrupt peace and harmony and families. The devil is described as a thief that comes to steal and destroy (John 10: 10). Humans become co-workers with evil by rejecting God’s Salvation plan to reconcile the world to Himself.

The church has a role in addressing the chaos caused by sorcery and witchcraft.  Teachers and preachers of the word must denounce sorcery and witchcraft from the pulpit. When pastors are not preaching about sorcery and witchcraft or sin, they are allowing demons into the church.  Obstructing the work of Jesus Christ is a sign of demon possession in the Church.  This is a symptom of loss in Christian leadership.

Christians must take personal accountability for our lives because, self-knowledge is the beginning of change.

ii. Psychotic Causes

Paranoia occurs in many mental disorders, where a paranoid person can becomes delusive when irrational thoughts and beliefs become fixed. Nothing can convince such a person that what they think and feel is not true.  Anxiety and paranoia  are mental disorders and require the services of a trained physician.

Koning (2013) (1) coins the term “social paranoia” and proposes that human social dilemmas have led to the evolution of a fear system that is sensitive to signs of deceit and envy. In PNG, the fear of the unknown, the result of a very small world view leads to suspicion and paranoia. Because of lack of information and education, people makes links and connections where none exists. This event can trigger conflict and violence.

People living in paranoia, live small lives because of their irrational fear. They distrust other people and cannot achieve their full potential because fulfilling ones full potential means opening to other people including people from different tribes and clans and to different experiences.

Paranoia is a tactic devil Satan uses to keep human beings from living fulfilled lives.  Paranoid people makes links and connections where none exists.   This can become a source of conflict and violence when innocent people are blamed for bad events.

While the owner of the bad spirits may feel powerful because they have a secret weapon that can be used in their advantage, others that are outside the circle of trust are fearful and very watchful because they could be the victim.

Like all other inherited outlook on life, this feeling of power or the psychosis of paranoia gets passed down the generation from parent to child resulting in a continuous cycle of bullying and fear and repression.

iii. Culture

PNG has over 800 tribes and cultures with beliefs that are unique to the different tribal groups.  The traditional tribal people display a general fear and  distrust from anybody outside of the tribe.

Since colonial days, the tribal living arrangement has changed. In the urban and peri-urban setting, a community is now made up of different tribal groups who are clustered around government outposts in communities to access government goods and services.  The distrust for outsiders however, is still apparent in such mixed group settlement.

People are so deeply rooted in their belief systems that they are not able to accept alternative world views. Even, people with positions of authority and responsibilities, such as medical workers, police, church pastors and educated elites, continue to believe in the power of sorcery and witchcraft. They sometimes become a party to sorcery violence through direct involvement in it, or through their influence on others. This implies that in PNG the level of education, social standing, profession and leadership of many people do not play a significant role in influencing people’s belief systems.

The lack of positive knowledge leads to the increase in sorcery violence.

B. Secondary Causes

As a developing nation, PNG has a lot of developmental challenges. Desiring the benefits of economic development, but unable to take part in development due to various reasons, most people return to the beliefs of spirits to help them acquire cargo. Without understanding how development happens, these groups believe if they carry out certain rituals, spirits will make their desires come true.

The sorcery practiced in the contemporary society has its root in jealousy, suspicion and ignorance and paranoia.

This challenge is compounded by a lack of education, a lack of inclusion in development activities. In the absence of vital services including law and order, the people live in fear. The more cunning community members are capitalistic on wide-spread ignorance and lack of education in the community to instill fear so that they can steal and pillage properties by using violence and force.

Massive amount of resource has been focused on trying to stop the results but the root has not been addressed. The solutions required to address the secondary causes of sorcery and witchcraft violence lie wholly in the government’s jurisdiction.  It will require massive political will to address the solutions.

The problem of sorcery and the related violence is a leadership challenge. Where there is no leadership, there will be lawlessness, no respect for life or property. The breakdown in leadership can be seen in a unstable family, a disorganized community and a uncaring and corrupt government.

i. Lack of government presence

The escalating problem of sorcery and witchcraft is most evident in rural and remote places where government presence is lacking. These rural areas are also places where people are still holding on their traditional beliefs. The people have little choice but to turn to   traditional powers and beliefs, in hope of better living.

According to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualisation only comes about when certain basic human requirements are met. At the moment PNG is a long way from achieving self-actualisation. Most people today are caught up in trying to survive day-to-day, by any means including framing innocent people and then killing them and taking away their property as compensation for ridding the community of evil people. The government services must be delivered to the people.

Mixing the desire for cargo and the belief in spirits has resulted in another very perverted belief of “cargo-cult”. Cargo-cult is born in an environment where people desire cargo but do not know how to get it, but a belief that good spirits will make it happen. It is a blessing when needs are met, but when needs are unmet, jealousy and suspicion can lead to problems including sorcery.

One of the contributing factors to the problem of sorcery and witchcraft the lack of government presence in rural communities.  The government’s presence is seen through its service delivery in communities.

For instance, the ‘Black Jesus’ cult group was organised and led by Steven Tari (2) (alias ‘Black Jesus’). This occurred in the less developed inland communities of Madang province and lasted for 7 years till his death in August, 2013. Steven Tari claimed to be the messiah lured about 6000 people into believing in him and following him in the hope of receiving gifts, goods and services from God.

This cargo cult belief has created a favorable environment within the victimized communities and gave rise to sorcery and witchcraft related killings, child abuse, human sacrifices and all forms of sexual perverseness and indulgences beyond imagination.

Cargo cult has become one of PNG’s most persistent problems.

ii. Jealousy and Envy

Since traditional days, jealousy exists because of economic/wealth/resource imbalance. People who have more than enough are always vary of people around them because some unfortunate members of the society may bring them down using sorcery.

Fueled by this paranoia, every misfortune is blamed on sorcery.  Even if the cause of death may be of natural causes like a cardiac arrest.

A distinguishing character of areas where people fear sorcery is abject poverty and dilapidated infrastructures and buildings. No-one wants to seem well-off.

iii. Lack of Education

Education breaks into societal barriers and taboo’s and change the perception and world views in a society.  According to Global Partnership for Change, education is an agent of transformation. Education broadens peoples understanding of cultural bondage and fear of sorcery, and allow citizens to change. Education in general helps citizens to be matured in discussing and addressing personal issues and also issues in the family, the society and the nation as a whole and provide proper solutions to those issues. (3)

iv. Ignorance

When people are ignorant about their rights, they can be deceived.  Most rural people do not know about their human rights and rights as citizens of a sovereign nation.

Ignorant of health issues

Lifestyle diseases is a major killer in contemporary PNG. Lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases are estimated to account for 75% of deaths compared to communicable diseases with 14% of deaths in the Western Pacific region.

The availability of imported food like lamb flaps, alcohol and fast food, which contain too much sugar and fat, affects the health of many people and causes new sicknesses. Many people also lack knowledge about health, hygiene and healthy lifestyles. As a result, when people die of lifestyle diseases, innocent people are blamed. People die young due to risky behavior and unhealthy lifestyles, however are also blamed to be caused by act of sorcery.

In remote and rural villages, poor dietary habits: like lack of essential nutritional supplements; lack of a balanced diet; over load of pathogens in body may be some causes of death. Living in unhygienic places, lack of proper toilets, living with animals, no taking preventative measures, no seeking first aid are some contributing factors for death, yet it is always blamed on sorcery and witchcraft.

The lifespan of most old people in the rural areas is 55 years. Because of ignorance, death due to old age is also blamed on sorcery.

v. Breakdown in community leadership

Tribal and community leaders have lost their position of leadership in communities. The evidence is in the kangaroo courts – which are mostly led by young men and it is young men that sexually assault suspects, torture them and eventually commit murder.

There is no respect for local leaders anymore.  Local leaders are not seen to be leading communities when the young people show disrespect by disregarding the leadership of the elders in communities.

The breakdown of leadership is also happening in the church. The evil spirits are very blatantly manifesting their presence because the leaders in the church seem powerless to speak them into submission.

The governments’ absence in rural areas have also resulted in a breakdown in trust for the government. Without the consistent presence of conflict arbitrators like the police and the courts, people have taken up the job of solving their own problems often in violent and inhuman ways.

vi. A broken justice system

Law and order in the society makes people feel safe. They feel they have a voice and they can do things with their life because there is justice system that will ensure that justice prevails. People are free and can conduct their business in a fair manner. They rise and fall because of hard work. They do not have to live in fear. Because fear cripples able bodied man and woman. It cripples their minds as well as their body.

vii. Lack of political leadership

Political leadership is the oil that runs all the government interventions. The slow and minimal breakthrough so far is a lack of political will by those responsible for addressing issues that are breaking families apart and destabilizing communities.

Since the Sorcery Act 1971 was repealed, the UN proposed that;

“The enforcement of legislation that prohibits all forms of gender-based violence is the key to ending sorcery-related violence,”

~United Nations, 2013

Also in 2013, the Family Protection Act was drawn up. However, the follow up to support this Family Protection Act has been dismal. No effective support has been given to improving social services, access to health care, counselling and women’s shelters.

Even the police force remains understaffed and under-resourced to deal with the high volume of family violence reports, preventing many women from accessing justice. Lack of government services in remote areas disproportionately affected women in rural locations from accessing health care and other services.

Another lot of notable recommendations came from the Mendi Conference. Bishop Don Lippert, Catholic Bishop of Mendi organised a conference titled “A stand against sorcery related violence.”  The outcome from the Mendi Conference outlined actions that needed to be taken including the role of the church in the face of this.  The law enforcers need to develop a mechanism to better work together to ensure that the justice process is followed in sorcery/witchcraft cases so those torturing, assaulting and killing are charged, prosecuted and convicted.

All the recommendations and all the background work has been recorded in the 2015 edited volume titled: Talking it Through Responses to Sorcery and Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in Melanesia.

All it requires from hereon is the political will to implement the recommendations.

References

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23649744

(2) Cargo and condescension – An article by Nancy Sullivan, p.g.2, 2007

(3) Global Partnership.Org

About the Late Dr Kemung

The late Dr Kemung, was an eminent preacher and scholar with over 34 years in the Lutheran Church of PNG.  His interests was in the Lutheran Faith and Melanesian philosophy, Melanesian Theology, Melanesian cultures, including sorcery and witchcraft and developing strategies to resolve the sorcery related violence and social issues in the communities. The Late Dr Kemung had extensive knowledge and experience of this issue because he was actively involved with brokering community peace from sorcery related unrest.
The Late Dr Kemung had a Master of Sacred Theology at Wartburg Seminary USA 1986, and a Doctor of Theology from the Augustana Hoecschule Germany, 1986.
The late Dr Kemung at the time of this talk given to the Lutheran students at the University if PNG was a Senior lecturer in Systematic Theology at Martin Luther Seminary.
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Commemorating 500 years of reformation in Papua New Guinea

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Flags at the 3oth Synod at Heldsbach Finschhafen, Morobe Province.: Lutheran Church flag, the PNG flag and the Morobe Provincial flag. Photo Tanya Zeriga-ALone

This year 2017, marks the 500th year since Martin Luther, a German monk and doctor of theology was excommunicated from the Roman Church at that time for suggesting changes  based on the Bible. Through study, Martin Luther was convicted by these four gospel truths: Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone: salvation is a free gift from God  given to those who seek after it  in faith and cannot be bought or achieved through good works.

Martin Luther’s purpose was clear – to correct the erroneous teachings on sin  and salvation and to  take believers back to a faith as was intended by  the forerunners of the Christian faith.

Martin Luther’s followers are called the Lutherans. Protestantism was born from this action in history. Protestants believe that only Jesus is the head of the church.

The Lutheran Church was in existence for over 3 centuries by the time it arrived on the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the late 1800.  PNG was a dark and unknown place at the turn of the century – tribal fights, sorcery, payback killing were common. Isolated in their own little worlds, Papua New Guineans were animists, believing that spirits controlled their life.

The gospel arrived with Reverend Johannes Flierl, a Neuendettelsau Missionary from the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany.  The gospel in PNG began in the Finschhafen and Madang area and spread into the rest of Papua New Guinea. As it was in the days of Luther, the gospel liberated people from the fear of the unknown and freed multitudes from the power of spirits and death.

The pioneer missionaries both local and expatriates paid a price for the freedom we enjoy today. In those early days, missionaries risked their lives for the sake of the gospel. They crossed tribal boundaries, brokered peace between tribal enemies.  These pioneers also uprooted their families and moved them far from the security of kinsman – all for the sake of the gospel.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG (ELCPNG) of the 21st century grew out from the work of the Neuendettelsau and Rhenish Missionaries from Gemany. When the World War II reached the Pacific in 1942, most of the early German missionaries were repatriated. After the war, the Lutheran Churches of Australia and America were tasked to reconstruct the church, which the parties did together as the Lutheran Missions New Guinea.

It was in 1956 that the indigenous church was formed and called the Evangelical Church of New Guinea (ELCONG). The first Bishop was Rev. Kuder from the American Lutheran Church.

It was in the 1970s, that the ELCONG changed to ELCPNG. The first indigenous bishop was elected in 1973 and since then, the church has been run by the nationals. At the 500th year of reformation, the ELCPNG has had 30 synods.  The current ELCPNG Bishop is Reverand Jack Urame.

Earlier this year, the ELCPNG celebrated 131 years off Lutheranism. The ELCPNG is the second most popular church in PNG with 1.2 million members out of the 8 million population.  The ELCPNG is made up of 17 districts. These districts are further grouped into circuits, parishes and congregations is the lowest church unit recognised by the church.

The freedom to worship we enjoy today  is because this reformer broke the chains of oppression that kept people in slavery for lack of access to the truth. The message of hope and freedom in this act of reformation is timeless – it was real then, as it is now.

Papua New Guinea’s position in the reformation history is similar to the parable of the Labourers in Matthew 20: 1-16. We are like the worker who was recruited at 4pm to work in the garden only to get paid same wage as the man who started work at 7am. We are privileged to be born at a time when the gospel is free. We have not sacrificed for the gospel, no blood was shed like in the days of Luther.

The gospel may be free, but we are faced with new challenges. In this age and time, the church is under pressure to conform to the standards of the world.  Fatigue has also set in. As one of the last workers in the field, maybe we are called to re-evangelise the church. Maybe with our youthful exuberance, we are called to keep the 500 year old flame alive into the future.  May we seek Gods will about our place in the reformation story.

As we celebrate this momentous occasion let us remember that reformation is not just an historical event rather it is process of continually walking in faith according to the word of God. Reformation in this day and time is about testing passing trends against the timeless wisdom in the bible. We as individuals as well as the body of ELCPNG must step up and take our place in the reformation story.

Amen.

 

..on educating girls

DSC_0240When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.

When you give opportunities to a girl to evolve to something higher than her current state, she inevitably raises everyone around her to that new standard.

Her man or any potential male out there wanting her attention has to raise their standard to meet hers.Same for other women in her life, be it girlfriends, aunties, mothers. And when she has her own family she raises them up to the standard she has been exposed to. She has become a role model.

Change happens just like that – one female at a time and when more women get an education, it totally lifts up our game.

If you have a daughter,niece, granddaughter – champion her education and personal development. Your investment will not be wasted.

We Need Champions

MEGHAN GRAD14_sml

Paradise High School Graduates 2014

We need champions and role models in our society today.

Most of us are first generation since PNG gained independence. We are the leading edge of change. We are the cutting edge in our journey from Stone Age to colonialism to independence to integration into this post-modern era. The future generation depends on our example. What examples are we setting?

It is easy to go with the flow, to stick with the familiar because the familiar is easy and requires no effort to maintain. Mediocrity requires no sacrifice.

Growing beyond the familiar takes hard work. The mental and emotional effort is as taxing as physical labour. Effort that makes you question yourself to reveal the authentic you; effort that makes you push back the doubts that you may fail and to embrace the chance that you may just make it.

Growing beyond the normal requires you to turn up when all you want to do is go back to sleep.  Growing means believing in the possibility of your dream, when other disbelieve you. It takes guts to push against the world to make space for your dream.

You fail but you keep striving because you know who you are and you believe in your dream and you know that only you can make that dream come alive. It is a lonely road, but, such is the price for the beauty of your dreams.

The world is looking for champions. Champions that keep breaking the glass ceiling of mediocrity to reach for the stars that beckon whoever wants to go for that wild ride. After all, your destiny is what you make it.

The future is watching. Their possibilities are tied to our destinies. We stood on shoulders of champions, the future need us to lift them up to see possibilities beyond our destinies.  Can we lift them any higher than ourselves?

 

 

Finding myself in history

If she were alive, she would be 102 years old this year.   The year on her graveyard marker says that she was born in 1915. I imagine a tiny babe swaddled in bark cape and laid on a bed of moss.

Other aspects of her life from 1915 remain a mystery to me.  I cannot begin to picture her growing up, the games she played, her duties, her diet, her adornment and the other details.

According to history books, the turn of the century was the dark ages for PNG.

zia 1907 Bono

Zia Warriors early 1900s. Source: Lutheran Church Archives

Professor John Waiko, one of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) educated elite – a Binandere man, describes warfare, cannibalism, payback killing, and sorcery in my part of the world around the time my great grandmother was born.

My people, the Zia tribe held prime land along the Waria river, Morobe South Coast. My people were fierce warriors who defended our land from other hostile tribes.  These other tribes include the Binandere, the Mawae, The Suena and the Yekora.

A few decades earlier, the German and the British and Dutch, oblivious to the existence of the thousands of tribes, had drawn lines all over the island of New Guinea and were enforcing their colonial governments and disbanding “hausmans”  aka tribal parliaments.

The “hausman” that could not fight their own battles were looking for allies. That included accepting the colonial government in a hope, the guns of the colonial masters could help them fight their battles. The self-sufficient tribes initially rejected all colonial advances. But eventually succumb to the colonial powers.

While she played with her toes and looked into the sky from the comfort of her “bilum”, I wonder if my great grandmother saw aeroplanes because the airplane was already invented before she was born. Kodak products were routinely used to take color “snap shots”. The air condition, the escalator and the roller coaster were features already in existence in the West since the early 1900.

Around the time, she was born, Albert Einstein had completed his paper on the General Theory of Relativity.  And Adolf Hitler was a young man – a soldier in the World War I.  Micheal Leahy was a teenager: Leahy and his team of explorers and prospectors would be responsible for opening up the highlands to the world in the 1930s.

The West had transitioned from the industrial revolution and was at the end of the modern era around the time my great grandmother was born.

But she know that?  Did she care?

Two things of significance happened that seem to have shaped PNG.

First, in less than 100 years, PNG has been forced to assimilate a new culture – the culture of our colonists. We were forced to adopt the new way of living without understanding how the Western culture was shaped.

Our rank in the world near the bottom of the pile is based on judgement meted us on criteria we have had less than 100 years to adopt  – criteria which took hundreds of years to develop.

Second, the power centers of our tribes aka the ”hausman” were disbanded. The dissolution of the “hausman“ resulted in a loss of power and education for our warriors. Our warriors lost the pride to defend our ways and our land and resources.  And what more, our men lost their potency because without a “hausman” they moved into women’s house too soon.

According to my elders, the death penalty was the order of the day when the “hausman” ruled. There was no individual rights, there were only clan and tribal rights. Your allegiance was to your clan and tribe. Outside of it was death.

It was rough and dirty, but order was maintained. Births, initiations, adulthood, marriages, death all had a place and were celebrated. Diseases, deaths, and uncertainty were all part of life.

Fast forward time to 2017, PNG a construct of colonialism, has survived as a united nation for 41 years. But what identity are we projecting to the other nations of the world? Are we a united nation of warrior tribes or are we a tribe of weaklings looking for allies?

All the power we need to take back our pride as warrior nations is inside us. Just take a look in the mirror. Unfortunately, all mirrors have a perspective. All the colonial mirrors need to be smashed and ground to dust, same for religion, and for aspects of the outside cultures that bring more confusion than solutions.

What then, should be our true reflection? Look beyond your mother and your grandmother (or your patriline). Seek the image of your great grandparents and back.  Consider the stock you are born from.  Consider your tribe of proud warriors who fought all their battles for survival. Consider their honour and pride and resilience.

Where we are right now in space and time is a snapshot of the long walk our people have been on since our ancestors became custodians of the land we call New Guinea.  The walk will continue even after we are dead and gone. The lives and times of our ancestors is our history, and in time we will also become history and our descendants will judge us accordingly.

They will judge us for our betrayal to our warrior way of life. Indeed, we erred when we accepted as time zero the time Whitman stepped on our land; we erred when we accepted the colonial story about us as our story; we erred when we accepted that we are lesser people because it is a challenge to fit into an alien culture. We think that here and now is play school and that real life is after we have mastered a culture. While we tarry, our story is being written.

Cultures die when we lose pride in the ways of our ancestors. Cultures die when we undermine what we are and give up our place in time.  When culture dies, we lose our land, we lose our families and we lose ourselves.

Change is the only constant in the world and we will eventually evolve, but it should be on our terms.   Given so much that has happened, do we have time to salvage our history and pride?

My oral history takes me about 300 years back into my matriline. I am taken back 300 years of resilience. When I put my life into perspective, the 102 years since my great grandmother seem like yesterday and my 40 years of living a blink of an eye.

I am the fourth generation since my great grandmother, but the first generation since PNG became a nation in 1975.    The realization that I am as old as the history of my tribe but also as young as my nation is liberating.  I have the ancient wisdom of my land in my blood, but I am also educated in the ways of the West and can participate in the technologically advanced life in this post-modern era.

The life we are living is not our own, we are to defend the legacy of our ancestors and pass that spirit on to our descendants. Are we living up to our warrior spirit? If not, then, go home and dig your roots beyond your great grandmother and put yourself in perspective. Only then, can you set your priorities going forward.

When you find your place in history, ensure that this becomes the legacy your next generation builds on.

matriach

The Matriarch 1915 – 1970

Were traditional Papua New Guineans conservationists?

LSC1 (220)This essay is based on three papers. These papers document practices  of seasonal hunting and harvesting and protection of certain species of importance to three communities in Papua New Guinea.

Kwapena (1994) documents the hunting practices of the Moapa people of the Mashall Lagoon,  Central Province. Foale (2002) records the “tambu” reef system of the New Ireland while Silitoe (2001) provides insight into the hunting practices of the Wola of the Southern Highlands.

In two of  the three case studies, the authors documented that a hunting ban was imposed periodically on their  respective communities.

The Maopa people in Mashall Laggon Area, Central Province had a hunting ban that would last over three to four years.

On the coast, the “tambu”reef involves the closure of fishing on a particular stretch of coastline for a specific period of time, usually from a few months to a year or in some cases a few years. The closure was quite often associated with a death within the clan that controls rights to that stretch of coastline and is a ritual component of a cycle of feasting associated with that death.

The hunting ban would then be followed by an intense period of hunting, where even the grassland is burnt to force animals out into the open (Kwapena 1984).  In the “tambu” reef, the accumulated stocks of many species, particularly benthic invertebrates are then removed, often with alarming efficiency (Foale 2002).

The local knowledge of these people was directed to identifying patterns that maximise capture success. They did not show concern for aspects of  biology (recruitment etc) that conservationists are interested in.

In the case of the Wola,  Silitoe (2001) observed that the Wola people, who were not “enthusiastic” hunters, would at times expand high energy to capture high value animals like cassowary and wild pigs for customary activities. From his study, Silitoe (2001) observed that in their hunting sprees, the Wola treated the forest as having …” an infinite buffering capacity”  to their destructive hunting activities.

Melanesian’s exist through relationships, and these relationships needs to be maintained all the time.  Value has been placed on nature to facilitate these social relationships. Resources are stockpiled only to be harvested to facilitate social transactions and to maintain relationships and alliances (Silitoe 2001). The hunting spree with the Maopa of Marshall Lagoon was to strengthen and reiterate family relationships (Kwapena 1984). Tambu reef was also a means of stockpiling resources, often for a specific purpose, such as a feast; and had nothing to do with maximising and sustaining yields for conservation (Foale 2002).

So, how did people coexist with nature for thousands of years?

Silitoe (2001) proposes that unintentional conservation  may have been achieved indirectly because these traditional knowledge and practices were created in conditions of small population, large forest covering and richer biodiversity and hunting tools which were less deadly.

Fear of spirits also ensured sacred areas became refuge and replenishing grounds for wildlife.  For instance,   most of these cultures attribute their hunting capacity to spirits and not human hunting skill. In this instance, hunters let game go if they miss after a few attempts, taking this to indicate the spirits are discontent.  Beliefs that spirits governed everything contributed to unintentional management of resources

This system however, will not protect nature which is now threatened with with pressure from, high human population densities, new and efficient hunting technologies and a readily available market for wildlife.

That is why the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea must learn the concept of conservation to ensure that food security and the currency for maintaining relationships  is available both now and into the future.

References

Foale, S. (2002) Commensurability of scientific and indigenous ecological knowledge in coastal Melanesia: implications for contemporary marine resource management strategies. Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Working Paper No. 38

Kwapena, N. (1994). “Traditional Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife in Papua New Guinea.” The Environmentalist 4(7): 22-29.

Sillitoe, P. (2001). “Hunting for Conservation in the Papua New Guinea Highlands.” Ethnos 66(3): 365-393.

Gender equality: Women must not be victims of a zero sum game

LIFE is a series of cycles.  The mitosis, the circadian cycle, the menstruation cycle, gestation, and the big one that encompasses them all is the life cycle – birth, senescence and death.

This is as nature intended; that we successfully pass on our genes.

Humans have developed habits to give our genes the best chance of survival. These habits become culture; culture, both good and bad becomes a way of life and children are immersed in it from birth.

The women used to be a revered gender because she was the garden that grew the tribe. Sex was just a holy dance for procreation.

She struggled for monogamy as a way of ensuring her investment for a better future is secured. He hunted while she nurtured the future generation. The man and the woman complemented each other.

But the circumstances that has shaped our genes and culture has changed. We are not living tribal lives anymore.

Gone are the days of wild animals and caves and the unknown. The woman does not need a protector anymore.

In the context of evolution, indeed, the world as a whole, has evolved to be a woman’s world.

In the safety and security of this era, the woman is given opportunities to reinvent herself. This is because she has time – time she did not have in the past being involved with child rearing.

Today, she is encouraged to get an education and a job and become independent before considering marriage and children. She is encouraged to take on more male roles.

The life code of humans, however, has not changed at the same rate as the passing circumstances. The DNA from our forefathers is still swirling in our life blood: that man is built for hunting and protecting and leadership while woman is crafted for nurturing and supporting her man and family.

Even if she can now pay for what she wants with money, her dilemma is that she is still bound to her culture and her DNA.

Though liberated through education, yet not expunged from her duties; though liberated from gender restrictive ideologies, yet not free from the gender specific instructions in here genes.

It is in the woman to want to submit, to serve and to follow the lead of a man, but the catch: the man has to lead.

While giving more opportunities for woman to grow, the world seems to have assumed that man needs no adjustment and are doing just fine.  How wrong can we get?

In the absence of leadership by man, including leadership on women’s issues, she is getting restless and frustrated. It seems the harder she pushes for equality, the force of domination coming back is equally hard.

There has been increased injustice against woman perpetrated by man. Some of these include using woman as scapegoats in sorcery and witchcraft cases, polygamy, sexual assaults and using girls as a tribal bargaining chip.

Even the government seems powerless to stop violence and injustice against women.

The increased domination of women seems to be a signal that the opposite gender needs attention.  As a race, the male species have been neglected more than the female.

While she has programs for empowerment, he is expected to lead by instinct.  But boys also need to be interned into the ways of life.

With the loss of the ‘hausman’ (traditional men’s house – source of cultural heritage and instruction) and extended kin, the man has lost the training and initiation rites that signify that a boy has now become a man with a man’s responsibilities.

This loss of purpose has not been replaced adequately in a way that lacks equivalence to that which is happening with the women.

To empower and accept the changing identity of woman, therefore, is a societal issue. It is an issue that cannot be tackled by any one gender.

Because the disruption of the power balance signifies one winner and one loser, but life intended a complementary balance.

And action must be taken soon.

bagarapim-meri

Tourism and conservation makes sense

DORT Sat_2008 (31).JPGEarly in 2017, The National Geography  Travel listed Papua New Guinea as one of  the top 5 cultural destinations to visit. Papua New Guinea was described as the Garden of Eden, where time has forgotten, where people live like they have lived for centuries.

The PNG culture was depicted as one that still maintains an authentic link to nature, to earth, to life, to the “mama graun”,  with a spirituality that is pure, unswayed by the panoply of civilization. This culture evokes images of awe and wonder and respect.

And to the Papua New Guineans on Facebook, there was a general feeling of pride all around at the announcement. But do we need permission from the National Geography to feel  pride for culture?

Colonialism had a name for our culture – Cane hacker aka kanaka, primitive, less-advanced –  name tags with negative connotations has been carried forward into independence and even at 41 years on.

Even religion that came from America and Germany called it paganism, heathenism, a source of evil and made people sever the link to earth to their “mama graun”. Religion has forgotten that inspiration for religion also has its beginnings in nature.

For the last 100 years, culture has been a source of shame and fear. The brain washing is so deep that even the 21st century parliament of Papua New Guinea vandalized its cultural heritage at the Parliament House and called it an act of cleansing.

But all along, our culture has been our our identify. It is who we are. It is what makes us unique. It is our pride and the heritage we should be passing down to our children.

When we begin to understand more of the world around us, we begin to realize that we are like square  pegs trying to fit into round holes. In our anxiety to fit into the box  given to us by special interests groups, we have been suppressing and denying our identity.

With or without permission from National Geography, we should know that what we have is what the world is looking for.

The world may have achieved mind-defying technological feats, but in the process they have lost the original design of man.  Men was part of nature with a spirit connection. Men lived off nature. Men got inspired by nature. Men revered nature, respected nature and worshiped nature as the source of life. Man had responsibility to protect nature.

The more complex a society becomes, the more averse they are to dirt, to ground, to  earth, to soil. Just look at the jungles of concrete, steel and glass in places where giant trees, grasslands and forests once stood.

But man is spirit and the spirit of our “mama graun communicates via bare skin connected to dirt, to earth.  This makes existing indigenous cultures – the earthy cultures such as ours, an existing conduit for re-connection to nature. A pathway for revitalizing the spirit aspect of a human life.

Earthy cultures offers an opportunity for people to reconnect to the original design of men. These are places one can get away from the hectic hustle and bustle of the 21st century; it is a a place for rest and connection to earth. Walk bare feet on dirt and  feel the heartbeat of “mama graun”. People are looking for the peace, opportunities to reconnect and they re paying to do it.

Tourism and cultural conservation therefore, is the way to go for Papua New Guinea.  Cultural conservation also requires nature conservation.

But firstly, we must be enlightened enough to know where to draw the line. The line between putting on a show for money and being authentic to sharing the embrace of mother earth.

What does the future hold for our culture?

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A singsing group from the Morobe South Coast.

 

When I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, culture was still in the domain of adults.  Adults were the rightful custodians of  societal values and norms, ceremonies and even singsings.

Adults sang and danced, while the uninitiated watched and learnt. Adults were responsible for securing an authentic future by deliberately imparting this knowledge to the next generation through initiation rites that sometimes lasted up to a few years.

These days however, singsings are but entertainment provided by children. Children beat the drums, children chant the magic words. Children, lead the songs. And these are children, uninitiated, and most often, too young to even understand what they are doing.

It can be argued that, involving children  is a way of keeping culture alive.  What about the values associated with culture? Are we also teaching children the nuances of our culture such as respect, honor, integrity or  are we just teaching them to entertain?

It is a dilemma for the fathers. How much can one impart to children in a matter of six weeks, except how to beat the kundu and how to shake those hips and make the grass skirt jump. How much culture can one impart when in any one location, there may be just 1 or 2 adults – initiated in the ways of old – who represents any one culture is this big melting pot of 800+ cultures. What can they teach in the absence of support from tribal kinsfolk.

When the true meaning of culture is lost, we also lose authenticity.  There is no restriction, no taboo, no meaning, no honor bestowed to rites and rituals and the physical manifestations of those values. The female is now adorning herself with the male bilas, and vice versa. We wear designs and markings alien to our tribal grouping.

Indeed culture is very porous at the edges of its extent. Just like language we borrow from neighboring tribes, we mix and match.  But the authenticity is lost when what we want to represent is diluted by borrowing from everywhere, including from the West.

 

What does the future hold for our culture? What does this say about our fathers and their role as custodians of culture?  If the true meaning of our culture gets lost, who will we blame – the fathers or the children?

 

Which way, PNG?

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Zia, Suena, Yekora tribes of the Waria Valley, Morobe South Coast

Getting ahead in life by cheating the system is extolled as the smarter way, smarter than following rules and regulations that keep societies fair for all citizens. This is observed on PMV buses to taxi to political leaders. Even smart lawyers divulge that information to business prospects.

How did this mentality come about? Maybe this lack of respect is a carry-over from the lack of trust pervasive along tribal lines. Everyone wants to get ahead at any cost but cannot trust anyone outside of a tribe.

We need more common sense. But which one?  Common sense is actually not common, it is a product of culture. If by common sense we mean the western custom – this alien custom needs to be learned. It is not captured through association or by watching reruns of Neighbors on Ramsey Street.

Education in ethics and civics is the way forward. But the fruits of education has a time lag of 10 to 15 years.  And what about those outside the education system?

Our leaders think that siding with a powerful ally can cause us to absorb some of their power, intelligence and superior attitude.  Israel for instance. Maybe by acquiring a Jewish artifact from the US of America  via the courts of the English monarchy may cause us to find favor in the eye of their deity.

Others think Australia will bring about the change – after all Australia colonized Papua New Guinea, surely they have tender regard like a devoted mother for her strong-willed but irrational child.

Once upon a time, PNG even went to Africa to import an African model.

Others say let us look north where business is number 1. Damage done to health and environment are necessary collateral damage in the name of development.

Despite our valiant efforts to fit into the standard set by the world, many reports still rank PNG somewhere at the bottom for all the good and desirable things while ranking us in the top for all the bad things – domestic violence and porn and murder and robbery.

We are caught in crosswinds of clashing values and standards from culture, church and the West. The leaders give lip service to ideal values on paper but do not seem to trust those ideals enough to make them work.

Anxious to fit in, we have trampled on the most basic foundation of society – respect. Respect for self, respect for the dignity of the individual as well as respect for community interdependence.

There is no respect for self. Go to the fringes of society and people tolerate squalor and unhygienic lifestyle. Drinking homebrew with unknown alcohol content. This also happens on the other side of town behind closed doors, but people just call it a different name.

There is no respect for fellow citizens. Call it the green eye monster or individualistic attitude or whatever – but when an individual tries to do something, the support is absent. No-one likes to sing others peoples praise. No-one thinks anyone is better than them.   There is a lack of appreciation for local talent and intelligence.

But we sing loudly the praises to mediocrity because it is related to us. We give business to ourselves and the standard gets lower and lower. As long as we do not value ourselves and our intelligence, consultants will run our country.

Our leaders see citizens are trouble makers – lazy bludgers always depending on wantok system.  Laws are made that criminalizes people.

Evidence of disrespect for citizens is everywhere.  No public toilets, no facilities for the disabled, substandard or absence of vital medical facilities, substandard roads and buildings.

In turn people show no respect for law and public property.  There is no ceremony. People do not respect each other.

In the same token citizens lack respect for our leaders.  The leaders are viewed as greedy people out to enrich themselves. We criticize and link them to bad things. The more we badmouth them, the more they want to evade us and it becomes a competition, a game of chicken. Who will hold on the longest?

In the absence of clear leadership, people set their own standards – most often an imitation. But an imitation is a fake – a counterfeit without the foundation that makes a real deal, real.

The solution however, lies closer to home than anyone has ever imagined.  Look in the mirror and see the solution.

Unfortunately, all mirrors have a perspective. All the colonial mirrors need to be smashed and ground to dust, same for religion, and for aspects of the outside cultures that bring more confusion than solutions.

The political leaders of this nation must choose if indeed the preamble of our constitution is the mirror that best reflects the collective values of the thousand tribes, as we take our place alongside other people of the earth.

If we do not have respect ourselves, how can others show us respect? We set the benchmark so low. It makes it easy for Asians and Australians and Indonesians and the rest of the outsiders to disrespect us.

Life in PNG must be put back into perspective – the PNG perspective, the PNG way, the ‘kastam’ way.   We have to stop being anxious about passing trends. The right way to live is the way we think is right. Let us examine the ways of our fathers. Let us glean the good and throw away the bad.

The mirror I wish for my society reflects a resilient people, survivors, intelligent and capable, unassuming, respectful and brave citizens reflecting the cohesion and resilience of a thousand tribes onto the world.

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