Run your race at your pace.

The best race I realize is one that is run against yourself, against your own God given abilities – to try to be better than you were yesterday.

You can never be good enough when someone is in charge of the grading criteria.  For they judge you with their eyes and their experience. But only you know your strengths, your prowess and the path to your dreams.

It requires a mental toughness to fall out of the rat race the masses are in. It requires that you turn away from temporary security. It requires that you build a unwavering faith in yourself – a one mind. Think about the long term gain over short term  satisfaction.

It will also require that you “die to self”. Because to start anew, to set a new and authentic bearing, you will be called to sacrifice your ego. Your new life will require you to become a nobody before you can become somebody.

And it will takes years –  the path to your dreams. It is not easy, and the rewards can surpass the discomfort that you will feel today.

Be strong and of one mind. Have unwavering faith in yourself and work on our strengths. Why run in that race we really do not have a chance at winning. Life is short, before we know, we will get old wasting our time trying to solve a problem that really was not our passion and our priority.

Be brave to complement your smarts, be strong, be resolute and work smart, not necessarily hard.

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Reason why Taripex Settlement is a better option than the village.

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A village setting

According to the 2011 census, the total population of PNG was 7.1 million. About 89% (6.3 million) were the rural people while 11% (770,600) lived in urban areas.

Sharp et al (2015) defines the same population based on economic criteria. The formal sector (13%) is the segment of society who receive a fortnightly wage. While the 87% informal are those involved in any activity that does not factor in the calculation of the country’s gross domestic produce.

Within the formal sector, Cox (2014) throws in a third group – the “predatory elite” – those “who wield real influence in PNG: senior public servants and powerful political patrons or the landowner rentier millionaires who capture the benefits of resource developments.”

When put under scrutiny, the informal sector is a blanket name for two groups: those who remain in the village and those that have migrated to towns in search of opportunities. The villagers are either selling cash crops or just concentrating on subsistence agriculture in the village (Kopel 2017) The village runaways are rural dwellers who have runaway from the village in search for opportunities in the city.

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Groups of people in PNG as classified by different researchers and estimates for this essay.

Papua New Guinea has three cities: Lae, Mt Hagen and Port Moresby with Port Moresby being the biggest and the center of business for PNG.  The 2011 census estimates that the Port Moresby population to be around 320,000.

A report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) assessing the fragility of urban settlements estimated the number of people in the informal settlement population in Port Moresby to be over 50% of the city’s total population (ADB  2013). These settlers are engaged in the informal sector – mostly as vendors.

For the purpose of making our point, and  based on ADB data, we assume that squatter settlements contribute to 50% of city population in PNG. According to this assumption, the settlement population in the three PNG cities may be estimated to just 3.3% of the 2011 PNG population.

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Estimated squatter population from the three PNG cities.

According to estimations,  the predatory elite has the smallest membership (2% or less). Membership of this group have been described as the parasitic group’ because they ‘act as if the control   access to education. The truly elite powerbrokers of PNG monopolise the resources of the state and ensure that those outside their patronage networks are locked out of access to education, employment and other prerequisites of social advancement.”This is made up of politicians and senior bureaucrats and landowners of resource rich provinces and their cronies.

The second group is the working class (10%). These are mostly those in the government’s service (public service) and those in private workforce and businesses.   The public service implements the government directive –  which is to serve the people. The clustering of government service in the urban areas show that this group serve themselves and others in the urban areas.  A tiny percentage of this group struggle to serve the rural masses. These include the teachers, nurses, the police force and the few dedicated  local government bureaucrats.

The third are the villagers and they make the biggest proportion (86%) of the population. The villagers are scattered throughout the country. The government’s mandate is to serve the villager. In reality, the villager is so far outside the government, they seem invisible. The villagers depend on their own system for making it day-to day, the villager uses the most authentic system that has supported life for PNGeans since the dawn of time: kin, custom and barter. In good times, the villager has food, family and shelter and is content living a life with less cargo and little money. In times of disaster, the village needs government support in terms of technology, medicine and food. If not for large scale disasters, the villager will remain invisible.

The fourth group are the urban settlers – the 3.3% of people who escape the village in search of opportunities. The settlers often realize very soon that they need money to survive in the city. This group relies mostly on street vending to raise their income. Their lack of education and qualification keeps them from more technical and decent paying jobs. These people pay no taxes, but they are the most demanding from the government system. Not engaged in meaningful employment and with relatively more free time on their hands, membership in this group are the main mischief makers in the city; causing petty crimes in the society. These group absorbs most of the law and order effort and budget in the cities

Why is it better to be in Taripex settlement than in the village? Despite the hard life and the absence of support from kin, the city is a big market for the village runaway to earn money from street sales. With money they can support themseves. They may have access to running water and light, even if illegally connected. They can access health care. They can send their child to a school where the teacher is always present. Importantly, through hard work, the membership of this group may get an education or make enough money to advance in life. Such opportunities do not exist in the village.

Indeed, people living in cardboard shacks in cities get more charity than people living in the village. Most often donor money for development projects in the country is used up in this group – even though their number is less than the villager.

The government system has lost sight of its duty to its biggest constituent – the villager. It is a contradiction when money for development is earned from resources belonging to the villager, but no goods or services goes back to the village. The money is stuck in the urban areas to maintain a self-serving system that is of no use to the villager. The settler by positioning themselves closer to the government system can punch a hole in the system to get some form of assistance to trickle down to them. The same cannot be said for the villager.

And that is why, it is better to be in Taripex and raising a family than in the village.  It is every person’s human right to seek better opportunities. The movement from the village to the settlements will continue until government services and opportunities for development becomes available in the village.

Reference

ADB (2013) Fragility Assessment of an Informal Urban Settlement in Papua New Guinea

COX, J. (2014)  ‘Grassroots’, ‘Elites’ and the New ‘Working Class’ of Papua New Guinea. State, Society & Governance in Melanesia ips.cap.anu.edu.au/ssgm

Kopel , E., (2017) The Informal Economy In Papua New Guinea: Scoping Review Of Literature And Areas For Further Research . www.pngnri.org

SHARP, J. COX , C. SPARK, S. LUSBY, & M. ROONEY (2015) The Formal, the Informal, and the Precarious: Making a Living in Urban Papua New Guinea. SSGM DISCUSSION PAPER 2015/2

 

 

This face, my face

mercyzStory of my life on this canvas,

This face, my face.

Kinks in the hair.

The serious brows.

The eyes – windows to the soul;

The sweep of the cheeks

… & the quietly determined chin

& the button nose.

In my smile,

I see my beginnings,

I see my grandmother,

& I see my mother.

In my reflection,

I see my sisters,

..& all the little girls of the future.

I recognize the smile, the chuckle,

Mannerisms and preferences.

It is all too familiar.

I have come home, yet I am home.


** A Poem celebrating family. Dedicated to the sisterhood.

 

What is my place in the world?

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When Papua New Guinea was mapped and colonised in the early 20th century,  the rest of the world was entering the so-called post-modern era – an era that is marked by advanced technology,  virtual reality and open rebellion to established dogma.
Our consciousness leaped from tribal allegiance to an era of rebellion to authority; stone axe to laser beams; smoke signals to 4G internet. All of these achieved in less than 100 years.
We happened to the world as users of technology and consumers of knowledge – knowing not how all these came to be.
If the world has reached its peak in ideas, technology and theories – what then is our place in the world?
With one leg in the stone age and the other in this post-modern era, we bring to the world a spirituality and a consciousness from an earthy culture into the world of cement, glass and steel and indifference.
And the way to accomplish that is through writing. I believe our place in the world is that of story tellers and philosophers – linking the true primitiveness of the human psyche  to a world so advanced, it has become indifferent to the spiritual dimension of man.
Our view of the world is our contribution to the world. Be brave. Write your story. Tell you story. If not you, who else will?

Women in Parliament

It was just 80 years ago that “hasuman” ruled. Some of those men have just transitioned from the village “hausman” to the national “hausman”aka parliament. In this paternalistic culture, no woman sits in the “hausman” with the men. This generation of women is just one generation removed from PNG’s cultural past, women in this age and time are still bound to the cultural roles of women, no matter how educated she may be. It is hard to fix culturally indoctrinated women and man.The current push to get women into parliament has never worked – it is hard to liberate women who still live under the culture of deferring to men, and men who are still stuck in a culture that dictates that women have no space in decision making.

Our hope for change is in our next generation. Our hope rests on our girls and our boys. The real measure of an equal society is when little girls can go to school and have same privilege as boys. Young women can run for office of student rep., same as young man. When she can stand up and speak her mind in a big meeting. The strategy going forward will be build confident little girls who are assertive; same time build confident little boys who accept that women are as good a leader as they are. In time, confident boys and girls, transition into adults and function in an environment where women are judged based on leadership potential and not on their gender. That is the transition we should be pushing for as our 15-20 year strategy.

An immediate activity that may fast-track positive change right now: the parliament by law, ensure 50% of senior bureaucrat- ‘decision making bureaucrats’ positions go to women. The rubber hits the road at the bureaucrat level not in politics. Politicians are rubber stamps. Real decisions makers and implementers of government programs are in the decision making level of bureaucracy. When a women is in decision making role, she will be inclusive. That’s just a women’s trait – after-all we run households; we are aware of and cater for all in our households. Even if parliament is 100% men, decision making will include woman who will be considerate of the plight of women. Women bureaucrats can change the society in 5 years, compared to 20 years in the life of a woman politician.

And in time – it is easier for a senior woman bureaucrat to transition to parliament because she will be good in what she is doing, she knows the working of the government, she has the respect of her male colleagues and she is confident in what she knows.

APEC Haus-Ela Beach

APEC Haus-Ela Beach

Take Back PNG

As we immerse ourselves in local politics, let us not forget that we a part of a bigger world political system. We may want to believe we hold the reins to our political system, but we are in a school of small fish caught between the “clash of the titans” – the EU, USA, China, Japan. Is that reason enough for us to sit back and resign to our fate and go where the tsunami of world politics take us??

Absolutely not. Our smallness in the big pool also means we can go under the radar. Our lack of dependence in the big global machinery means,we are immune to some of the effects of global politics.

We may be small in the eyes of the world, but 8 million is big enough to sustain a local market. We should concentrate on our local markets.

As PM JM said in his address to the nation – let us build on our strengths. Let the islands specialize in island things, let the highlands specialize in highlands commodities and let the coastals do what they are good at.

If Kina fails us one of these days, we can always revert to the 50,000 year system that had always worked for us – the barter system. Specialization allowed barter to take place and that kept our traditional economies buoyant. Family, kinship, tribal alliances – those are our strength. We survived 50,000 years, we can go another 50,000 if only we believe in our selves and our systems to take care of us.

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We need to grow our population

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Bona or  food sharing by the Zia Tribe, Morobe. Papua New Guinea.

Survival is a numbers game. More people means more heads, more ideas, and a diverse and resilient gene pool. More numbers mean more work force, bigger markets, bigger army, bigger fire power. Louder protests. We increase our human potential when we increase our numbers.

Population growth is good for us. If you disagree then you have been brainwashed. Wake up. Think for yourself. Or else when you die, you will do so  without realizing your potential.

All the life-force you will ever need to live a meaningful life – you are born with all that intact.  You inherit your unique potential from two very resilient people – your mother and your father.  Combining this genetic mishmash with the unconscious piling of knowledge from the past that we call instinct. On top of that, the memory bank  inherited from past lives that is passed down through blood. All these are your latent potential.

But wait!  And because you are alive, everyday you can choose to add new tools to your expanding repertoire of arsenal by availing yourself to new experiences.

It has been proven: Your potential can take you from your backwoods, splitting firewood   to splitting genes in a cryonics laboratory. All you need is a razor sharp will.  Your will is your mental power to control and direct your thoughts and actions despite circumstances. If you will it, it will. If you will it not, it will not.

How is all this related to growing a population?

In statistics – the bigger the sample size, the more refined the result. Your potential can only be buoyed and lifted to the next level by sheer force of number. How? Because many people share your value system and history. The same reason why Miss PNG keeps winning the Miss Internet in the Pacific beauty pageant.

Many people means a bigger thinking and reasoning population.  In the face of competition, the life-forces  keep reinventing self to become  more and more  potent. 

In a bigger gene pool, the genetic variation is large. In a bigger genetic pool, we have increased buffer against erosion. In a bigger genetic pool, there is a bigger potential for everything . Why reduce our gene pool? For whose benefit?

The most quoted reason why we should not grow our population is that we do not have enough resources.

What resources? Land is not the problem, we have enough for 8.5 million people… compared to Bali and Sumatra and Lombok – all squashed on a pinhead.
Food? Everybody eats from a garden…. it is in our genes to work the land. Only lazy people do not work the land. Money? There will never be enough money ever, but we can learn to live within our means.

The problem is when we become dependent , our will power is dampened and our power for self-governance is eroded.  The ‘true  north’ of our Melanesian compass is despised as primitive and discarded  for the Eurocentric one. So we become like children, wanting to be like ‘them’, but not knowing how to do, must be led by the hand.

The irony: living a fulfilled life by trusting your instinct based on a value system and time-tested principals is not a new phenomena. In the days of old, our forefathers had principals in war as in peacetime. So which one is authentic for you – you decide.

The human potential aka the life-force shimmering under the surface ready is ready to be ignited into action. We need to take our potential back. A bigger population can withstand the erosion of our cultural pride.

What should we do?

First, we need a more smarter and radical leadership.  A leadership that is selfish about PNG. A leadership that is dependent yet independent. A leadership that has pride for country. A leadership that can see the potential that is locked in us. A leadership that understands that, all of us – all people of the world – red, yellow, white or black – we are sojourners:  here today and gone tomorrow.  We need a radical leadership that understands that all cultures and value systems are equal wherever God placed us.  We are built for our environment – like fish, we need water and we do not have to judge ourselves harshly for not becoming a tree climbing fish.

We need a leadership that uses their head and heart to make good long-term decisions for the country and not for their pockets for short-term gain.  Afterall, where in the world will you you say at the end of the day: I have come home; I am home – but here – where your umbilical cord is buried.

In a bigger population, competition will cull mediocrity and the cream of leadership will rise to the top.

Then we need education. Education that gives us pride  in the basics, the laws and principals that opens our eyes to our innate life-force. When we have acknowledged our innate power, then we will start living to our full potential. We will believe in ourselves and not be swayed by latest trends that go against our values.

A good education system provides a negative feedback loop to population growth. A good education  gives people options to do many things including the information to control their fertility.  In 2019, the guesstimate is that we have close to 10 million people – a badly educated 10 million people will become 20 million in the next 20 years. A radical education initiative can half  that predicted number.

In a smaller population, this idea will be scoffed and left to die. In a bigger population, with a bigger thinking capacity, this idea will be buoyed by debates and  criticism until it makes sense, to be embraced and acted upon. And when this idea become common knowledge, generations will just acquire it at birth. People will live it. There will be no need to justify it.

We need to take our country back. It is up to us to decide to grow our population or not and shouldn’t be determined by outsiders.

 

Trust yourself

When you are given an hammer, all you will see is nails, similarly, the more we talk negative, the more challenges we will see. We need a change of mindset, look for opportunities in the challenges and we will see more opportunities…and importantly, celebrate achievements, no matter how small, as great achievements in history are collection of all the little victories.

We are as good as anyone in the world – have faith in your ability to lead. If we don’t trust ourselves who else will? We have to stop playing victim and start taking control of our life. 

Everyone in the world is out to satisfy a need or a greed, even charity these days comes with a price tag. Therefore there is no guarantee for change if you put your hope on others – only we can help ourselves.

That is why one man with a clear vision to lead us is enough, but it will be an accelerated change if more man capture the vision. And the sign of a great leader is his/her ability to create visionaries.

 

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Midnight musing on the purpose of life.

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Little dancer from Milne Bay Province

Have you ever felt lost in a place full of information, ever felt invisible in a place full of humans or being chained by invisible threads to your conscience?

Do you feel the danger of falling off the track of time when you stop to catch a breath. You stop and blink and time has moved on. Does it make you scared that time will pass you  so you struggle to keep up even if that  means crawling on all four.

Have you ever pondered the injustice of cortisol accumulating from all those harassment until the ulcer or cancer gobbles your life from the inside out.

Do you wonder to whose mad drumming we are marching to? Is it to Mother Nature? For to her, we are just animals – programmed to live long enough to perpetuate our genes. Survival of the fittest they say, it is my genes or no genes.

Or are we marching to a celestial beat that already has our lives programmed – like a pawn played in a chess match which you and I have not even agreed to play in the first place. Or is life and the standard thereof a result of energy fields swirling  around humans as they walk – the tendrils attracting or repelling.

How will we know if we have achieved our purpose for being the lucky sperm that won the lottery to life out of the other 30 million?

What is contentment? Is it in having enough to not live in need? Is it in the making and enjoying of family? Is it in collecting trophies that will rust in time and accolades that are so whimsical, they can be retracted tomorrow ? Or is contentment about remaining relevant in space and time?

There must be more to life than just putting a 8 hr day at the office, go home eat, sleep, wake-up and repeat the whole rat-race again for the rest of my days.  And when I try to assert my will to live consciously by my own plan, I get a push back. If life is like a flowing river, then my effort is like a roe trying to swim upstream.  Will I make it in time?

From this point of view, growing old is a curse. Experience opens up opportunities, but the body will grow old  – it will become feeble and unsteady and stiff. When the body approaches its use-by date,  it is better for the mind to follow suit. If not, then the mind will becomes a prisoner in the decaying carcass – a prisoner to the human ability to project memories of days gone, the ability to reminisce and have  regrets. With endless time and and a big canvas, the elderly sit vacant in their decaying shell as their memories torture their  daytime and keep them awake in the nighttime.

Young blood, strong bones, clear eyes and flexible joints  – source of envy – strut their stuff on their catwalk. In the era of technology and space travel and unlimited knowledge- will the young people of the future have a better life than ours??

I don’t think so. I believe the generations that are coming will go through the same motion as we are – just like how our mother and our grandmother did before us.

If humanity does not run itself to extinction,  then in thousands of years from now – regardless of whether the future generation migrate to the moon or Mars or stay in a much polluted earth – the remnants of our genes will go through the same motions – birth, work, work, work, regret, more regrets then death.

What is the purpose of life then? when I try to slow down to figure it out, the world keeps turning, I cannot think, I feel suffocated and I feel more lost than I first started this essay.

 

My Culture, my Pride.

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No-one can teach you how to be a Melanesian, the unspoken nuances we intuitively know – it is flowing in our blood, the blood of a proud people, warriors, headhunters , refined over thousands of years.

Our culture grounds us in our environment, for it was built for us and and suits us and it served our ancestors and is still serving us today. In our domain, among melanesians, we can maintain our own –  the Sepik is as good as New Ireland is as good as Enga and so on.

On a bigger stage, our culture is as good as any in the world. We can proudly take our stand with all other cultures in the tribal council. We are survivors, for we have survived as one nation made up of a thousand tribes.

But the fact of the matter is that the western culture has taken over the world. Their domination of the world is very thorough that all other cultures must be westernised to even register as a nation.

The western way of life has merits and demerits. The thrust of the western culture is to homogenise all cultures – from clothes to language to unit of transaction. Cultures are judged harshly for not fitting in. For instance, the nations of the world are ranked by the height of their stash of cash. If your stash is small, then you are a failed nation. But what is money to cultures who have no need for it? The western culture seeks to perpetuate their criteria –  a criteria shaped by their  value system.

The demise of our culture is perpetuated further when we  shun our culture as ‘kanaka’, because we have been brainwashed that ours is primitive and the glamour of the West is the standard.  In our  haste to fit in, we are found wanting because we will never become ‘westernised’ enough.

But the fact remains, our culture is our identification marker, suitable for us and it defines who we are. Our culture can only be as strong as we make it to be.

Our challenge now is to give prominence to our very own culture regardless of pressures from outside.

When people come to our land, let us show them that we are proud of our culture because it is our identity and it is worth the prominence of place we give it.

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