Thursday, February 10, 2011

Signs of our times

The arrow in this photo seems to be pointing to the National Parliament, the law-making premises of Papua New Guinea.

It is always a nice thing to be prepared. Not that anything great can happen in our ordinary and simple lives but that it is wise to stay prepared.

And we do so by looking at the signs that surround us.

Overgrown grass that needs cutting, weeds about the fence, fibro walls rotting away, foot paths unswept and in many instances once lovable thoroughfares left littered and neglected. Sometimes a familiar and oft visited habitat looks as abandoned as ever, and gives us the impression that may haps no one cares any more about so many little things that surround us.

But the lesson of such instances of negligence startles us suddenly when Eda Ranu drops by to cut our water or PNG Power removes certain wires that used to supply us with electricity. And when we do look around in search of the source of all our woes and worries we notice it all, loud and clear and right at our doorsteps.

We have not been mindful about our bills.

And moreover, we have not been attentive to the voice that kept prompting us over the years: “Let the fig tree teach you a lesson. When its branches become green and tender and it starts putting out leaves, you know that summer is near.”

How negligent then have we become, especially in this day and age when modern technology has taken over all manner of human chores. Once, a messenger designated as a clerical assistant knew all that was recovered of him in order to get a certain job done for a department. Nowadays such entities are obsolete. You can email your boss as freely and as carelessly as protocol itself chooses to be absent in our consciousness. And a simple clerk, of all people, can transfer vast sums of money from one point of contact to another simply because modern technology allows that to happen.
Not so, thinks Eda Ranu which comes around to disconnect our taps, technology or not we were not paying our bills and that’s that. And Eda Ranu’s explanation: “Where is there documentary evidence that you were paying for sewerage and water all these years?” So we show them our pay slips and the amounts that were deducted from our pay to them and what do we get for an answer? That ain’t official by way of evidence. We know you have had that amount deducted from your pay, but look here, worthy and learned colleagues, we have not been receiving a penny of your so-called “deductions”. So what say you now?

Thus, if a company is said to be on the verge of liquidation, and this is what storyboard is getting at, let us not be alarmed, but rather go back to our diaries and try to pin point the date when all this moment of negligence first started. Sure enough, we will see it. If it was in 1995 that we stopped paying our bills to Eda Ranu through our clerk at the buttons of the computer, then perhaps the answer lies in the area of our good clerk not taking the trouble to actually deliver the money to Eda Ranu. Yet our pay slips show that certain amounts were deducted to Eda Ranu, as simply as that. Do we reprimand the clerk? We should rather not. Because in the beginning we did not let him know that we knew what he would be thinking and that we would certainly know he would know what we were thinking. That way he would, physically, remember to deliver the cash to Eda Ranu and not to an alter ego somewhere at BSP.

That little amount accumulated over the years sends awkward sound waves by way of signs to how easily man can go wrong even with his own inventions of which he should very much be in control. We have forgotten to consult nature. We cannot read the signs any more. We become so shut in that what we do indoors accumulates over the years until someone from somewhere else comes along and starts pointing out the loopholes of our own self-management apparatuses.
Shaken, we panic; and in panicking we find ourselves cleaning up our yards while in fact we should be welcoming our guests now beginning to flock in upon the so-called given hour.

Of course, stories such as these have very little in them when we first hear them. Eda Ranu must excuse us for using them as an example here, but storyboard has a good mind to suggest they be thankful as this serves as good publicity.

Examples aside, these are good stories to tell. To the one who listens these stories often turn out to be big stories in their own right. The guest is the most important personality in our lives. That is why we talk about signs and being prepared at all times. Our guest must be entertained. So being reputable people that we are, we get down to the traditional ritual of welcoming them. In most Melanesian societies it is an absolute must that a guest is well taken care of. We welcome him with familiar gifts, firstly, such as betel nuts and drinks. Then there is the ritual of traditional dishes: besa, if one is doing the monamona; or leu (almost pronounced theu in Wedau), a special dish consisting of baby taro leaves, coconut oil and mashed taro for important guests.

Our guest becomes our final judge of what we are as a community, as a government department or a school, college and institution of learning. He is the one who has the power, we might say, to assess whether our very act of existing and functioning as such is justifiable after all. Thus, if he says we ain’t paying our bills, we must listen.
The opinions expressed here are very much general and should not serve as “pointing fingers at” certain organizations in our society. But lessons learnt in this article are very much for the benefit of all of us.   
Last minute clean-up activity at the Waigani Campus. 

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