A big black Doberman races across the neatly trimmed suburban lawn, barking its head off. It leaps at me as I stride along the edge of the road and lands with all four feet on the seven foot high cyclone fence. The fence clangs and rattles while the dog shrieks at me. A bank of searchlights come one, washing the whole perimeter of the house with searing white light. I move on up the road, past house after house each with their various fortifications.
As I walk through the "expatriate" neighborhood I am thinking of how events conspire to isolate these pale foreign organisms who violate the body of the Papua New Guinea megabeast. Expats are like thought viruses, infecting the behavior of PNG. Western Idea Viruses carried in the minds of the English, Australians and Americans who come here to do various jobs for the "independent" government of Papua New Guinea.
I enter a pitch black section of the road. Mike's house, according to his instructions over the phone, should be just ahead. I move a bit more out into the road to give me time to react if I should have to.
I read an interview with some young gang leader they caught the other day. The gang discovered a middle-aged school teacher out at night so they beat her up and raped her. The captured gang leader complained, "I don't know what you are so worked up about. You have the streets during the day, we have them at night. You stay in your world, we stay in ours."
How can anybody be so ignorant to think of PNG as an "Independent" country. The whole concept of a nation is completely foreign to this culture. At the end of World War I, a bunch of people in a room somewhere in Europe, or maybe Australia, sat down and drew some lines on a chart of the Pacific. They sliced the island of New Guinea in half, giving the western half to the Dutch. They named the eastern half Papua New Guinea and added a few scattered islands (a few of them culturally belonging to the Solomons) to the new country. Then they proclaimed it as being a colony of Australia. This "Nation" with 740 different languages, was then loosely bound by a made-up, idiotic language called Pidgin English. Now this absurdity has become an "Independent" country. Ho ho ho.
Run by laws and governmental systems totally foreign to the people who live here. Run by expatriates who control all these systems: communications, power, machinery, shipping, finances, politics, all the behavioral overlays comprising the independent country of PNG.
Development, by expatriate standards, means ripping out the island's resources at the lowest possible cost. Timber, gold, silver, copper, and a little fish. They send the resources to the western countries and mail back colorful slips of paper called money and various trinkets. Hell, the English even print the money for them and determine how much it will be worth. Independence. What a farce. The whole concept of nations is one of interdependence with other nations - trade partners, economic agreements, political games.
I leave the dark area behind and find Mike's house just on the other side. There is no fence or dog. Mike used to be a Keop, one of those real life Phantoms - like the comic book Phantom - keeping peace and justice alive in the jungle.
"Hey! Rick! Come in, come in." Mike reminds me of the English actor Terry Thomas - tall, thin, the same grin, complete with the slight gap between the front teeth. His party is in full swing and lots of people are milling around. They are all ex-keops, many of whom have married local girls and have settled down here and there in the provinces. "What'll you have to drink?"
"Coke is fine, Mike, how's the family?" I look around the milling crowd.
"Coke? Some rum in it?"
"No, thanks. I've got some sort of parasite and it doesn't like alcohol. The doctor just gave me some medicine for it." Mike dredges a cold coke out of a big ice box full of beer.
"Is that," he asks, pointing to the bag I'm carrying, "what I hope it is?"
I open it and show him the contents, "My latest creations. Moirascopes with ebony end plugs from Tagula."
We wander out into the back yard. They have a big barbecue made out of a cut-in-half oil drum. Mike is broiling hamburgers and hotdogs. Lots of people want to see the Moirascopes, so we sit together on the lawn and someone holds a flashlight on the Moirascope as I take one apart and explain about the dark-field kaleidoscopes, the ebony end plugs, and the many little treasures filling the action chamber....
"And this is a tusk shell from a little island on the Great Barrier Reef, and the red glass comes from the port running light of an old liberty ship we found on a reef in the Louisiades, and this blue glass is from an antique bottle we dug out of a mangrove swamp in Port Douglas, It's probably a hundred years old...." I pause to put the goodies back into the action chamber and twist on the end plug.
"When you put them all together in the action chamber and look down this mirror lined tube, you are looking right at those same little bits of reality, but seeing them again and again in a pattern winding off into infinity...." I pass them around and everyone pairs off, one peering into the Moirascope and the other holding a flashlight the way I demonstrate, so the light comes in from the side.
"Woooooooooooweeeeee" one girl gasps, her mouth hangs open. Once everyone gets going I talk about how Moirascopes demonstrate the concepts of synergy and awareness. Mostly they only half listen, caught in the mindtraps of beauty - in the glittering clink and shift of the everchanging pattern.
I really enjoy the showing and several people decide they want a Moirascope. Soon they are all gone, complete with their newly printed booklets. After we eat, laying back in the grass, looking at the moon above the trees, I give an impromptu after barbecue talk about the web of communications.
"Let's do an experiment," I begin. "Anyone who wants to can join in. It's a kind of mind game. We start by lying back in the grass and looking up at the moon. Try to focus on the details of the surface of the moon. Now, while keeping those details in sharp focus, allow yourself to see the trees and their branches."
I wait for everyone to relax. "Normally we just see what we focus on, but your eyes receive light from 180º horizontally and 90º vertically. Let yourself see your peripheral vision, while keeping the moon sharply in the center of your panoramic view of the world."
I play the game too, and my mouth just sort of keeps on going by itself. "You see the clouds moving behind the trees and across the sky. Backlit by the moon, the clouds are silver on the top and black on the bottom. Here and there you see a few stars and in your peripheral vision you can see them glitter. Your mind sees the motion of the clouds very clearly and the features of the moon very clearly, all at once. Even the slight movements of the palm fronds and leaves are visible. Now, while holding all of these images together in your awareness feel the slight movement of wind over your body, moving your hair, blowing gently on your skin.
"Allow your conscious mind to focus on the feeling of your clothes, and of the grass below your body. You can feel the position of your arms and legs and all the sensations of your skin, and this is very comfortable and pleasant.
"You will also notice the many smells; the mango blooms, the fragrance of a frangipani, the newly cut grass, the smokey barbecue fire, and you see and feel and smell all the world around you very keenly.
"Now I want you to also be aware of my voice and the words I am saying. Behind the words you can also hear the sounds of the night, frogs chirping, crickets, a dog barking far away and the faint sounds of cars moving on a nearby road.
"It is all very beautiful and all the sensations are so strong and so vivid it is impossible to think about them, only experience them in the fullest way, seeing all the light striking your eyes, feeling every touch on your skin, smelling and hearing every part of the night all at once, with the moon filling the center of your vision."
"You can hear the sound of my voice and it is only one of all the many sensations you feel and see. You are very relaxed, almost floating in the intense feelings of all the details your sensory system reveals to you. You are now aware of all these things plus you are aware of your own mind, allow yourself to feel your awareness, your thoughts forming from deep inside.
"You can see your thoughts forming, rising up from all the details your senses perceive, making a vision of the world around you. This image exists within your mind, inside your self. You are making the image, allowing the channels of your mind full access to the world around it.
"The wonderful delightful image you experience when you feel, smell, hear and see all of your sensations is a product of your mind, controlled by you, seen by eyes you constructed, felt by skin you grew, heard by ears you made, smelled by a nose you formed.
"You began life as a single, fertilized egg, one cell, and grew to become the human being you are. You reacted to the world around you to learn all the many things you know. The marvelous technology of your body and the ability to perceive this night scene was built by your own mind as you developed from egg to adult.
"Let your hand rise up, lift your arm, until your hand is between your eyes and the moon. Just let it float up by itself, the hand rising up until it is between your eyes and the moon." I glance around to see how many people are following the mind game. I am surprised to see everyone with their hands up before their eyes.
"You can still see all the light falling on your eyes, the trees, the clouds, the stars, and the moon shining through the fingers of your hand. Now move the hand, open and close it, turn it slowly back and forth, and let yourself feel deeply this is your own hand. It is the most miraculous thing you have ever seen and yet it is you, you personally, who constructed it. You who moves it.
"Your conscious mind does not know how it made this hand but you know without doubt you made it yourself as you grew from egg to embryo to baby to child to adult. You remake and continue to maintain and move your hand every moment, even now. Yet you can not say how you do it or how you grew it.
"Your conscious mind is not the only mind within you. There is another mind, a larger mind able to grow, move, maintain your hand, to make and control and limit your sight. You realize, now, your conscious mind is only a very limited part of your whole mind. Let your understanding of this larger mind move throughout your entire body and out into the world around you.
"Your conscious mind is the communications section of your mind, the one linking you through language to the other people around you.
"Your conscious mind controls what you do and where you go and how you associate with others around you but beyond and around this conscious focus is a larger mind reaching from the depths of your genetic memories to the moon in your vision - a mind directing the mystery of your growth, the magic of your movements, the secrets of your vision, the pathways of your dreams, the unfolding of your destiny."
"And while your conscious mind is built of compartments of I AM, your larger mind reaches out, like a thread of awareness in chaos, moving through all of us together, to a constantly learning unity of awareness."
I look around again and see everyone lying here and there on the lawn, each with one hand floating above them, their eyes open wide.
"Now your hand drops down and you allow yourself to relax very deeply, closing your eyes and relaxing every part of your body. You can still hear my voice but everything else fades away, moving far away, just relaxing very comfortably, until, deep inside you begin to hear some words. They are words spoken in a very deep part of yourself and you follow the sound of the words, allowing them to grow louder until you can hear your own inner self clearly saying, "I Am..... I Am..... I Am...." And as you hear your self say "I Am," you become aware of who you are and where you are. You feel very comfortable, very pleasant, very happy and pleased. The barbecue dinner was great and it was a satisfying and happy evening. In a moment we will end our exercise and you will open your eyes and feel refreshed and happy. I will count from one to five and on the count of five we will resume the party. You will remember the experiment and everything that happened very clearly. One....Two....feeling very refreshed, Three....Very happy....Four...and opening the eyes feeling very good on the count of Five!"
The party goes on and I look at my watch. It is midnight. I am forty years old.
"The Kaleidoscope King strikes again!" Mike laughs and wraps an arm around my shoulder. The mind game should have left me refreshed, but it has drained me completely. I can barely move. "WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?" I demand of the larger mind within myself. It gives back an image of gray, heavy, desolation. Gray death. I wish I were back on Moira. Monday is a Government holiday, the Queens Birthday, and I can't get a flight to Alatau until Wednesday.
I meet a young ex-Keop who has just returned from Australia where he attended the trial of the Furry Freak Brothers for their Pocklington Reef Adventure. I tell him briefly about having been in Cairns when it all started and about Father Joe's commentary in Tagula.
"I knew they were not your average cruising boat," the Keop laughs. "When they arrived in Samarai, they crashed right into the wharf, threw on the lines and marched straight down to the pub. They cleared in at the bar, getting royally pissed. A bit out of the ordinary."
"So what happened after they got to Pocklington Reef and loaded up with the tons of hashish?" I sip at a fresh lime juice Mike has handed me.
"Well, they sailed right the way down the Coral Sea and landed in a little bay north of Sydney. Would you believe there were 240 law enforcement officers waiting in the bushes for them?" He laughs. I believe him. "The boat was so loaded with crates of dope they had to lie on top of them to sleep. There was only three feet of headroom down below. The trial was a bit of a formality, of course, as they were caught red handed. But they wanted it to be air tight and so everyone who had anything to do with them showed up to testify. It was quite a circus."
"So what happened?" I ask. Mike grins, a policeman hearing about the bad guys losing.
"Well, I left before it was all over, but I'm sure they'll go to jail for a long time. The customs department had a 1100 page report covering all the evidence, detailing each step of the crime."
"Doesn't it strike you as peculiar these characters could sail a 60 foot yacht straight down the Coral Sea with no Sat Nav, no radar, no detailed charts, no real experience in sailing and find this one small cove in New South Wales where the 240 cops are waiting?" I am disturbed by the incongruities of the story. "I mean even I would be damn cautious trying to navigate those waters - especially at night, and I've been sailing for over 20 years."
"Well, they did, you know." the Keop grins into his beer. "They have aerial photos of them practically on a day by day basis."
"So all the bad guys had to do to navigate through the reefs of the Coral Sea was follow the Centurion Aircraft as it buzzed them every day since they left Cairns. Come on, this is crazy. These guys crash into the wharf and march down to the pub and clear into PNG. They never clear out. They ignore a buzzing radar plane as big as a house zooming by them at mast top level every damned day of their voyage. This is what you'd call being inconspicuous while they smuggle in a few tons of top grade hash? And where did all the dope come from in the first place? How did it get into the wreck on Pocklington?"
"It does sound a bit odd when you put it like that," Mike agrees, "But perhaps it's not, really. I read in the paper the Customs people have requested three new aircraft, seven patrol boats, 250 new officers, the right to conduct body searches at airports and special authority to do property searches without warrants, not to mention a few extra million dollars a year to combat the super dangerous and widespread smuggling industry exemplified by the Pocklington Reef Caper."
I hang up the phone laughing. Mike just told me a great story. One of the Keops who went down to Australia to testify at the trial of the dope smugglers came back on Friday and smuggled in an X rated film. Very much a no-no here.
Well, he was at the party Saturday night and left the film on Mike's desk. It so happens Mike was in charge of the Sunday film for the yacht club. So here are all these rather proper English and Australian families sitting down ready to see the Sunday Matinee. Mike loads the first short subject and instead of Donald Duck, it turns out to be "Assholes sucking Assholes." I gather the opening scenes brought the house down. The film has been confiscated by the police.
Peter Wilson walks in just as I hang up. I cooked dinner for us. We eat and talk about Palau and Peter's plans for the future. This leads to the subject of the coastal fisheries development plan.
I explain my objections to Pete.
"Well I think we'll get enough fish to operate the freezing plant," He protests. "We arrested an American tuna clipper down there last week, you know. They were doing some experimental fishing for skipjack in our waters."
"Did they catch many?"
"Well, no, but we got them pretty quick. The skipjack population along the northern coast is really big, I suspect we haven't even begun to tap the potential of the whole eastern area." Pete mops up the remainder of his dinner. He is completely positive and confident.
"First of all, you don't KNOW what the tuna fishery is like down there. It will probably be very seasonal. So the ice station at Misima will have to rely on other product when the tuna are not there."
"There's lots of stuff, lots of mackerel," Pete smiles, waves his hand to cast my arguments aside.
"How do you know there are lots of mackerel? Anyway, you have no tuna boats to harvest a migratory tuna or mackerel population. PNG's Tuna fleet is mostly foreign fishing vessels and most of those unload at a cannery or onto a mother ship to take the fish to a cannery. They won't be using the ice station. The ice station will have to rely on artisanal fisheries and there's only a very diverse reef fauna to support it. Deep reef fishing, if you can get it going, will only be a brief respite because they are so quickly fished out." I press on. "Come on, Pete, you know what those island catch rates are like."
"Well, you've got to start someplace. They don't catch more because they can't do anything with the catch. When there is a collection station they'll get busy and catch lots of fish, buy boats, buy outboards, catch more fish, buy gear, catch more fish. That's what fisheries development is all about. Right now PNG imports almost 80 percent of the fish it consumes from New Zealand and other foreign countries. It's insane. PNG should easily be able to supply its own fish needs. There is a real problem with protein shortages in the Highlands. We NEED those fish." Peter insists.
"Pete, you can't compare New Zealand fishermen and PNG fishermen. The New Zealanders go out with trawlers and haul up tons of fish at a whack. Their fish is cheap, cheaper than PNG can ever produce for its own people. Reef fish are caught on a one by one basis from a very diverse stock.
"I've gone over the finances of the project and PNG will be subsidizing its fish catch by at least $2 Kina a kilogram. The World Bank and FAO are giving PNG the subsidy to do it. So what it amounts to is foreign aid buying local fish at outrageous prices to feed the people in the highlands. But that's not the problem. The problem comes when the Ice Station begins trying to operate for real: when the manager - a high-paid European - tries to make the thing work. They'll suck up the life of the reefs and go broke, leaving the people with expensive outboards and fishing gear and impoverished reefs.
"Hell, Pete, go jump in the lagoon off Kupiano. It's already barren. The fishermen are going damn near to Samarai to get fish to eat let alone sell to the collection station you built there." I'm getting too wound up and feel dizzy. I begin to clean the table.
"There should be more product in Tagula, look at the size of the lagoon," Pete objects.
"So you have looked at the catch rates at Kupiano. You know what I'm saying is true." I put the dishes in the sink, wipe my hands and go into the living room.
"Pete, look. Think of Aid funds as fertilizer to help the island culture grow. You've got to spread fertilizer around, mix it in with the soil, let it mature, before it works. If you pile it all in one place, it's just so much smelly shit. It attracts flies, spreads diseases and everyone is dirtied by it. The idea of putting all your aid into industrial freezer plants or canneries is like that. It piles the aid money into big lumps. Only a few of the flies really benefit.
"I know it's economical for FAO to administer industrial-type grants. I know how it pleases doner countries to have their aid money recirculated to their own industries again. I know it's politically expedient to let key local people suck off some of the funds for their own private use. But it's a dirty, smelly business, not the humanitarian effort it's billed as. It can only foster cultural disease, not growth."
Pete slumps down into a chair and shakes his head. "Money ain't shit," he laughs.
My briefcase is open on the coffee table. I rummage through it and pull out an old article I wrote about Paradise Lost in Rendova. "Listen to this, Pete, you'll understand what I mean."
When I finish reading, I look up at Pete. There are tears in his eyes. He knows what I mean, now.
"Are you sure, Pete, you want your fisheries development to follow this path?"
Pete has seen a lot of changes in the islands. He left Hawaii because he didn't like the changes he saw there. He's spent his life in fisheries development in the Pacific, he knows the end result hasn't been very impressive. He's seen what development has done to places like Bougainville. Seen the racial strife, the drunkenness, the crime, the ugliness of natural destruction. My article hits him where it hurts.
He stands up, unsteady on his feet,"Hell, Rick. What the hell am I supposed to do? It's my job!" He turns his face away and walks heavily to the Kitchen.
His marriage in ruins, the staff of the Fisheries Division giving him nothing but trouble and now his old friend, Richard, is doing his damndest to tell him his major program will result in economic, biological and social disaster.
I hear running water and dishes being washed. I go help. He washes and I dry and tell him about the Yacht Club Matinee. But the laughter is thin and the house echos with emptiness.
That's it. I'm finished here in PNG. I failed. Peter can't turn the project around. He can't afford to believe me. There is too much already invested. He will ignore my report and my warning and the shore stations will be built. Then they will fail.
It's fate, destiny in action. Locked in by proposals, grants, contracts, and forests of paperwork, everyone must act out their appointed roles. Pete said it all, "What the hell am I supposed to do? It's my job!"
Time to move on. They will find out I'm right, but the people who are in control already know it and don't care. Back to Samarai and we're out of here. As soon as I feel a little better.