"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Friday, 5 November 2010

Goethe in Papua New Guinea: Somare’s Faustian Pact with the US Secretary of State


In the play Faust by Johann Goethe, a poodle follows the scholar Heinricherson Faust home. The stray hound turns out to be Mephistopheles (the devil) who offers Faust a pact: In return for all earthly delights, Faust agrees to serve Mephistopheles in hell. I will not recount the ensuing tale, suffice to say signing the pact was not a high point in Faust's life.

Two centuries after its original composition, Faust is now being played out on Papua New Guinea’s national stage. However, as no stray poodles roam the streets of Port Moresby, Mephistopheles has taken the form of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And rather than being from the spirit world, Mephistopheles is an  imperialist nation, one that has scorched all four corners of the globe to advance its 'national interests'. Yet somehow it remains a ‘beacon’ of freedom and democracy. Besides these distinctions, the story being played out appears much the same.  

Like Faust, Prime Minister Somare has been infatuated with Mephistopheles' offer of “prosperity” (for whom is not entirely clear), and it looks as if he is prepared to once again compromise PNG's sovereignty by making a pact with a fickle global power.

The United States came to Saddam Hussein with similar offers of assistance, they even helped him to murder his political opponents (given Somare’s recent comments in Parliament, perhaps he would not be adverse to such assistance). Several decades later they had Saddam hanged, while torturing, bombing and killing the people of Iraq en masse, war crimes that parallel the worse history has to offer.

Of course, Iraq was not the first nation to feel the rough end of the stick, the US carpet bombed South-East Asia killing millions during the 1960s and 1970s. While during the 1970s and 1980s the US distinguished itself by siding with ruthless dictators throughout Central and South America, in an effort to quash democratically elected left-wing governments.*

Having largerly ignored Papua New Guinea since independence, it appears Mephistopheles’ interest has been aroused by growing evidence of PNG's enormous natural wealth. Now the contract is on the table. However, unlike Faust, Somare will be signing with Papua New Guinea’s blood rather than his own.  

*Anyone interested in the US’s past record, William Blum, has compiled a concise history of America’s post war foreign assistance aptly titled Killing Hope, some of which is available online: http://killinghope.org/

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