|Cicero ("Tite") modeling for The Anuki Country Press.|
In the last several articles over the blogs and the dailies everyone was talking about someone and someone else moving or stepping aside. Question to be asked now is: “What about the critics themselves who have not yet moved or offered to step aside?”
Steven’s Window has moved. Storyboard had offered to step aside, along with Shakespeare and fellow lovers of words. Perhaps the correct terminology for all of us here ought to be not to move or step aside but rather say “mahalo” and “aloha” all at once. The bard is the one who offers to move or step aside. But his head is at the window. It is the only part that sings.
In last week’s Weekender’ on this page, the bard was still heard singing, thanks to the poet Daniel Sakumai. This would be what Steven Winduo would regard as a sign of maturity. Papua New Guinea has indeed come of age, in its democratic stance of carefully considering each tensed political moment and its acute faculty of judgment over what could otherwise turn out as drastic in some countries.
The press, in particular, has given itself more freedom than ever before – more so in the area of criticising Michael Somare as a man rather than a parliamentarian. But the Grand Chief has taken that very well, as always. He’s like us. Just another Papua New Guinean trying to make sense of it all, and see where we have gone wrong, how to amend our past errors, and decide whether to stay or move on. The society we live in allows us to do that.
And that is healthy.
Even storyboard found himself fidgeting a bit. The notion that he or Steven’s Window should step aside came to our consciousness a long time ago, months before Somare himself was required by law to step aside. There were criticism from various young colleagues, particularly writers, that perhaps the window and the storyboard were over-using their privileges as columnists by hanging on, ensuring that an article was made available every week to be read and if possible enjoyed by fellow Papua New Guineans. And they did exactly that because their terms of agreement with their respective stakeholders and employers required that of them, no matter how boring they might have been at times.
So then, when storyboard announced two articles ago that he was calling it a day, he did so without the sanctioning of either his stakeholders or employers. Of his stakeholders, the provisions are that the editorial committee of the National newspaper and the management of same have yet to meet to review his status as a columnist, thereupon reaching a decision on the continuity or termination of his services as such. Of his employers, the onus is on UPNG’s policies governing its community outreach programs and services, such as the use of media to promote the university, and whether or not the things storyboard writes are in some sort of violation of the school’s ethics and social standing as an institution of higher learning in the country. To date storyboard has received no word from either. That implies that he shall be obliged to continue with the column in 2011 until officially advised otherwise.
And now to the point of this article: it is fun running a weekly column. But there is a lot of work involved in it. And along with that load of work is one’s sense of responsibility.
A columnist’s responsibility lies in the duty of keeping vigilance over society that contains him. That duty can last 52 weeks in a year, if necessary. Not one single compartment or corner of that society’s working as a communal set up must go unchallenged. Every aspect of our society must be subject to examination, for no other purpose than for us to determine how well we are doing or when to stop in our tracks and reflect. Our children’s needs, for example, that need to be attended to, or their behaviour that might need correcting. Our neighbour’s attitude, as compared to our own, and so on. All this needs to be examined, visualized well beforehand, to pull a phrase from Steven Winduo, and brought into focus for better understanding.
Upon this point the reader might have sensed the type of “dialogue” that flowed on between the storyboard and Steven’s Window during the best part of the year 2010. Occasionally, a reader would walk up to one of us and remark: “You guys are collaborators in this. If it is a secret, let us in on it.”
The response to that, from either one of us, was always: “No, we are not collaborators. Neither one of us looks over the shoulder of the other as he writes. But we share a common sense of responsibility which stems from the fact that we are both writers.”
We believe that with that answer our inquisitor walks away more enchanted and wiser than informed. Writing certainly is not an easy job.
There are times, to illustrate this idea of literary preoccupations; we come across our own bully of a relative looking as if he is in a hurry to get somewhere. He pushes and shoves if the queue is too long, or shouts and screams at a poor little woman at our favourite kai bar if he wants to be served quickly. After which, what? He loiters around habitually, gluttonously attacking the poor little scone and guzzling the Coca Cola down. Then he proceeds with the ritual of littering the city. The can of Coke thrown on the footpath, the plastic bag discarded as carelessly as he pleases. By now he ain’t going nowhere, he ain’t in a hurry.
How do we tame such a “hero” among us? We ask him to consider becoming an ambulance driver.
That delicate reader is an example of what the columns storyboard and the window are all about. They serve their purpose in providing literary entertainment as much as teaching and offering remedies whenever it is felt that our society sorely needs attending to.
As we read this today at 8 to 10 in the morning in Papua New Guinea, it is getting towards late Thursday evening at the Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii. And Steven Winduo will be settling down at his desk to start preparing his lectures for his students tomorrow. We know what he is thinking, what he is jotting down and what he will say to his students, because we are writers and we can sense that to be so. We bid him well with the words: “Mahalo, Steven; and aloha, Professor Winduo.”
P.S. This article appeared in this morning's National Weekender with the title misspelled as "Malaho"! Goodness me, Hawaiian readers, we are hoping the graphic artist has recovered from a long bout of the season's festivities by now.