It is all very abstract for us in PNG, this news of banks crashing, credit tumbling, the low confidence market. Here we live in the 16th hardest country to do business (according to the World Bank). Although I suspect the reverberated impact on the Asian economies will sideswipe us eventually, leaving us with thousands of underpaid nickel mine workers, Im tempted to ask: How hard can it really get? We already have endemic corruption, the none too hidden costs of security and compensation, and a 30% business tax. Production is artisinal, and if it weren't for tropical rainforest, we could say our standard of living is high dust bowl. So how will it hurt? For now Nero still fiddles on our island paradise, where a peck of streetcorner apples will always be is more prized than a spa weekend.
So we might glean wisdom from the resilient and indefatigable third world, where no one builds skyscrapers so there’s nothing to jump from, and all the best homes are made of thatch and newspaper. Poverty? It comes natural. Coffee tin teapots, overloaded jalopies, lsouplines, breadlines and car tyre sandals--welcome to Beginner’s PNG. (Come onna my house). If your secondhand spandex can find a final destination in the Highlands, then I believe the abstemious gestalt of the anti-glamor thirties may have its classical roots in the semi-cash-economies of the developing world---especially PNG’s. (Somewhere in these shots we see the corpulicious Lucien Frued recently purchased by Russian gazillionaire, Roman Abromovich, which seems to be resting up for a market roller coaster in her near future---back to Sotheby's babe). Meanwhile, we too, need to sell our precious posessions by the curb. So I raise my headdress to those heroic hobos and the waifish Dorothea Lange models who made the Depression so gritty, so real, so distressed and J Crew--after all those roaring and gluttinous twenties. They did for the midwest what Malinowski, FE Williams and Franck Hurley did for Papua. They made it pretty. They gave us chic, and took away the tacky. Hitler was still in art school, Edward VIII hadn’t met Wallis, Errol Flynn was elbow-deep in his Wau-Bulolo claim, Fanny and Freddy Mae wore bib-overalls, and New Guinea was experiencing its haute colonial moment!. Those were the days. Back when everyone wore their lunch on their head. The real fundamentals of fashion can never be lost though. They're just temporarily sidelined. When fun was fun, and minimal was everything. When kids rolled tyre rims with a stick, and everything was a shade of gray: sepia, charcoal, steel, carbon, ashe, pearl, off-white. No more McMansions, no more private planes; welcome to the new austerity –the less is more world down here below the poverty line---where Jeffrey Sachs is our party planner and Bono, Bob Geldof and Brangelina mingle with the noblest of savages.
In a Depression-era revival, the Madang Club recently celebrated its youthful 60th, which most every louche lotus-eater on the north coast deigned to attend.The theme was being and feeling sixty. All the very worst were photographed for their folly. Except for Rose Mamoa, who never takes a bad photo. And of course Roger. You know how they say the Pogues is Irish music thrown down the cellar stairs? Rum sodomy and the lash and all? Well this party was good times thrown off the front verandah. And it is every single attendee's own blinking fault for showing up in the first place. It would appear, from these photos, that the local Dame and the town mortician arrived in identical orange frocks! Doppelgangers. When I finally clean the tracks up from BJ Kramer and Dr Mack’s inimitable (respective) Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone impersonations, we may have a You-Tube music video out of it. I’ll keep you posted.
So get out your bib overalls, we're in for a new era. Goodbye free market fundamentalism , hello kuckle-down self-reliance. Did the unbridled markets ever really reward the 'winners' and punish the 'losers' anyway? Or just ratchet up global inequality? I think you know the answer to that. Luddites unite!