Insect Authority

Posted in Humor, Opinions on April 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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No, I am not referring to someone who knows all about bugs. I am referring to an amusing metaphor coined by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Insect Authority, in this context, refers to the perplexing and exceedingly annoying propensity of  individuals (and institutions) to exert extreme effort to make a small amount of authority feel much bigger. It is an ego soothing mechanism. I wrote about this before in On the Road – America – Some Observations on Culture.

One can think of thousands of examples of Insect Authority:  the waitress who will not allow you to get your onions on the side instead of on your burger, the petty bureaucrat who insists that you have filled out the form incorrectly . . .  I won’t waste your time with more.

This brings us, somewhat circuitously, to the image below:

Insect Authority Road

The Madang Town Council, or whatever they are calling themselves these days, probably decided, as they usually do, to pave over a perfectly good road instead of fixing the many roads that are rapidly becoming dirt trails. There is nothing unusual about this. It is the modus operandi of the MTC when it comes to roads. It’s much easier to fix perfectly good roads than it is to fix roads that are bagarap. (Literrally means in Tok Pisin “Buggard up.”  Please excuse the minor vulgarity.)

Okay, that’s business as usual. The reasonably good roads get better, and the bad roads — well, they aren’t really roads any more are they, so who cares?

But wait, what about Insect Authority?

Well the Water Board, another Machiavellian entity which works in mysterious ways, dug a ditch (at least I’m blaming them for it) over a year ago and never fixed it. Never mind if I’m wrong about who did it or why. Someone will correct me. This also is not uncommon, I mean about the ditches, not the corrections. We have big unfixed ditches across the roads all over the place. They are probably the source of more foul language than any other single cause.

So, why the gap in the road? I stopped and asked someone who looked as if he might be in charge. He wore a bright orange safety jacket – another common accoutrement of wielders of Insect Authority. He said that his company would not  pave over the spot where the Water Board dug the ditch until the Water Board fixed it. There’s wicked logic at work there.

Well, let me tell you when that is going to happen. It will happen when Hell freezes over.  That’s when it will happen! (Whoops, another minor profanity.)

Apparently, the Water Board, the Town Council, and the contractors all are having a grand old time luxuriating in the rush of endorphins released by the exercise of their massive and awesome Insect Authority. I would find it funny if I didn’t have to drive over that ditch twice a day. It is making it very difficult to stay faithful to my New Year’s Resolution.

Okay, I feel better now.

Here are a couple of images of the airport road as I see it each morning on the way to work. This one with angry clouds:

Airport Road with major clouds
And this one with benign clouds;

Airport Road with minor clouds

And, just to show that I’ve recovered from my pique, here are some pretty flowers:

Mystery flower

I’ve shown these before and I still don’t know what they are. Maybe some kind reader will tell me. All stages of flowering are shown in this one photo. I’ve been waiting a while for this one.

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On the Road – America – Some Observations on Culture

Posted in On Tthe Road, Opinions on April 13th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’m going to skate on some thin ice this chilly morning. Some will cheer me on. Some will hope for me to fall through.

Last night, after a frustrating day culminated by a heated argument (about two minutes is our limit) concerning back-seat driving, I was seriously considering writing a series of posts raving incessantly about all the things that irritate me about today’s version of American Culture. I could go on for weeks describing with grim humor all the things that have, in my opinion, changed for the worse. I’m sure that most of my readers would eat this up. Others would not be amused.

But then, this morning, I saw this:

Brownsburg Sunrise

My heart softened a little. I used a mental technique that I have recently patented (you have to ask my permission and pay me a royalty to do it). I turned it about and tried to see it the other way round.

A tourist who can only find fault and constantly comments on cultural features that displease him is not welcome. I must admit that today, in America, I am a foreign tourist. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life (actually nearly half of my whole life) in a culture so radically different from today’s America that I can no longer reasonably claim American cultural citizenship. To me America seems sad and morally confused – a once great, powerful, and (possibly even) noble beast now horribly wounded and unable to recover full health and well-being.

Individual responsibility and respect for others has been replaced by a confusing myriad of rules. People seem unaware of or apathetic to the vast number of personal freedoms once held sacred which are being surrendered to the false promise of security. They are unable to accept that America will never be secure as long as most of the rest of the planet’s occupants see America as a self-appointed cop. There’s always going to be some kid hiding around a corner with a brick in his hand panting for revenge. America seems to me to be a once-great empire on the decline. Americans might take solace in the fact that no empire has survived recognizably intact for more than a few hundred years.

Papua New Guinean culture has its own faults – I’m not going to make comparisons to America. To me, PNG feels like the old American Wild West – without all the guns. We complain of many things. Most of my readers are expatriates in PNG. You know what I’m talking about. However, most of us are also optimistic (though we would grudgingly admit it) about the future. Many of us are in PNG specifically to devote our energies to improvement.

All the above is meant to be an encouraging essay – not a critique. I also believe that I’m fully qualified to make these comments because of my personal history and the fact that I am an American Citizen and have full access to freedom of speech under the Bill of Rights (God Bless the Constitution).

I love the America in which I became a man. I have great respect for its founding principles.

So, I’d like to end on a positive note. Keeping in mind that it has been four years since I was last in America, I am compelled to say that there have been some significant changes for the good. Americans are nicer today. They treat each other with more respect. The Insect Authority (Read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.) that was so prevalent has been replaced by a bemused contrariness concerning obnoxious rules (Well . . . I’m not supposed to do that, but let me see how I can get around the rules to help you.) I was dreading dealing with the bureaucracy. But two experiences in particular (one at the Social Security Administration and the other at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles) amazed me. Bureaucrats were falling all over themselves to help me with my complex and unfamiliar problems.

To wrap this up I’ll say to America (as if it cares what I think – HAH!), God bless you and good luck with your recovery. And, because I’m so cranky, I’ll add: You might have a better go of it if you learn to play nicely with others. As we used to say in the ‘60s, “Make love, not war.”

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