LET us throw pessimism out the window and for once be optimists, shall we?
We always tend to look for the negative side of things and in so doing, miss out on great opportunities.
Take for instance the use of the Huli wig on president Barack Obama in a photo montage published recently in half of the world’s newspapers.
It was used here in a derogatory sense to be sure, to suggest to the American people that Obama’s health care plan was as far backward and fraught with danger as the prescriptions of an ancient witch doctor.
The Hela Gimbu Association, purporting to speak on behalf of the Hela nation of the Southern Highlands province, who are the proud custodians of the unique wig – condemned the use of the Hela wig and is demanding an apology. Others in the country have followed suit.
Even the Tourism Promotion Authority and Minister for Tourism and Culture have been involved, we gather.
This just will not do. Look at just one positive aspect.
If we were to sit back and take a good look, that one picture has done more for PNG tourism than the TPA has been trying to do for over three decades.
This picture has been seen in the coldest part of Siberia and the hottest tent in the Sahara and in nuclear submarines under the oceans and in manned satellites in orbit and everywhere else in between.
All of these without costing PNG a single toea.
All Papua New Guinea has to do is go out there and turn the negative into the positive and claim the glory.
Take for instance this television commercial we discussed here in the newsroom. You open up with a full length shot of the Obama photo montage.
Then fade slowly to the head of the president and further to the wig until it takes up the entire screen. Then in the next instant the sound of the Hela chant (haa hee, haa hee) and kundu beats explode and a hundred splendidly dressed Hela wigmen do their beat. Zoom out slowly from the wigs, down to the bodies and then pan out to include the entire magnificent line of the Huli dancers.
You only need to add the narration – “There is no witchdoctor here, only warriors doing a victory dance as they have been doing for ten times longer than America has been a country. Come to Papua New Guinea for you will find them nowhere else.”
Fade picture and sound out. End of commercial.
We cannot tell whether the Huli dance is a victory dance but since this is for a global audience, a bit of this kind of licence is allowed.
It makes another point and this one for Obama’s media crew to take up, which will further promote free publicity for PNG.
Obama’s team will just release a statement or he himself – this time wearing a Huli wig supplied by the PNG Embassy in Washington – can say on prime time television that opponents to his health care are really ignorant of the real facts as they have ignorantly used a warrior’s hat on a witchdoctor.
And he can add a line or two about the Huli wigman and their wonderful culture in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea “with whom the United States shares a cordial relationship and a historical tie”.
Obama can then tell the people that indeed, his opponents have in their ignorance, unwittingly placed the victor’s hat upon him.
The news networks will go crazy with repeated images of Obama in the wig and Papua New Guinea will become the talk of the United States and an instant celebrity worldwide in one outing, for which it paid nothing but brain and diplomatic sweat and power.
That really is the way to turn what appears to be negative at first into a positive outcome for PNG.
It requires our diplomats to stop thinking in terms of diplomatic protest notes and for those employed in agencies such as TPA to put their thinking caps on all the time and be alert to every nuance coming in from around the world.
This, after all, is a competitive world. It belongs to the quick and the innovative.
As for the offensiveness of the whole material, well, there is a weird animal in the US called free press.
It is that animal, adopted in this country, which allows the Hela Gimbu and everybody else to vent their grievances publicly.