Rambo live again in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea, is the second largest island in the world after Greenland, is the realm of complexity, whose extreme environmental variety is reflected in the fragmentation of peoples, languages, mores and customs as in no other country in the world. It is an ethnic kaleidoscope, a linguistic and cultural mosaic: just over seven million inhabitants between Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya speak almost a thousand different languages, about a fifth of all those spoken on the planet. Here among prehistoric corners hidden by time and nature, something still survives from the original human being, the one who has to work daily to solve problems related to food and survival.

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A hostile territory with no connections of any kind, as far away from the occident as possible and apparently devoid of easily exportable wealth, and the sinister fame of the natives as head-cutting anthropophagy protected the inhabitants of this prehistoric Eden until the end of the second Millennium. In the eighties, tribes were discovered whose existence was unknown, using the language of gestures as a form of communication. There are still hundreds of unknown peoples of the Irian Jaya, many of whom are disappearing. An emblematic case is that of the island Bougainville, a large island located east of Papua New Guinea. In this island, the life of the inhabitants has always been based on agriculture, fishing and cocoa cultivation. The concept of individual property is alien to them: forests and rivers belong to different clans that have common exploitation rights. Once a tropical paradise and also extremely rich in copper deposits: in 1963 the Australian mining company Rio Tinto was granted a mining license. Since then, some geologists began exploring, without consulting the indigenous population. On the advice of the anthropologist D.Oliver, a professor at Harvard University, the Australian company was told that he would deal with a primitive and superstitious people, who would soon become accustomed to the company’s presence. article-2658357-1EC8A21E00000578-983_964x653The local population instead began to express their opposition, physically facing the activities of technicians. To the incessant pressures of the colonial administration that underlined the importance of the exploitation of copper deposits for the construction of a resource base for national development, the local clans replied that the copper would remain unused for another twenty years until their children had been able to decide for the interests of their own people. Between 1988 and 1997 these continued tensions resulted in a civil war between the government of Papua New Guinea and the movement for the independence of the island of Bougainville. The government fighters had been trained in Australia and could use helicopters, mortars and heavy machine guns; while the opposite front is represented by a thousand rebels equipped with home-made rifles so rough that they often jammed or broke after firing their first shots. They added to their thin arsenal the foraging of unexploded bombs, which had been dropped fifty years earlier by the Japanese during the Second World War, which lay like huge fossils under the debris of the rainforest covered with lichens and fallen branches.

In the diary of the campaign of Bougainville, his report and emotional of the first part of the war, the papal intelligence officer “Yauka Aluambo Liria” explained that his adversaries modeled the protagonist of the film of the same name on Rambo.

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The typicality of these populations of Bougaville, in particular of the Kamula tribe, has developed a uniqueness in devotion for the protagonist of the film Rambo; the actor Sylvester Stallone. They love both its physical characteristics: they tried to imitate, gestures such as the crooked mouth and the habit of having long tied hair, both inspired by war tactics, in fact, instead of an adequate uniform they wore the same typical red band worn by the hero of the film. Long before they were called “the revolutionary army of Bougainville”, the island’s guerrillas were known as the “Rambos”. The epitome of American imperialism became the symbol of a struggle to drive imperialism to Bougainville.

The character of Rambo has always had a great fascination even in the Western world: he got acclaim from the American right. In the 1980s, when the Ronald Reagan administration was overheating the Cold War with its space shield program (Star wars) and the wars in Nicaragua and Afghanistan, Rambo seems to embody the American bellicosity. Reagan quoted John Rambo during a tax cut in 1985, and a few months later he invited Sylvester Stallone to dinner at the White House. Rambo’s habit of killing Asians, Arabs and other non-whites did not stop him from conquering a huge audience in the Third World. Many observers have complained about its popularity, seeing it as an example of American cultural imperialism. For example, in his 1988 book Video Night in Kathmandu, the author writes of the fact that Rambo had conquered the Asian people with his deeds.

A report in Papua New Guinea in 2014 revealed some surprising statistics on the types of films people are watching. The American productions of action films dominate the list of the most popular, constituting 14 of the top 20. In the first place is Rambo, to follow other action / war movies played by actors like Van Damme, Chuck Norris (Delta force) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Commando) to follow Nigerian romantic films (True love). The CD house network has become an integral part of the informal entertainment industry in the Highlands, known locally as “haus piksas”, are cabins equipped with televisions and video recorders, often the only places with electricity at night in small villages for community gatherings, combined with small markets.
Another example is in the typical meeting places in the archipelago of Tonga, the Club Kava. Here Rambo ceases to be the cold mercenary of the ’80s, and instead becomes an assistant to the Tonga Defense Force as he fights the Japanese Imperial Army through the mountains and forests of Melanesia during the Second World War. Rambo is also “rehistorized” in many other Bollywood films in India.
The Dead Kennedys, an American punk band, summarized the American left’s response to Rambo in their song ‘Rambozo the Clown’, which condemned the character as a “bad boy” who rewrites the story with a machine gun.

If the interest of traditional media for the Bougainville crisis has been almost non-existent, the conflict in the island of Bougainville is considered a forgotten war, since it is little known, despite its high cost of living due to government repression, about 20,000 people they lost their lives (10% of the local population before the conflict). In 2001 a peace agreement was signed, which provided for the disarmament, the creation of an autonomous government and the holding of a referendum for the independence of the island following a period of autonomy. In fact, the autonomous region came to life after the approval of its Constitution, in December 2004. The current president (2011) is John Momis. The main copper mine (Panguna) is still closed and subject to discussions.

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34 risposte a "Rambo live again in Papua New Guinea"

  1. The Bougainville story, writ large, is very much playing out with a horrifying vengeance, in Indonesian-controlled Iran Jaya (West Papua), with the forces of President Joko Widodo taking a brutal hard line against the indigenous people. Few people are aware of this conflict, either.

    Piace a 3 people

  2. Well thought out and well written. Thank you for bringing to light, this little known battle of David versus Goliath. I cannot blame the indigenous people for fighting to protect thier home. Growing up, watching Rambo movies, I must admit I gave little thought the global impact of the character.

    Piace a 3 people

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! It was not easy to write about this topic, I had to contact the Australian James Cook University for further information.
      If you have any suggestions for similar problems on unknown populations I will try to write.

      Piace a 1 persona

  3. If it were not for your story, the history of this small town would not be known. As always, the interests of corporations leave a thousand deaths without guilt. It’s fascinating how you’ve made the story.

    Piace a 3 people


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