Sputniks and star-ships

One beautifully warm summer evening, when the sky was wondrously rich with little lights from space, a couple with intent non-ethereal saw a meteor falling. But not quite! It was also falling at a strange angle, not vertically. That did not cause any additional interest in the couple. They just exclaimed their joy in seeing it happen.

But, as they watched, the light suddenly stopped moving. Not possible, the pair said. The light then moved upwards (yes, upwards) at an acute angle. While they were contemplating that most improbable event, the light stopped again. Impossible, they said to each other. Yet again, it moved at an acute angle, and then shot off speedily into the distance, and was lost to sight. Unbelievable, they agreed. They had no alcohol in their bodies. Could they trust their eyes? But how could they reject this experience?

I carried my memory of this and earlier experiences until my retirement. Then I had an even more confounding experience. I then decided to write about my experiences but in the context of broader memories of relevance. See my memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny.’

My observation of a perambulating light in the sky occurred long before the Russians lifted Sputnik into the low heavens. Is there any celestial object known that can change direction as this ‘meteor’ did? Read ‘Events which could not possibly have occurred’ in www.ezinearticles.com by Raja A. Ratnam (refer http://ezinearticles.com/?expert Raja A Ratnam).

I continue to ponder these questions: What do we really know about human beings, our abode known as Earth, and the space which surrounds us with all its mysteries? How can we know anything reliably?

Inexplicable events

In the realm of the improbable, whether or not one is being carried on a river of existence, or just floating in still water, or even drifting, what is one to do with events which could not possibly have occurred?

Were you to see a man lying on a mattress floating at about eye level, how would you react? The mattress has a rope dangling from each corner. Each rope is moving in the breeze. Could such a thing really happen?

Let us now say that you were in a deep dengue fever-gripped sleep, and you suddenly felt yourself to be floating horizontally near the ceiling. You looked down and saw 2 bodies, both clearly dead, and laid on 2 single beds. One of the bodies is yours; the other is that of your father. But you had witnessed his cremation only recently. Was that a near-death experience or a nightmare?

I had both experiences when I was a youth. What conclusions could I draw from them? Although I lived in a multi-ethnic community in which there were fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, yogis, believers in the ‘Indian rope trick,’ and such like, I said nothing about my experiences. One part of my mind said that what I had seen could not have happened. Another part of my mind just knew that what I had seen and experienced was real. How could I seriously reject a significant exposure even as I wasn’t able to explain it?

There would be other significant experiences to confound me, but I did not know it then.

The pathway of a personal destiny

To contemplate such an issue, one has to step back from learned prejudices, open one’s minds, and think ‘What if … … ?’

First, one has to imagine, without paying any consideration to priests, politicians, or even parents, that each one of us is an entity who lives, dies, and is re-born, with this cycle being repeated for a while. Why would this be so? Who knows! Just go with the flow, and see where it leads us. This will be easy for the adherents of the ‘forest faiths’ of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc., but not for the adherents of the ‘desert religions’ of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But I could be wrong about this.

Like a snail which leaves a trail, each of us may leave moral footprints whatever we do. At the end of a life, the Law of cause and effect (the Law of Cosmic Justice?) may result in ticks and crosses on a figurative whiteboard, indicating those imprints which offer benefits to one’s fellow humans, and those imprints which indicate the need for more learning, or care for others, or even for oneself. This balance sheet may be the template for one’s next Earthly existence.

In each Earthly life, one may compensate for one’s previous errors/sins, while earning gold stars for past good works, all the while learning, learning. The objective? To improve one’s soul-entity morally. I visualise this path as one’s personal destiny, created by one’s free will. Enticing or worrying? Pillow over head or head in the sunshine?

What I have done is to seek to operationalise what I had learned from my Hindu faith. I have stressed the role of free will because I am an integral component of the ‘can-do’ Western world. Yet, I have accepted that one’s Earthly existence, as well as the individualism of the immigrant-created Western nations, need a moral substrate and bulwark.

The determinants of human lives

While I await the improbable, I think I will now consider this imponderable: what influences shape our very existence?

I have experienced a confusing and chaotic life, and feel that, while I have expressed my free will to the optimum, I have been on a flowing river of a personal destiny. It is a strange feeling, a gut feeling! This river seems to have its own trajectory; but don’t almost all rivers end in the sea? So, where is the sea for me? But then, what about the intervening terrain?

It is fascinating to think about the likely causes of Earthly life, and how they might shape our reaction potentials. First, there is genetic inheritance; but is there not evidence that the womb can alter this input to some extent? Next, there is upbringing, which is so variable; but, do divergent life experiences alter the shared character or nature of identical twins? What of chance impacts? Further, does not personality have a role in the way individuals respond to whatever impinges upon them?

What if personality, or a reaction potential, is caused (yes, caused) by past life experiences? Now, here is a challenging thought! Since there is some evidence in support of reincarnation, which implies the reality of past lives, how could past lives influence a current life? What would be the mechanism or pathway?

What if a past life, with its amalgam of nature (genetic), nurture (upbringing), chance impacts, and the resultant personality, leaves traces to influence a future life? The parallel would be the Law of Cause and Effect, with many effects becoming causes, ad infinitum.

I have certainly felt, perhaps intuited (through some attempts at peering into my past lives through self-hypnosis), that there is a clear pattern in the flow of my present life. The wheels of my life-chances cart have fallen off more than once; and I have fallen into holes which were definitely not there. These experiences were instrumental in my personal development (for, failure is a possible stepping stone to subsequent success). And learning does not have to be pleasant, especially if it fits into a pattern. I think of this pattern as a personal destiny.

Asylum seekers – what now?

Media reports in Australia tell me that our federal politicians are driven more by politics than by policies; that might explain their apparent ineptitude in ‘stopping the boats,’ which now represent a flood. What about the temporary visa-holding ‘wannabe’ refugees – should we also discourage this form of attempted back door entry?

A few questions arise: Are the vociferous supporters of asylum seekers simply reflecting that view emanating from institutional Rome that increasing the population is God’s Will? Or, do our politicians prefer beard-less Muslims (and their families)? In any event, who cares for the national interest, especially in terms of the taxpayer burden; inter-community relations (yes, that too); good governance; the equitable treatment of those most in need (both within and outside Australia); and morality (even that)?

Since Immigration authorities at airports have the authority to turn back temporary visa holders believed not to be genuine visitors/students/etc., should not those who seek asylum after entry to Australia also be sent back to the point of departure to Australia, and for the same reason? Or, should we reward those who seek permanent residence in Australia but avoid the process of selection?

As for the boat arrivals without visas (and, worse still, without documentation as to identity), should they not now be the responsibility of UNHCR? The simplest solution is for Australia to pay for the establishment of a UNHCR processing centre in one of the Indonesian islands (the Indonesian Government should be happy about that); for Australian border protection vessels to intercept (in real terms) any vessels in Australian waters carrying suspected asylum seekers, and to guide them to this centre; for UNHCR officials to identify those who have provided evidence to back their claims of holding a genuine fear of official persecution on return to their country of nationality; and for Australian Immigration officials to select from those so identified only those who are assessed as capable of settling peacefully into Australia, while not likely to be a welfare/health/political/security burden to the nation.

The proposal here is quite simple. It is that Australia selects, within the budgeted entry limit, those we would help to re-settle; and not the other way around. But then I have never seen squadrons of porkers surfing the thermals either! 


Asylum seeker policy – core issues

The main issues for Australia should be obvious: protecting the integrity of the nation’s border; and balancing the national interest against competing demands. The latter reflects: opportunism; a deficiency in morality; self-seeking; and a dearth of awareness of the financial costs and adverse societal consequences of a simplistic open-door approach.

The beneficiaries of this latter approach are: the legal profession; and the thousands of self-selected immigrants who will probably remain on the public teat for a long time because they are economically unviable (that is, unable to get jobs). Members of the glee club may not remain cheerful about their success to date when they are required to pay more taxes to offset the billions wasted through this seek and succour process.

Is it possible to protect the national interest against those surfing on the wash of the UN convention on Refugees? Since the convention is not legally binding, Australia could either opt out of it formally (other countries inundated by asylum seekers may soon do this); or apply it in a pragmatic manner, having regard to the societal, financial, equity, or other consequences.

Refugee entry has necessarily to be selective. Hitherto, refugees had entered Australia after UNHCR had decreed that they are refugees under the UN Convention; that is, they came through the front door, after also being assessed by Australia as capable of fitting harmoniously into the nation. Australia has had a commitment to take is as many as possible for a long while, yet allowing space for some humanitarian entrants. The latter also entered by selection, not by self-imposition.

A 3-year temporary residence visa, which denied family reunion rights and permitted repatriation of the visa holder, would have deterred many opportunists. The foolish cancellation of this policy has produced disastrous consequences.

Australia has an undeniable right to place in detention anyone breaching its borders. Unlawful (that is, visa-less) arrivals will need to learn that uttering vehemently ‘Open sesame’ (refer the Ali Baba story) is not enough to qualify for welfare, Medicare and public housing. The treatment of boat arrivals in detention has been most generous; reportedly, they have been given mobile phones, in addition to board and lodging, and all manner of necessary services.

And it does take time to process the claims of claimants who hide their identity and, possibly, any mental health problems. Indeed, how did those officials and jurists who granted residence rights to 4 out of every 5 applicants decide that the applicant did not pose any risks to the nation in terms of security or criminality?

There needs to be more honesty and transparency.


Succour seekers – a parable

Woofer’s faint but excited barks warned of intruders into my extensive plantation. Since two sides were protected by electrified fences, the intruders must be attempting to cross the fast-flowing creek which delineates my property at the farther end. At my urgent request, representatives of the Emergency Services Unit were able to save from drowning 2 persons.

Apart from their clothing, they had nothing on them. They claimed to be escapees from a distant plantation where they had been brutalised.  Any injuries incurred not being visible, the trauma they claimed had to be psychological.

For my protection, and since it was now night, I locked them in a distant corner of the plantation, which provided comfortable lodging, food and other necessary facilities. Did the escapees know about this facility for my workers? Is this why they had sought to enter my plantation? The Protective Services Unit would be called in the morning.

At the crack of dawn, there appeared instead a delegation of 3 from the Succour Seeker Supporters. They criticised my action. As escapees from brutality, the 2 escapees had a right not to be locked up, they declared fiercely; these desperate people had a right to be housed and fed in a humane fashion within my house with the back door left open at all times, until the authorities decided their future. All this was a requirement laid down on a tablet which had come down to them from on-high during pre-history.

The lawyer in the group said that he would take me to court for not allowing free movement to the escapees within my home and property, and for displaying inadequate care. The politician explained that the convention required me to provide succour, no matter what financial costs and family disruption resulted. The third member said that it was the Christian thing to do, especially as there only 2 to look after.

When I asked how these succour seekers would live, after they had left my property, and until they learned that freedom equalled responsibility to house and feed themselves, the joint response from the Supporters was ‘Its God’s Will.’ In the meantime, while we awaited God’s guidance to the heathens (for that is what the escapees are), our courts would require me to house and feed them to a standard they had aspired to after watching our t.v. – thanks to CNN and Al Jazeera. So mought it be!

Asylum seeking – some issues

Asylum seekers are not refugees until accepted by appropriate authorities that they satisfy the UN Convention on Refugees. They need to provide evidence that they have a genuine fear of persecution by officialdom on return to their country of nationality. They need to be outside that country, having fled for protection.

Persons displaced by war or comparable conflict are termed refugees, but they would not satisfy this Convention. They can return home after the turbulence has settled. Many may not choose to return, if they are resident in refugee camps, and if there is a possibility of re-settlement in a Western nation. Only the middle class (broadly described) would have such ambitions although, judging by reported events in Africa, the motivations for non-return can be variably confusing.

Australia successfully repatriated Cambodian boat people from a rural background; they would not have been able to integrate into the nation. Displaced middle class Muslims from Kosovo were given only temporary visas when the Balkans split into ethno-religious enclaves. They were required to go home when stability there was achieved. Vietnamese boat people selected for humanitarian entry by Australia from the nations of first asylum, especially Malaysia, were known to return to their former country as Australians, without fear, after the communist government had settled in.

Temporary (3-year) visas also applied to accepted asylum seekers until recently. Its removal represented an invitation to economic migrants (who would not await the due process of selection) to enter Australia any way possible; they must be aware that now 4 out of every 5 applicants would eventually be permitted to stay. No confirmation seems necessary as to the validity of their claims. Would validity mean anything when we do not know who or what 90% of the boat people are when they land?

The UN Convention is not the only contentious issue in this opaque process. What of our politicians, the bureaucracy, the courts, and segments of the Anglo-Australian community? A recent report, based on information obtained from Immigration officials, members of the Refugee Review Panel, and workers at detention centres, is scathing about the process of deciding asylum claims.

Greg Sheridan in ‘The Weekend Australian’ of 8/9 and 15/16 June 2013 said ‘The refugee determination process in Australia is a sick and dysfunctional farce … the system is so loosely designed, so completely open to manipulation by asylum seekers, people smugglers, and community groups emotionally committed to asylum seekers, and then interacts inappropriately within the Australian legal system, that it has become a multi-billion dollar joke that is more or less completely worthless.’

To which, one might ask: What of the morality involved? What of the multi-billion dollar taxpayer burden? What of the social consequences for a nation which has been very successful in integrating immigrants and refugees coming in by the front door, through due process?

The UN Convention and asylum seeking

Anyone claiming to be a refugee relies upon the UN Convention on Refugees to be heard. This Convention was introduced to deal with the large numbers of people in Europe displaced by World War Two. I have known a few of those accepted by Australia as personal friends or work mates.

Today, the Convention is clearly out-of-date as it is being used by those who choose to leave their country of nationality or normal country of residence to better themselves in a Western country of their choice; while there are large numbers of displaced people, accepted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as refugees, who are in limbo, and awaiting re-settlement. These refugees could remain in this limbo for years, even for a lifetime. Against that, asylum seekers today insist on being given permanent residence immediately on arrival in their country of choice.

Among the asylum seekers, there may be some who have been persecuted by their government by reason of their religion, race, politics, etc., etc. Ill-treatment by someone from another tribe or by a criminal does not count. If an asylum seeker does not provide evidence of persecution by officialdom, on what basis can Australia’s officials and courts decide to accept the claimant as a genuine refugee?

Other issues: Is there no other part of one’s country of nationality or residence where one would be safe from tribal violence or criminality? Is there no other country of the same cultural tradition to go to, so that the new arrival’s culture is not in some conflict with either the institutions or the social mores of the receiving nation? Where the applicant would fit best culturally should surely be a consideration by decision makers. Then, why did the asylum seekers now in Australia not seek immigration entry – that is, by following due process? Do they have something to hide, including their economic unviability?

The UN Convention is not a treaty. The latter is legally binding. The former is for the ‘bending’ by signatory governments. But then, international agencies do have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They have little regard for the exigencies applying in individual member-states. Complaints by UN bureaucrats about compliance can thereby be unrealistic. UNHCR representatives need to accept that Australia is significantly different from many other nations flooded by asylum seekers many of whom are chickens coming home to roost in the former colonial mother’s hen-house. Australia is a societally integrated nation through our equal opportunity practices.

It is surely time for UNHCR to come up with new approaches. The old shoe does not fit any more.

Asylum seeking by boat – its supporters

Asylum seekers, especially by boat, cost the Australian taxpayers an incredible amount of money and, reportedly, receive little gratitude for acceptance. Their supporters complain vociferously about the necessary due process. When it is reported that, 5 years after acceptance, more than 90% of the     Afghans remain on welfare … … ! Are we taxpayers just milking cows? Who are these supporters?

Why do they choose to support thousands of foreigners they do not know, who insist that they have a right to remain in Australia after obtaining entry by the back door; that is, without an entry visa? Worse still, 90% or more reportedly destroy all their other papers, so raising these issues: who and what are they; and what of their morality in destroying their papers?

There was a supporter who claimed on t.v. that the asylum seekers had all suffered torture and trauma; but did anyone ask how he knows? Then there are those who say that, since the numbers are small (like 20,000 per year?), we should take them all, and let them live in the community; but had they been asked what these unlawful arrivals would live on? An asylum seeker is not a refugee until accepted.

Then there are the pro-bono lawyers who work assiduously to have rejected seekers entitled to appeal after appeal (a right most of us cannot afford); but, who pays the high court fees? Do these lawyers keep finding new facts to put to the courts? One would, of course, expect these lawyers to present ‘arguable’ cases to the courts, in order to obtain more entry rights in the future, through the precedents set thereby. Then, were these lawyers involved in actions by those accepted to sue the authorities for inadequate care while their claims were being assessed?

Single-issue politicians have also entered the fray to support easy entry by boat; but I do not recall any of them dealing with the key issue: Who are the seekers they support in principle, when they (reportedly) can have 4 names and 3 dates of birth (see the Weekend Australian, 8-9 June 2013)? Apart from identity, what of national security, criminality, mental health, a necessary willingness to accept Australia’s institutions and social mores, and to integrate into the nation without being a financial burden?

I find these supporters, except perhaps the lawyers, intriguing. I would ask them ‘What are the national interest implications of an open-door asylum seeker policy? Surely, the political supporters should be able to respond in a professional manner.