The outcast returns

They were not sure what I looked like. So they looked for a balding man (a characteristic of the clan) wearing his usual blue, and accompanied by a white wife. It was easy. This was the welcoming party of my closest relatives. … As the Malay saying goes, “Although a tree grows ever so high, the falling leaves return to the root.”

The reception we received elsewhere was not always that warm. My mother had despatched me to pay my respects to all our close relatives, at their respective homes, one home at a time. Talk about being swamped by tradition, the reciprocal obligations of the clan. My wife saw little of the country, but had a good feel for all my relatives …

Some close relatives helpfully examined the causes of my boat sinking and my subsequent absence. As the Ashanti say, “Only when you have crossed the river can you say a crocodile has a lump on his snout.” Other relatives were not so sensitive. What rankled the few seemed to me to be my marriage to a foreigner (yes, the old racist attitude!) and my not seeking clan guidance in re-floating myself; that was total abdication. I told them that this was my destiny …

A few years later, my wife and I went back and had an extended stay, looking closely at the country and its lifestyle, especially the inter-community relationships. I had also looked at Australia closely over the years. … By being in the national capital and drinking at sundry watering places (including the Press Club), one talked to politically active people, advisers, journalists and lobbyists. One heard the next morning, for instance, when a senator was allegedly tabled late one night. One also heard about a Federal Treasurer who wrote in a warm and personal manner to the Acting Prime Minister when he wore both hats …

We met some of the carpet-baggers of the Seventies with their social reform agenda. We watched faceless and colourless conniving men and manipulative women (many pointing sky-high, thereby defeating both gravity and nature) move to powerful places, far beyond their station. … And there are matters that one cannot write or talk about … because of defamation legislation and the way it has been exploited to provide swimming pools and billiard rooms for many a sensitive soul. … … Observations of this kind are, nevertheless, both casual and limited in scope; they can only give an indicative value. …

My overview is that, economically, we are at a disadvantage as a nation against not only the “tigers” of South and East Asia but also against the “cubs.” Yet, socially, the man at the bottom of the economic pile is far, far better off in Australia. Cross-culturally, we are as divided as any other multi-community nation, at one level, but are almost as integrated, in the sense of a melting-pot of origins, as in Singapore or Malaysia. In terms of policies for social cohesion under the banner of one nation, where the different communities look towards one another, Australia seems to be lagging behind my countries of origin.

In terms of independence, i.e. freedom to make national policy decisions on external defence and regional pacts; in the control of foreign investment in industrial and other assets; and, to a certain degree, in internal security matters, we seem to be behind. … In terms of lifestyles and the quality of life, the competent are far better off in Malaysia and Singapore than in Australia. Socio-economic mobility, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed in Australia for those who seek it.

… … Placing ourselves under the hegemony of the USA limits our freedom to make defence and trade pacts; this we do not like to talk about, especially after seeing how New Zealand was pummelled in economic and trade terms, for withdrawing from the ANZUS Pact, a defence arrangement that allegedly promised no defence. Our need for foreign capital flow limits our freedom to contain certain forms, and the extent, of foreign investment in Australia; this too we do not want to talk about.

(It was fascinating for me to look at the way my countries of origin, and the home of the rest of my clan, had progressed in the quarter of a century I had been away, and to also compare this with my nation of involuntary adoption (thanks to the spirit world). Since my people are happy where they are (our elders had, after all, made a contribution to the early development of these nations), and I was at peace in Australia, I could be objective.

What I present in these extracts from my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out’ is a historical picture. Subsequent extracts will cover the more interesting societal changes during my initial absence.

However, Australia remains a satrapy of the USA. That is why I have recommended in my last book, ‘Musings at Death’s Door,’ that Australia should seek to become the next state of that great nation. My reasons are set out in that book. Pretending to be an independent nation is a falsehood easily seen through. Hegemony, rather than direct control, is a far more effective means of achieving a required co-operation.)

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