Send the beloved child on a journey

My parents would not have been aware of this Japanese saying when they sent me at age 8 on a 5-hour trip from KL, my home town. I took the local bus, the driver of which was Chinese, but the conductor was a large chatty African-American (then described as a negro).

The bus to Kuala Lipis staggered up the mountain range which runs down the centre of Malaya. The view out my window looking down, down, down was spectacular. I disembarked about half-way downhill, to be collected by the child-less couple who had asked for me.

I spent 2 weeks by myself, except for mealtimes. My uncle (no relative, but all older men were ‘uncles’) went to work, while my aunt seemed to be busy in the house, which was many, many steps up from the track below. From the landing at the front door, the steps were edged by a low concrete wall, the width of my bottom. About half way down, the concrete levelled out for about 2 feet at another landing; then the steep slope continued to the road below.

Why do I describe this? For 2 weeks, morning and afternoon each day, I inched down on the concrete edge on my bottom, rested halfway, then continued down to the end. I then walked up the steps – a long way up for a small boy – and rested; and then repeated my precarious slide. I was alone all that time. That is all I did while I was there.

Childless, my hosts had little to say to me. They had no experience of talking to children. What could an 8-year old say to them? However, I do think that I chatted away during each meal, as children do not usually have any difficulty in finding something to talk about. They tend to have roving minds. Indeed, I recall telling them one mealtime about my plan to marry a particular girl in my neighbourhood; I remember vividly their stunned looks.

When I got home, my mother discovered that my 2 pairs of shorts had their backsides almost worn away. The concrete was indeed rough; rough enough for my toes to grip the surface.

What did I learn from that experience? Accepting solitude. What did my parents learn from sending their first-born, their only son, away on such a strange journey?

 

 

The myth of a poverty-line

Although a lower middle-class youth (defined by relative income, not by education), I once went without food for a whole weekend; I had no money. For months I survived by finding casual work, but was forced to move from rented room to rented room as I struggled to pay the rent.

Later, my wife and I lived on the edge of financial survival, although happy. Through circumstances beyond my control, I have lived frugally all my life. That is destiny.

My sensitivity to the poverty of others began during my boyhood in British Malaya; true poverty reigned around us. It is also impossible for me to forget the sight, during the Japanese occupation of Malaya, of fellow-humans starving, lying on the ground adjacent to the local shops, for what seemed to me for months. No one stopped (to my knowledge) to offer them any food; I was already semi-starved. Evidence? I was caught and slapped for stealing a piece of tapioca root from the college grounds; I was seen eating it raw.

Today, there is a lot of talk about poverty in Australia. But those who had experienced real poverty, especially during the Great Depression, are long gone. If you have a residential address, and need sustenance, you will (I have been told) receive welfare payments. That is, no one is without an income, except those who, because of mental health problems, are incapable of handling money responsibly. As a nation, we also support a large number of asylum seekers through welfare.

The welfare industry, supported by financially irresponsible politicians and others, reportedly seek more OP (other peoples) money to be given to welfare recipients. Is this just, and in the national interest? They do not say. They remind me of that guy who calls the faithful to prayer at dawn; is that the limit to his responsibility?

Welfare paid on the basis of need is a historical by-line. Welfare has now become an asserted right – but unsustainable on national budgetary terms. Our governments will not acknowledge that. Indeed, middle class welfare is also here to stay. Any effort by the government to reduce the largesse, even slightly, is challenged by the media, which sheds crocodile tears on behalf of those who will be ‘worse off’! Shock! Horror!

Then, for a while, there was a great effort to define a ‘poverty line’ for the nation. This was not based on a measure of minimum need. It was a measure based on the nation’s relative wealth. Those whose incomes are below the median line (the half-way level) would be deemed to be in ‘poverty.’ Amazing!

There was no mention by the proponents of this mystical measure of poverty about anyone finding the wherewithal to fund any official effort to lift the incomes of those experiencing this poverty. As the median level rises in time, would those on the new bottom half of incomes be in need of a financial support?

Reminds me of a dog chasing its own tail!

Warrior quotes

“Without Knowledge, Skill cannot be focused. Without Skill, Strength cannot be brought to bear and without Strength, Knowledge may not be applied.” – Alexander the Great’s Chief Physician

“Fear is the true opiate of combat.”

“To a real warrior, power perceived may be power achieved.”

“Given enough time, any man may master the physical. With enough knowledge, any man may become wise. It is the true warrior who can master both….and surpass the result.” – Tien T’ai

“Act like a man of thought – Think like a man of action.” – Thomas Mann

“It is a brave act of valor to condemn death, but where life is more terrible than death it is then the truest valor to dare to live.” – Sir Thomas Brown

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” – Buddha .

“Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacre mercenaire.” (“Long live death, long live war, long live the cursed mercenary.”) – Mercenary marching cadence and toast.

“One mind, any weapon.” – Hunter B. Armstrong

“Civilize the mind but make savage the body.” – Chairman Mao

“Unless you do your best, the day will come when, tired and hungry, you will halt just short of the goal you were ordered to reach, and  by halting you will make useless the efforts and deaths of thousands.” – Gen. George S. Patton

Demanding Other Peoples’ money

Like the pimples which pop up, as if by right, on the face of an adolescent male, so Australia has claimants of OP (Other Peoples) money popping up in profusion. As one of the OPs, I am sensitive to this. I feel like a wool-growing sheep.

Unlike the sheep, I want to know who my dependants are; and how (and why) they achieved that status. Actually, they are almost self-defining; a sort of cross-bred product of highwayman, a Mafia-like collector, and a beggar.

Starting from the outside, and moving inwards to local claimants vociferously demanding their claimed rights: grants to foreign governments which do not require any accounting (like the $A12 million paid to some nations in the Pacific recently to encourage their children to attend school – but what about Aboriginal children in parts of the north of Australia?); overseas financial aid (who gets what and why?) when an overseas aid agency I supported for about 30 years provided targeted material aid (eg. sewing machines, water taps); major foreign corporations (and local ones too) allegedly receiving tax subsidies (why?); or are allowed to pay taxes (apparently low) to foreign nations on incomes earned in Australia (in spite of the reality that Australia relies on the inflow of foreign capital so that we may continue to eat as well as we do).

The most powerful of the current claimants within Australia of OP money are: our medicos (GPs) and specialists (who are a long way from any ‘poverty line’); women with young children who choose employment (unlike their mothers) whose childcare costs are subsidised by other taxpayers (the OPs), but why (since we import large numbers of workers each year)? Both categories seek increases in their taxpayer benefits.

Although (reportedly) some companies pay no tax, and some pay little, in order to be ‘competitive internationally’ the big business supporters of the conservative political party demand a reduction in company tax – but what specific benefits are we offered in return?

A current political ‘hot potato’ is the claim that those with a bit of spare cash should be tax-subsidised through ‘negative gearing’ of investments. This means ensuring that the purchase of a property incurs a financial loss; this then reduces the tax payable on the principal income. The so-called ‘mums and dads’ investors reportedly include more conservative politicians (one of whom apparently has 46 such properties) than the other kinds.

Most of us cannot afford negative gearing, euphemistically described as wealth creation by those indulging in it. Yet, publicly, no one mentions the use of OP money here; the tax benefit for one has to be made up through a higher tax paid by others.

There seem to be so many such lurks. Greed abounds, like never before. As well, what can one say to those who wish to ‘do good’ for someone or other, provided the government (effectively OP) provide the money?

Most importantly, what about the right and needs of the poor sheep whose hard-earned money is increasingly deflected?

Five surgeon jokes

Five surgeons are discussing who the best patients are to operate on. The first surgeon said, “I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside them are numbered.”

The second responded, “You should try electricians! Everything inside them are color coded.”

The third surgeon said, “I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them are in alphabetical order.”

The fourth surgeon chimed in, “You know, I like construction workers…they always understand when you have a few parts left over in the end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would.”

But the fifth surgeon shut them all up with this observation, “You’re all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There’s no guts, no heart, no spine and the head and butt are interchangeable.”

 

Other peoples’ money – hallelujah!

After the regular meeting of Wolf Cubs at our school, a fellow-Cub and I, on our long walk home, would steal a piece of fruit each from a particular backyard. To do that, we had to slide through a gap in the fence. It was all good fun, until one late afternoon, when 2 large Chinese ladies came out through the back door and said cheerfully ‘Help yourselves, boys’! That spoilt our joy. We did not visit that backyard again. Mini-theft had been fun.

Theft is quite common when the very poor are juxtaposed with others better off, generally a reflection of need. In a modern nation, however, theft would reflect (mainly) greed, not need. In Australia today, greed is manifest in: tax evasion (illegal); tax minimisation (exploiting loopholes created or discovered by professional advisers, seemingly lawfully); the abuse of welfare by those not in need of succour, stimulated by the government’s pork-barrelling vote-catching policies; and tax subsidies being provided to the relatively well-off (up to the very rich) through official policies allegedly geared to ‘wealth creation’ (a lovely euphemism used by politicians to justify giving hard-earned ‘other peoples’ money to their party supporters).

Reportedly, some churches and church communities now want the government (which will not be able to balance its annual budget for a decade or more) to increase the nation’s yearly intake of recognised (UNHCR) refugees as well as opportunistic asylum seekers (all of the latter having allegedly ‘suffered torture and trauma’ – ask the ‘talking heads’ on tv).

I have not, however, heard of any private offers to house, feed, teach English, educate the children, and generally look after any refugees (real or otherwise). Surprise! Surprise! The government (using other peoples’ money) is expected to fund these heart-warming bubble-thoughts. Charity is limited to kind thoughts. And a bit of marching on the streets.

Since only 9% of the accepted Afghan asylum seekers are apparently employed after 5 years, ‘other peoples’ should prepare themselves to be fleeced more heavily, and for ever.

Is it not wonderful to be so caring when someone else will pay the cost? Could this be a new form of theft? Of course not! Then what is it? Who cares for those who work hard to earn an income, only to find increasing demands that the government should take a rising share of that income for challengeable, if not irresponsible, purposes?

There seem to be a lot if irresponsible vocal people about.

A medical joke

A young doctor had moved out to a small community to replace a doctor who was retiring. The older gent suggested the young one accompany him on his rounds so the community could become used to a new doctor.

At the first house a woman complained, “I’ve been a little sick to my stomach.” The older doctor said, “Well, you’ve probably been overdoing the fresh fruit. Why not cut back on the amount you’ve been eating and see if that does the trick?” As they left the younger man said, “You didn’t even examine that woman. How’d you come to your diagnosis so quickly?” “I didn’t have to. You noticed I dropped my stethoscope on the floor in there? When I bent over to pick it up, I noticed a half dozen banana peels in the trash. That was what was probably making her sick.” “Huh,” the younger doctor said, “Pretty clever. I think I’ll try that at the next house.”

Arriving at the next house, they spent several minutes talking with an elderly woman. She complained that she just didn’t have the energy she once did. “I’m feeling terribly run down lately.” “You’ve probably been doing too much work for the church,” the younger doctor told her. “Perhaps you should cut back a bit and see if that helps.” As they left, the elder doc said, “Your diagnosis is almost certainly correct, but how did you arrive at it?” “Well, just like you at the last house, I dropped my stethoscope. When bent down to retrieve it, I noticed the preacher under the bed.”

 

Over-sensitive to foreign faiths?

Aware of the strong sectarian religious divide then clearly evident, I have stressed that I am a Hindu since my arrival in Australia in the late 1940s; and a formerly devout temple-attending one. I am pleased that no one has ever denigrated Hinduism (or Buddhism or the other ‘forest’ religions) to me.

There were, however, a few comments which were quaint. ‘Why do Hindus pray to stones and trees’? ‘If God had wanted us to eat spices, he would have built them into our food.’ ‘Would you like to join my church –  for your salvation’?

Such ignorance did not surprise me. I had already read that Indians, fearing the water, were not seafarers; Alexander (the Macedonian) had allegedly conquered all of India; the Japanese, being short and myopic, could not defeat Britain, although Japan had colonised Korea, established the state of Manchukuo (in Manchuria), occupied chunks of China, and driven the French from Indo-China.

Since ignorance, especially chosen ignorance, is very much a normal human attribute, one puts up with it, or ignores it as best as possible. My father’s favourite saying was ‘The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.’ Before social media encouraged the public display of one’s proclivities, side-stepping ignorance was quite easy. For example, all of us seek the same God, but travel by necessity on different tracks, although some will claim possession of a sole path.

However, there is a strong antipathy, in my assessment, against Muslims. This prevails in spite of ambitious Muslim asylum-seeking economic-migrants being supported by opportunistic single-issue politicians; hip-pocket sensitive lawyers; heart-on-sleeve individuals, and the rent-a-crowd crew, all of whom are presumably unaffected by the resulting long-term taxpayer burden.

The underlying prejudice began, I believe, when the white man’s paradise was set ‘in coloured seas filled with foreign faiths.’ A collage of causes can be identified.

An initial fear of non-survival in a harsh terrain, unprotected, so far from home; a consequent un-articulated fear of coloured foreigners; possible subconscious guilt arising from the killing of the Aborigines; and the arrogance of the colonial supremacist and his priesthood; these would all have contributed to the antipathy. More recently, to expand the Catholic vote, the Australian government set out to free Christian East Timor from Muslim Indonesia.

Then, through what must have been a faulty immigration selection process, Australia acquired immigrants who seek to change their new home according to their understanding of Islam, but obviously without an adequate understanding of the intellectual and artistic depth of their religion; so we have home-grown jihadists. It will not be possible to encourage unhappy new Australians to move to countries where the lifestyle is more in keeping with their view of their cultural needs; not while Western neo-colonials are busy constructing a ’New Jerusalem.’

In the meanwhile, almost all of our Muslim settlers, like all other settlers, go about enjoying the Aussie lifestyle; and contributing to it as well. We have all blended into one nation peacefully. There is really no basis for religious prejudice.

What we need is more maturity of spirit, recognising that, at the of an Earthly life, we will (lacking form and substance) not be different from one another. As well, in a new Earthly life, a different cloak of religious faith will probably cover us from birth.

Bar jokes

The barkeep asks the guy sitting at the bar, “What can I get for you?” The guy answers, “A scotch, please.” The bartender hands him the drink, and says “That’ll be five dollars,” to which the guy replies, “What are you talking about? I don’t owe you anything for this.” A lawyer, sitting nearby and overhearing the conversation, then says to the bartender, “You know, he’s got you there. In the original offer, which constitutes a binding contract upon acceptance, there was no stipulation of remuneration.” The barkeep was not impressed, but says to the guy, “Okay, you beat me for a drink. But don’t ever let me catch you in here again.” The next day, same guy walks into the bar. Bartender says, “What the heck are you doing in here? I can’t believe you’ve got the audacity to come back!” The guy says, “What are you talking about? I’ve never been in this place in my life!” The bartender replies, “I’m very sorry, but this is uncanny. You must have a double.” To which the guy replies, “Thank you. Make it a scotch.”

Back to: Bar Jokes

A man walked in to a bar after a long day at work. As he began to drink his beer, he heard a voice say seductively “You’ve got great hair!” The man looked around but couldn’t see where the voice was coming from, so he went back to his beer. A minute later, he heard the same soft voice say “You’re a handsome man!” The man looked around, but still couldn’t see where the voice was coming from. When he went back to his beer, the voice said again “What a stud you are!” The man was so baffled by this that he asked the bartender what was going on. The bartender said “Oh, it’s the nuts–they’re complimentary.”

 

 

 

 

Citizenship vs. Ethnic identity

Are these 2 concepts contradictory? Not necessarily. Were a national government to emphasise:

  • pride in a shared citizenship
  • citizens integrating culturally, as in a goulash, curry, or stir-fried edibles of a wide variety (not as in an English salad)
  • equal opportunity available under the law, in employment, in services, etc. (unlike the cheap labour provided to parts of Europe by former colonial subjects)
  • the avoidance of ethnic enclaves, especially ones with a deficiency of necessary public services;

all of the above being the reality of Australia;

rather than the retention of those visible cultural practices which separate the population – often by intent, supported by the excuse of retaining ‘traditional culture’,

then ethnic or cultural identity would be a desirably subsidiary matter, but not competitive.

In the availability of policies offering equality and integration, why would a youngster born in Australia of ethnic ancestry, whether educated in a secular State school, or a religious school, choose to wear in public places a turban, or a skull cap, or a full-body-cover niqab, or even a hijab or a scarf covering the head, especially if he/she were a third-generation Australian? Surrounded by a wide variety of ethnic origins and mother-tongues, as well as by ‘mainstream’ Australians, what are some immigrant parents or their priests saying to their offspring and their multi-ethnic fellow-residents?

‘We are different’? Is that meant to imply ‘We are superior’, even to the host nation? The government of this nation allows immigrants into the country in the expectation of a united, coherent people arising in time from the admixture of ethnicities. It also ensures a secure life, with long-term welfare support. The nation does not need ‘campers’ refusing to become integrated.

Yet, a few of our Muslim immigrants have reportedly stated publicly their displeasure at Australia’s social mores. Why then stay? Other Muslim immigrants seek to have Australia’s long-established institution of law modified to offer sharia law. How so?  Immigrants adapt to the nation they chose to enter; not vice versa! These Muslims are the first and only immigrant individuals who want their ethnic identity to predominate over all other identities.

What are they really saying to the rest of us, when almost all Muslim people are no different from other law-abiding Australians? They are already free to practice those aspects of their culture which are not incompatible with Australia’s institutions and social mores.

What else are they entitled to, and why?