Surviving White Australia

Written in 1995, this book describes Australia in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Those ethnic communities complaining about pejorative words directed at them in the 2010s can have no idea of the bitterness expressed by Anglo-Australians seeking to protect white British space when confronted by large intakes of European workers and the arrival of a small number of young well-educated English-speaking Asians seeking a university education.

Anglo-Australia was about to be dragged into the real world, and thence to joining the Family of Man. By 1995, it had made great progress in that direction.

TITLE: ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’

AUTHOR: Raja Arasa RATNAM

DESCRIPTION: This first book explores the twin issues of multiculturalism and destiny, based upon an exceptionally wide range of involvement by an Asian in white Australian society.

An Asian immigrant writing about his settlement experiences in Australia over a period of half a century  is clearly noteworthy. (In that period, the country changed from white Anglo-Celt to multi-hued multicultural.) That his experiences include receiving a meritorious service award from a trade union for voluntary services (in spite of his refusal to go on strike when directed) is unique. That such a person can claim a substantial voluntary involvement in a range of mainstream (i.e. Anglo-Celt) community organisations is certainly unusual. His narrative about his diverse work experiences, as well as his origins and development, highlight areas of community interest relevant to any multicultural nation.

In the circumstances of a near-global focus on the issues of ethnicity, tribal exclusivity, and cultural hegemony, the author has something to say to the ordinary person, as well as to official advisers, in the areas of multicultural policy, migrant and refugee settlement services, and inter-community relations. His simple message is that human beings instinctively gravitate towards one another without the divisive influence of tribally-motivated politicians and priests. A shared spirituality and common human desires over-ride tribal, linguistic and other cultural differences. He therefore sees the role of governments restricted to removing barriers to equal opportunity; and to educate those who claim any racial or cultural superiority or primacy (except for some much-needed affirmative action policies for indigenous peoples).

PUBCOMMENTS: “Destiny Will Out” is a well-written, interesting and enjoyable account of the settlement experiences, spanning half a century, of an Asian in an emerging multicultural Australia. A successful amalgam of personal reflection and informed analysis, Arasa’s story reflects an insistent faith in the human spirit in the fight for true racial integration. Through its undying mysticism, the book also challenges the reader to contemplate the role of destiny in the politics of human societies. (From back cover)

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I grew up with no (repeat, no) experience of racism of religious prejudice in a mixed-race, mixed-religion, Asian population. Colour prejudice was exercised only by some mothers preferring “fair” daughters-in-law (this quaint requirement was part of the cultural heritage of those who had been formed by Indian traditions). Australia was a shock to me on arrival. Racist comments and overt discrimination were thick on the ground and in the atmosphere. Even after an influx of more than 100 new languages, and about 70 new ethnic communities, colour prejudice remains; but well below normal hearing levels.

However, the Australian “fair-go” philosophy will eventually over-ride ignorance, preached prejudice and cultural hegemony. The youth of each generation lead these changes in society, behaviourally and institutionally. Australia is therefore the country of the future; that is its destiny. It was my destiny to participate, in a miniscule manner, in the re-colouring of Australia.

EXCERPTS: From Chapter 16: ‘We are a bloody-thirsty, power-hungry species of animal left to find ourselves by a Creator who merely set up the mechanism, and let the details evolve. We cannot blame God for what happens, nor for what we do. I find it difficult to believe that what happens to mankind or to individual men is important to God, or even to involve God.’ (p.282)

From Chapter 3: ‘Those men in our community who were able to keep their hair into old age proudly credited the tradition of daily oiling and weekly oil baths. Thus nurture overrode nature for them; the rest of us kept pretending that our destiny was not deep-rooted hair, but deep-rooted relationships enabled by the extra testosterone causing the hair loss (subject to consent, of course).’ (p.27)

From Chapter 1: ‘A parallel exists, in modern times, in what was referred to by an Australian wit (perhaps a half-wit) as the “greatest gang-bang in history”. This was when a white-controlled nation sent its predominantly black and Christian armed forces to protect its own interests, and that of a predominantly white and Jewish people, against a brown and Muslim state —-.’ (p.9)

Chapters

Part One – Origins

Chapter 1 – The Bardo of Becoming a Nation

Chapter 2 – The Birth of Sorrow

Chapter 3 – Blessed be Childhood

Chapter4 – The Transgressor

Chapter 5 – The False Dawn

Chapter 6 – The Blue Yonder

Part Two – Shocks

Chapter 7 – Culture Shocks

Chapter 8 – Death of a Dream

Chapter 9 – Reverse Culture Impacts

Part Three – Settlement

Chapter 10 – Integration – Background

Chapter 11 – Integration – The Launching

Chapter 12 – Integration – The Economic Scene

Chapter 13 – Integration – The Ethnic Scene

Chapter 14 – Integration – More of the Ethnic Scene

Chapter 15 – Integration – The Community Scene

Part Four – Towards the Light

Chapter 16 – Lost on a Straight Path

Chapter 17 – Myths of Multiculturalism

Chapter 18 – Falling Leaves Return to the Root

Chapter 19 – Equality in Unity

Postscript

REVIEW: “I welcome the publication of Raja Ratnam’s timely book. He is well qualified to comment on burning issues of ethnicity, tribalism and cultural hegemony, having had personal experience of settlement in Australia over a period of half a century. His voluntary involvement in a range of community organisations and his work experience as a senior public servant are a testimony to the success of Australia’s multiculturalism, with its roots in the democratic ethos of the country’s original settlers. The book is particularly timely, now that Australia is about to celebrate the centenary of its nationhood.” (Emeritus Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, Member, National Multicultural Advisory Council, Australia ).

 

 

Advertisements