The traveler, the trader, the marauder

Some young children love exploring – when they are allowed to do so. Some youths need to test something within themselves by undergoing clearly risky pastimes or endeavours.

I instance my (one and only) son, who decided, at age 17, to go wild water rafting. With 2 friends, without any relevant experience, they took on the Franklin River, said to be a very dangerous river to navigate on flimsy rafts.

When he left, my wife and I did wonder whether we would see him again. Having brought up our children, who did display early in life a risk-taking nature, to be self-confident, competent, yet careful, he was free, even at that age, to take on the world – if he wanted to (after due consideration).

Throughout the history of Man, either as individuals or in groups, men have travelled long distances – over the land or by sea – to explore or trade. Those who survived learnt about other peoples and their cultures and/or influenced those others with their own beliefs and values. This exchange would be osmotic and peaceful.

Since humans are a greedy species, there have also been, all over the world, almost interminable invasions, brutal wars, and forced religious conversions. Two of the desert religions top the list for rapacious performance over quite a number of recent centuries. The people who were responsible for most of the recorded depredations came out of small tribal nations in Europe: Europe itself being a relatively small peninsula jutting out of the massive continent of Asia.

They were aided by new and powerful weaponry when they went initially to explore, then trade; marauding came naturally when their animal instincts exploited opportunities for subjugation of the peoples they traded with. Traditional economies were destroyed, and much injustice was imposed upon the so-called ‘natives,’ including conversion to a faith offering no more than the prevailing ones; often less. Ask the indigenes of North America and Australia to begin with.

Now the marauders are toothless, and back at home. Yet, the new emperor in the West, the hegemonic one, has harnessed them into a modern aggressive force; but this team lacks a coherent capacity to bite anyone powerful. As with the failed British invasion of Afghanistan in recent history, there may now be another toothless retreat, especially from the Middle East.

The guise of diplomacy can provide a necessary cover. In the long run, only negotiation can provide the pathway to peace with a necessary co-existence.

No black ‘tall poppies’ allowed

Traditionally, (at least, in the 1950s and thereabouts) Australians (about 85% were deemed to be of the working class) tended to cut down ‘tall poppies.’ So I was told. Why should this have been so? Here are possible explanations.

Australia was initially populated by the ‘lower orders’ of Britain. When North America was no longer available for taking the output of Britain’s program of cultural cleansing, Australia was the next best alternative depository. Then there evolved a policy that Australia would be ‘a white man’s paradise,’ in which no man would ‘reject any kind of work’ (so I read). The White Australia policy necessarily followed. The associated ethos of a ‘fair-go’ approach – equal opportunity, at least for white men – was in evidence when I entered the country in the late 1940s. Employees claimed equal status with their bosses.

I noted, with approbation, the stand-tall stance of the Australian worker. This was confirmed when I was a tram conductor, and worked in factories, for short periods. He would make an excellent role model in those rich Asian nations exploiting the lower orders. Strangely, as I was told by a veteran of the trenches of World War 1, it was the immigrant British communist union leaders who had achieved the rights of the Australian workers.

In the resulting relatively classless society which offers social mobility, any tall poppies may tend to keep a low profile. If anyone is attacked publicly, it would most likely be by the fog-horn using media which would be responsible. Its notables are paid richly to (apparently) stir up the lower ranks of the hoi polloi. I am not sure whether anyone else cares.

But, let a coloured (sorry, ‘black’) person become a notable, he will be torn down by many. A socially-integrated and exceptionally-gifted Aboriginal football player, and a multi-skilled Australian Muslim (broadcaster, academic, writer and musician) have drawn the ire of obviously supremacist whites.

What I hear is this. ‘Why should a ‘black,’ especially a Muslim, dare to be prominent in our society?’ ‘Be like us, but not above us!’ There may be other learned explanations (eg. the lack of ethnic diversity in the media; or an increasing tendency for some ‘commoners’ to be ‘outraged’ all the time); but these are not convincing.

Colour or religious prejudice, laid upon ignorance, provide a persuasive explanation for cutting down black ‘tall poppies.’  An additional explanation may be this: a shallow morality!

South Asia’s Africans – A Forgotten People

In the History Workshop Online website, an article on the title above (published on Feb. 5, 2011) by Dr. Shihan DaSilva Jayasuriya provides fascinating information. The following are extracts from that article (presented here with my gratitude).

“Afro-Asian communities are the result of a continuous centuries-old phenomenon but why are they not widely known?   The obvious reason for this is their hidden presence as forest-dwellers, villagers and people on the margins. Those who live in urban areas are not easily identifiable either and are lost in the diversity of South Asia’s cosmopolitan cities.  Afro-Asians are taken for African tourists until they begin to speak in the local Asian language!

Movement of Africans to South Asia was fuelled by the slave trade.  An estimated 12.5 million Africans were moved across the Sahara, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean to unfamiliar lands where they were re-rooted.  But this movement was over a millennium, from 900 AD to 1900 AD.  The Indian Ocean slave trade was lubricated by socio-religious factors.  Benefits from concubines, eunuchs, soldiers and servants were not entirely economic.

European commercial expansion into Asian markets added another dimension to this trade in humans which moved millions of Africans overland and across the world’s giant waterways.  But we must not forget that free movement of African seafarers, sailors and merchants in the Indian Ocean World did not stop whilst the slave trade was continuing.

The island of Janjira (off the west coast of India near Mumbai), for example, was a base for African traders long before it became the powerbase of a princely state ruled by Africans from 1618 for about three and a half centuries.  Another state, Sachin, was also ruled by Africans from 1791.  In 1948, the year after India gained independence, both these states became part of the new nation.  Ex-Royal Africans still live in India and are well respected locally.  Elite military slavery, though not unique to Africans or South Asia, provided the mechanism for some slaves to reach high positions and wielded power.

Most Afro-Indians (called Sidis today) live on the periphery but those in Saurashtra (Gujarat state) and Yellapur (Karnataka state) fall within the category of a Scheduled Tribe.  They benefit from the Indian government’s affirmative action schemes available for those recognised as socially and economically marginalised.

Some Afro-Indians have found a role as spiritual healers.  The shrines of African Sufi saints are frequented by Hindu, Christian, Zoroasthrian and Muslims alike.  They are not concerned with the ethnicity of the Saints or the spirit mediums through whom they simply want to benefit.

Not all Afro-Asians have been able to find a niche in India today.   In Andhra Pradesh, Sidis are associated with the disbanded African Cavalry Guard of the Nizam of Hyderabad.   They are nostalgic of their lost past; Indians looked up to them when they accompanied the Nizam on his parades. The story is similarly bleak in Uttar Pradesh, where descendants of the Nawab of Oudh’s African Bodyguard and Cavalry Guards live on the poverty line.  During the Indian Mutiny in 1857, the ancestors of these Sidis fought bravely and loyally for the Nawab.  Perhaps surprisingly, the Nawab had a female bodyguard and the British soldiers were not aware that they were fighting women until after their dead bodies were found.

Whilst Afro-Asians have not been able to maintain much of their cultural traditions, it is quite striking that they have been able to hold on to their forms of music and dance which have also encapsulated vestiges of their languages.  In Gujarat, the Sidi performances of  Dhamal or Ngoma are linked to Sufi practices.”

(Comment: Absolutely fascinating.)

 

 

Seeking patterns

Early in my life I observed a pattern in the behaviour of siblings within families (including mine). I soon realised that the cultural traditions of the tribe had a vast influence. This was also reflected in the pattern of relationships within the extended family. In spite of our diaspora, and our modernisation in a Western social mould, my family’s cultural values and practices continue to prevail according to past patterns. This pattern does not apply to me, as the odd fellow whose personal destiny took him offshore – to be left, for reasons known only to the spirit world, in cultural isolation.

I therefore had to seek a new pattern in Australia, with its limited history. Spiritually and in terms of cultural values, but not practices, I am as I was conditioned in my youth: I remain a communitarian. Materially, operationally, I now reflect the behavioural pattern of a Western society created by immigrants. My family is thereby nuclear. The pattern of extended family relationships in Australia varies from an attenuated Anglo-Celt pattern to the more cohesive Mediterranean/Asian pattern. Regrettably, mine is the former. Yet, we are all enveloped by the ethos of individualism, the singular characteristic identifying the 4 major Western immigrant nations created by Europeans (including the British).

Tragically, the pattern of successful European settlement in the 4 lands garnered by invasion does not yet include the indigene as a viable component of society. However, progressively, the Anglo-Australian accepted the post-war European immigrants who had been needed to build up the infrastructure; then the Asians (who had provided a necessary colour to the nation) in order to present Australia as part of Asia (but no one believes that); and finally a smorgasbord of other coloured people, proving that we are now indeed multicultural.

The current pattern of governance of the nation, and of the states compromising this federation, suggests that we are being governed, wall-to-wall, by a minority linked by faith. The pattern of administration has traditionally featured leaderships of a comparable colouration.

My book ‘Musings at Death’s Door,’ recommended by the US Review of Books, sets out quite a few other patterns about life in the Antipodes. This book was endorsed pre-publication by a senior academic in history and politics. It is available at Amazon Kindle as an ebook at US $2.99. It is also bicultural in perspective.

In this book, I contrast the subservience of our political class with the ‘stand-tall’ attitude of the old Anglo-Celt worker. I also highlight our status as a satrapy of the USA, while advocating that we become its next state. I decry the ‘professional ethnic’ who seeks the retention of ethno-cultural purity; I point out that, by the third generation, immigrant grandpa’s cultural values would have been moderated through a societally-integrating education. Thus, we would all be Australian, with our own culture.

I also touch upon empires gone and going! Religion and spirituality are also examined, together with politics. Readers may appreciate a long-term perspective which advocates ethno-cultural integration bound by a shared belief in the spiritual.

The White Man’s paradise in coloured seas

At the end of the Second World War, Australia remained very tightly, and in a most inhumane way, in the grip of its White Australia policy. This policy reflected the unrealistic and indefensible hope of a white nation remaining an outpost of far-away Europe, whilst occupying land stolen from its black owners, even though it is set in a world of predominantly coloured people.

In reality, the land of Australia was seen by its occupants for thousands of years (long before European man became the principal despoilers of planet Earth) as owning them, the people. In reality, too, there are people in White Australia who (apparently) have blood from coloured ancestors they would rather not recognize, as it has become fashionable to regard ‘coloured’ blood as inferior. But it is quite acceptable, and indeed quite desirable, to have coloured, and therefore inferior, people fight and die in wars to protect the white man’s interests.

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 nation (sure, Satanic Saddie had to be controlled before he swallowed his democratic oil-filled neighbour, none of whose troops seemed to have been involved in this ‘war’).

So, Australians in office quietly forget that the Australian war effort had been supported or aided by coloured people from a variety of countries. Some of these, like the Papua New Guineans, had helped to save Australians from the Japanese. However, the policy makers in Australia were not touched by Shakespeare’s, “For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother”. Perhaps they had not heard of Shakespeare.

(This extract represents the opening paragraphs of my first book ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia,’ published in 1997. The post-publication academic and other reviews were most favourable. These can be read at the end of the recently-issued ebook version – refer Amazon.)

The plight of the indigene

In Australia, an indigenous people living in a precarious
balance with a predominantly harsh environment
seem to me to have been treated worse than any other
allegedly heathen non-threatening people. Why? Because
they were seen as sub-human by an advanced Western society
offering its vision of progress.

Against the background of Christian colonists generally treating
all subject people with indifferent brutality, and of the colonists
in America practising slavery, and driving away or killing the
indigenes, the British colonists in Australia destroyed a whole
people in a way that might not have a parallel elsewhere.

The attempts to camouflage this dreadful and unchristian
conduct (reflecting greed and lust) resulted in new
concepts and definitions — of peoples, law, justice, religion
and historiography. This pithy piece of graffiti may
therefore be obliquely apt: “Judas needed the money for
a sick friend”.

Australian Aborigines were seen by many of the new
colonists not only as sub-human. The indigenes had,
according to the coloniser and his judiciary, no law and
no religion. They were not seen as living in an organised
manner, with cultural values and practices derived from
concepts about their origins, and a vision about their
relationship to their environment. Official British government
edicts and a few caring state governors did little
that was effective in protecting the indigenes.

Two centuries of being treated virtually as fauna, with the women
taken as needed, and thereby contributing to a hybrid
species, resulted in a demoralised people. They had no
confidence in themselves, had few rights, and lived a marginal
and poverty stricken life. It was more an existence,
akin to the life of beggars in Asia; at least, until they were
included in the welfare state.

This was the Australia I entered in 1948. The whites
were in two broad ecclesiastical camps — the Roman
Catholics (claiming to be all-Irish) vs. the rest. The former
were referred colloquially as ‘micks’ or ‘tykes’, the significance
of which missed me for decades. The latter included
the mainstream Protestants, referred to as ‘prods’ by the
‘micks’, and a clutter of other Christian sects. There was no
place for the urban mixed-blood Aborigines, even though
they too were Christian.

The rural indigenes, whether pure of blood or mixed, could
live in river beds, or on the fringes of townships in shanties;
that is if they were free to live where and how they wished.
If not, they would live on official settlements created as holding
ponds, so that their lands could be exploited by the whites.
The pattern for this treatment had already been set in North
America.

This is why I am somewhat bemused by the official
Australian and his mentor, the US American, when they
now babble about human rights. Their houses are not yet
in order. But, they do thunder, most righteously, about
their perception of a deficit of rights in developing Asian
nations.

Good try, lads! Is there not something in the
Bible about casting the first stone?

(This is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’)

‘You do not listen’

A committee meeting I had chaired had just concluded. A complete stranger to me walked up to us in the coffee house, and greeted one of us. I pulled up a chair and waved her to it.

After she had been introduced to the rest of us and had a bit of a chat, she addressed the British migrant present thus: ‘You were called to Australia because, in a past life, your father was an Aborigine.’ This was in response to the other’s comment that she felt that she had to come to Australia.

For no reason that I can think of, I said, perhaps to fill the silence which followed this exchange, ‘Nobody talks to me.’ That was it! The stranger turned to me and said ‘You don’t listen.’ She said it about 4 times, with her voice rising each time. When I displayed my shock, she said, ‘Your spirit guide says that you do not listen,’ and looked up past my shoulder. ‘Can you see him?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Describe him.’ She did. Her description matched the picture of a guru a cousin had sent me a few years back. If he is my spirit guide, I am indeed blessed.

I now had a serious problem. I live as a recluse in a very quiet corner of my small village, surrounded by silence most of the time. The only sounds I hear (apart from the occasional car) are from a variety of birds. They sing, chatter or squawk. One of the birds seems to have a sore throat. The background to these sporadic episodes is the sound of the sea – from a burble to a roar – a kilometre away down a slope. How could I not listen to my guide, who is obviously concerned? I suspect that that meeting had been well staged by him, as that stranger is apparently known as a casual clairvoyant.

Listen to your subconscious, especially in your sleep, advised this clairvoyant to me later. I now do. Some of my dreams, symbolic in presentation, have represented good insight and implicit advice or warning on matters relevant.

Is there a lesson here? If all of us listened to our subconscious, would there occur the mayhem in international relations, and in family relations, both of which have terrible consequences?