Prof. Sam Huntington’s quotes

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.

The relations between countries in the coming decade are most likely to reflect their cultural commitments, their cultural ties and antagonism with other countries.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new [post-Cold-War] world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

The colonial experience all Muslim countries went through may be a factor in the fight against Western domination, British, French or whatever. They were until recently largely rural societies with land owning governing elites in most of them. I think they are certainly moving toward urbanization and much more pluralistic political systems. In almost every Muslim country, that is occurring. Obviously they are increasing their involvement with non-Muslim societies. One peak aspect of this, of course, is the migration of Muslims into Europe.

Countries will cooperate with each other, and are more likely to cooperate with each other when they share a common culture, as is most dramatically illustrated in the European Union. But other groupings of countries are emerging in East Asia and in South America. Basically, as I said, these politics will be oriented around, in large part, cultural similarities and cultural antagonism.

Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.

(From AZ Quotes). European colonialism was based on the assumed superiority of the ‘white race’ and its weaponry. It was bloody too.

 

‘Musings at Death’s Door’ – Extracts

Preface

“Today’s Australia is not the nation I entered in 1948.  Then, it was (ridiculously) officially racist; today, any intended racism is likely to be subterranean (the yobbo excepted).  Then, it was mono-cultural, mono-lingual, and mono-coloured, and very British (the ‘wogs’ of white Europe had not arrived yet); today, it is multi-ethnic and thereby multicultural, multi-lingual, multi-coloured (although recent black humanitarian entrants are viewed askance by some, mainly because they may not be economically viable for a long time), and traditionally egalitarian.

That is, while the nation has evolved into a modern cosmopolitan, generally integrated people, the ‘fair-go’ ethos of the ‘old’ Anglo-Australian underpins both official policies and much of interpersonal relations.  As a communitarian small-l liberal, metaphysical Hindu, and a card-carrying Christian, I applaud this.  I believe that Australia could become a beacon for our neighbouring nations were we to deal with them with our feet on this platform

Yet, because of the ‘Asian values’ which formed me in colonial British Malaya, I do not accept, as an all-embracing ethos, the individualism which underpins Western nations, especially those created by immigrants, viz. the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Their human rights record is also deplorable.

These nations seek to shove a ‘one-size-fits-all’ Western view of human rights onto those nations of interest to us.  The intent of this approach is the destruction of tribalism and communitarian values.

In the meanwhile, exaggerated and often self-nominated individual rights have led to the breakdown of family, which has traditionally been the backbone of society everywhere.  Excepting those few involved in civil society (I am one of them), there is a rising tide of ‘takers.’  These are found at all levels – from foreign investors, corporate leaders and politicians, down to the many professionally work-shy welfare recipients.

Pockets of well-meaning individuals, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider seriously relevant policy issues, form glee clubs supporting the takers or those who seek to take, eg. asylum seekers.  Communal responsibility and personal respect are thinning out like an outgoing tide at the beach.  Since our politicians are pre-occupied with short-term politics rather than long-term policies – the current batch presenting themselves as the worst I have experienced – the community, by and large, reminds me of the movement of an empty stoppered bottle floating on rough seas.

Where goes my adopted nation, to which I have made a substantial contribution, especially in civil society?  With little time left, I ponder about those issues of interest to me.  These, I believe, are relevant for all thinking fellow-Australians.  My musings are naturally filtered through my bicultural values.”

Biculturalism

Being a bicultural Asian in a Western nation has given me a significant advantage.  I can understand the divide between those acculturated (as I was) in what the former Prime Minister of Singapore (Mr. Lee Kuan Yew) popularised as ‘Asian values,’ and those who were conditioned by life in an immigrant-created nation which could not provide extended families and their near-universal role.  Newly-inhabited countries such as Australia simply lacked the communal support that one is born into in Asia.

By necessity, I became acclimatised to living, initially alone, later within my own nuclear family, in a society which requires self-sufficiency.  In some of us, this situation engenders a wish to contribute to the welfare of one’s community by volunteering time and effort.  I have thus had my head in the clouds of Asian values (metaphorically speaking), with my feet firmly planted on the hard rock of individualism, which now respects not authority figures and even one’s elders.

For individual Asians in this bifurcated society, there is the solace of a spiritual life.  This assists me in achieving a necessary balance between two cultures.

Now, who am I?  What is my background?  And how am I enabled to ponder at some depth about my adopted nation?

I am 83.years old.  I am thereby well past my statistical use-by date.  No member of my extended family has survived longer.  Greater longevity may of course have applied to earlier generations living in our ancestral land in Jaffna in the north of Ceylon; we are known to be a hardy people.

As a tribe, we are also known to have earned an adequate living from a harsh land for more than two thousand years; to have competed more than successfully with the Singhalese majority of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in academe, in civil society, and in the public service, while living under British suzerainty.  Subsequently, we have adapted successfully to the diverse Western nations to which, as an on-going diaspora, we migrated.  Initially, migration was for economic reasons; later, for political reasons.

In Australia, to which I was despatched by either my personal destiny or the spirit world, I have adapted successfully.  Indeed, I have also integrated successfully, including holding leadership positions in civil society.  My initial preference was naturally for living with my own people in the land of my birth.  Why so?  Because the land of my birth was, already in my time, multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-religious; and with a mutual tolerance between the Asian communities there far in advance of that level of inter-cultural tolerance to be reached in Australia by the end of the twentieth century

It is highly probable that I will be ejected from the departure lounge of life fairly soon.  Because my observations of key aspects of Australia, from the vantage point of ‘Asian values,’ began more than six decades (or about two generations) ago, there should be some socio-cultural and historical value in the attached musings.  I need to highlight, however, that my thoughts have been filtered through my anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-communist (that is, freedom-loving) values.”

 

 

 

 

‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ – Reviews

The full title of this book is ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity: beyond tribalism and towards a new Australian identity.’ The book has two platforms: the relationships between immigrant communities; and the shared search for God (the Universal Creator) by one and all, but along diverse paths.

Implicit in this narrative is the folly of mutual antipathy (through divisive dogma) by institutional religion. It is my considered view that there are only 2 core beliefs within the major religions, irrespective of whether the religions were of desert or forest origins, and that these are shared by most of them. The core beliefs are: that there is a Creator of all that is; and that, as co-created, we humans are bonded to one another. Regrettably dogma, intended to bond adherents, has become instrumental in unwarranted competition between religions. The paths are indeed diverse, but surely lead to the single end-point!

As for inter-ethnic relations, I stress the importance of immigrant communities understanding, if not knowing, other immigrant cultures; and to tolerate differences in the mode and direction of prayer, and the associated tribo-cultural practices. It is, of course, expected that immigrant communities accept the institutions of Australia and its social mores, and not expect the nation they chose to enter to change to suit imported cultures which are incompatible with prevailing mainstreaming culture. Naturally, a national culture will evolve in time.

Inter-cultural marriage, fusion cuisine, teachers guiding successive generations to a shared citizenship, and (as I believe) a natural tendency for humans to reach out to one another, have resulted in a modern cosmopolitan Australia.

The wisdom of the Upanishads and that of a few wise souls is offered in the book as a means of recognising the co-creation of all humanity, viz. the Family of Man, my ideal for mankind.

Reviews

This is a well-written book and recommended for anyone studying comparative religion, sociology, Australian history, civil rights, and ethnic cultures of Australia. It would be appropriate for high school and college students, civil rights and religious leaders, and historians. The author uses a quote from Hippocrates made 2,500 years ago to make his point. There is one common flow, one common breathing. All things are in sympathy.”
Recommended
by Cynthia Collins for the US Review of Books

“This book portraits the author’s skilful narration on relationships between migrant communities and the shared search for God (the universal creator).  I am filled with admiration for the author who pens with so much conviction and confidence. It is partly an octogenarian’s memoir of his youth in Singapore and Malaya (Malaysia) and life then onwards, 6 decades, in Australia.

The book has been cleverly written with much passion and personal experiences and observations. His early confrontations with the white Australian policies and their superiority attitude and how with the coming of the new arrivals into this totally white nation, gradually taking another turn. He writes frankly, with no prejudices, with the ultimate aim of creating an Australian Man !!

In dealing with race and colour issues, he also deals with the aborigines of Australia who were originally stripped off their rights. Their stance is being legally looked into and that is something ongoing.

It is a great read for foreign students, people seeking refuge, historians, religious leaders and travellers abroad and both governmental and non- governmental organizations. Gives an insight and background of present day well organized Australia.

He is emphasizing the need for multicultural understanding and inter-ethnic tolerance in order to foster a sense of unity in a country that started off as an all-white country with one religion, Christianity. Once again, all this with the aim of creating an Australian Man !! Special emphasis is given to the situation of the Aborigines and their plight for their rights which were originally stripped off them.

He strives to achieve an Australian Man and the creation of all humanity by offering and quoting words from wise men and the Upanishads. A recommended read for any newcomer to Australia.

S. den Drijver, The Netherlands.
 

 

 

‘The Karma of Culture’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

Australia, throughout its brief history, has experienced 2 ethno-religious cultural challenges in its efforts to achieve and maintain a secular society. The first, the early divisive influence of Roman Catholicism, has seemingly been tamed. The keen observer will, however, note that the social policies of the nation are dominated by the Vatican’s values; for example, compassion is constrained by so-called pro-life edicts.

The other challenge to the institutions and social mores of the nation has recently arisen from a tiny segment of the immigrant Muslim intake. Since Islam makes no distinction between the secular and the religious, some Muslims seem to experience difficulty in adapting to the nation they chose to enter.

Australia’s achievement in the past half-century has been its success in integrating a very broad spectrum of culturally diverse ethnic communities into the Australian ethos. We will not regress. My book deals with the principal issues, in the context of Australia’s surrounds of Asian spiritualism.

Endorsements pre-publication

“Writing from the perspective of an Asian Australian, Arasa addresses some of the fundamental questions confronting human kind at the present time. The clash of collectivism and individualism is seen as an East/West issue. Here is available, perhaps for the first time, an insightful ‘take’ on Australian society written by an ‘insider’ who, paradoxically, is an ‘outsider’ as well. …enormously interesting and not uncontroversial …” — John Western, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Queensland, Australia

“Ratnam’s book is a wake-up call for a more independent national policy on immigration and multicultural policy. Coming from a well-informed former migrant, who has embraced this country as his own, his message has particular value. … Impressed with the depth of (his) analysis” — Professor Bob Birrell, Director, Centre for Population & Urban Research, Monash University, Australia.

This is a book that every Australian should read. It provides a unique insight into the society and culture of contemporary Australia from someone who has been both an insider and an outsider in Australia. It has a refreshing honesty in an age in which ‘spin’ and euphemism too often combine to hide the true nature of things. You may not always agree with what the book says but you will be compelled to sit up and think more deeply about our contemporary world. I think that the book has that element of honesty and insight that much of what is currently published does not. I hope that it will be read widely.” — Associate Professor Gregory Melleuish, Head, School of History and Politics, Wollongong University, Australia.

REVIEWS 

The US Review of Books

Karma of Culture by Raja Arasa Ratnam

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

“It is now Anglo-Celt Australia which therefore has to change. It needs to rebuild its communities to enable the close inter-relation- ships between individuals, which used to prevail before individualism took over their souls.”

This is an enjoyably erudite text that will mean most to thoughtful Australians of all cultures. Ratnam served for nine years as Director of Policy on Australian migrant settlement related issues. Surprisingly, to an American reader, his descriptions of some of the worst ills of current Australian society sound almost exactly like the ills of American society: a large and seemingly expanding lower class of people dependent on government subsidies, subsidies in the main funded by an increasingly burdened middle class, while a small number of very wealthy people look on and offer no assistance to either.

To inhabitants of eastern Asia, Australia beckons, its welcome including housing, health care, and other aid to newly arrived immigrants and even more to those who stay longer. But sadly, despite this open door, old biases remain intact: “The most ridiculous manifestation of such prejudice relates to attitudes to study displayed by Asian children. They are accused of studying inordinately hard, and not developing a rounded personality through participation in sport.”

Ratnam makes a plea for a true multiculturalism that does not force one group to tamp down its cultural practices or religious beliefs (many Asians claim to be Christian upon immigrating, change their diet or manner of dress, in order to make themselves more acceptable to the dominant group) and does not take the color of one’s skin to be one’s only calling card.

Ratnam’s Hinduism is reflected in the book’s title; he says the book came to him as a suggestion “by the spirit world.” It would be hard to find a more cogent and simultaneously engaging treatise on this subject, so neatly organized and neatly phrased that even a neophyte can readily grasp its essence.

The Karma of Culture will, one hopes, be read by serious students of Australian politics, culture, and sociological issues, and by some ordinary people who want to be better informed and can see the correlation between the problems in Ratnam’s Australia and those of rest of the so-called civilized world.

RECOMMENDED

 

Appraisal – pre-publication

“This book provides a thoughtful and fearless approach to some important and highly topical questions. What constitutes Australia’s nationhood? What is her role in Asia and in the world? How can, and should, the burgeoning economies of Asia contribute to the development of Australia, not just as foreign investors and trading partners, but in terms of cultural and spiritual values? What is the nature of democracy, and how can democratic ideals be realized in Australia and in its Asian neighbours? What is the meaning of multiculturalism in the Australian context? These questions are raised in an intelligent and thought-provoking way.”

“You give us valuable insights into your own experiences as an ‘outsider’ in a predominantly white ‘Western’ environment, who has been able to become part of that environment without losing your deepest links with your own culture. And you demonstrate that the influence of Eastern philosophers – to which Australia is uniquely exposed among Western countries – has the potential to counteract the West’s slide into materialism and the spiritual impoverishment that provides fertile soil for cultism and fundamentalism in all their forms.”

“This is a hard-hitting, insightful book that will appeal to academics, public servants, students, and many members of the general public………..”

 

 

 

Reversing Darwinian evolution by fear

Any established religion can be expected to offer a degree of complexity. I wonder, however, whether the great faith-teachers of mankind included any complexity in their original guidance; or whether they espoused a single belief, with an associated way of life, which was original in relation to the place and time of their initial utterances. I suspect that, as that teaching spread, those who became flag-bearers embellished the original message.

Their intention would have been to enrich the core belief, and to enthuse their followers. Were there to be available a degree of power (or only influence), complexity in belief structures and in the linked rituals could arise progressively. It would also seem to be in the nature of the human being for a priesthood to guard its citadel against any changes.

But there could always arise breakaway sects. These might reflect divergences in the interpretation of teachings; or preferred changes in the practice of some of the rituals; or contests of relative influence. What drives the need for change? Some egoism?

Take, for example, a belief in reincarnation. Reportedly, almost all durable cultures once held some sort of belief in rebirth, and the possibility of a continuity of existence. However, the early Christian Church leaders seemingly decided that they would guide their flock, rather than leave moral progress to an autonomous cosmic process. Priestly control over-rode individual free will!

Now that limbo and hell have been dispensed with, some of my devout church-attending friends seem uncertain about what could happen to them after their Earthly demise. This is terribly sad.

What is worse is the belief among obviously only a tiny fraction of Hindus, as well as the Buddhist religion, that, were they not to accept the opportunities offered for moral progress through the reincarnation process, they could be reborn as an animal; and that it would take a very long process of rebirths to become human again. I wonder if there are any adherents of the two faiths who actually accept that Darwinian evolution could be reversed.

It is bad enough that some Christian religionists talk of fearing a loving God. Now the risk of being reborn an animal – say, a snake – is a threatened fear for humans not making progress morally. Is it not time to give up using fear to encourage human beings to reach out to our Creator while also expressing compassion to co-created fellow-humans?

Leadership and guidance by fear seem more political than religious. The great faith-teachers would surely have offered only respectful guidance.

Separate legal rights for minority populations? (2)

By the third generation, an immigrant cultural group will have accepted the host nation’s institutions and adapted to prevailing social mores. While institutions are necessarily durable, social mores will be an on-going feast, with mutual adaptation.

The cohesive influences in this process are public education, habituation (that is, being  comfortable in  on-going contact through sport or just socialisation with those whose ancestors may once have been ‘them, not us’), and that innate or instinctive reaching out displayed by very young children who have not been taught any prejudice about skin colour, language and other irrelevant matters.

Most importantly, in Australia, everyone is free to pray as they wish, to cook, dress and eat as they wish, and to speak their language freely.  They are only required to accept the host nation’s institutions and social (ie. behavioural) mores, and to respect all other cultural communities.  Immigrants know all about this as they seek to enter Australia.  On what basis, by what right, can they then seek to have the host nation’s institutions altered, especially when religion has been successfully kept separate from governance?

Different laws and different institutions for each separatist ethnic minority immigrant community?  How quaint!

In my second book ‘The Karma of Culture,’ initially published under my birth name Arasa, I deal with the cross-cultural impacts of a diverse immigrant intake, and the potential for Asian cultural and spiritual values to influence Western thinking about democracy, human rights, and societal values.

The book also teases out the implications for immigrants who choose to retain their cultural values and practices unaltered, in terms of a possible diminished access to the prevailing equal opportunity; and examines the consequential benefits of relinquishing inconsistent behaviour and attitudes. 

I am an 88-year old bicultural Asian-Australian who had published three experience-based narratives with analysis on ethnic affairs, multiculturalism, citizenship, refugee entry, and migrant settlement assistance; and a memoir which overlays a blend of history, sociology, and personal experiences with an Asian spirituality onto an integrated Australian persona, under my conjoined Westernised name. 

 

Separate legal rights for minority populations? (1)

A number of Moslem mullahs want sharia law (a law of Islam) to be introduced in Australia, a secular Western nation in which religion and law are kept separate.  The bulk of Moslems in the country are relatively recent arrivals.  Since Islam has no separation between religion and law, are these mullahs seeking a separate legal and cultural existence for members of their religion in a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural, cosmopolitan nation?

Way back in history, it would have been normal for a tribe, which is a collection of extended families bound by blood, to find itself living in proximity to another tribe with different cultural traditions.  They may even co-exist, especially if they were nomadic.  Indeed, it is also likely that some nomadic tribes camped on the outskirts of agrarian settlements.  The normal pattern of human conduct – contest or co-operation or tolerant co-existence – would no doubt have then applied.

However, with the creation of modern nation-states with implicit tribal boundaries, the entry of ‘outsiders’ or foreigners would be subject to control by the rulers of such states.  Border control now applies universally.  Normally, immigrants with divergent cultural values and traditions would remain on the fringe of the host society, as ‘them, not us’!  As long as religion-derived cultural differences are upheld by both host and immigrant communities, co-existence (hopefully peaceful) is all that can be excepted.

In a migrant-collecting nation such as Australia, which offers equal opportunity to all immigrants irrespective of origins, cultural traditions, or religious affiliations, separate and parallel ethno-religious legal structures need to be avoided.  Official policy is integration (as in a fruit salad), not total assimilation or absorption (as in a blended soup).  Immigrants (first generation Australians) may, in order to access the prevailing equal opportunity (known as the ‘fair-go’ ethos), give up certain practices (such as wife-beating or spitting) or even amend some of their cultural prejudices.

The second-generation (the local-born) would unconsciously be bonding closely with the host people.  The latter would themselves have evolved over time through the integration of earlier immigrants.  The third generation would, without any divisive interventions by priests or politicians, now become part of the host people.

This is the first part of one of my articles in www.ezinearticles.com.  My core question is as follows.

Has the war of civilisations commenced?  Prof. Huntington of the USA prophesised that, in the foreseeable future, the great civilisations of mankind are likely to engage in war against one another.  It does not need much imagination to realise that cultural wars will not need armaments of the traditional kind.  The wars, ideologically-driven, will be tactical.  The first of such wars will probably be between the West and Islam, probably because of the way Western colonisers treated the Moslem peoples over the last two or three centuries.

Read Part Two.