Protecting national borders and ethos

Modern Australia was founded by immigrants, and developed by immigrants.  Under the sway of capitalism – that the economy must grow for ever – governments tend to favour a rising rate of immigration.  This policy is the preferred substitute for a long-term development plan, or even a population policy.  Awaiting for God’s Will may explain this approach.

However, refugees and asylum seekers either cannot afford to wait, or chose not to wait, for God’s Will.  Of course, there are genuine refugees and ‘wannabe’ refugees.  The majority of the latter are most likely to be economic migrants who, in all probability, would not pass our normal selection process. – which has worked well.

Today, asylum seeking is probably the biggest entry racket, aided by some Aussies who seem to believe that the Australian taxpayer is required to benefit every claimant for refugee status.  This is in contrast to tradition where the migrant is expected to benefit Australia.  Even border control now awaits God’s Will, since neither side of politics has any policy worthy of note.  In the meantime, what are the issues involved?

To begin with, national borders remain relevant, notwithstanding that national sovereignty has been substantially fractured by the role of the UN, its conventions, and coalitions of saviours (whether or not operating with UN approval) engaged in the War on Terror.

Migrant entry, normally through some form of screening, is intended to benefit the receiving nation.  The post-second world war policy of seeking immigrants commenced with entrants from Britain.  It was extended sequentially to Europe, the Levant, East Asia, then other Asia, and finally became truly global.  Australia’s immigration program is now somewhat substantial.  This sequence of geographical sources reflected the gradation of acceptance from white skin colour to all other colours, and thereby to all cultures, as enabled gradually  by a growing public tolerance.

Family reunion, introduced only a few decades ago when sought by settlers from the Mediterranean, was intended to keep the sponsoring immigrant happy.  Because of continental Europe’s rapid economic development, few family members in the Mediterranean region could be persuaded by family in Australia to use the new program.  Instead, the early beneficiaries were the British;  later the East Asians.  Even if entry is restricted to nuclear family members, there may be little increase in the productive capacity of the nation.  All immigration has cost-offsets;  family reunion can represent a substantial cost.

Refugee entry is also selectiveAs with immigrants, refugees had to be seen to be able to fit into the national ethos.  For instance, rural people were not wanted.  Both categories represent front door entry.

The initial post-war batch of refugees (these were, in the main, real refugees) were Europeans displaced by the war.  I studied and, later, worked with some.  The first girl to befriend me in Australia had come out of a Nazi concentration camp.  A year later, I went out for a while with a lass who had a number etched on her arm, and got to know her family.  A country which had decided to collect immigrants had to take some of the displaced persons.  Australia did very well by taking its share.

The ones I met were middle-class, educated, skilled.  For a few years, in the 1960s, my wife and I entertained one of these, an elderly man.  He had, he said, 2 doctorates, but worked as a clerk in my agency.  I believe that he too was Jewish.  My Holocaust-survivor friends and I never discussed their experiences;  I felt very sorry for them.  My life under the Japanese could not have compared with their plight.  Yet, there was one exception.  In 1948, a Polish ex-serviceman and I talked deep into the night on a few occasions about his experiences as a resistance fighter.  I saw some of the false documents he had used.  Later, I also got to meet a few Czech and Hungarian refugees who had fled the Soviet invasion of their countries in 1956 and 1968 respectively.

(Comment: My work with the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs for nearly a decade was on all aspects of migrant integration. But I had considerable personal contact with refugees and immigrants before that. We foreigners were attracted to one another. The Europeans had respect for Asian cultures, and were colour-blind (including the women).

Careful selection by officials ensured that all entrants were interested in, and capable of, successful settlement. The record shows the success of this policy; the second generation had     reportedly done better in life than the offspring of the host people. I could believe that.

What I refer to as side door and back door entry policy subsequently changed that.)      

 

‘The Dance of Destiny’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

This book was originally intended to be a memoir, for the benefit of my extended family. Blood- and marriage-related members of this family live mainly in Malaysia and Singapore; some are, however, to be found in Britain, the USA, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Sri Lanka. However, when 14 readers in 4 countries found Part 1(‘The wheels fell off’) very interesting; and a few others later found Part 2 (‘Falling into holes which were not there’) had deep spiritual implications, I had to publish it. In any event, a clairvoyant foretold its publication (in 2004).

This is a personal story, which is also reflective of the recent history of three modern nations.  It is written in the first person as experiences, thoughts, relationships, and observations. The latter are of life, of society, and of individuals, as well as of psychic phenomena, and of the Cosmos. The story is set in colonial British Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore) and in White Australia.

The personal story is of a peaceful life being suddenly transformed into disasters, the major ones having been foretold by a yogi from the Himalayas. These events are portrayed as wheels falling off the author’s life-chances cart. Other disasters are represented as falling into holes which were not there, a quaint concept of philosophical import. Suffering and sorrow, trials and tribulations, juxtaposed with a sustained extraordinary effort to survive, and some consequential achievements and joy, lead the author to examine the nature and role of Destiny. This naturally leads to assertions about matters spiritual. Spin-off benefits of this approach are an understanding:  of cosmic cause and effect; of an acceptance of ultimate Reality as an achievable prospect; of the bonds available between fellow humans; and of prospects of a desirable future when Asian values uplift the ‘fair-go’ ethos of Australia; and vice versa.

This understanding is relevant to the historical presentation of British colonial arrogance, Japanese brutality during its military occupation of Malaya, as well as the progressive evolution of a cohesive multicultural Malayan people from diverse ethnic origins. This scenario is then contrasted with the author’s experiences of the racism of the White Australia era, and the ongoing sensitivity and some fear by the Anglo-Celt Australian of coloured people from ancient civilisations and their cultures.  A further contrast is the religious tolerance already manifest in pre-war Malaya with the bitter religious contest of post-war Christian Australia. The author experienced both racism and tribalism in his career, being “too black” to be a psychologist, and the Australian worker in the private sector being “not ready to accept a foreign executive, especially a coloured one.”

Part 1 of the book (‘The Wheels Fell Off’) deals predominantly with pre-independence Malaya until 1953, and a brief East-West interlude.  The latter reflects the author’s marriage to, and a brief but interesting life in Singapore with, his Anglo-Australian wife. This part ends with the wife rejecting the husband on a cold winter’s morning at the kerbside of her parental home in Melbourne shortly thereafter. To rejoin her, the author, the abject black sheep of the family, the pariah of the community, had cut off any claim he had to return to his roots.  This left him in limbo, both geographical and societal. The ending to Part 1 is indeed dramatic.

Descriptions of ordinary life under the Japanese (not commonly published) have historical significance, according to a professor of history and politics in Australia.

In about 65,000, words the author has woven a light mesh of geography, history, sociology, politics and philosophy, in which he has embedded the story of his ‘wheels-falling-off’ experiences.  More than a dozen readers in four countries have said that it is an interesting ’read’, and well written.  The three pre-publication endorsements and the professional appraisal confirm this.

Part 2 (‘Of holes which were not there’) is set in Australia, from 1953 to the present. In about 65,000 words, it covers 55 years of the author’s life as a settler in a country he did not choose to live in, commencing with his exposure to the virulence of White Australia. His varied and highly contributory life; the career barriers experienced (including the shifting of goalposts, racist treatment, and the ganging up by some Roman Catholics of a so-called Irish persuasion); personal involvement as a volunteer in education policy, in career protection in the public sector, and (currently) in community health services; and some confusing psychic phenomena, are woven into a coherent whole into this part of the manuscript. As well, relevant aspects of society and community relations are included.

This part also reflects some post-war history of Australia (as evidenced by the first academic endorsement), and the successful integration of immigrants into a maturing and progressively more tolerant multicultural nation. The author, however, offers some strongly critical comment on official policies relating to multiculturalism, ethnic affairs, refugee entry, and citizenship, all based on his in-depth experiences.

The author, however, highlights with warmth the on-going ‘fair-go’ ethos of Australia, and the open-ness and reliability of the self-confident Anglo-Australian worker, whilst expressing concern about the individualism of the immigrant-created nations of the West, in contrast to the time-tested communitarian values of Asia and much of non-Protestant Christian Europe. His conclusion affirms his hope that his country of involuntary adoption will be a politico-societal beacon to neighbouring countries, with both East and West learning from each other’s cultural values.

In his attempts to explain events and behaviour which otherwise make little sense, the author has titled his story ‘The Dance of Destiny.’ Believing that this MS fits into the genres modern literature/memoir and society/philosophy, he offers his inter-cultural experiences and his philosophy (including a belief in one people arising from ethno-cultural diversity) to an intelligent global readership, as well as to those who might simply want to read an interesting and well written story.  The target reader is the genderless Everyman.

 

‘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.
 

 

 

‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

Appraisal

“What a beautiful mind!  Hidden Footprints of Unity is a substantial work from an intelligent and spiritually perceptive man. Arasa has skilfully navigated his way through a vast array of subjects: the ‘strange sensitivity to skin colour by most adult whites … the search for the Divine … the desire by some to peer into the Void … the issues of a divisive tribalism and the imperatives of an evolving new Australian national identity’.  He has produced an eminently readable memoir, uplifting, provocative, and well written. He writes with a light touch on complex issues. His use of pertinent, often amusing, quotes adds a further dimension to his vision of the inter-connectedness of mankind.”

Arasa’s ideal is the Aussie Family of Man, evolving from the recently achieved cultural diversity. There are signs (footprints) that exist, but we must seek in order to find them. This memoir by an Asian immigrant reflects half a century of observation and analysis during an intensively interactive life in a fast-changing Australia.”

Synopsis

A memoir by an Asian immigrant. He offers his observations after more than half a century of an intensively interactive life covering an unusually wide range of activities in Australia.

Deposited by Destiny in a strange mono-cultural, mono-lingual, mono-chromatic nation which displayed contradictory attitudes towards fellow humans (derived from a misguided perception of the significance of skin colour), he has observed and analysed his fellow Australians whilst adapting, in a substantially contributory fashion, to his new home.  This record is not, however, a litany of whinges about the difficulties of life in Australia for a coloured person (especially in the early period) or even a recital of personal achievements and contributions – but some details of his personal experiences naturally provide some relevant ballast. It is neither effusive in gratitude, as might be expected from an imported ‘blackfellow’  who has had, on balance, a good life in a white nation; nor is it  exprobratively critical, although his cultural values are, at their core, somewhat at variance with those currently displayed by some fellow-Australians in key areas of human conduct.

Instead, this record focuses on the realities of life in the two principal areas of human significance: inter-community (especially black/white) relations, and the universal search for the Creator. Commencing with a look at that strange sensitivity to skin colour by most adult whites he has encountered, his narrative moves onto that rather weird competitive urge displayed by mere mortals in their search for the Divine, and then onto that understandable desire by one and all to peer into the Void of the future. Finally, it touches upon the issues of a divisive tribalism, and the imperatives of an evolving new Australian national identity.

Endorsements (pre-publication)

Chapter 4 – ‘Which Way to the Cosmos?’

                “I find the concepts in ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ most appealing, coming as they do from an agile mind which has managed to embrace cultures usually seen as competitive, or even enemies. This book should prove a precious contribution to mutual understanding”.

  • James Murray, SSC, recently retired Religious Affairs Editor, ‘The Australian’

Chapter 5 – ‘Peering into the Void’

              “As for your writing, it takes us out of our norms, our comfort zones, and reminds the reader that what we assume is objective historical reality is often mere permeable ideology, an arbitrary sense of order imposed upon the flux of life”.

              –    Paul Sheehan, Columnist, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and renowned author.

Chapter 2 – ‘The power of pigmentation’

              “The value of Chapter 2 lies in its use of personal experience of living in Australia. One is struck by the author’s sincerity and, at times, magnanimity in recounting the lack of tolerance at the hands of colleagues and acquaintances.”

  • Jerzy Zubrzycki, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, ANU

Chapter 6 –  ‘The end of tribalism?’

               “No question is more likely to provoke a quarrel between friends than some aspect of population policy. Are there too many Australians? Are the ones we have the right kind? Raja Ratnam is doubly privileged to reflect on such matters. He was a Malayan Hindu arrival when White Australia prevailed. By the 1980s, he was a senior public servant dealing with high policy.

His comments strike me as contrary and contradictory. He can be as anachronistic in his portrayal of Aussie customs as he is penetrating in his glimpses into how all Australians have managed the personal strains of living in a new place with even newer-comers. He is at his most perplexing when retelling his professional involvement with immigration policies. No one will read through this chapter without crying out “Too right” before having to stop themselves slamming the book shut with a shout of “What rot”.

Yet his retrospect and his prognosis are conveyed in a congenial voice, one that should contribute more to the sense of communal responsibility that he champions. Meanwhile, his neo-Liberalism seems set to demolish what Australia retains of these values.”

               –   Humphrey McQueen,  historian and renowned author.

 

 

 

‘The Karma of Culture’ – Overview

Chapter 1       Be  True To Thine  Self

There is a tide in the affairs of men

which,  taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

  • Shakespeare

I am an integral part of a nation founded in fear. It lives in fear. While it struts the world stage – for example, as a “wannabe” mediator between two nations with nuclear warheads, or as an effusive preacher on human rights to any Asian or Pacific nation which might listen – it continues to be a little fearful.

Chapter 2           Unity In Diversity

She tried to found a salon

but only succeeded in opening

a restaurant

  • Oscar Wilde

My relatives and friends, whether living in  South East Asia, the USA, Britain,  or  Australia, speak a lot of English at home and in their ethnic community relations. Some have given away the Hindu religious taboo against beef. Some ignore the social taboo against pork. Yet, in almost every way, their life in their countries of residence is governed by their social customs and cultural traditions.

Chapter 3        A  Silent  SlippagePeople will not look forward

to posterity, who never look

backward to their ancestors.

  • Edmund Burke

Anyone brought up surrounded by what is known as Asian values, in that escalating culture war between East and West, will be quietly despondent about the deterioration in Australian families. What are the changes which have emerged, like a slowly rising volcano from the deep seas of a violently disrupted ocean? When and how did these changes come about? What impacts of these changes are manifest, and what are their consequences?

Chapter 4        Keeping The Bastards  Honest

 All animals are equal

but some animals are

more equal than others

-George Orwell

A colonial subject dreams of the day when the hated, arrogant, oppressor has gone. His people will be free to rule themselves. But, before his reluctant departure, the coloniser sets up a new form of government. In doing so, he is quite certain that the people are not yet ready to govern themselves. Has he not been preparing them for that great day when they are able to rule themselves in an acceptable manner? (I was told that this was taught to children in British schools.)

Chapter 5      Here  Comes  The  Neighbourhood

Her frocks are built in Paris,

but she wears them with an English accent

  • Saki

For more than half a century, I have watched with amazement (and some embarrassment) at the way the official Australian, his media acolyte, and many ordinary citizens, hold, so assiduously, onto that antiquated “whitefella” view of the neighbourhood beyond the nation’s shores.

Chapter 6      We  are  one

“The whistle shrilled and, in a moment, I was chugging out of Grand Central’s

dreaming spires,  followed only by the anguished cries of relatives who would

have to go to work. I had chugged only a few feet when I realized that I had

left without the train,  so I had to run back and wait for it to start.”

– S.J.Perelman

 

In spite of some quibbles and a few strong criticisms, I do aver that Australia is a wonderful nation. It is indeed the nation of the future. We, the people, are a mix of diverse origins living together amicably. As one of the very large influx of post war immigrants, I can say that most of us work very hard to improve ourselves and thus have a positive impact on the nation. Both by choice and by opportunity, I myself have made a small contribution to the direction taken by my nation over the last half century.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To conclude:

The desirable pathway for us is clearly visible, without further elaboration. Notable Western leaders and learned writers have contributed to defining this pathway. All that we need is a little more maturity, courage, and responsibility from our future leaders; as well as a vision of what we ought to be as a people and as a nation- state.

Such a place and position might be as a sovereign state, relating as an equal to the sovereign states of Asia, without any crap about white multicultural man in the southern hemisphere leading the multi-tribal coloured Asian heathen towards the light. Neither Christianity nor the ultra-West’s vision of democracy has a claim to be unique or even durable. There are many paths to our Creator, as the tolerant forest faiths of Asia have demonstrated for more than two millennia. The paths to political freedom have to evolve, not to be imposed. And more equitable treatment of our indigene, with equal opportunity for all coloured people, is a must, lest the Creator finds us wanting!

We might then expect that there will be less divergence from the intent and impact of Asian values as against Australian practices in all spheres of human action. Then we can all claim to be equals, and our babies can continue to wiggle their toes at us with mutual joy.

 

(Comment: Although written about 15 years ago, Australia’s relationships with our Asian neighbours need more tweaking. When the nations of South East Asia join up with China in a co-prosperity and security pact, we do not want to be an isolated outpost of the Christian West. Our national sovereignty cannot also afford non-integrated cultural diversity.)     

‘The Karma of Culture’ – Issues

Modern Australia is collecting immigrants with a shopkeeper mentality. It is as if the world is running out of people. We also collect deserving refugees, and accept reluctantly economic migrants who claim asylum, and who cannot be sent home because of an out-dated UN Convention. We have enough taxpayer money to give to uneconomic unviable entrants for years at a time so that the shopkeepers remain viable. But we are kept afloat as a nation only because of foreign capital inflow, which increases foreign ownership of Australia.

Against this economic policy, we expect new entrants to integrate into the nation. But there can be cultural barriers to this hope. The hither-to successful combination of habituation, public education, and community acceptance may now become eroded by official tolerance of efforts by new entrants to adhere to cultural values more in tune with practices in countries of origin, under the guise of an ephemeral ‘multiculturalism’ policy.

A viable immigration policy requires new entrants to adapt to the institutional structures and societal mores of the nation they chose to enter. Other adaptation may be advisable in order to access the equal opportunities available in Australia, underpinned by its traditional ‘fair-go’ ethos.

The following extracts from the Preface to ‘The Karma of Culture’ highlight the issues in immigrant adaptation.

“One’s culture provides the template for dealing with life. Its base is laid in childhood, through the values imposed by family and community. The cultural practices of one’s tribe reinforce these values and associated perceptions. The impacts of nurture (experience) upon nature (inheritance), as one passes through life, are filtered through this network of cultural values.”

“In the migrant-receiving countries of the Western world, the core issue of a conflict between a sustained attempt by immigrants to retain their cultures and the osmotic force of equal opportunity offering  an earlier and  smoother integration into the values and mores of the host people bobs up and down in the seas of social policy.”

“The need for an immigrant to reconcile inherited cultural values and associated practices with the predominant values and practices of an adopted nation-state can create stresses on both cultures. The issues which arise from this cross-cultural impact are those of : equal opportunity; whether  a unified people can arise from widely divergent tribes; whether the individual or the family unit has priority in terms of rights and responsibilities; the definition of family, and its role in society; cultural and political sovereignty in a globalising nation-state; the place of the Creator in modern life; and whether Australia’s “fair-go” ethos needs an infusion of Asian values.”

The following extracts from the final chapter have relevance for the future.

“ Yet, that Anglo-Celt ethos prevails; as do the political and other structural institutions inherited from Britain. These are accepted without challenge by that army of post war immigrants, not all of whom had much prior exposure to these valuable mechanisms. Just as the diverse tribes from the British Isles formed themselves into the modern Aussie, without significant erosion of core cultural traditions and values, so we immigrants are re-shaping the nation-state and the national identity, to produce a palimpsest. Core characteristics of the Anglo-Celt Aussie inheritance will therefore not be swamped.

This outcome is being achieved only by goodwill, by both hosts and new settlers. We settlers recognise and value that which has been made available to us.  Many of us understand the anxieties generated in the host people by the relatively sudden huge influx of a very great variety of outsiders. In turn, many of our hosts realise that, while nothing can remain the same, the changes triggered by us will prove to be beneficial in the long term.”

“At least, some of us have improved the colour of the nation! Through the positive impacts of ethnic and cultural diversity, we are also better equipped to relate to the coloured nations to our north. And we do need to relate to them with mutual respect. And to intrude less into  their socio-political structures, and their cultural institutions. Hopefully, we will become less apprehensive about their religious beliefs, as we become better educated.”

The following is an extract from the professional appraisal of the book.

“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?”

 

(Comment: The issues of immigrant integration in a nation at the edge of Asia are quite profound. Regrettably, Australian politicians are known more for their politics of survival – while adhering to their cultural values – than for their ability to implement sound policies for the long-term betterment of the nation. The needs of electorates are submerged by party politics or by personal idiosyncrasies. However, Asia will change Australia for the better.)    

 

 

‘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………..”

 

 

 

More about ‘Destiny Will Out’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

The author ends ‘DESTINY WILL OUT: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’  (published October 1997.  Out of print.  Ebook available from Amazon Kindle Direct) with this expectation: Without any interference from priests and politicians, the youth of a wide mixture of ethno-cultural Australians will evolve into an integrated nation, ignoring differences in skin colour and upheld by the nation’s traditional ‘fair-go’ ethos.

Imagine a lightly-coloured Ceylonese Malayan boy, brought up in a British territory (but who had not experienced any discrimination), where the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-coloured people co-existed with mutual tolerance. He entered Australia in 1948 as a fee-paying student at the prestigious University of Melbourne.

To his disgust, he observes a roaring sectarian religious divide, a colonial mentality, and racism. He faced discrimination in service in shops, finding accommodation, and seating on public transport. He was described as a blackfellow (there being no other term in the local lexicon for coloured people other than the indigene). In a fashionable arcade, in spite of being expensively dressed, he was loudly asked “Why don’t you go back home, you black bastard?,” in a very aggressive tone. He did wonder at such ignorance, thinking that a similar question should have been addressed to Cook & Co, the white invaders, when they had arrived to dump the products of Britain’s cultural cleansing.

This was White Australia in the 1950s. Yet, this coloured lad eventually reached the rank of Director in the federal public service, becoming responsible progressively for each of the immigrant settlement policies offered through the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs during the 1980s. However, he suffered discrimination even within that department – both racial and tribal (the word mass had a weighty influence with the ‘tribals’).

This book weaves fluidly his settlement experiences with his work experiences, in a readable manner, with no bitterness. What was encouraging were the endorsement from senior academics, a number of private agencies, and a variety of immigrants and others. Although out of print, copies of the book can be found in the National Libraries of Singapore, Malaysia and Australia and the State and Territories Libraries of Australia, as well as the top 20 Australian universities.

This book is highly relevant in the light of claims in the 2010s by some ethnic community leaders that racial discrimination legislation is necessary to protect immigrants from being hurt and humiliated by oral insults. Strangely, the initially unwanted non-English speaking European immigrants and the English-speaking Asian students did not get excited by ignorant White Aussie yobbos mouthing off in an effort to protect white British space. As yobbos are endemic, we just ignored them. We did not feel victimised. I say this from my extensive contacts with immigrants.

A relevant review

 Destiny Will Out: The Experiences of a Multicultural Malayan in White Australia by Raja Arasa Ratnam is an interesting book that will give readers a glimpse into the life of Asians living in Australia. The author narrates his personal experiences along with his life and adjusting to Australian life and culture. The author’s observations on Australian life as an immigrant and his perception give the book a genuineness and honesty that readers will appreciate. The humaneness and the concern enable readers to grasp the author’s feelings, emotions, and experiences.

I found the book very fascinating because it exposes readers to a totally new way of life in a foreign land; the author’s comments and opinions are strongly expressed, making the narration more effective. The book also tells readers about the extensive research the author has done on topics relating to tribal population, ethnicity, and other details regarding the culture of Australia.

The perception about Asian children and their education in Australian society is quite an interesting fact and he speaks about racism, the existence of colonial mentality, and the discrimination he was subject to as a student at university. But what makes the book likable is that it has been written with no malice or bitterness and just as the author’s experiences as an immigrant. A heartwarming story that connects well with honesty.” – “Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite 5 stars

 

 

‘Religious pluralism’ in secular schools

How dare religious separatists seek to indoctrinate primary school students in secular state schools in sectarian religion! Church attendances are continually falling. Many parents do not marry, or have their children baptised. Non-religious private celebrants increasingly conduct marriage ceremonies. Only after death can a religious service be expected to occur. This situation defines modern, white, ‘Christian’ Australia, no matter that Roman Catholic (camouflaged as ‘right wing’) politicians are in (temporary) control of federal parliament.

For those who believe in sectarian religion, there are religious schools available in our capital cities for their children. They may even attend church regularly, taking their children with them. Churches exist everywhere for those whose children are seen to need to learn about the benefit of religious affiliation.

Religion is to be lived, and not to be used as a weapon. The ‘forest’ religions of Asia – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc – are lived – without challenge to one another. Only the 3 ‘desert’ religions – and their doctrinal sects – adopt a competitive approach to those who are ‘not of us.’

Taking doctrinal religion into public schools in Australia, using laypersons who are not trained in the art and skills of teaching, would be a retrograde step in a nation doing rather well in integrating the wide ethno-cultural diversity of recent decades.

Do continue to pray as you wish – in your own places of worship or at home. But do not shove divisive doctrinal theology down the necks of innocent and impressionable children. Children need a broad education which emphasises the unity of humankind. Our teachers have done an excellent job so far. Do not interfere with that.

Way back in the 1970s, I drew up an outline of a program for educating primary school children about religion – what it is about, what it means, and so on. This was accepted by: my school board (of which I was chairman); our teachers; all the priests in the national capital, Canberra; and by the A.C.T Schools Authority. In drawing up this outline, I had consulted experts in Flinders University, and other prominent people involved in religious education.

I heard nothing more after I had moved on. Any change, especially emanating from outsiders, is traditionally anathema to the practitioners and protectors of a prevailing paradigm.

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.