First impressions of Black Australia (1)

“I can claim to know only one Aboriginal person. Indeed, I have met very few Aboriginal people over half a century in Australia. How am I to meet them? Our paths are so far apart. When a meeting does take place, there might be little of that communication that one might expect from people sharing the same stage. Are they keeping themselves apart, because they have been rejected by white society?

The first Aborigine I sighted was inebriated. I saw him hit on the head (yes, the head), and chucked (yes, chucked) into a paddy wagon. This was in Melbourne more than fifty years ago. In Brisbane and Perth in the following years, I saw Aborigines being harassed by the police. Since I was with an inter-varsity hockey team in Brisbane, I should have been safe. Yet, one night, walking back to the campus alone, I was scrutinised by the police in a way which I found uncomfortable.

Regrettably, in the early 1990s, I saw young Aborigines, well dressed and behaving themselves, and in the company of young whites, being harassed by the police. In the late 1990s, I was followed by a motorcycle cop, on an Easter Sunday, for many kilometres before being stopped. I fear that he had assumed that a brown fellow driving an old car sedately had to be a ‘coastal blackfellow’, with all the implications of that for the latter.

In a small seaside town north of Perth, nearly fifty years ago, I was in the company of a dark Indian, with the even features found in South India, and a pinkish Eurasian. The latter claimed proudly that he had a Malay grandmother, although this was not discernible. We had got off a small boat and, at the bar of the nearest pub, were asked if we were Aborigines. Surprised (how on earth could we be, given our appearance?), we said no — and were permitted to drink on the premises. The barmaid explained that Aborigines were not allowed to be served. Further up the West Australian coast, adjacent to the cattle country, we saw Aborigines, dressed as stockmen, walking in the distance.  There seemed to be none in town. The exception was a street walker that night.

A few years later, a tall Chinese Malaysian, an even-featured Sri Lankan, a tall Indian Malaysian and I (with Sri Lankan Tamil ancestors) happened to find ourselves in a bar in a country town. Our car had broken down, and we were lost. A group of men at the far end of the bar showed a great deal of interest in us. Then the largest fellow in the group came up to us and said something strange, and in a gruff voice: “Where are you boys from?” Seeing that this was none of his business, and taking a punt, I responded with “What’s it to you, mate?” in what my Aussie friends describe as a British accent.

He stared at me, then relaxed. Sticking out a bloody great big paw, he introduced himself by first name. We got on well. I realised later that we had been in ‘boong’ (blackfellow) country, and that the big lad must have been the local sergeant of police. He must have assumed that we were a band of ‘citified’ (ie. sophisticated), possibly uppity, indigenes. In recent years, I have come across a number of Aborigines who clearly have some Chinese or Indian ancestry. Yet, once accepted by the big lad and his mates, my friends and I were OK. We all chatted together for a while, and obtained directions to our intended destination. That is what I, and other Asians I have known, like about the ordinary Aussie.”

This is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’  The probably self-selected spokesmen for newly-arrived Asian immigrants who complain about ‘racial’ discrimination today could have no idea about the level of overt discrimination faced by Australia’s Aborigines, or those Asian student arrivals in the 1950s and 1960s.

Overt discrimination, which may exist even today, is hurtful. Prejudice, manifest in a displayed attitude, or spoken words, should not hurt, humiliate, or whatever, were the target to have self-confidence. Of course, there will always be someone who whinges about imagined hurt. These may be compared with those asylum seekers claiming to have been (according to their supporters in Australia) subject to trauma and torture back home (without producing any evidence).

Imposing one’s values upon others

Recently, reportedly, Australia asked the Philippines Government to dispense with the death penalty. Why? Isn’t the Philippines an independent, democratic, and Christian nation? Just like Australia? Have we asked the USA the same question? Would we dare to do so?

Not long ago, when Indonesia executed 2 Australians convicted of involvement in the illegal drug trade, those opposed to the death penalty made a terrible fuss. Since there is an underlay in Australia of antipathy to ‘Muslim’ Indonesia – in spite of its wonderful policy of Panchasila – one could legitimately wonder if white supremacy was the trigger.

Before that, when Malaysia had applied the death penalty to an Australian convicted of involvement in the illegal drug trade, reportedly, a senior politician in Australia had made intemperate utterances against the Malaysian government. So, what’s new?

Now, we have some politicians and priests who, allegedly, wish to interfere in Indonesia’s sovereignty; they seek to separate Irian Jaya from the rest of a nation with vast ethnic and religious diversity. Interestingly, according to a senior academic I met in Malaysia in the 1970s, there had been an effort to create a brown-skinned, Christian nation between Australia and the rest of Indonesia. The intention had been to establish a buffer to protect Australia from the ‘hordes from the north.’ Today, it might be just the anti-Muslim busybodies at work.

Then, when the member nations of ASEAN showed signs of a capitalistic independence from the West, the latter formed APEC. An Australian, a Japanese, and an American each claimed independent paternity. Was APEC intended to ‘smother’ ASEAN? Yet APEC apparently did not contribute to protecting those nations of south-east Asia being targeted by those intending to bring down their economies and currencies.

Prof. Krugman’s advice to Malaysia to prevent any outflow of portfolio capital saved that nation. The IMF was subsequently accused of promoting a policy which would have caused the Indonesian peoples great pain. Was neo-colonialism the ghost in this policy advice?

Australia has also gone into battle zones behind the USA. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria seem to be chosen playgrounds by those Westerners who cannot just mind their own business.

We in Australia are not a chosen people. We cannot claim to be a nation of exceptionalism either. We continue to be a dependent nation. When China and the nations surrounding the South China Sea reach an accord, we risk being left isolated at the edge of Asia, and also the Pacific and Indian oceans.

“I am not allowed it. So you cannot have it”

The weirdest policy I have come across is a Roman Catholic practice relating to the nether-lands of women. In order to increase its following, local priests in Australia asked (as I was told by colleagues) each couple in their congregation to produce 6 children; with birth control denied. Quaintly, the Protestants and non-Christians are also denied birth control. Would not their populations also increase?

More pertinently, why does this Church interfere in the lives of non-believers? The degree of mental and social control by Catholic priests was so extensive that, even today, in the second decade of the 21st century, their values and attitudes , which were prevalent in the 1950s (as I observed), are being strongly asserted by politicians (sotto voce, of course).

The current trigger for this retrograde stance is a renewal of a claim, supported by about 80 to 85% of the Australian people over decades (but ignored – or denied – by our so-called representatives in parliaments), to permit voluntary (repeat, voluntary) euthanasia in very limited circumstances.

A few European (Catholic) nations allow it. But we are British, and are thereby different. Surely we are different; we are an officially secular nation, but are ruled by Vaticanite social policies in our parliaments. A minority of the population has successfully taken over the nation’s policies.

Hence, theology over-rides compassion. In defence of a theocracy-based denial of the end-of-life needs of a few non-Catholics, there is a sustained reference to ‘killing,’ ‘the slippery slope,’ as well to the imputed venality of the descendants of those who may be seeking relief – hitherto unavailable – from grievous unrelieved pain! Compassion for a fellow human being should surely over-ride religious dogma. What is being effectively said is “Since we are not allowed this relief because of our faith, you should not have it either.” Why not? I doubt if the Heavenly Father is involved here.

In this multicultural nation, there is a diversity of religious beliefs (and non-beliefs). Can we morally afford a dog-in-the-manger stance? I look forward to watching those politicians opposing compassion (in the name of Christ, presumably) doing their role-playing in defence of the indefensible!

Voluntary euthanasia, when made available to the citizens of Australia, will not require Catholics to practice it. Freedom of choice, yes?

 

 

Culture as a weapon in inter-tribal war (2)

Induced tribal diversity

Any divergence from instinctively shared rules about good conduct may have derived initially from isolation, and a fear of ‘the other.’ When a number of extended families, each linked by their particular set of genes, evolved pragmatically, or even by necessity, over time into a tribe, they would have been linked by language, and agreement about how to do certain things.

These could range from actions and practices related to tribal harmony, external security, long-term viability (such as outlawing incest), and governance; as well as activities of a creative nature – painting, sculpture, song and dance, and all manner of crafts. Either following the establishment of ritualistic procedures, or associated with that, there may have arisen some philosophical considerations, or simply attempted explanations, about nature and the place of these people within it (including the conservation of necessary natural resources).

There may also have arisen, to positions of influence, self-selected shamans (or other priesthoods), or individuals seeking authority to rule through a claimed descent from an imputed god in an assumed over-world. A belief system would then have arisen which articulated these distinguishing attributes of the tribe into a coherent whole. Tribo-cultural differences may thus, over time, reflect both accidents of development, the need to ensure viability, and the display of power by priests or rulers.

A major issue is whether the cultural differences which have developed over time and across the globe are so different as to warrant or justify inter-tribal separation or even conflict.

In the absence of conflict over resources, differences in the ways people speak or dress, the way they relate to one another, or the ways they cook and eat their foods, do not seem to be important, although certain food taboos may not be shared. How people relate to others not of their kind is, however, strategically affected, not so much by how they pray, but to what (or whom) they pray. Praying to the same god has not led to a unity of minds. Presumably, all the religious people of mankind accept that there is only a sole creator of all that is, named God.

Dogma divides. For what benefit? For the exercise of power, through a cult of difference and implied superiority. Cultural differences based on divergent religious dogma are then emphasised to justify separation and, if necessary, conflict.

Prof. Huntington’s thesis about probable future conflict between civilisations may yet bear fruit.

This is the second half of Raja Arasa Ratnam’s article, published in 2012, in www.ezinearticles.com. The tragedy of the current tribo-cultural devastation in the Middle East is sufficient evidence that religio-cultural differences do destroy societies for no good cause.  

Tribal conflict – a legacy of colonialism

In Europe, the home terrain of the colonial rulers, nations had been created, about five centuries ago, on the basis of coherent tribalism; that is, an occupancy of the land, and a shared history, language, ethnicity and religion.

Within the unrealistic national boundaries created in the colonial territories, one or more lesser tribes became domi­nated by, or subservient to, a larger tribe. The Hindu Tamils of Ceylon, became an unequal political minority in the new nation of Sri Lanka to the majority Buddhist Singhalese after the British left; they seem to have been better off under the British. With the recent end of the claim for regional autonomy in their traditional territories by the Tamils, the Singhalese are reportedly copying the Israelis in infiltrating the lands of the minority (but without any claim that their god gave them the land in a historical past).

The breakdown of the old Yugoslavia, the devolution of political autonomy to the Scots and the Welsh within the United Kingdom, and the split of Czechoslovakia provide sufficient evidence that artificially created nations may not be durable. Pride in their ethnic heritage lead some tribes in such nations to seek independence. In the future, they may seek to merge with their counterparts in other mismatched tribal agglomerations.

For example, the southern Moslem states of Thailand might logically belong with Malaysia. Does the Buddhist nation of Thailand rule the southern states according to Buddhist teachings? Are the Moslem peoples in the southern regions of the Philippines rightly ruled by the Spanish blood-infused Christians of that nation? … …

In the case of Indonesia, with its official cultural toler­ance set out in its praise-worthy principle ‘Panchasila,’ the very wide diversity of its ethno-religious peoples spread over so many islands may mitigate against equitable and efficient governance. Tribalism can be expected to over-ride a shared hoped-for nationalism, especially if the Roman Catholic priesthood has any influence.

When one considers what the British did to the Indian sub-continent, after bringing together a great variety of peo­ples previously ruled as independent entities, one can only wonder at the seemingly unlimited capacity of the relatively tiny (and now unimportant) nations of Europe to create inter-tribal mayhem elsewhere. That their chickens are now coming home to roost, in the form of their former subject peoples now claiming a home with their former ruler, may be seen as cosmic justice. Or, will cheap labour compensate for the presence of the unrespected ‘other’ of yesteryear?

These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’

Denial of freedom for religious reasons

A minority religious community (a Christian one) has successfully denied freedom of choice in certain key areas of Australian social policy to fellow citizens not sharing their dogma. With an exaggerated emphasis on the procreative aspects of women, restrictions in these areas of social policy impinge upon all residents, irrespective of their divergent religious beliefs and associated values.

How had this minority been able to have its religious dogma-based values over-ride the clear boundary between faith and politics which should apply in a modern democratic Western nation?

Is Western democracy, as practised in Australia, the allegedly superior version of accountable government, now being sold with much vigour to non-Western cultures in Asia and the Pacific, responsible for this unrepresentative and unbalanced outcome?  Isn’t Western democracy secular, with diverse communities of believers free to practice, or not, their faith (with all or some of the associated dogma)?

What is the rationale, ethical or legal, for denying members of other Christian sects, or of other religions, or non-believers in institutional religion, or even atheists and agnostics, freedom of choice as to how they live their personal lives, and without interference in the lives of others? Who should decide, and on what criteria, that a right or practice unacceptable to a religious minority should be taboo for all citizens? What can one say about a political process which enables this inequitable outcome?

In a secular society displaying a variety of religio-cultural value systems, should not freedom of choice according to personal conscience be granted by legislation, and indeed captured by a national bill of rights?  How does a Western democracy based upon representative government permit the oppression of alternative values as recently applied in the former Soviet Empire?

(The above is a modified half of an article of mine published in www.ezinearticles.com titled ‘Denial of freedom of choice.’)

 

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.

Former Spanish colonies

FORMER  SPANISH  COLONIES

(From Wikipedia)

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

L

M

N

O

P

R

S

T

U

V

W

 

It is interesting to see the changing face of European colonialism.  First, Portugal breaks out as a new State from Spain; then goes on the rampage all over the world – only to be cutback by other marauders (sorry, explorers and traders), especially Spain – all of whom pray to the same god.  The planets have no respect for our insubstantial god, do they?

Then, other marauders, especially England and the Netherlands, rob Spanish carriers of loot from the Americas.  Without this loot, Europe would not have been able to finance its trade and economic development, especially through the money changers authorised by the Pope.

So much misgotten wealth, leading to so much suffering by the ‘natives everywhere,’ who were  overcome by such superior white fellows, and their arrogant and misdirected priests.          

 

Former colonies of Portugal

In Africa

Portuguese presence in Africa started in 1415 with the conquest of Ceuta and is generally viewed as ending in 1975, with the independence of its later colonies, although the present autonomous region of Madeira is located in the African Plate, some 650 km (360 mi) off the North African coast, Madeira belongs and has always belonged ethnically, culturally, economically and politically to Europe, some 955 km (583 mi) from the European mainland.

  • Angola/Portuguese West Africa: colony (1575–1589); crown colony (1589–1951); overseas province (1951–1971); state (1971–1975). Independence in 1975.
  • Arguin/Arguim: (1455–1633)
  • Accra: (1557–1578)
  • Cabinda: protectorate (1883–1887); Congo district (1887–1921); intendancy subordinate to Maquela (1921–1922); dependency of Zaire district (1922–1930); Intendacy of Zaire and Cabinda (1930–1932); intendancy under Portuguese Angola (1932–1934); dependency under Angola (1934–1945); restored as District (1946–1975). Controlled by Frente Nacional para a Libertação de Angola (National Liberation Front of Angola) as part of independent Angola in 1975. Declared Cabinda a Republic in 1975, but not recognized by Portugal nor Angola.
  • Cabo Verde/Cape Verde: settlements (1462–1495); dominion of crown colonies (1495–1587); crown colony (1587–1951); overseas province (1951–1974); autonomous republic (1974–1975). Independence in 1975.
  • Ceuta: possession (1415–1640). Ceded to Spain in 1668.
  • Elmina: possession (1482–1637). Captured by the Dutch West Indies Company.
  • Fernando Pó and Annobón: colonies (1474–1778). Ceded to Spain in 1778.
  • Portuguese Gold Coast: (1482–1642), ceded to Dutch Gold Coast in 1642
  • Guiné Portuguesa/Portuguese Guinea: colony (1879–1951); overseas province (1951–1974). Unilateral independence declared in 1973, recognized by Portugal in 1974.
    • Cacheu: captaincy (1640–1879). United with Bissau in 1879.
    • Bissau: settlement under Cacheu (1687–1696); captaincy (1696–1707); abandoned (1707–1753); separate colony under Cape Verde (1753–1879). United with Cacheu in 1879.
  • Madagascar: southern part (1496–1550)
  • Madeira: possession (1418–1420); colony (1420–1580); crown colony (1580–1834); autonomous district (1834–1976). Made an autonomous region in 1976.
  • Mascarene Islands: fortified post (1498–1540)
  • Malindi: occupation (1500–1630)
  • Mombassa: occupation (1593–1638); colony subordinate to Goa, capital of Portuguese India (1638–1698; 1728–1729). Under Omani sovereignty in 1729.
  • Morocco enclaves
    • Aguz/Souira Guedima (1506–1525)
    • Alcácer Ceguer/El Qsar es Seghir (1458–1550)
    • Arzila/Asilah (1471–1550; 1577–1589). Restored to Morocco in 1589.
    • Azamor/Azemmour (1513–1541). City restored to Morocco in 1541.
    • Mazagan/El Jadida (1485–1550); possession (1506–1769). Incorporation into Morocco in 1769.
    • Mogador/Essaouira (1506–1510)
    • Safim/Safi (1488–1541)
    • Santa Cruz do Cabo de Gué/Agadir (1505–1541)
  • Moçambique/Portuguese East Africa: possession (1498–1501); subordinate to Goa (1501–1569); captaincy-general (1569–1609); colony subordinate to Goa (1609–1752); colony (1752–1951); overseas province (1951–1971); state (1971–1974); local transitional administration (1974–1975). Independence in 1975.
  • Ouadane (1487)
  • Quíloa (1505–1512)
  • São João Baptista de Ajudá: colonial fort (1680-c.1700); fort subordinate to the Portuguese colony of Brazil (1721–1730); fort administered by colonial governor (1730-1858) subordinate to Portuguese São Tomé and Príncipe (1865–1869). Fort re-established under separate administration (1872-1961). Annexed by Dahomey in 1961.
  • São Tomé and Príncipe/São Tomé e Príncipe: crown colony (1753–1951); overseas province (1951–1971); local administration (1971–1975). Independence in 1975.
    • São Tomé: possession (1470–1485); colony (1485–1522); crown colony (1522–1641); administration under Dutch occupation (1641–1648). French occupation in 1648.
    • Príncipe: colony (1471–1753). United with São Tomé in 1753.
  • Tangier: possession (1471–1662). Ceded to England in 1662.
  • Zanzibar: possession (1503–1698). Became part of Oman in 1698.
  • Ziguinchor: possession (1645–1888). Ceded to France in 1888.

North Atlantic and North America

The Azores were discovered early in the Discovery Ages. Labrador and Corte-Real brothers later explored and claimed Greenland and eastern modern Canada from 1499 to 1502.

In Central and South America

Brazil was explored and claimed in 1500, and become independent in 1822. Unlike the Spanish, the Portuguese did not divide its possession in South America in several vice-royalties.

  • Barbados: Possession known as Os Barbados, discovered by Pedro Campos in 1536 being an exile post for Brazilian Jews. The only Caribbean possession the Portuguese held for eighty-four years until Portugal abandoned the island to continue exploring nearby Brazil.
  • Brazil: possession known as Ilha de Santa Cruz, later Terra de Vera Cruz (1500–1530); colony (1530–1714); vice-kingdom (1714–1815); kingdom united with the Kingdom of Portugal (1815–1822), independence in 1822.
  • Cisplatina (Uruguay): occupation (1808–1822). Captaincy in 1817 (of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves). Adhered as a province of the new Empire of Brazil in 1822. Became independent 1827, changing its name to Uruguay.
  • French Guiana: occupation (1809–1817). Restored to France in 1817.
  • Nova Colónia do Sacramento: colony in present Uruguay (1680; 1683–1705; 1715–1777). Ceded to the Spanish Empire in 1777.

In Asia and Oceania

India was reached by the Portuguese in 1498 by Vasco da Gama. Macau was the last possession in Asia and was handed over to the People’s Republic of China in 1999.

(From Wikipedia)

Portugal seems to have been the first European ‘cab off the rank’ to bully its way to ownership of lands occupied by coloured peoples all over the world.  How the mighty have fallen! The cyclical movement of our planets may explain the rise and fall of unwarranted ambitions.

 

Former Dutch colonies

North America:

Caribbean:

South America:

Africa:

Indian Ocean:

Middle East:

Indian Subcontinent

Asia-Pasific:

The country of New Zealand was named after the province Zeeland in the Netherlands and the island of Tasman was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who discovered and mapped out most of New Zealand, Australia and Tasman.

The country of Australia was also called New Holland. The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland was made by the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, who sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in 1606. Willem Jansz. sailed on the ship Duyfken. During the 17th century, the Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines of what they called New Holland, but they made no attempt at settlement.

(From Wikipedia)

It is amazing that a small nation like the Netherlands should have been able to acquire an empire.  But it is a fact that in the 17th  century, the Dutch ruled the seas.