On religion – achieving control

Institutional religions of the Western kind (the ‘desert’ religions) are authoritative; they involve control, unlike Hinduism and its derivative offshoots (the ‘forest’ religions). The following are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’.

“What could have been more persuasive? The creation of a hierarchy of gods, angels and other heavenly (or even satanic) intercessionists? A claimed devolution of heav­enly (that is, godly) authority, leading to god-kings or their authoritarian priestly equivalents? A created theology seem­ingly made available to the chosen by a process of revelation from on-high? Inherited authority allied to control of knowl­edge would have enabled the exercise of power, enforced over time by the use of force by some. So says the history of reli­gious institutions.

Were fragments of the faithful, the fearful, then hived off by the cleverer, the more power-hungry, priests through their creation of theological schisms? Did then come the schis­matic wars, some overt by fighting and killing in the name of some god, or by forced conversion? Did the priests insidi­ously and persistently proselytise in order to claim a relative strength of their faith through numerical size? Even today, there are ordinary Christians continuing to collect souls for Christ in Africa and Asia. To what end?

Later, did not many gods, most local or regional, give way to one god, resulting in supremacy sought by priesthoods on a wider geographical front? Did some priesthoods subse­quently develop into a hierarchy, a tower of authority com­posed entirely of men, enabling a lifestyle of considerable quality, while their flocks survived as best they could? What grandeur these priests must have portrayed, with a pageantry normally associated with god-kings! Indeed, some of them still do. Yet, there were other priesthoods which displayed a simpler lifestyle.

Is this not how religious institutions achieved control and began to mislead the people, even while purporting to guide, lead and comfort? Is this not why the more independent-minded people withdraw from participatory religious events and practices, to the extent that some go to the extreme stance of atheism?”

“You people are always … … “

Wow! I remain ‘you people’ after more than half a century of having lived , as an adult, a highly-interactive and contributory life in Australia – which is becoming increasingly colour and culture-blind.

“You people are always having riots over there” (Malaysia/Singapore, my birthplace). The only riot in Malaysia was in 1969; the skirmish in Singapore at about that time was a minor one. Then, a retired war-horse, a Vietnam War veteran, claimed that “You people are always fighting one another over there.” ‘Over there’ was now south-east Asia. Both men were within my social circles. These 2 instances stand out in my memory.

What was their problem? They represented a people which had ‘lorded it’ over the Australian indigene; and did not like ‘uppity’ blacks (Aborigines) and other coloured people (Asians). The traditional ‘tall poppy’ syndrome, manifest in a tendency to cut down any achievers who had risen above their class (in an allegedly classless nation), had now to put down any coloured high-flyers. The underpinning psychological demons rattling the comfort zones of those who did not want ‘them’ to become ‘one of us’ is pretty obvious. Get over it, Guys!

More interestingly, some Vietnam War veterans (incredibly) want to commemorate, on Vietnamese soil, a battle which the Vietnamese lost to the Aussies. While this story always refers to the small number of Aussie out-numbered troops involved, little is written about the heavy artillery bombardment which was responsible for the many Vietnamese killed.

As well, it is a fact that the USA and Australia were driven out of Vietnam by the Viets. These 2 white nations had no business being there. The domino theory was a furphy. South-east Asia was in no danger of being over-run by non-existent communists. There is seemingly an urge by some Aussies now to celebrate a sole victory in a series of lost (and losing) wars since the successes of the war in the Pacific during WW2.

But – to commemorate this win in the land they unsuccessfully invaded? How sensitive!  The arrogance of the colonial-minded Westerner will not, of course, endure. I say this as a known anti-colonial and anti-communist. As my father repeatedly advised, freedom heads the list of human needs.

My interview on ABC Radio

I received a surprising invitation this week from Fiona Wyllie of ABC Western Plains (based in Dubbo, NSW) to talk on air as to whether state governments or the federal government have responsibility for immigration policy; and could I also comment on the broader issues involved. She referred to my past as Director of Settlement Services, as well as all other related areas, in the then Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

Fiona had interviewed me, on behalf of ABC South Coast, 20 years or so ago, about my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia.’ A scheduled 4-minute interview ended 22 minutes later.

Apart from my own settlement experiences, I had worked (as a Director) in all of the following policy and operational areas: ethnic affairs (and multiculturalism); citizenship (and national identity); refugee and humanitarian entry; and all areas of migrant settlement assistance (viz. migrant hostels – including childcare and recreation; the grant-in-aid scheme and migrant resource centres; community-assisted settlement – CRSS; and language services – translation and interpretation.

When I wrote that book, I was probably the only person in the country with direct experience of all these wonderful efforts to guide immigrants and refugees to integrate into a nation which offered equal opportunity. It was not surprising that the Department bought a copy of the book; it was, according to the senior academics who offered accolades, the first time that all of these policies had been set out and explained in a single package. As well, the policies had been interwoven into an Asian immigrant’s personal story of cross-cultural interaction.

Fiona also wanted to know why a prominent businessman had said that he would talk with a State Government about an immigration matter. Did State Governments have any responsibility for immigration approval?

My comments to Fiona were as follows:

  • Only the federal Minister for Immigration has responsibility for migrant entry to Australia
  • She would have to ask the businessman why he would approach a State Government about an immigration issue;
  • Anyone in the community could ‘make representations’ to federal immigration officials or the minister about the entry of non-residents;
  • That immigrant, refugee and humanitarian entry had, in my day, been stringently controlled. Applicants were assessed during a personal interview by immigration officials as to their ability to settle successfully in Australia.
  • I am unsure whether there is now reliance on immigration agents in the country of departure to vet an applicant’s claims; that is, whether Australian officials actually sighted an applicant.
  • With equal opportunity available to all accepted entrants, and a barrage of settlement assistance offered, settlement has been successful, resulting in a cosmopolitan nation, tolerant or accepting of cultural difference.
  • I had previously questioned the need for a multiculturalism policy, with the government telling us how to relate to one another; and the expensive, parallel, ethnic community-based settlement assistance.

I did not point out to Fiona that PM Howard and Premier Carr had been correct in replacing the emphasis on cultural diversity (and its retention) in favour of a shared citizenship; or that all entrants had to accept and adapt to Australia’s institutions (especially the law) and its social mores.

In the light of my experience and observations of immigrant integration, I counsel against broad assertions about experiencing prejudice (which relates only to words and attitudes) and discrimination (acts actually denying equal opportunity on the basis of skin colour or culture). How prevalent and generalised are these? One can be unduly sensitive.

 

Former colonies of the USA

Africa

  •  Liberia (1821–47) – Liberia was never officially claimed by the United States. Rather it was founded by the American Colonization Society, a private American civilian organization.

Asia

North America

Oceania

South America

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

(Comment:  Even the USA, which posits itself as representing freedom, was slow in releasing control over some of its territories. Since then it has become one of the neo-colonisers of the West. Having acquired a new kind of empire – the hegemonic empire, one based on influence rather than on control – it offers protection to nations such as Australia.

Whether it ends up as one of the many brief empires of history depends essentially upon the movements of our planets. How  predictable are such movements, and their potential impacts?  Could they depend  on God’s Will?  

Could hegemonic empires be replaced by co-prosperity spheres of the kind Japan had in mind?)

 

Former French colonies

NORTH AMERICA

  • New France (La Nouvelle France) & Louisiana Territory

Big chunks of what currently is Canada and US.

1534 Jacques Cartier discovers St. Lawrence River; sails up as far as present-day Montreal (then “Hochelaga”)

1608 Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec & explores Hudson to south, and west to Lake Huron

1682 Robert Cavelier de La Salle explores & claims Mississippi basin.  Names territory “Louisiana” in honor Louis XIV.

         → Louisiana lost in part to Britain during Seven Years War (1756-63) and the rest to the United States when sold by Napoleon in 1803.

 

CARIBBEAN

  • St. Domingue (Haiti)

 

AFRICA

  • Algiers (Algeria)

1830’s onward.

1962 independence

  • Benin (“Dahomey”)

1960 independence

  • Burkina Faso (formerly the Republic of Upper Volta)

1960 independence

  • Cameroon

1965 independence

Note:  Comprising territories formerly claimed by both Britain and France.

  • The Central African Republic

1960 independence

  • Chad

1960 independence

  • The Union of the Comoros

1975 independence

Note:  France retained possession of the island of Mayotte.

  • The Republic of Congo

1960 independence

Note:  Distinguished from it’s larger neighbor, The Democratic Republic of Congo, which formerly was a Belgian colony.  French is the official language of both Congos.

  • Djibouti (formerly French territories of Afars and the Issas)

1977 independence

  • Gabon

1960 independence

  • Republic of Guinea

1958 independence

  • Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)

1960 independence

  • Madagascar

1960 independence

  • Mali (“French Sudan”)

1960 independence

  • The Islamic Republic of Mauritania

1960 independence

  • Morocco

1956 independence

  • The Republic of Niger

1960 independence

  • Senegal

1960 independence

  • Togo

1960 independence

Note:  British Togoland became part of Ghana in 1957.

  • Tunisia

1956 independence

 

MIDDLE EAST

  • Syria

1946 independence

  • Lebanon

1941 independence

 

ASIA

  • Vietnam (Indochina)

Status as Independent Overseas Possession in 1949

1954 independence

  • Cambodia (Indochina)

1954 independence

  • Laos (Indochina)

1954 independence

  • Non-Country Possessions:
  • Chandernagore (Incorporated into India in 1951)
  • Pondicherry (now Puducherry, became part of India in 1954)

 

PACIFIC

  • Republic of Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides)

1980 Independence (previously governed by both France & England)

 

(From UND Libraries, on the Internet)


France and Britain ‘played merry hell’ in the Middle East for a couple of centuries, reportedly creating nations, changing boundaries, and placing their favourites on thrones, as they did elsewhere on the globe; and as was done by the other colonial ’powers’ everywhere. All of them worked very hard to create and protect their spheres of interest. The current mayhem in the Middle East has been said to reflect the historical shenanigans of Britain and France.

After their independence, the Indo-Chinese were apparently disgusted at the way they had been subjugated by an unimportant European country.

France too was reluctant to grant independence to its colonial territories.         

 

An issue of sovereignty: The ‘gang-bang’ of China

The following is a list of former foreign enclaves in China.

International

Austro-Hungarian

Belgian

British

French

German

Italian

Japanese

Portuguese

  • Macau colony (1557-1999)

Russian

United States

See also

(Is it now ‘pay-back’ time for China?)

 

 

Tribalism – the negatives

In the history of mankind, the imperatives of tribalism would, on balance, be the greatest curse of existence. Were we created by God, or through some other means (refer ‘the Adam’ in both the Christian Bible, and the Sumerian writings as interpreted by Zachariah Sitchin) to ignore, or exploit, or fight (to destroy), one another? Surely not!

Evolution from the animal kingdom would, however, explain the primacy of the integrity of tribal conduct. Not only is every other species ‘the other’; but ‘not one of us’ separates tribe from tribe within the same species. Co-operation – by necessity, and its derivative, habit. Competition – by nature!

Competition within the tribe, reflecting greed (especially for power and possessions) would also seem to reflect Nature. We were obviously not formed in the image of anyone’s god.

At the individual level, I have first-hand evidence of efforts made to ensure that one is not bested or out-run in the race to success by any member of the clan. At tribal level, in a multi-ethnic conglomeration, individuals will favour others in the tribe or sharing a nationality; though a shared nationality or citizenship implies – indeed, requires – non-discriminatory conduct and attitudes.

Yet, exploitation of one’s own people is the simplest means to wealth and power – as widely demonstrated within one’s nation; or as expatriates on foreign soil.

The imperatives of an un-domesticated animal nature seem undeniable. Creating ‘the Adam’ by commixing alien DNA and the optimal animal species (homo sapiens?) on Earth (as suggested by Sitchin) would seem to have been a terrible error; an unforeseen consequence.

However, could mankind’s inherited animal nature explain the devastation caused by tribalism at the institutional level? The oldest human institution would seem to be religion. Institutions involve co-ordination and control, with a rising hierarchy. The display of power within, and competition without, seem to be obverse sides of the same visage. However, does power necessarily corrupt the human spirit, or does it simply demean those subject to the power of controlling priests, or both?

When will the leaders of competitive institutional religions, especially their sects, cleanse themselves of any abuse of power, and positively preach the commonality of creation, the shared Earthly existence, and a co-operative and caring mindset covering all humanity? It would, however, be too much to expect the animal nature driving most of business and governance to follow suit.

Humanity needs to be weaned from tribalism. But only after the Sixth Extinction? I hope not!

Were the ancient Hindus, in their cosmology, correct in postulating repeated closures of all existence, followed by renewals? The extra-terrestrials who probably taught them that perspective may have understood the logic of what they taught; that repeated ‘cleansing’ is a must. Improved products may result.

Acts of discrimination do cause hurt

Whereas prejudice reflects a feeling or attitude of bias against someone, and expressed in words, discrimination involves an act which manifests that prejudice. Such an act will cause hurt.

In my early days in White Australia, I experienced discrimination in a slighting way; eg. by being the last to be served in a shop. Sadly, about a decade ago, in my coastal district, a teenage Aboriginal boy told me “We are still the last to be served in shops!”

Near the end of my career, I experienced overt discrimination for a few years for being ‘not one of us’. About 30 years before that, I was denied employment in my professional capacities, initially because of my skin colour, and then for my foreign origin; both were confirmed by reliable others.

It is, however, normal for human beings to prefer someone of their kind or tribe. For instance, in Malaysia some time ago, a Ceylonese newly-appointed university dean was stood down because a Malay had claimed “If a Malay can do the job, he should have it.” Merit gave way to ethnicity. That did not surprise me. That was why I had turned down an invitation to join Malaysia’s diplomatic service.

In my community contribution as an interviewer on promotion appeal committees, I have heard, ever so often, damaging assessments of candidates clearly reflecting a personal antipathy. Such harmful discrimination does cause hurt and damage.

Yet, such individual hurt and damage is just part of the human condition; but not necessarily to be tolerated. What of discrimination in a wider context? For instance, when the East India Company in India was replaced by the British Government’s civil servants, it appears that a hunting season was opened for imported Christian missionaries. Was the discrimination in favour of mixed-blood Anglo-Indians in employment in government services then extended to Indians saved to Christ by missionaries of a holier-than-thou mentality?

Sardonically, I have wondered, from time to time, about the reactions of the souls from superior religions when meeting the souls from all the other religions (and atheism) in the Celestial Abode of the Heavenly Father. Are all souls any wiser than the persons they left behind?

What of the terrible discrimination inflicted by European colonial powers on their coloured subject-peoples all over the globe, after destroying their economies (say, India and Egypt), and their cultures, while denigrating their faiths? The Australian Aborigine, the beneficiary of ‘discovery’ and ‘settlement’ patiently awaits official recognition and, in the lower ranks of society, equitable opportunities.

Is racial legislation of any relevance in offsetting past discrimination?

Predicting adult personality from childhood behaviour

I read recently that the observed behaviour of a 4-year old can predicate the personality of the adult that the child will grow into. Even if this conclusion was drawn from a properly conducted survey covering a particular population at a point of time, could it apply to another population at the same point of time? Or, at a different point of time?

Are there not cultural differences, including parental behaviour, school policies, community values, and eroding societal standards for behaviour to be taken into account?

As well, what if (repeat, what if) the child’s behaviour seemed to reflect some past-life trauma, perhaps in the manner and circumstances of death? Having brought up children successfully, through firm rules and loving guidance, supplemented by on-going dialogues, and backed up by my studies on child development, with some reading on past-life memories displayed by children; and having contributed substantially to the development of a number of grandchildren, could I not offer some insight onto the behaviour of young children?

I once observed, over a period of a few days, a 6-month old baby who had no reason to be unhappy, and who did not always display the normal discomfort of indigestion, continually shout at the parent holding, and attempting to comfort, him. At 3 years, he remained un-cooperative and truculent and, in one instance, he whinged for about 45 minutes for no reason that I could perceive. I felt that this poor child could not help himself. By age 7, he was a normal child. Had he been driven by a subconscious painful past-life memory, considering that he had the most loving parents one could ask for?

Normally, tribal cultural values, applied through rigid family control, will ensure that not only behaviour, but also attitudes, conform to family and community standards. In the ethos of Asian communalism, this is important. Against this is the ethos of individualism of Western nations, manifest in less-controlled and guided children. However, individual rights can also be conferred by some primary school teachers, sometimes countering family values. I write from personal experience.

Is it significant that, when Australia-born offspring of tightly-knit immigrant Middle Eastern families break away (through peer-group and other influences) from parental values, some of these chose to be jihadists or become anti-social?

I’ll bet that they did not display such tendencies in childhood, especially at about age 4!

A personal identity

“Is there a single personal identity for each individual? In British Malaya, the land of my birth, we were classi­fied according to the territory from which we had come. I was therefore Ceylonese. In post-war White Australia, I was initially described as a black man, occasionally black bastard. Later, I was an Asian student, with Immigration authori­ties ensuring that we did not become over-stayers. Then I became an Indian, because everyone brown in colour, other than the indigene, was Indian; although I was occasionally asked when my Afghan ancestors had arrived in Australia.

Later, much later, like everyone else, I was defined by my work, with passing reference to my origins. Occupation and status were standard delineations of identity. However, when my wife and I mixed with middle-range diplomats, I was assumed to be a foreign diplomat; brown-skinned Asian Australians were a missing species. I guess we scrubbed up well too, and spoke ‘proper like.’ Among the academics, I was assumed to be one of them; my tendency to speak in jargon from the social sciences may have misled them all. I was a mere public servant. In this arena, one’s social contacts were obliquely, yet inevitably, set by one’s position in the pecking order!

When I retired, to live alone in a small fibro-and-tin house in a low-income district, and drove an old Corolla, initially I seemed to be viewed as a blackfellow. That is, many of the local whites looked askance at me, reminding me of the White Australia era. Even when I was dressed relatively expensively, some locals looked at me, as in earlier times, as if I might suddenly bite them; they had that wary look. The local Aborigines would not, of course, accept me as a ‘black­fella.’ I was, to them, a ‘whitefella.’” … …

“But then … … what have the various perceptions of me by others to do with what I am? Do I not have a core per­sonality? If so, what is it? How is it to be discovered, and by whom? To confuse matters, could I be a multi-layered entity? If so, could I intuitively seek to strip away layers of myself to ascertain what might be a core that is an invariant me?

Peeling away the persona I present to the public (including my colleagues at work and in civil society), then the persona I present to the (extended) family, can I then divest myself of the image I have created for myself (if I dare!), and expose that long-buried skeleton of my innate personality or iden­tity? Would it be a frail courage or a disarming folly to go that far?”

These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society,’ Chapter 8, ‘On national identity.’