A drifting democratic cosmopolitan nation

Australian politicians, aided by proud ‘ethnics,’ claim that the nation has a greater variety of ethnic communities and languages than anywhere else.  But Western democracy, as prevailing in Australia, is just a contest between 2 major political entities; electors have no say about those nominated to represent us.

We also have no idea about the competence of those granted the right to govern us. And currently, one might ask whether we are ruled by Papal ‘Bulls,’ since the leading politicians of both sides of politics seem to be Roman Catholics (in spite of people of that persuasion being no more than about 25% of the population).

The flowing are extracts from my book “Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.” Refer Ch.4 ‘On governance.’

“The term good governance cannot apply without quali­fication to Australia. We are subservient to, or controlled by, foreigners in key areas. Our regulatory agencies, whose responsibilities are to protect the public, seem somewhat tardy in taking wing against predators; their strike rate also seems very low. The stimulatory financial assistance pro­grams initiated by the federal government to counter the threatening global economic depression at the end of the first decade of the current century reportedly led to much waste and abuse; yet, the public service departments responsible for managing the programs at state and federal levels, and their ministers, came to no harm.

A shopkeeper perspective brings in more immigrant mouths than we need. There seem to be large pockets of under-employed and able-bodied unemployed who prefer to be on welfare. Pensions galore allegedly enable three genera­tions of a family to live with security, and not that frugally either. Enterprise is thus over-run by dependency. Our politi­cians play silly games in parliament. And recent prime min­isters have adopted a presidential stance: ‘My government’ or ‘the government’ has been replaced by ‘I’. The ‘lucky’ country?

However, we citizens are not simpletons. We rank poli­ticians as low as we do used-car salesmen and real-estate agents, which is probably unfair to these latter occupations. We distrust politicians as a species, although there are some wonderful exceptions. Our unspoken thoughts are how we can ‘keep the bastards honest.’ We know that we are not well governed. But … are the residents of other nations more equi­tably governed?

Recently, Australian politicians were described as ‘mono-cultural.’ The prominent players on both sides of the political fence were said to be right-wing (Roman Catholic?). They were therefore said to be quite separate from the multicul­tural and political mix of the population. They were also described as not capable of good policy directed to the long-term interests of the nation, because of their pre-occupation with politics, the politics of minor difference, not policies. In this they are aided by much of the media.

What an assessment that was. However we, the hoi polloi, are quite safe from being totally bullied. Every three years or so, the political parties suck up to us. We allow the seemingly superior bidder a turn at the wheel of government. We thank God, the planets, the fairies, or whatever is responsible for us being able to choose. Not that the differences are significant.

… … On a broader issue, as long as foreigners choose to acquire more and more of our resources and enterprises, we will eat well. Security? Our stepfather will surely protect us! Ultimately, it is that amorphous ‘fair-go’ ethos of the old Anglo-Australian which will ensure that our rulers do not rip us off. Many a political peacock has lost its feathers at short notice. So mought it be!”

Is Australia a subservient nation?

I am intrigued by the discrepancy between the indepen­dent stance of the Anglo-Australian worker (originally the bulk of the people) and the obsequiousness/arro­gance of Australian governments. Having been a tram con­ductor, worked in factories and offices, and socialised with all levels of Australian society, I say categorically that this Aussie worker is someone I respect. He is the one who will stop to help you were your car to break down on the street. He stands tall at all times, and encourages immigrants to emulate him.

Contradictorily, Australian governments are subservient, but selectively; originally it was to Mother Britain, later to stepfather USA. Yet, they will throw their weight about in the Pacific (their US-allocated bailiwick), or look askance at the newly independent nations of Asia with foreign faiths. These nations will never bend their necks again … …

What do I mean by subservience? How is it manifest?

Most of us are born into a collective. We are then shaped by that collective, the family. When released into society, we usually live within another collective or two. When we die, we join yet another collective, either below ground or prob­ably in another dimension.

Collectives normally imply a hierarchy, a pecking order of sorts. But … … does that require subservience? In reality, a form of subservience, a degree of subservience, seems ordered; that is, necessitated by the way segments of society are structured or organised. A leaderless society would be an anachronism. … …

The nation I adopted more than five decades ago is a well-fed, but somewhat anxious, polity. It is effectively a satrapy of the USA. Why should that be so? Because of a fear which percolated the national psyche right from the invasion of terra australis by Britain. The nature of this fear? Being sur­rounded by coloured people holding foreign faiths who were clearly ‘not us.’ … …

The Australian nation-to-be once hung on to the apron strings of Mother Britain until the threat by the Japanese led to the Government placing itself voluntarily under the umbrella of step-father USA.

I would therefore prefer Australia to become the next state of the USA. Why so? It is better to be a fourth or fifth cousin than to be a menial, that’s why. Were this to happen, there would arise the following benefits: the republic/mon­archy divide would be resolved to reflect the majority view of the Australian public; since about 85% of us wish to vote directly to elect our president, rather than have the govern­ment choose one for us, the US presidential election process would suit us immensely; since we are happy to fight in any war in which the US is involved, we will not have to pay for the weaponry from the US as we do now; and we will also become less welfare and less foreign capital-dependent, and more enterprising in terms of economic viability.

(The above paragraphs are extracts from Ch. 2 (On Subservience) of “Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.”) 

 

Is national sovereignty a dying duck?

‘National sovereignty is the idea that independent nations, which have declared their independence, have an organized government and are self-contained, have a right to exist without other nations interfering. It is essentially the unspoken rule of a nation’s right to exist.’

‘Sovereign nations not only have the right to form governments, they have the right to defend themselves against those nations that pose a threat to their sovereignty. National sovereignty is a driving force behind the American ideal of independence. The colonists became very disillusioned over being taxed by England without being granted any sort of representation within the English government. So they decided to form an independent nation that would allow them to govern themselves. With the Declaration of Independence, the United States took the first steps toward becoming a sovereign nation.

With a growing emphasis on a more globally focused worldview and economy, some nations have expressed concern over infringements on their sovereign rights. Some leaders feel that increasing the powers of international organizations, such as the United Nations, and alliances, such as the European Union, is detracting from their ability to remain sovereign by imposing sanctions on individual economies and militaries and forcing them to make decisions for the greater global good rather than for the good of their own nations.’

‘A sovereign state has complete control of the property and the people in the territory. Under this concept, one sovereign state is not allowed to interfere with the internal affairs of another sovereign state. Each state has the right to function independently and make decisions as an individual state. However, some sovereign states have agreed on treaties determining minimum standards for human rights.’

‘Being a sovereign state means that no outside entity can rightfully demand any internal action of the state government, says Globalization 101. For example, if Brazil wished to create an amusement park using a rainforest’s material and land then no other country would be able to outright tell them to stop because of Brazil’s sovereignty rights.

There are 195 sovereign states in the world as of July 9, 2011, reports One World Nations Online, when South Sudan became an independent state. Before that, the last changes occurred with the end of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006 and the two nations emerged as independent states.  All sovereign nations of the world are also members of the United Nations … …  Included among the non-member states of the UN are the Holy See (Vatican City State), Palestinian Territories (Gaza Strip and West Bank), South Sudan, Taiwan and Tibet.’

(National sovereignty is being challenged or infringed upon by the UN, its agencies, and international bureaucrats. As shown by ASEAN, consultation is preferable, more effective, and does not impose the will of an external non-responsible collective upon an independent people.

The above are extracts from http://www.reference.com)

 

 

 

Does international law override national sovereignty?

‘One of the phrases now frequently heard in public debate in Australia is that some conduct of a government, usually the federal government, is “contrary to international law”. … …

The problem about the phrase “contrary to international law” is that it is essentially meaningless when a nation-state is observing its own domestic law. There may, of course, be different questions when one country takes action against another without the authorisation of the UN Security Council. As was demonstrated, however, when Russia annexed the Crimea in 2014, there may be nothing the UN can do about such an action.

Otherwise, however, every nation-state is governed by its own domestic laws and cannot be directed by any international organisation, such as the UN, to override those laws. It is certainly possible for a nation-state to adopt the provisions of an international treaty and make them part of its domestic law. Australia has entered into hundreds of treaties in recent decades and some of these have been used as the basis for federal legislation. … …

This use of international treaties by the commonwealth has long been disapproved of by the states on the ground that, when the Constitution was drafted in the 1890s, such treaties were extremely rare and it was never envisaged that they would become a major source of commonwealth power and allow a significant diminution of state powers.

As in many other areas, however, the High Court has endorsed a wide meaning for the external affairs power in the Constitution and upheld this substantial increase in federal authority. … …

… … It is important that the ultimate responsibility for the laws that apply in any country rests with the legislators who have been elected by the members of that community. It would be quite unsatisfactory for any international body, including the UN, to be able to override domestic laws when they are not accountable to the electors of the country in question.

There is a view, however, among many of the international civil servants who work for those organisations and in the ever-growing ranks of human rights lawyers that the rulings of international bodies such as the UN should take precedence over the laws of any particular country.

Many of those who hold this view have no real attachment to any individual nation and do not see why national communities should have the final say over their own destinies. … …’

(The above paragraphs are extracts from ’Assange ruling: international law no match for sovereign states’ by Michael Sexton in the ‘Weekend Australian’ of 11February 2016. Michael Sexton SC was described in the paper as the author of several books on Australian history and politics. I remember him as a Solicitor-General)

 

 

 

 

 

An interesting aspect of European colonialism

It was in France where Ho Chi Minh, a Vietnamese, learned about revolution. Like so many other colonial subjects from territories controlled by European nations, he had been sent to obtain qualifications necessary to build and maintain the infrastructure – both social and technical – in his birthplace.

While in France he would have discovered that France is not a large nation; how shameful to have been dominated by such people was a thought expressed later. He would have noted too that the people in France did not, in general, behave in an ‘uppity’ manner. Only colonial rulers and their minions could behave like that.

Digressing a little – when Australia had taken control of formerly-German Papua New Guinea after WW1, its Patrol Officers seemed to have empathetic relations with the ‘natives’; yet, a few lowly clerks in Australia administering PNG expressed racist attitudes publicly. I write from personal experience, to note that this pattern of relationships was the reverse of that observed with British people. Perhaps it was the White Australia policy which allowed mere ‘nobodies’ to express their assumed superiority. And they were dreadful people.

Indeed, as I progressed through my career, I experienced quite a few ordinary fellows seeking to put me down. Indeed, only a few years ago, I had the phrase “You people … … “ thrown at me, long after I had lived a highly interactive and contributory life, and held leadership positions, in my adopted nation over more than half a century.

Anyway, Ho was a clever learner. He and his fellow-communists drove out the French from Indo-China, as well as the self-chosen protectors of freedom in South-east Asia – by fighting in an unorthodox manner. Regrettably, these well-meaning protectors of other peoples’ freedoms tended to cause great damage to the property of those others, and to their own morality.

There was no risk of a communist takeover of South-east Asia, as my extended family could testify. I write as an avowed anti-communist. The Domino Theory was probably was a facet of neo-colonialism.

Today, one of the invaders of Vietnam seeks to continue to commemorate a rare win in battle against the Vietnamese – but to do so on Vietnamese territory! Did we not lose the war? A Vietnam veteran agreed with me recently that the idea is preposterous. The commemoration, on Turkish soil, of the defeat of Allied soldiers by the Turks in WW1 is surely different.

Not all insults are ‘racially’ motivated

Who are those claiming to be hurt and humiliated by words uttered by others? Should I have felt insulted by being asked repeatedly whether I would join ‘the faith’ for my ‘salvation?’ Instead, I saw the speakers as well-meaning but not educated. When, recently, a former Church worker claimed that the one and only God of the universe is a Christian god, all the other gods being ‘pantheistic,’ I challenged his arrogance. I suggested that Christianity is a late entrant in humanity’s search for the First Cause of all that is. Were these people racists?

At a political level, when Lee Kuan Yew, the former leader of Singapore, offered a more efficient definition of democracy, he was attacked by the West. Was he insulted? Instead, his Ambassador to the UN published ‘Can Asians really think?’ That closed down further challenges; were they racist?

Significantly, Singapore is ahead of Australia at so many levels of governance – from education to economic development, based on long-term plans; not, as in Australia, waiting for foreigners to invest (if they chose). A silly accusation recently was that, although students in Singapore are ahead of their Australian counterparts in maths, they could not possibly understand the underlying concepts. Racism or dented white superiority?

More ridiculously, the terms ‘race’ or ‘racial’ are applied, almost as a mantra,  to a wide variety of allegedly hurtful utterances. Thus, Australia’s ‘racial’ legislation denying free speech is defended as offering protection against any criticism of Israel’s policies! The Catholic Church is also said to need similar protection (something I do not understand). The Australian Aborigines, the only First Nation Peoples not recognised in the Constitution, do need protection from insults; but how are they to access any protection which might be available?

Then, there are the seemingly newly-arrived immigrants who, unlike their predecessors over half a century, claim to be humiliated, hurt, or offended by foolish words by silly people. Offensive words? That depends on whether one is easily offended. Some people are. Why?

Were such people never spoken to disdainfully ‘back home’? Could there be any intangible benefit in claiming to be psychologically damaged by unfriendly or ugly words in Australia?

We early immigrants were genuine ‘adventurers’ who crossed land and sea to start a new life, and to better ourselves. We ignored (or retaliated occasionally) denigrating words. We were not wimps to feel ‘humiliated’ by words from the ignorant.

Words may hurt only if one lets them. Why allow that?

Theology made a mockery of democracy

“You’d think it would be bleedingly obvious that if 87% of the population agreed with a proposition, then our members of parliament would dutifully and faithfully reflect that view when it came to voting on legislation … It turns out that many of our MPs are quite happy to represent us – but only so long as they agree with us.”

“When it comes to abortion (or similarly divisive issues such as same-sex marriage, assisted death or even stem cell research) many MPs ditch the idea that they are our representatives, and instead impose upon us personal opinions dictated, they tell us, by their consciences.”

Haw! Haw! Conscience votes are almost as rare as a sighting of that famous bird, the dodo. Our parliamentary representatives are selected by their parties to be elected by us, on condition that they vote as dictated by party chiefs. Or else! The whole system is so authoritarian that a Prime Minister apparently took Australia to war recently without parliamentary approval.

Who are the controllers of our political parties? How did they achieve their control? I doubt if either academe or the media could enlighten us. All that we know is that the first priority of our political parties is to be re-elected; but not at the price of giving up any theology-related policy.

What is interesting is that Census data shows that just 61% of us are Christian; and that Roman Catholics represent 25% of Christians. That is, no more than 15% of the population could be identified as bound by the theology of the Vatican. This has significance in relation to policy in relation to assisted death (or voluntary euthanasia – no ‘killing’ involved) – a matter of great interest to the very elderly as they deteriorate, with increasing pain, in institutional care. (Where are the loved ones they brought up?)

Voting is compulsory in Australia, unlike other Western nations. Yet, reportedly, about 400,000 youths aged between 18 and 25 are not enrolled to vote. Many more allegedly submitted informal ballot papers. Is there any penalty for non-enrolment?

Vatican theology reached new heights in 2013 in the State of New South Wales. According to Anne Summers, a respected journalist, whom I quoted at the start of this post, “The vote for Zoe’s Law … involved a 63-26 majority of Lower House members … in favour of granting personhood to the foetus.” (Ye Gods!) In this so-called democracy, Vaticanites seem to have achieved control over both sides of politics, as well as the public services in the nation. Are we too well fed to care?

Minority rule is not democratic, especially if guided by a restrictive theology. Refer ‘Keeping the bastards honest’ in my book ‘The Karma of Culture’ (available at amazon kindle at $US 2.99 or $A 3.99). Yet, we preach, in lofty tones, to other nations about the effulgent beauty of Western democracy!

(Anne Summers’ article was published in the May 14/15 issue of ‘News Review’ in the Sydney Morning Herald)

 

A national identity?

In my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society,’ Chapter 8 titled ‘On national identity,’ I ask whether it is as difficult to define national identity as it is to define a personal identity.

“To seek the core identity of my adopted nation in a com­parable manner, I begin with how other people might see us. In Malaysia/Singapore, the media waste no space or time on Australia, but the people there like what they see of the Australian people. On the other hand, the governments of Asia must surely be aware of official Australia’s undue sen­sitivity to Islam; its indifference (mainly of the past) to the darker peoples of the Indian subcontinent; and its obsequi­ousness towards Asian buyers of its major exports.

Australia’s official presentation of itself is fascinating. Totally subservient to our hoped-for protector (against whom?); a ‘middle power’ throwing its weight about in the Pacific (as any Deputy Sheriff might); and patronisingly friendly towards the relatively under-developed nations to the north; and seeking to make friends with other nations in order to obtain a seat in the UN Security Council. Overall there is a certain smugness projected, but which does not seem to be persuasive.

In its image of itself, Australia produces a quaint collage. Initially, it was proud of its white, British and Christian ori­gins. Typically, its explorers kept finding things which the indigene must have already known about. (Burton and Spake seeking the origin of the River Nile come to mind.) From the mid-1960s it became progressively proud of its convict heri­tage. In the mid-1970s it saw itself as progressively cosmo­politan, drawing upon its increasing ethno-cultural diversity (the Aborigines just need to be more patient).

It has always seen itself, correctly, as egalitarian, welfare-minded, with gender equality, and with increasing intellectual and social freedoms (in spite of opposition from the religious fundamentalists who are still riding their high horses).

Beneath this surface mixture of identities, a few chasms run this way and that. The tolerance by the Australian public of its often pathetic rulers (as in the second decade of the twenty-first century) is itself an essential ingredient of the core image by Australia of itself; tolerant and laid-back, while a little rough on the fringe.

Other essential components of national identity are the national icons, each of which should reflect some significant aspect of the nation’s history. A nation with a very brief his­tory has, however, little of the past to choose from. However, there is the publicly celebrated ANZAAC tradition. It is a reflection of the courage, tenacity and loyalty of Australia’s soldiers during defeat in WW1. I wonder: apart from the successful battles against the Japanese in the Pacific, can Australia claim any successes in wars, usually other coun­tries’ wars?

A misted-over part-icon is a highway man, a strange choice. There is then the cringe-arousing fondness for a cross-dressing humorist gladiolus. Icon or not? Those seeking a little too assiduously to create national icons have offered the Eureka Stockade as a harbinger of a thrust to democracy. Icon? Doubtful. …

Perhaps it is time for modern Australia, with its 30% non-Anglo-Celt multi-ethnic composition, achieved over more than half a century, to establish new icons. What could these be? How will we identify them?”

Racial distinctions – genetic or cultural?

Neither! ‘Race’ was a political construct. Europeans who went out to dominate all mankind about 5 centuries ago disported a coppery tinge to a whitish skin colour. They were deficient in the production of melanin.

Since about 85% of the human population on the globe was once said to be coloured, how did the Europeans miss out? It appears that, about 40,000 years ago, a blast of cosmic radiation bathed the people around the Tropic of Cancer, destroying their capacity to produce melanin.

This will explain why the East Asians, once described by the militarily-superior white people as ‘yellow,’ are more cleanly white than the northern Europeans. Are all humans now ‘coloured’?

West of East Asia are whitish people spread in a ring around the globe who are slightly tanned. The  Mediterranean peoples are comparable to the Caucasians and to those further east on the same global parallels.

Some of my own extended family are very lightly tanned. While our tribal origin is Ceylon, it appears that the Dravidian peoples (including Ceylon Tamils) may have originated in the north of the Indian subcontinent. Skin colour enhances the probability of this origin.

Is there any evidence of tribes fighting one another purely on the basis of skin colour? On the contrary, it was the European colonisers who coined the concept of race, with the ‘white race’ being claimed to be genetically superior to all other ‘races.’ What puffery! On-going miscegenation (for all manner of reasons) rules; no skin can claim to be superior.

I had expected that once these former superior Europeans had returned to normality, we would all mind our own business. I was wrong! The whole colonial gang has rushed back together into Asia to re-arrange borders and rulers, as once they had as individual nations. Now, it is all overtly political, not resource-related.

‘Race’ is no more. Now, culture wars, based on who has the better god, are destroying millions of innocent civilians. Human rights, anyone?

 

Why are cultural differences so destructive?

When the British departed, most reluctantly, from Malaya, the 4 Federated and 5 Unfederated States, plus 3 Straits Settlements, became the Federation of Malaya. The majority Malays converted the new nation into a Malay Muslim one. What of the other ethnic communities (including mine) which had contributed to the development of the nation? Ethno-tribalism ruled.
Expecting the Malays to eventually claim all the top official positions, and other jobs to be decided on the following principle – if a Malay can do the job, he should have it – I declined an offer to join the new diplomatic service. I based my assessment on what had happened in Ceylon, with its display of ethnic discrimination. The post-colonial experience everywhere was – ethnic minorities beware!
In Ceylon, the British handed over control of hitherto independent Hindu Tamil lands to the Buddhist Singhalese. Reportedly, their priesthood had successfully influenced the government to adopt the ‘Singhala First’ principle. This discrimination against the non-Singhalese, well-documented, led to claims of a degree of autonomy by the Tamils. The outcome is now deplorable history.
Before the European nations imposed their white Christian colonial supremacy over these lands, Indian Hindus and, later, Indian Buddhists had influenced these lands culturally. Now, majority rule under Western democracy led to unequal minority-community political rights. Pride in the ethno-religious heritage of the ruling tribe rules.
However, is any religion superior to all the others? Not on the evidence. Dogma divides, but does not bestow primacy. Is any tribal community different from all the others – in terms of human potentiality, religiosity, cultural pride, or individual proclivities? There can surely be no chosen people anywhere, since we are all co-created by the one and only God.
Since humanity is the same everywhere, at both its highest and lowest levels of behaviour, then surely it is greed for power which drives the control and discrimination over others; as well as the abdication of the underlying humanistic principles of the religion to which the guilty claim to adhere.
It is not culture which is at fault. It is the use of culture by morally faulty human beings, in both political structures and institutional religion.