Self-determination for First Nation Australians?

“ … as first nation peoples, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (TSI) do have a legal right
to exercise sovereignty over their land. The TSI should pose no problem. They seem to be on their way to self-determination in a number of responsibilities, eg customary law and order, education, health, welfare, and dole work for community development. … … they could progress to self-government within the sovereign nation-state of Australia.

As for Aboriginal people, they could live as cohesive collectives in definable geographical areas, even if these areas are not contiguous. Essential requirements would be that tribal and language differences, whilst retained, be merged into an Aboriginal nation, with equal status and rights for all within it. They would occupy and control their own lands, as suggested above for the TSI. Azerbaijan, the USA and Russia come to mind as examples of nations with component parts separated geographically.

Australia would then be a nation-state containing three component self-governing entities. Presumably, those white Australians and representatives of certain NGOs (non-government organisations) who are reportedly working for the separation of coloured Christian enclaves from a multi-religious Indonesia would support the creation of an Aboriginal nation.

How will the Aborigines acquire that land base they need to establish their nation? In recent years, black communities have reportedly acquired parcels of land, often against strident opposition. This opposition included local governments and, in one case, a Territory government. The land holding takes a variety of legal forms. It includes freehold land; as well as leasehold land held in trust; and crown land reserved for Aboriginal people. Much was, and is still being, achieved through land rights laws introduced by some state governments and through federal funding. Against opposition from a local government council, a state government reportedly negotiated relatively recently for the transfer of a parcel of crown land to an Aboriginal community.

Beaches and other public recreation facilities were, however, to be protected for public use. Environmental protection was part of the agreement. Land of cultural significance would revert to the Aboriginal community.

As Aboriginal communities, with increasing confidence, make claims to un-alienated Crown land to which they can establish a traditional link, and as Gaia retaliates against some of the farming practices of the past, more whites might come to understand a little of what it must have been like to lose the land which is integral to one’s existence and culture.”

(These extracts from ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ will no doubt upset many Australians, and for diverse reasons. Some of the opposition will reflect the possible loss of power over some isolated tribal lands. Giving back land to the indigene will upset others. Yet, autonomously-ruled enclaves are not unknown in the world.

Aborigines with little contact with traditional customs and practices may prefer to remain within mainstream Australia; but might lose any opportunity to represent their people.

Since power with authority rules everywhere, even in the main churches, the bunfight arising from any attempt towards self-determination for Australia’s First Nation peoples should be interesting.)

The wonder that is Australian democracy

I thought that I might be an orphan in believing that the democracy I experience is a joke. A recent article on the dearth of democracy in the ‘Weekend Australian Magazine’ by Phillip Adams, a most durable and perspicacious social commentator, supports my judgement. Here are relevant extracts.

“ … the Dearth Cult, my name for what passes for Australian democracy. Hardly matters who’s heading the government or opposition – we see a dearth of ideas, ideals, imagination, intellect.”

“The business models for state or federal governments are broken. All votes are donkey votes, elections involving reluctant voting, filling front and back benches with fools, frauds, and bitter disappointments. Apart being inordinately expensive, elections stack branches, stuff envelopes with developers’ dollars (further corrupting already corrupt parties), lead to “law ’n’ order” auctions that increasingly overcrowd prisons. Even worse, the prospects of an election provokes faux patriotic warmongering and costly, fatal involvements in other peoples’ wars.”

How about that? Adams then offers a few interesting alternatives:
• Let us choose our leaders in a raffle … Losers become MPs.
• Or let us swap one ballot for another. Remember conscription?
• Or we could borrow from the jury system.
• Perhaps we could make government itself a punishment.
• The answer to this problem, as to any and every problem, is an algorithm … Let’s hand government over to them.

Monroe Mark 2 vs. tripolar global governance

The need to be ‘top dog’ globally (an ambition never ever achieved by any human leader or people) results in contradictions in policies and in inter-country relationships. Behaviour contrary to the teachings of the founder of its religion (refer to the killings, torture, and so on – on and off the battlefields), the politically – if not morally – incompatible partnership with despots, and the attempted rearrangements of regime leaderships are juxtaposed in an admirable manner with protection of peoples here and there all over the world. The new emperor is pragmatic.

The extracts below from ‘On empires – gone & going’ in ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ are self-explanatory. The hope for the small and middle-sized dogs in the paddock is for a minimum of 3 large dogs to be present, working together as required to keep out attackers, and keeping one another in check.

“ Ethnic cleansing, like ‘rendering’-with-torture, and assassination are acceptable, but only in the interests of protecting Western democracy. Australian politicians who visit Israel without being able to notice the plight of state¬less Palestinians couldn’t possibly have any concern with this view of the Middle East of the future.

Thus, acceptable democracy in these nations of interest to the West is one with tribal leadership either adequately constrained or destroyed. The desired tribes are political parties. The good news is that there is no intended destruction of native cultures. The bad news is that, without occupying each country of interest, tribalism will continue. Perhaps we can pay the tribal leaderships to give us what we need … …!

How long will this new empire last? Since it is only about 60 years old, who can tell? Through its Monroe Doctrine, the USA assumed indirect control of South and Central America a long time ago. Would the US now install Monroe Mark 2 to keep any rising power away from its current spheres of interest? If so, how?

Realism requires us to accept that the Western world needs a strong USA to counter China, were this nation to enter into a payback mode; that is, to reprimand all those nations which sought to obtain a foothold on its home territory in an earlier century. Those incursions caused great damage to the people and their heritage.

But then the Western world needs not only the USA but also a friendly China and a united Europe (including Russia) to contain militant Islam’s growth. Were Islam to take over the world, what would happen to the liquor industry, the Christianising industry, the prostitution industry, and the usury industry? However, since the nations of Europe seem incapable of burying their sectarian or other ethno-cultural differences, one can only hope that the Sunni-Shia divide is like the Rift Valley of Africa.”

Living under British colonialism

“The Asian population as a whole would have despised those who had put up that sign outside the prestigious Selangor Club which read ‘No dogs or Chinamen.’ The Chinese were not the only Asians excluded.

Racist attitudes and discriminatory behaviour were par for the course. All the minuscule colonising nations of Europe were smugly superior in their newly-acquired technological superiority, allied to a religion whose founder had allegedly died on the cross for their salvation. Asian servants, waiters and other workers were routinely addressed as ‘Boy’ by the British, especially the women; such people did behave in public (for example, in the shops) in a supercilious manner. This ‘superior’ class of humanity was grandly supported in substantial homes by Asian cooks, maids for any children, drivers, and gardeners. They must have felt awfully superior – and so fortunate. So said my elders.”

(These paragraphs are from ‘On empires gone and going’ in Musinngs at Death’s Door.’

When my Anglo-Australian wife and I shared a home with an English couple in Singapore a few years after the end of WW2, but before independence from Britain, the wife displayed all the attitudes attributed by my elders to the lesser lights in the colonial service. She was insufferably ‘superior’; their very income may have been persuasive.
Yet, the husband, a chatty fellow, told me that when they returned home, they were going to be poor again.

With independence, some of the British in private enterprise left. The few I met in Australia were just normal friendly people. Why then did those cosseted as officials behave in the offensive manner attributed to them?)

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We are all equal

I am beginning to forget that I have a surname. No one in this most-democratic nation of Australia will ever forget the fact that we are all now equal. Everyone I talk to, in any organisation or office, addresses me by my first name. In turn, I have access only to a first name; I therefore make sure that I have a telephone number to enable me to talk to that person again.

What can be confusing is that a letter signed Ali does not refer to a Muslim chap. Ali is Alison. Gender is also lost. Mick turns out to be Michaela; but why present oneself as male? Should we all be gender-free?

Then there is the loss of ancestry and its associated culture when a surname is reduced to 4 letters. This seemingly is an American innovation; and that may be appropriate for a conglomeration of people from the widest origins. In that situation, of what use is a surname with its implicit cultural and linguistic connotations, 3 generations after migrating into a ‘melting pot’ nation?

But, what if an immigrant does not want to be assimilated (like a casserole or curry where all the ingredients are effectively blended), or even integrated (akin to a modern ‘fusion cuisine’ salad, where many flavours may be blended, but the ingredients are discernible and not subsumed into a melange), but wishes – in the name of a self-identified ’culture’ or self-interpreted religious position – to remain separate?

Would that impact upon the acquisition of equal opportunity processes which are probably available? Can this person expect to be fully equal to fellow-residents but, by his own choice, only under the law?

For how many generations is religio-cultural separation compatible with a nation of free and equal people?

An imagined infallibility of the very fallible

Recently, my newspaper published an article effectively stating that there is a Creator of the Universe. The author was promptly attacked for his belief, especially for asking why God had created mosquitoes. I too hold the belief that there is a Creator God of all that exists in the Cosmos. But I cannot accept that God created any individual species. (More on that later.)

I reached my conclusion after reading for years about belief systems – from historically simple ones to the most complex. Few of those who hold a belief in a Creator would ever claim that we can prove this belief. It cannot be proven! A belief is a belief, is a belief.

It cannot be disproven either! What knowledge, what methodology, is available to do that? Stephen Hawking said recently that we do not need God, presumably in the belief that modern science has solved the origin of the universe, and how it works. What happened to the issue of the origin, function, and the extent of dark matter and energy?

I am also not aware that cosmologists have explained the origin of that speck from which arose all that materially is. As well, where did the energy for the expansion implicit in the Big Bang Theory come from? The experts are silent. As well, what if light begins to slow down in infinite space? Will that not solve a few current problems? And so on. The Big Bang Theory is surely only a theoretical working model, being modified (as I understand it) continuously.

As Carl Sagan said sagely, ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’! While operational scientists keep searching, there are some freethinkers among them. Their speculations go way beyond the available material, offering insights which may lead to investigations in very different directions. For example, Ludwig van Bertalanffy ‘noted that one should look beyond the facade of structure to the process underlying structure to understand the true essence of living systems … he taught that an organism’s explicit order is the visible manifestation of its apparent implicit order’ (LaViolette). Since other writers have also referred to this metaphysical concept, there may be hope of a more comprehensive paradigm being formulated.

In contrast, when I referred to my belief (and to some evidence) in reincarnation, a fellow blogger offered to prove that reincarnation is not! Then there are those, like Prof. Dawkins, an eminent scientist, who claim that there is no universal God. What certainty! Is that anything more than a belief? Where is their proof? Yet, there are very insistent people attacking anyone who believes in a Creator.

In the ‘olden days’ it was some highly-skilled protectors of the ruling paradigm in science who might attack anyone suggesting a divergent approach. Now, democracy rules; no knowledge is needed, only an asserted right to close down any open discussion of beliefs which can be neither proven nor disproven. Can there be no place for a range of beliefs to co-exist?

Incompatible values between East and West

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

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

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

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

(These extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’ (published in 2012) raise significant issues. These relate to the societal maturation of a previously racist nation; the durability of the ‘fair-go’ ethos of the ‘old’ Anglo-Australian in an increasingly hazardous global environment; the intransigence of the ethos of individualism of those Western nations created by immigrants (at the great expense of the indigenous tribes affected); the attempted displacement of tribal leaderships by a misleading concept of ‘democracy’ (control by elected ‘gangs’); and a survivor-takes-all mantra, fuelled by economic globalisation, which has resulted in millions in allegedly developed nations living a desperate life almost comparable with the lives of the poorest nations of Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Quaintly, Australia is all for other countries improving their rights record, but will not accept a statute of rights!)

The Karma of Culture – Excerpts

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 Slippage
People 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.

(I have extracted the opening paragraphs of each chapter of ‘The Karma of Culture’ to indicate to the reader something of the thrust of each chapter. However, the contents are much deeper, and offer thoughts to interest the thinking reader.

Some of my writing has been described as provocative. But that is the role of an author.)

Needed – a sense of shared humanity

I once watched the boys from a local church school using a lad of the right age to hire a video displaying very explicit sex, for a lunchtime viewing. Their mums were presumably at work, saving up for that en suite. And that is something I cannot understand: why would modern Western man want a toilet right next to his bed? The world at large places the toilet where it belongs.

The influence of the churches about alcohol drinking times and places is finished. This, too, took a while. But contraception and abortion are still taboo, the latter unlawful, as with voluntary euthanasia. Yet the community feels otherwise, according to public surveys. In addition, I am aware, from personal contact with many young people, that young and old Australians pay little or no attention to strictures against contraception and abortion.

The definitive position taken by the churches to justify the illegitimate use (by some) of that emotive word ‘killing’ in relation to voluntary euthanasia bothers not the free man in the street and his woman. And there are lots of these about, and they are on the increase. Ironically, it is the less educated who, contrary to earlier generations, are ignoring such strictures. Religion used to be for the poor, but not anymore.

When it comes to voluntary euthanasia, the blinkered really start frothing at the mouth. Since euthanasia is first defined by them as killing, the word voluntary makes no difference. An editorial in a major newspaper, generally considered to be of a reasonably high standard, was recently guilty of this semantic and logical fault. More evidence of brainwashing?

However, a very, very large majority (more than seventy-five per cent) of Australians are reportedly in favour of voluntary euthanasia, according to recent surveys. Those of us who have sat by and watched someone close to us go through hell, without any hope whatsoever of surviving, and receiving inadequate relief from pain, and suffering the professional medical skills and high technology instrumentation being applied willy-nilly, will respond with compassion.

But not those willing to sit by the side of such sufferers, presumably chanting, “A life is a life, is a life, is a life” ad nauseam, and “Only God gives life, therefore only God takes life” ad nauseam, and then probably going home to a nice dinner. I cannot think of anything more offensive to God. It is also obscene. Has not the patient, in such a position, the right to decide that enough is enough; at minimum, why not let the patient die with dignity?

Ah, no, one cannot have that. Apparently, God gave some of these people the right to make vital decisions on our behalf; like the paramedic, who arrives twenty minutes after a man’s death, thumps his heart into activity, drops the patient into a hospital, and goes home to his dinner. But now we have a brain-dead vegetable in a hospital bed forever! God’s will? Did God authorise this paramedic to give life to a dead man? He had to try, said a friend to me. That’s also what a surgeon said to my wife when explaining why he kept cutting up her sister for week after week, when she was clearly dying. How do we protect ourselves from such people and their priests?

Fortunately, a sense of humanity, compassion rather than rules, and justice and fairness rather than strict law, have crept into the soul of the community; this was partly through our offspring wishing to think and act for themselves, partly because so many of us encouraged, indeed insisted upon, independent and clear thought and action by them, and partly through a sea-change in the community’s need for freedom from the chains of an illiberal, prejudiced, and fearful heritage.

(The above extracts from my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out,’ raise some crucial questions about freedom from the religiosity of others, especially a minority of the population. By what right can they insist that dogma from their faith is binding upon all others in the nation? Isn’t this what some mullahs of Mohammed asking today in Australia?

More importantly, on what legal basis have our politicians imposed their religious values upon the whole population? Occasionally, a ‘conscience vote’ is permitted as a political safety valve; but that only permits politicians to vote their own personal religious beliefs, not that of their electors. They need to respond to the following questions.

Do circumcised Jews insist that all others be circumcised? Does a devout Muslim deny non-Muslims the right to eat pork? Have Hindus ever denied anyone the right to eat beef? How then can a Christian denied contraception by his church insist that non-Christians also be so denied? When about 82% of the Australians sampled seek voluntary euthanasia, by what authority can their so-called representative government then deny them that right? Do those elected parliamentary representatives responsible for this denial pray to a god who is different from the one and only universal Creator we accept as God?

This is one of the reasons I consider Western democracy to be a dud. Is there something better? Of course there is! The key lies in the word representation. Are not our politicians required to represent the views of voters, those who elected them? So, are we living in a concealed ‘command’ society like that of communist nations?)

Freedom to choose one’s lifestyle

In relatively recent times, another path to material security and comfort has opened up for many. There is less reliance on prayer and ritual. Contraception, for many, brought a less harsh life, especially to those beasts of burden, the female of the human species. To many of those denied contraception by their religious masters, the attraction of the en suite overrode the pronouncements from the pulpit, as said to me by a young colleague in the Fifties.

My friend told me how he and his wife had no intention of producing the minimum of four children required of them. They also hoped to build the house they wanted before they commenced a family. They were not going down the path of their parents, with all its hardships and sacrifice. In this, my friend felt that he and his wife were no different from their peer group, for they could see how those not constrained by the priesthood could aspire to a more comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle but without any reduction in their regard for fellow humans.

So my friend and his wife went to seek advice from their priest. This man was described to me as young, Australian born, and not preoccupied with the wars and the prejudices of the past, unlike the priests of their parents’ generation. This priest sympathised with the young couple and referred them to a particular medical practitioner of the same faith. When they told the medico that their priest had recommended the consultation, he said (apparently), without any further ado, that he could help the young girl with her menstrual problem. She did not have one.

He would prescribe “the pill” in order to settle the problem, which would take about two years. They could safely commence a family after that. This was exactly what they had hoped for. Although it is patently ridiculous for theology to so limit the freedom of a couple, the priest and medico showed an understanding of living in a multicultural society wherein the majority were freer to decide their lives. It is also patently pathetic for two young, intelligent and educated people to fear the power of their church as they did then.

Christian priests, by and large, seemed to have an inordinately powerful position in Australia in my early days, intruding into all aspects of living in an authoritarian way. My understanding of the priestly class is that of a group dedicated to serving God and assisting the rest of us in our efforts to reach God. The idea of a class of humans telling the man in the street what he can and cannot do, when, where and how – beyond the requirements of the law and any community-sanctioned rules about good conduct – were not only strange and unacceptably intrusive, but also anathema to me.

I grant that there are certain traditions and practices which one must tolerate for a while. The Christians have a road to God like all the other faiths but claim that it is the only road for mankind (how preposterous). Every Christian sect and cult has its own track on this road, and each claims that its rut is the only path to God for all mankind (even more ridiculous, but this claim helps to keep the faithful from straying on to other tracks and paths). Characteristically, cult leaders keep their members well away from others, decrying the impurities of these others, through persuasion and as much power as needs to be applied. … …

Mercifully, the control exercised by religious and cult leaders is waning. Australians are now free to read, see, hear, and touch as they will, with some discretion in the last. Gay relationships and prostitution prevail publicly … What goes on in the privacy of the bedroom is no one’s business.

(As the above extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ will suggest, control of the thoughts and actions of their flock by some priests was being eroded in relatively recent times, even from within. From about the 1960s, progressively, Australians obtained personal and social freedoms taken as normal today.

Societally, however, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural nation continues to be denied a statute of freedom, free speech, and compassion for those in serious and uncontrollable pain, for whom palliative care is inadequate. Even an advanced health care directive, which can limit unwarranted surgery or an extension of life through a misguided reading of the Hippocratic Oath, is either challenged or denied. The reason? Theological control!

In this arena of social control, democracy seems somewhat dented.)