A settled First Nation People

Australian Aborigines were a settled people long before the invasion by Britain, contrary to the crap peddled after the invasion, killing, and societal and cultural despoliation (destruction). Clever administrators looked for a fresh dumping ground for those disadvantaged by their government’s cultural cleansing, since North America was no longer available.

Rapacious settlers ‘cleared’ the land they occupied so ruthlessly. Pseudo-historians turned historiography on its head by finding no documentation in Britain authorising the settlers to take whatever they wanted by killing the natives; therefore, no killing had occurred.

A settled people, who had survived in a harsh land for thousands of years, were now made nomadic by Britain. Terrible things were done to the women and children. The behaviour of some explorers casts doubt on their morality. While missionaries were busily gathering black souls to the bosom of their coloured Saviour, one has to wonder at the depth of belief in Christianity within the white communities.

And, quite naturally, white men were opportunistically busy creating a creole (hybrid) people. That seemingly led officialdom to believe that black skin could be bred out in time; “Fuck them white” was reportedly part of the policy encouraging the natives to “become like us.”

Now, an aboriginal researcher and writer, Bruce Pascoe, has recently published ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ He has drawn upon the journals and diaries of explorers. The bibliography listed in his book is vast. The superior-white ‘foghorns’ (on radio) and their acolytes in politics and elsewhere will have great difficulty in countering Pascoe’s book.

My impression, after 70 years of a highly interactive and contributory life in Australia, is that ordinary people are more tolerant and understanding about the plight of their indigenous people. A retired history-teacher friend of mine bought a copy of Pascoe’s book for each of her many grandchildren. Truth will out!

In this context, it is worth noting that the redoubtable Prof. Henry Reynolds has pointed out that Australia’s Aboriginals had never ceded their lands, or their sovereignty.

From the back cover of Pascoe’s most impressive book: “If we look at the evidence presented to us by the explorers and explain to our children that Aboriginal people did build houses, did build dams, did sow, irrigate and till the land, did alter the course of rivers, did sew their clothes, and did construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity, then it is likely that we will admire and love our land all the more.” – Bruce Pascoe.

Reviews of the book were most positive.

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White Australian attitudes towards Aborigines

The attitude of Australian whites to their indigene is bifurcated. There are, firstly, the lamp lighters and flag bearers. These are the humanitarians. Colonial values do not cloud their perceptions. They look forward, not to the past. They support reconciliation (a more accurate word might be conciliation) and efforts to have the viability of, and the respect shown to, the Aboriginal people raised to that of the rest of the Australian people. These include the honest people who recognise thefirst nation’ status of the indigene. They seek to have fellow non-indigenous Australians become more aware of the history, cultural values and traditions, art, environmental wisdom, and spirituality of the Aborigines.

Then, there is that majority (a large number of whom have told me about their feelings), with their soul-destroying perceptions of the indigene. This is a grab-bag filled with an interesting assortment of human failings. First, there are the greedy and the rapacious, who may be the cultural descendants of some of the founding fathers, and their protectors in government. Then there are the intellectually-deprived, with their retinal after-image of the white coloniser’s cultural and racial superiority. These are followed by the emotionally damaged fear-filled, lacking the confidence to relate to those not like themselves.  Those afflicted with subconscious guilt about the terrible things done to the inoffensive indigene by their predecessors, not all of whom were linked to them genetically, are also found in this grab-bag. One can sympathise with these. … …

Refusing to accept that the indigenes got the rough end of the pineapple collectively, whilst their women were collaterally used freely to create a new creole people, some modern moral purists argue that the major cause of the initial near-extinction of the indigene was not slaughter but disease. One of these iconoclasts even claimed that it was the Chinese and other Asians who had brought the deadly diseases to Australia. How many Chinese did Cortez take with him into America?

Another defender of ethnic cleansing claimed that the Aborigines should thank God that they were “displaced by Christian people”. On the contrary, I think that the Indians and Chinese might have treated the indigenes better. Their historical record, from the Arabian Sea to the Gulf of Tonkin, down to Bali, suggests that.  … …

The same sort of negative attitudes surfaced when the report on the ‘stolen generations’ was released, except that the counter-attack was strangely bitter. The authors of the report, their motives, methodology, definitions, and findings were all attacked, but only by a noisy handful. The semanticists, pretending to be fair, focussed on the meaning of ‘stolen’ and the scope of the word ‘generation’. The other critics, seemingly less erudite, simply went ballistic, with all manner of quaint arguments. Yet, no one could deny, that many, many, lighter-skinned children were removed from their mothers (pounded may be a more appropriate term in some cases) in ways which were both immoral and illegal. … …

The claimed motivation for removing the children seemed to be multi-faceted. The need to save them from a terrible future amidst the dust of the cattle stations was one claim. A related caring claim was that, as part-whites, they could be assimilated through separation from their mothers and the rest of their people. If these motives were genuine, how did those in authority see the rights of the mothers and their communities? Since the children were to become no more than servants, what did assimilation offer them?

In the event, what does this policy say about the morality of those involved?  A more honest motive was to ‘to fuck them white’, in order to avoid a biological throwback to their indigenous heritage. Preventing the allegedly ‘quick-breeding half-caste’ from contributing to the growth of the creole community seems a more honest motive. As the Aborigine was then seen to be an early version of the Caucasian stock, there were thus hopes of breeding out the black peoples as a whole. But was there any intention to have white families adopt these poor kids, as claimed by a friend of mine?  What were the odds of white families even considering such adoptions?  I am inclined to believe that some did.

(These are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ published in 2005. Regrettably, Aborigines lacking that attractive tan colour are alleged by some as not being Aboriginal. So, colour remains a determinant of culture and heritage in the eyes of those who want Aborigines to assimilate; yet imported ethnic peoples are able to integrate, with their cultural values intact, into the nation. Why is there so much prejudice?) 

 

 

 

Did squatters destroy an Aboriginal civilisation?

“A few years after the initial ‘discovery’ by Captain Cook, it was apparently known that the indigenes not only occupied the land and used it with economic purpose, but also (according to the highly respected Dr.Coombs) “… lived in clan or tribal groups, that each group had a homeland with known boundaries, and that they took their name from their district, and rarely moved outside it.”  It was also known that they had, and applied, firm rules about trespass, kinship ties, marriage, child rearing and other matters, the hallmarks of an organised society; that they had a “habit of obedience” to their rulers and leaders, a hallmark of a political society; and that they had an ordered ceremonial life, reflecting the sharing of a spiritual vision, a hallmark of a civilisation. Apparently, they also had their own zodiac, which guided their activities. Their artistic records are also well known and respected.

It has now been accepted that the indigenes did not cede any of their land. As the famous poet Oodjaroo Noonuccal said, “We are but custodians of the land”. Whilst the settlers saw themselves at war, and killed to acquire land, officialdom (later supported by local jurists) preferred occupation to conquest. Occupation follows discovery, of a presumed empty land. How were the natives to establish ownership without a Titles Office?

Because the morally political Australian rejected the idea of an invasion, a Senate Committee came up, in the early 1980s, with prescription. This apparently applies when there is no clear title to sovereignty by way of treaty, occupation or conquest. An extended occupation, and an exercise of sovereignty were apparently enough to vest title in the Crown.

But, prescription requires a show of authority on the one side, and acquiescence on the other (says Prof. Reynolds, the renowned contributor to the nation’s enlightenment on this black subject). Since the natives never acquiesced to anything, voluntary abandonment was claimed. The Senate’s clever semantic exercise seemed to accept that being killed or driven away is tantamount to voluntary abandonment! A prominent white Australian sociologist reminded me that cities such as Melbourne and Sydney represented the most effective sites of ethnic cleansing; and that every fence in Australia encloses land that was once the soul, or the shared possession of a particular group of Aborigines.

A very substantial majority of the Aboriginal people died in the years following the invasion. Killing was both official and private. “My father used to round you mob up and shoot you for Saturday and Sunday entertainment”. This was uttered by a school mate of a recent head of ATSIC (the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Commission). One does not visit the sins of the father upon the son. Yet, there are Australians today who attempt to defend the historical brutality that led to women and children being shot without compunction, and large numbers of fellow humans being killed through the use of poison. What sort of humans were the early arrivals that they could do this? What does it say about their origins, the way they lived before arriving in Australia, and their moral and cultural values? Why were these casual killers so debauched? “ … …

“It would not be quite fair to apply the aphorism ‘The criminal cannot forgive the victim he has defiled’ to those who deny what they call the ‘black armband’ view of Australia’s history. Why someone who cannot claim any ancestors who ‘cleared’ the land so vehemently rejects an honest view of a black history, makes sense only if one accepts that such people have strong tribal affinities, ie their people could not have behaved so brutally; or that, because that was normal colonial behaviour then, the perpetrators cannot be judged by current criteria for morality.

 I have had similar statements made to me when I occasionally refer to my exposure to Aussie racists. Some of these defenders of past brutality, however, confuse guilt with responsibility. That is, they cannot accept that today’s generation has a moral responsibility to compensate, but without any sense of guilt, for the damage done by earlier generations.

(These are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity: Beyond tribalism towards a new Australian identity.’  My hope is the Australian Family of Man, arising eventually from, and through, cultural differences. Our indigenes need to find a place in the sun as a community before participating within a mesh of integrated cultures forming the nation. However, a generation or two of superior white Australians have to join their Maker before that can happen.) 

 

‘The Dance of Destiny’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM – Overview

PART 1  :   THE WHEELS FELL OFF

Chapter  1  –  The upheaval

Covers the attack by the Japanese on Malaya in Dec 1941, the surprising retreat of British and Australian troops, the Japanese military Occupation begun in early 1942, and life under the Japanese until 1945.  Sub-headings are: a casual contact; a speedy withdrawal; avoiding the bombs; life under the Japanese.  This last sub-heading is further broken down to: the early days; the latter days; the final days; a retrospect.

The retrospect highlights the corruption of Christian colonialism, Japanese military brutality, the starvation of the people and, for my family and the surrounding neighbourhood, a reign of terror imposed for a period by a gang of communist anti-Japanese (so they claimed as they carried out some killing of civilians).

Chapter  2  –  Back in time

Describes in detail the peaceful progressive life of an immigrant family from Ceylon in the context of the British administration before the Japanese Occupation.  Sub-headings are: origins; boyhood; the way we lived.  Highlights the religious and cultural tolerance of people of diverse origins, and the way we all lived.

Chapter  3  –  Forward in time

With the defeat of Japan, Malaya became focused on the future, on freedom from foreign rule.  The author’s life, however, falls apart.  Yet, there is a glimmer of light ahead.  After a short flare of hope, the author’s life again appears doomed, when his Anglo-Australian wife rejects him on his return to Australia.  This leaves him in a societal and geographical limbo.  A quotation from the Upanishads indicates the author’s optimism-larded realism. 

Sub-headings are: a new beginning; the descent to doom; keeping afloat; Quo Vadis.  The end is dramatic: the reader, like the author, is left in suspense.

PART  2 :  OF HOLES WHICH WERE NOT THERE

Chapter  1  –  Quo Vadis

The author restates his dilemma, but now within the context of family and tribal origins and background.  He draws together the many strands of Destiny-derived influences.  These suggest that he is to belong to Australia.  Yet, there he was, stranded at a kerbside in the city of Melbourne on a cold winter’s morning in 1953.  Reconciliation with his wife offers a future, but in a nation of white supremacists and colonial arrogance.

Chapter  2  –  Memories of White Australia

As necessary stage-setting background, the author recounts his disastrous life in Australia between 1948 and 1952.  The country and people of Australia, as perceived by the author in that period, are presented as further relevant background.  The insights he has gained, the lessons learned, and his obvious respect for Australia’s ‘fair-go’ ethos ready him for his precarious future.

Chapter  3  –  A failed takeoff

In spite of a tremendous effort, involving a substantial denial of sleep over four years, the author is unable to find appropriate graduate employment.  He is a foreigner, and a coloured one as well, as made clear to him.  He has to move to the national capital (a small town set in a desert) to become a public servant.  Beggars cannot be choosers!

Chapter  4  –  The trek to the new world

The sub-headings ‘The launching’ and ‘Settling in’ describe the author’s multifarious experiences, especially his contributory exposure to a range of significant facets of society in the national capital.  He has an interesting life, being involved in an unusually wide range of societal issues.  With his second wife, he builds his family, and becomes integrated into the nation (as the spirit world might have expected).

Then, having  his career path overtly blocked because (as again made clear to him) he is “not one of us”, he moves on.

Chapter  5  –  The forks in the road

There are 2 forks here, the first highlighting the maturation of Australia through its policies on immigrant settlement (of a diverse intake) and citizenship enhancement, leading to an evolving national identity.

The second fork reflects the widening gulf between the Asian values relating to family and respect for one’s elders, and the individualism of the Ultra-West, those nations created by immigrants.  The author decries the alienation overtaking the nation, essentially through the breakdown of the nuclear family.

The author provides adequate detail on both forks, based upon his knowledge and personal experience.

Chapter  6  –  Ultimate Reality

In this chapter the author gathers together all the threads of his life experiences, and ties them into a spiritually coherent philosophy of human existence.  The path available is clearly upward.

Overview :  The nature, role and impact of Destiny are woven lightly through the whole MS.  In much the same way, a personal narrative is set casually in each chapter in the context of relevant geography, history, sociology, politics and philosophy.  Official policies pertinent to each segment of the narrative give additional depth and some colour.

The embellishments, in a story-telling approach, are not easily compartmentalised within each chapter; instead, they float in and out, often with a glancing touch.

Having completed his responsibilities to family and society, he now awaits, in mental and spiritual peace, his return to that Way Station; there he hopes to expand his learning.

 

The fall of Singapore

Seventy-five years ago, the great British Empire abdicated its responsibility for protecting its colonial subjects in Malaya (which included the island of Singapore). At the age of 13, my boyhood ended. For almost 4 years, my family and I lived in semi-starvation, and some fear, under a Japanese military occupation.

The stress contributed to the premature death of my father (at 47); my 3 uncles also experienced early death. For most of that Occupation, I lived a lonely unhappy life, away from my family.

Our colonial masters took a hiding from ”short, squinty barbarians” (words allegedly uttered by the English). For weeks, 11 children aged 13 to 2, and their young mothers, watched from a rubber estate as British military trucks rolled south in an unending stream. The little ones used to wave to the troops – who naturally waved back.

I was old enough to wonder why the British were rushing to Singapore. All that the Japanese had to do, I thought, was to cut off the water supply from the mainland. I did not know that the intention of the fast withdrawal was to escape by sea. Some did. Most reportedly did not.

The Japanese were clever. Just as they had landed on the north-east coast of Malaya without significant challenge, by moving through mangrove swamps, they had invaded Singapore by bypassing the causeway. As well, while they chased the British (and Australian?) troops down the highway on the west coast of Malaya, the latter would reportedly arrive at some road junctions only to find a few Japanese waiting for them. Presumably, these Japanese had cycled their way through the rubber estates adjoining the trunk road.

When 2 large British warships were sunk off the east coast, we knew that the British were finished. We were then not to know that Japan would, single-handedly, effectively end the colonial rule of most of Asia by the French, Dutch, and British. When the Europeans reluctantly left during the post-war period, they presumably expressed regret that they had not had the time to teach the ‘natives’ how to govern themselves. Quaintly, the last Governor of Hong Kong has been quoted as actually saying something to that effect – after 99 years of control.

Read ‘Singapore Burning’ by Colin Smith for an interesting portrayal of the way the mighty fell; and some strange behaviour by the rubber barons.

My own experiences and observations are set out in depth in my memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny’. Extracts will be published as posts on this site, to be copied to Facebook and to my book pages on amazon.com.

EARLY MEMORIES: The inculcation of values

Although my uncle had no time for Brahmins and temple rituals, the 2 most important women in my life – my aunt and my mother – would frequently exchange religious books and thoughts. By requiring me to read certain religious texts, my mother instilled in me a degree of spirituality beyond the rituals.

At about age 21, I waved a fist in the direction of the sky, saying “To hell with you,” and renouncing God; Ganesha had let me down. Within 6 years, after a period of concentrated study, I decided, most logically, that there had to be a Creator God, to explain the complexity and beauty of all that we could experience. Riding on that initial underlay of boyhood spirituality, I began my perusal of religion (and religions).

My father’s role in implanting significant values in me was to stress the primacy of freedom. He also pointed out that it is the eagle which flies highest; but that it flies alone. His adage “The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on” (from Khayyam?) has had a sustaining effect on my responses to life’s travails.

The frequent gathering of 3 maternal uncles in our home during my boyhood informed me of the realms of local politics, international relations, the venality of competitive fellow-humans, inter-ethnic community relations, the impending war, and so on. I wondered, years later, how perceptive these men had been, while only in their thirties.

My boyhood expired at age 13, when the Japanese military arrived. After a year of absolute frugality through my father’s unemployment, my family was re-located to the countryside. I lived with 3 men and a Chinese cook in the capital. My life became one of loneliness, lacking relatives, friends, and conversation. Being under-fed was par for the course.

Thus was formed the loner, who had now been prepared for a life of failure, hardship, and frugality. He was, nevertheless, to be a successful survivor, enjoying any pleasure that the Cosmos sent his way. There was plenty of that too, as time passed. He eventually evolved into a communitarian small-l liberal, a political orphan, but an independent thinker.

One’s destiny path may become visible only with hindsight.

The effects of near-starvation

A few years after the end of the Second World War, I was on board a passenger ship of about 8,000 tons – a quite small ship. It took a long while to travel from Singapore to Sydney – about 2 weeks and more. It is difficult to be precise about such unimportant matters after so long.

On board was a very tall, very thin Dutchman. He had been interned by the Japanese military in Indonesia. During the fight for independence by the Indonesians, he had been interned again.

He sat opposite me at meal times, but had very little to say. That was because he ate every course on the generous menu. That is, he ate 2 entrees, 3 main meals, and 2 desserts – rapidly. I understood. Having been half-starved during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, I too ate well. But my stomach seemed to have shrunk.

During the Occupation, we lived on some rice, supplemented by tapioca, and accompanied by a vegetable of some kind; occasionally, we had sweet potato. Our meals were extremely frugal. There was no milk or sugar ever, only palm oil for cooking. There was no fish or meat after the first 6 months of the Occupation. What had been available once a month was a palm-sized slice of goat meat, after joining a queue for about an hour on a hot roadside.

With patches on the patches on my shorts, I grew a little taller, but leaner, during my teenage years. The development of my spine was found, at age 32, to have been impaired. This was to be a heavy price to pay for the rest of my life.

I hoped the Dutchman would find a peaceful life in Australia. I put on 7 lbs. (from 8 to 8.5 stone) in weight on board ship. Consuming lots of steak and milk on Australian soil, I was soon able to play hockey – at A-Grade level. I had become strong, fast, and agile, also through some gym work, having reached 9 stone by then. I soon learnt to stop well-built young man seeking to bowl my slim body over; they somehow fell down, and I would ask if they were OK.

I have eaten frugally all my life because my mind will not allow me to do otherwise. I am unable to throw away any food, because I am keenly aware that a mere handful could represent a day’s meal for a child. Having had a fraction of my pay directed to Community Aid Abroad for more than 30 years has not reduced my concern for the plight of those children born only to suffer. Karma? Not credible!