Are all cultures reflective of a religion?

The brutal slicing out of the clitoris – we know what it is, where it is, and what it can do – of girls and young women has been claimed to reflect a cultural tradition. Was this practice derived from a major accepted religion?

The marrying off of a daughter as soon as she reaches puberty, reportedly to a much older man, has been claimed to reflect another cultural tradition. Which religion recommends or endorses this practice involving child-brides?

In another culture, a woman’s feet are bound, thus keeping them small and not particularly reliable for walking. (I have seen such women travelling by rickshaw in British Malaya.) Which religion endorses this cultural practice?

In an old culture, a widow is reportedly induced to throw herself onto her husband’s funeral pyre by her relatives. Which religion’s doctrine requires this practice?

In Australia, I have seen a figure walk down a street covered from head to feet in what I think of as a walking tent. The gender of the occupant of the ‘tent’ was not clearly discernible. I have read in our media that some such persons have sought the right to drive a car along extremely busy streets, in spite of the probability that lateral vision may be compromised by the face covering. Which religion requires this practice of covering the whole body?

A focus by a religious sect on the ‘netherlands’ of women has resulted, in a secular nation, in a doctrine banning contraception and abortion. Is this cultural stance reflected in the doctrines of other sects of this religion?

In another nation, one’s caste (defined by one’s occupation) allegedly over-rides class. This means that, while one may be able to rise up the class structure, all the descendants of any one caste are traditionally required to be defined and treated as members of that caste. Is this cultural tradition supported by any version of Hinduism?

A culture defines the way things are done, by how they live, by members of a community. These ways do change, just as the underpinning values change through the generations. Immigrants know how cultures evolve in the nations they left behind, even as they seek to retain the cultures they brought with them.

The leaders of an ethno-cultural community may claim the primacy of their cultural practices in a multicultural nation, by seeking the legitimacy hopefully available within their religion. Regrettably, religion’s foundation (or core) beliefs may not sanctify all the diverse cultural practices of its followers.

What society is then left with are not only competitive religious sects and religions, but also ego-related competitive cultural practices. How then about adopting this principle – horses for courses?

This would mean that, in suburban Australia, where there is no risk of a storm involving a horizontal wall of sand many feet high cutting its way through (I have experienced such a storm well away from human settlements), there is really no need to cover one’s hair, face and body as if one is living in a desert.

We do not need child-brides, and such other ‘traditional’ cultures transplanted into this emerging cosmopolitan polity. In time we will rid ourselves of religious edicts imposed by historical controllers of humanity.

Revised cultural traditions will also enable a swifter tribo-cultural integration into (urban) Australia.

Advertisements

Some interesting aspects of multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is just another term for ethno-cultural diversity. The world over is largely multicultural. When that term was temporarily linked with the term policy in Australia, a vision of a separate sand-pit for ‘ethnics’ did arise, for some. Here are some interesting facets of experience.

“When ethnicity was in vogue, I asked publicly whether I, Australian by citizenship, Malaysian by birth, Ceylon Tamil by distant ancestry, and Indian by culture (Hinduism) could identify myself as an ethnic; and, if so, by what criteria. Even the academics were silent! What of those who are the products of marriage across nationalities or ethnicities? More and more of our young are marrying across parental cultures.” … …

“Cynically, I did ask some of the ethnic community leaders who were second or third generation Aussies if they spoke their mother tongue fluently; and with whom (other than their mums) did they speak. Did they read books, see films and attend plays in that language; dress the way their ancestors had back ‘home’ (except for multicultural festivals in Australia); and celebrate their tribal cultures in any meaningful manner? I also asked if their communities reached out to other ethnic communities as equals.

Then there is the issue of some Australia-born descendants of immigrants going back to their tribal lands to fight a traditional, or even a new, enemy. Further, if integration is rejected by them, would that affect their right to call on the equal opportunity that is available? And since social superiority is given little air in Australia, how would ethnic superiority be viewed? I believe these questions to be relevant.”… …

“In the early 1980s, I once observed 3 teenagers on a tram. Their heads suggested 3 different European regions of ancestral origin. They were dressed almost identically, and their speech accents were identically Australian. This was evidence of integration. Travelling through the city, observing, I saw few turbans, skull caps, head scarfs or face covering. Careful immigration selection was the explanation. Why is the situation different now?” … …

“By and large, were tribal leaders, that is, the priests and politicians, to keep away from the fields of cultural interaction, we the people will eventually reach out to one another? How so?

Excluding the exploiters, there is an innate human tendency – displayed so satisfyingly by children – to do so. In Australia, thanks to the public education systems, by the third generation, youngsters will feel, and behave as, part of a whole far wider and deeper than the family or an ethnic community. The gestalt effect will take over.

How does this work? Good immigrants will tend to retain their values almost intact, while modifying their behaviour as appropriate. Those of their children exposed to Australian values through the public education system will move a step or two away from parental values and practices; reciprocally, parental perspectives may also change, become less parochial. There is good evidence that this happens. The third generation is not likely to be influenced by the values of their grandparents, as peer group values begin to back up values inculcated through public education, socialising, sport, and habituation – unless the priesthood intervenes. Do religious leaders, their schools, and other institutions hinder integration?” … …

“Ingrained prejudice cannot be changed by propaganda. For instance, again in the 1980s, a senior public servant, an icon of his political party, denied accommodation in migrant hostels to British immigrants, thereby denying the most important on-arrival assistance the nation could provide to needed immigrants from other countries as well. The Minister did not note this denial. Are Ministers adequately awake when reading briefs?

This senior public servant also cancelled the planned posting of a Moslem employee to an overseas migrant selection office, and the promised promotion of a Hindu employee to a senior position. But he was not a racist; only a tribal. Tribals tend to look after their own, by discriminating against those who did not belong! And some burbling about the Eucharist!

Racism and tribalism (I have suffered from both in Australia), cultural and religious prejudice, and the ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ attitude, like the ubiquitous bacterium or even crime, cannot be totally eradicated. The young priest who, in the mid-1960s, kept 5 Roman Catholic women away from their Protestant neighbour, is unlikely to have changed.

However, education, habituation, and media scrutiny will moderate extreme behaviour. Strengthening citizenship as a commitment to the nation and its values, as a measure of successful integration, will yet continue to make us one people out of many.”

The above extracts are from the chapter ‘On multiculturalism’ in my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’.

Destiny, God and the Spirit realm

My present understanding of Destiny is that we are indeed marionettes, the puppet master being a set of circumstances set up by ourselves. That is, we have free will, exercised both autonomously and reactively. By our actions and thoughts, we set in train the Cosmic Law of Cause and Effect; that is, the Law of Cosmic Justice (or Karma, as the Hindus term it).

We, in each life on Earth, carve out the banks and the rocky impediments through and over which will flow the river of our personal destiny in the next life, even as we obey the imperatives of Destiny in our current life. The latter would have been carved out in previous existences. Just as there are scientific laws which govern our physical lives, so there seem to be cosmic laws which govern our existence from birth to death, and thereafter.

Thus, in each life, I will paddle on the river of my personal Destiny. My trajectory will be within the walls of the canyon and over those rocky impediments I had carved out during my past life. As I paddle, relate to others, and respond to circumstances reflecting both the Law of Chance and the cosmic unavoidables (exercising what free will seems available), I will be carving out the framework for my next life, paying off my cosmic debt, and improving myself spiritually (if that is what I want).

Seems reasonable, does it not? Thus, I reached the conclusion, as said by some guru, that karma, like shadows, follows one everywhere. I also felt that chance must have an independent role in the circumstances of my life.

So, where is God in all this? All that is required from the one and only Creator is to set up the mechanisms underpinning our lives and relationships, let them evolve as appropriate, and allow us to choose our own path and bed. In some circumstances, He/She might choose to intervene in our lives.

But then, why not leave that work to the higher beings in the spirit world? They certainly seem to have been active in my life. Indeed, I can testify that I have received the odd message – and in a timely manner!

In so doing, were my spirit guides acting on their own? Or, were they only instruments of Destiny? If the latter, were they guiding me to optimise the opportunities available in my path of Destiny to improve my life-chances in both my current and future lives? Or, were they acting at the behest of God, who had chosen to intervene in my life?

How cosmic laws affect us after death, whether one meets God and one’s spirit guides; and, if so, where, is something which (presumably) one finds out only then. We certainly do not remember such experiences, any more than we can remember our past lives. Strangely, my attempted glimpses into my past lives, through auto-hypnosis, had displayed a strange consistency with the presentation of a couple of my alleged past lives by a respected clairvoyant healer.

When a significant experience is both confounding and inexplicable, why not simply accept it tentatively, I asked myself.

(This is an extract from my book ‘The Dance of Destiny’)

Ignorance or prejudice?

At a gathering of (ostensibly) religious leaders at a dinner table, a Hindu deity (a non-human) was included. The gathering was seemingly to celebrate the sharing of a meal based on the flesh of an animal. This animal is normally depicted in children’s story books as a cuddly ‘baa lamb.’ Lamb is a popular source of protein in Australia – which once rode to prosperity on the back of sheep (aged lamb).

In my early days in Australia, a great distinction was made between lamb and the less-popular mutton (the flesh of sheep). Mutton, however, provides a more tasty curry because of its higher fat content. A comparison could be made between range-fed beef and lot-fed beef, the latter containing the desired strings of fat threading the flesh.

As for the gathering of lovers of lamb meat from diverse faiths, which I saw on tv, it showed a caricature of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity. This caricature showed ‘Ganesh’ with a trunk which wiggled (in my view) like the tail of a pig. The trunk was thus a caricature of the trunk of an elephant.

Since the Hindu God, although omni-present, omniscient, and omni-powerful, is ‘unknowable,’ Hindus pray to a spectrum of deities who are manifestations – each with a predominantly characteristic attribute of relevance to humanity – of the one and only God of all mankind. Ganesha is one of these deities. He is much-preferred. My formative years included regular prayers at a Ganesha (Pilleyar) temple.

Where the Indian Government has reportedly protested that this advertisement for lamb meat is an insult to Hindu culture, I suggest that it represents sacrilege. I am offended. In the new multicultural Australia, could those responsible for the creation and approval of this advert. be so ignorant as to include a Hindu deity within a group of humans? And at a dinner table!

Further, since Hindus tend to be vegetarians, or eat very little meat, could the advert. be a form of thumbing one’s nose at a foreign faith? That is, does this advert. indicate a degree of religio-cultural prejudice? Is White Australia being re-visited?

Just asking!

Integrating ethno-cultural diversity

One can wear one’s culture loosely, like an overcoat resting on one’s shoulders, or wear it tightly, like a belted and hooded ankle-length raincoat. The latter may, to a substantial degree, be akin to a woman who prefers to be clad, in a Western nation, in a burqa in public. The latter, however, implies personal and physical separation, and a preferred isolation.

It can be argued that, in a free country, members should be free to dress as they wish, and possess the right not to be an integral component of the many, or to co-operate or congregate with those not like them. That is, such members would have the right only to co-exist (but not integrate) with those not like them.

How would such people then view the nation of which they are part? That it is quite acceptable to enjoy the identity and security provided by a sovereign nation-state without relating in a socially meaningful manner with ‘others’ in the nation?

Credibly, the foundation tribes from Britain formed themselves into the Australian people. There are no visible tribal clothing styles reflecting their origins. The huge post-war influx of Europeans then integrated themselves easily into the Australian ethos. More recently, the virulence of the White Australia policy having abated, coloured immigrants too are integrating successfully; with welfare sustaining most of those economic migrants claiming to be refugees. The latter represent the first category of entrants who are not economically viable.

More recently, we have been asked to modify our legal system to include sharia law, the first time the nation has been asked to adapt to the immigrant (rather than the reverse). We are also asked to accept that any cultural practice associated with Islam is sacrosanct. However, since suburban Australia is not exposed to hot desert sands, presumably we will not be seeing too many ‘walking tents’ on our streets.

Those immigrant tribes who seek to transpose all their traditional practices, some of which are not intrinsically tied to their religion, into their chosen nation, might simply want what the host-nation offers, but wish to retain their traditional practices unaltered. However, by the third generation, when grandpa’s edicts have been eroded by education, socialisation, and habituation, clothing styles and behaviour which separate our youth from one another can be expected to be forgotten.

Advanced immigrant-receiving nations realise that ethno-cultural diversity needs, in the interests of national identity and stability, to become progressively integrated (but not assimilated) into a coherent people.

Integration is a like a mixed salad, a gestalt, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is also comparable to the components of a rich palatable soup, giving texture and flavour to the soup, with each component making a sufficient contribution but without losing itself. Assimilation, however, is like a blended soup where all the ingredients are totally absorbed into the final product. I doubt if any immigrant-seeking nation seeks this outcome as current policy.

In time, assimilation may be the eventual outcome where there has been no input of new tribes. In the modern world, however, with so much migration, especially through asylum-seeking pressures, or because of a political integration of nations, a country composed of unintegrated tribes would not be a cohesive nation.

Most importantly, equal opportunity, if already available (as in Australia), may not be as accessible to marginal tribal communities were their members to be unwilling to modify those aspects of their inherited traditions and behaviours which are not in tune with the social mores and conventions of the host people.

Cultural adaptation would enable speedier integration, either through accessing available equal opportunities or by demonstrating the willingness of the immigrant community to share their lives more fully with others already in the nation.

All believers share the one and only Creator God of the Cosmos. Why not share the nation-state to which one belongs by choice?

 

Being ‘too black’ and a ‘coloured foreigner’

The White Australia policy had a sharp bite. Way back in 1949, Australia’s first Immigration Minister tried very hard to deport Mrs. Anne O’Keefe and her children. She was then married to an Anglo-Australian, and they had a cute little white baby. Mrs. O’Keefe and her daughters were Ambonese. They had been given succour in Australia, when her husband had died defending The Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) against the Japanese invasion. I had been a neighbour of that family.

The family remained in Australia after the High Court’s intervention. Reportedly, the High Court found that the Minister’s earlier deportation of other coloured people, especially Sergeant Gamboa (a Filipino who had served in the US military in Australia), was unlawful. But the Minister had only been attempting to apply the law. However, it was the Australian public which had defended the O’Keefe family.

Yet, as I had observed over a number of years in that period, the prevailing public attitude towards coloured people was antipathetic. The antipathy applied to white foreigners (non-British) as well. However, when able-bodied European workers were sought and brought into the country, the Good Neighbour Councils (of Anglo-Australians) set out to make them feel welcome.

Educated, fee-paying Asian youth studying in Australia had to fend for themselves; they were however strongly buttressed by their religio-cultural heritage. Discrimination was overt. Oral slights were not uncommon. Yet, we remained untouched, even as we adapted to Aussie traditions and colloquialisms.

One tradition I liked was the evening barbeque over a 9-gallon keg of beer. The party ended when the beer ran out – from (say) 4am to 8am. My hosts were fellow-workers in the factory where I worked, and on the trams. I must have been the first coloured tram conductor in Melbourne.

Since the Aussies then described all coloured people as black (East Asians were yellow), I had to put up with being a ‘blackfellow’ or ‘black bastard.’ But my Asian friends and I just went with the flow, knowing that when the oldest generation of superior whites met their Maker, our lives would be smoother. That did happen. Only the ignorant yobbo continues to seek to protect white space by name-calling.

S.18 (c) of the Racial Discrimination Act, regrettably, emboldens the odd coloured new immigrant to feel offended and humiliated by oral abuse by the yobbos. That is not discrimination! Such immigrants should have been here in the 1950s. I remind them of my father’s adage: ‘The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.’

In the mid-1950s, although I had qualified as a research psychologist, I was told that I was “too black” to be accepted by Australians. (I am a very light tan.) Later, when I qualified as an economist, I was advised that “the Australian worker is not yet ready for a foreign executive, much less a coloured one.” The first incident was witnessed; she confirmed my story a few years later. The second event was reported to me by the Head of the Graduate Employment Unit of the University of Melbourne.

In spite of all that, I am quite proud of my adopted nation. It has evolved into a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic, colour-blind polity. During my work experience in State and federal agencies, and in private companies (from factory hand to senior accounts clerk), only once was I addressed improperly. A fellow factory worker called out to me “Hey, Rastus!” He was obviously a book reader. The Australian worker does stand tall, unlike most of the workers in ‘emerging economies.’

My only complaint is about the overt discrimination during the last 5 years of my career (leading to early retirement) from a small but powerful gang, for whom the word mass carried great weight. This discrimination was clearly tribal. Yet, by being moved from here to there often, I had the opportunity to become very knowledge about all of the government’s migrant-integration and related policies.

From that nasty experience arose 6 books (refer amazon.com), and 44 in-depth articles (refer ezinearticles.com).

Destiny can work in shocking ways. I paid a heavy price for my learning, but it was worth it.

The spirit realm’s impacts on my life

Soon after I had survived death by dengue (fever) at age 18, a yogi called on my widowed mother and me. He convinced her that I would be going south to study. That direction for study was unknown to our community. I was despatched south. I left Australia 4 years later, as he had foretold. I returned to Australia as an immigrant a year later, thereby confirming the yogi’s somewhat cryptic hint that I would be overseas a great deal.

In my early 1990s, when the spirit of my uncle had materialised in the presence of clairvoyant C, Uncle told C that “the spirit world had experienced difficulty in getting him to Australia.” Many years later, I began to wonder whether a number of young educated Asian youths from British colonial territories in Asia, and thereby fluent in English, had been selectively manoeuvred into racist White Australia.

With unquenchable faith in our most durable cultural heritages, and equipped with the necessary traits of tolerance, fortitude, and resilience, and through un-planned marriage to Anglo-Australian girls, we would progressively change Australia’s assumed white supremacy to a cosmopolitan, tolerant polity. Australia would thus become colour-blind, essentially through tinted children with white mothers and coloured fathers appearing in the schools; with the teachers emphasising the commonality of all mankind, irrespective of country of origin or ethnicity. My wife and I contributed a great deal of time and effort to supporting our children’s schools.

It seems to me now that higher beings in the spirit realm are using appropriate trajectories of personal destiny paths to improve the morality of mankind wherever possible. I do like that, in spite of the reality that, socially, I remain a marginal member of society. That may be because of the role of those of us sent into exile as ‘scene changers.’ I am thus an instrument of societal change, while necessarily being changed by that role.

Most significantly, about a decade ago, I found a small mirror pulled off my kitchen wall and placed upright on a kitchen bench. Soon after, a photo was taken from a wall and inserted between vertical blinds on a window sill. Then I knew who was responsible for both events. They were the actions (I surmised) of someone who had once been very close to me, indicating that she is now dead. When I spoke to the unsighted spirit, her actions ceased.

Then, when the widow of the uncle who had appeared in spirit form to offer me guidance died, and she had been the second-most important woman in my life, she appeared to me in my mind as I was falling sleep on the evening she left Earth. On another occasion, someone who had helped me cope with the racism of White Australia let me knowwithin my mind – that she was departing Earth. I am truly grateful for such messages.
What is obvious is that the spirits of the recently-dead are able to reach some of us psychically. I am envious of clairvoyant C. He is clearly able to reach out to the realm of spirits.

Then a most incredible event occurred. A woman I did not know, and whom I had met only a few minutes earlier, began to tell me repeatedly, with her voice becoming raised “Your Spirit Guide says that you are not listening to him. He has tried to reach you a few times. While she spoke thus, she kept looking over my left shoulder. “Can you see him” I asked with great curiosity. “Yes” was her reply. “Can you describe him?” She did! Later, I asked her how I could listen to him. “Listen to your subconscious” was her reply.

The crucial issue here is that I had no idea that I have a Spirit Guide. In the light of my unending travails … … ! That the spirit realm existed was news to me until the spirit of my uncle made himself known. “Where now, old sow?” as might have been uttered by philosopher Lin Yutang to his porcine pet, is my question to myself.