Speaking American English on Australian tv

For years, the Australian media has tended to follow any new developments in American media. For example, way back in the 1960s, when some radio advertisers in the USA began to shout their messages, Australia followed. Until recently, a particular presenter on Australian tv shouted his wares as if he had to rush off to void something.

Then, more recently, tv news readers on the national broadcaster and on the multicultural channel (part subsidised) began to interview reporters during the news broadcast. Unlike the olden days, when the speech sounds were (sort-of) British, the accents heard in recent decades were those of educated readers speaking Australian English.

Now, there has developed a new trend. Increasingly, some presenters and reporters are attempting to speak American English. I set out below a letter I wrote for publication in my local newspaper; it did not see the light of day.

“Speaking American English on ABC tv and SBS tv

It is fascinating to hear some Aussie newsreaders and reporters on ABC tv and SBS tv attempting to speak American English. They do this by accenting the first syllable; for example, Sah-hara (the desert), dough-nation, dee-fence. Increasingly, we also hear nairies and tawries, like ordi-nairy and terri-tawry.

Are we preparing for the privatisation of these two institutions? Or for that desirable shift from satrapy to new American state? Heh! Heh!

In view of the probable isolation of Australia on the edge of Asia, when mother hen progressively gathers the chicks wandering about on their own up north, as well as for a desirable shift in Australia away from policies based on welfare to individual enterprise and effort, and for us not having to pay for our military equipment, I have recommended in my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’ that Australia should seek to become the next state of the USA.

Although my adopted nation (of which I have reason to be proud) is clearly a satrapy of the US hegemonic empire, rushing off to back the USA in any conflagration commenced by it, our media and politicos pretend that we a middle power. That we may be as well, but we cannot be an Asian nation.

I find it fascinating to hear how some readers and reporters try to emphasise that first syllable in what apparently is the way Americans speak. However, some words, like ‘missils’ (for missiles), pose no difficulty.

How do our school children cope with this dual approach to speech, with their teachers speaking Aussie English and tv offering American English?

 

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Racial discrimination law presents confusing concepts

Australia’s racial discrimination legislation successfully confuses acts of discrimination and words indicating prejudice, a feeling. Discrimination involves treating an individual or group differently from others, generally less favourably. Examples would be: a denial of equal opportunity, or paying wages below a legal entitlement. There may be no antipathetic feeling associated with the act of discrimination.

Whereas prejudice can be displayed in looks of disdain, or in spoken words, such as those used by bullies (or idiots) in a playground or in a work situation.

Denial of a right or entitlement will hurt – emotionally and materially. The effects can be very long term. Do read my 2 posts titled ‘The myth of racial discrimination’ to fully appreciate what actual discrimination is all about.

The discrimination I had to endure in not only the White Australia era but also in the 1980s was substantial, not imagined or coined. Initially, the discrimination I experienced reflected responses to my skin colour and to my being foreign. Latterly, the trigger was tribo-religious (‘not one of us’); and I had to ‘go with the flow’ to be allowed to work in peace. I thought it wise to retire prematurely.

Words uttered by rude people – mainly through ignorance or stupidity – can hurt, but only if one allows that! Why would one want to do that? Would one feel hurt and humiliated were the heavens to open suddenly, and deposit cold water on one’s head? Of course, one would feel chastened and a little hurt were a parent or a teacher or one’s boss to be rude in correcting one’s attitude, behaviour, or quality of work.

The Australian Aborigine has had to put up with more than 2 centuries of oral abuse! Has racial legislation provided significant protection? Yet, some recent coloured immigrants have allegedly spoken about being hurt and humiliated by nasty people addressing rude words at them. Is it time to adopt this adage: “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on”?

Legislation should legitimately focus – and be restricted to – acts of discrimination (ie. to a denial of rights), and be couched in semantically and legally clear terminology. However, the current legislation in Australia offers the opportunity for harmless words of disapproval to be posited as harmful and humiliating.

Immigrants are traditionally ‘adventurers,’ displaying resilience and fortitude in travelling to another nation, and integrating with those already in the country they chose to enter. Some of them can, of course, be opportunistic.

 

The ‘not-so-lucky’ country

‘The lucky country,’ by the consummate social commentator Donald Horne, was published in 1964, when Australia was struggling to grow out of its self-chosen superior white status. Since I had been in Australia since 1948 (except for one year), I could safely say that neither the people nor the government wanted to accept coloured people as their equals at that time. The new Asian nations, however, had an opposing view, having got rid of their never-wanted superior white rulers at last (with the assistance of Japan).

Horne coined a sardonic term which has been intentionally or ignorantly misrepresented. Penguin Books Australia offers the following commentary by another great social commentator, Hugh Mackay.

‘Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.’

“The phrase ‘the lucky country’ has become part of our lexicon; it’s forever being invoked in debates about the Australian way of life, but is all too often misused by those blind to Horne’s irony.

When it was first published in 1964 The Lucky Country caused a sensation. Horne took Australian society to task for its philistinism, provincialism and dependence. The book was a wake-up call to an unimaginative nation, an indictment of a country mired in mediocrity and manacled to its past. Although it’s a study of the confident Australia of the 1960s, the book still remains illuminating and insightful decades later. The Lucky Country is valuable not only as a source of continuing truths and revealing snapshots of the past, but above all as a key to understanding the anxieties and discontents of Australian society today.”

A media release titled ‘The Lucky Country’ by the Australian Government said:

“He was thinking about things like Australia’s cultural cringe, its foreign policy and the White Australia Policy. He was, to paraphrase those words, talking about a ‘not too clever country’.

I had in mind in particular the lack of innovation in Australian manufacturing and some other forms of Australian business, banking for example. In these, as a colonial carry-over, Australia showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society.

Australia, Horne argued, developed as a nation at a time when we could reap the benefits of technological, economic, social and political innovations that were developed in other countries. Those countries were clever: Australia was simply lucky.”

What can one say about Australia today?

I offer extracts from the Preface of my 2012 book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’

“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 …  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 … official policies …  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.

In the meanwhile, exaggerated and often self-nominated individual rights have led to the breakdown of family, which has traditionally been the backbone of society everywhere. Excepting those few involved in civil society (I am one of them), there is a rising tide of ‘takers.’ These are found at all levels – from foreign investors, corporate leaders and politicians, down to the many professionally work-shy welfare recipients.

Pockets of well-meaning individuals, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider seriously relevant policy issues, form glee clubs supporting the takers or those who seek to take, e.g. asylum seekers. Communal responsibility and per­sonal respect are thinning out like an outgoing tide at the beach. Since our politicians are pre-occupied with short-term politics rather than long-term policies – the current batch presenting themselves as the worst I have experienced – the community, by and large, reminds me of the movement of an empty stoppered bottle floating on rough seas.”

Neo-colonialism (Part 2)

How neo-colonialism exploits former African colonies is covered in the following extracts from Neo-colonislism.com on the Internet. European nations, including the USA, are described as exploiting African nations through the purchase of cash crops, the mining of African minerals, and the manufactured goods sold to the Africans. I presume that this pattern of international transactions applies to other developing nations.

“According to Rodney and Amin, European countries, and increasingly the United States, dominated the economies of African countries through neocolonialism in several ways. After independence, the main revenue base for African countries continued to be the export of raw materials; this resulted in the underdevelopment of African economies, while Western industries thrived. A good example of this process is the West African cocoa industry in the 1960s: during this time, production increased rapidly in many African countries; overproduction, however, led to a reduction in the selling price of cocoa worldwide.

 Neocolonial theorists therefore proclaimed that economies based on the production of cash crops such as cocoa could not hope to develop, because the world system imposes a veritable ceiling on the revenue that can be accrued from their production. Likewise, the extraction and export of minerals could not serve to develop an African economy, because minerals taken from African soil by Western-owned corporations were shipped to Europe or America, where they were turned into manufactured goods, which were then resold to African consumers at value-added prices.

A second method of neocolonialism, according to the theory’s adherents, was foreign aid. The inability of their economies to develop after independence soon led many African countries to enlist this aid. Believers in the effects of neocolonialism feel that accepting loans from Europe or America proved the link between independent African governments and the exploitative forces of former colonizers. They note as evidence that most foreign aid has been given in the form of loans, bearing high rates of interest; repayment of these loans contributed to the underdevelopment of African economies because the collection of interest ultimately impoverished African peoples.

The forces of neocolonialism did not comprise former colonial powers alone, however. Theorists also saw the United States as an increasingly dominant purveyor of neocolonialism in Africa. As the Cold War reached its highest tensions at roughly the same time that most African countries achieved independence, many theorists believed that the increasing levels of American aid and intervention in the affairs of independent African states were designed to keep African countries within the capitalist camp and prevent them from aligning with the Soviet Union.” … …

This extract from Enclopaedia.com  shows how colonialism can succeed without the use of arms or OTHER COERCIVE MEANS. I recall an aid agency, one of the members of which required its aid money to be spent in its country. Charity can be materially beneficial to the donor.

 

 

Acts of discrimination do cause hurt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is racial legislation of any relevance in offsetting past discrimination?

Displayed prejudice is universal

Normal human beings develop or learn negative attitudes or feelings about others, including members of their own family. One can be prejudiced about almost anything or anyone. I, for instance, will not eat beetroot because of its colour. Colour prejudice? Yes! Racist? No!

Some time ago, a brown-coloured Aussie accused a brown-coloured visiting Indian of uttering a racist remark against him. The Indian probably said something in his own language; it might have been quite innocuous. That a member of a team known for its great skill in sledging (whispering denigrating remarks intended to diminish the concentration of the opponent in a sporting game) should make such a claim was seen by the press to be interesting.

But, how could any comment by a coloured person to a fellow coloured person be deemed to be ‘racist’? Skin colour was the basis of racism, initiated by white colonial ‘races.’ What does racism mean today, since there is no agreement as to what a ‘race’ is. Are the ethnically-mixed British or the Chinese a race? Or, is it a political definition?

To confuse the issue, the Australian Government once had a policy of ‘managing multiculturalism.’ This led to some ethnic empowerment, mainly of successfully settled Europeans. Ethno-cultural immigrant communities (all the others having blended, integrated into an Australian people over time) were encouraged to hang on to their cultures with pride. Where Aboriginal people had to put up with both prejudice and overt discrimination for two centuries, all of a sudden, some ‘ethnics’ began to claim suffering from the words of others (while equal opportunity was available).

Discrimination is quite a separate matter (to be discussed in later posts). Like preceding posts, this post is restricted to words reflecting prejudice or negative attitudes, and not actions.

Now, we have racial discrimination legislation. This limits free speech. For what benefit, and to whom? But then how is it possible to discriminate with just words, without any act to damage involved? Removing S.18(c) is opposed by certain people purporting to speak for others. How did these spokespersons come to be so qualified? Did they carry out surveys, and so on?

The powerful State of Israel surely does not need protection from any critics of its policies through ‘racial’ legislation in Australia. Immigrants with pride in who they are do not need protection from the unavoidable ‘ignoramus’ in Australia. Can the Aborigines benefit from racial legislation, assuming they can gain access to it? Who else needs protection from silly throw-away words?

The word ‘race’ is meaningless in reality, and the way it is used in the law. How about human rights legislation, even if that is opposed by the Catholic Church? That cannot happen the way we are ruled.

Ingrained ignorance, reflected in bias, is difficult to erode – except through a moral surge!

 

 

 

 

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?