‘The Dance of Destiny’ – Endorsements and Reviews

”Raja Arasa Ratnam’s ‘The Dance of Destiny’ can be read in a number of ways. The most approachable for a Westerner is as memoir and history. … Australia (very like the USA) is a land of immigrants and ‘The Dance of Destiny’ is as much a coming-of-age story for Australia as it is Ratnam’s. We follow the nation from political and cultural adolescence after WWII as reflected in its unconscious assumption that White is, quite naturally, the superior skin colour and Christianity, quite supernaturally, the only way to God.

Ratnam’s social and professional experiences are one long litany of injustices, but by the end of his career in government he records major advances in immigration and ethnic policies and develops a true affection for his chosen country. “Thus” he writes, “In terms of humanity, and a very necessary ethnic diversity, I saw the beginnings of a new Australia.”

So, this a very interesting and thought provoking book and made even more so where the narrative is interspersed with the author’s metaphysical meditations. Ratnam has read deeply and written at length about religion and spirituality.

Such contemplation has made him more able to accept what he calls his wheels-falling-off experiences as mere “manifestations of human will-power and folly, in a universe whose external and internal trajectories are symbolically signified by the flight of dragons,” … Believing as he does in reincarnation and the role of Destiny in his life, there is no closure to his story. One thinks, rightly so.”    BookReview.com

ENDORSEMENTS PRE-PUBLICATION

 Part 1 – THE WHEELS FELL OFF

” … an extraordinary piece of work. … it is unique because not only does it evoke in a rich fashion a life that has been extraordinary … but is also deeply reflective about what it means to be human. … an account of a journey of a soul, an account that enriches us as we continue on our individual pilgrimages through life.” –     Dr. Greg Melleuish, Associate Professor, School of History and Politics, University of Wollongong, Australia, and author

“As one might expect from a Tamil-Malayan-Australian, Raja Ratnam offers cross-grained reflections on his early life. Here is anecdote and analysis from an author who resorts to quotation despite sharpening epigrams of his own. Whether grieving or jocular, he is, by turn, percipient and puzzled, sceptical yet superstitious. The wheels have not fallen off his humanity.” –     Humphrey McQueen, historian and author, Canberra

” The witty, bittersweet reminiscences of a man travelling between cultures, observing and questioning systems and beliefs around him … This intriguing saga, packed with information on Tamil-Indian-Malay customs, offers a cosmic worldview with a twist.” –    Dr. Anne-Marie Smith, President, Multicultural Writers’ Association of Australia

Part 2 – OF HOLES WHICH WERE NOT THERE

“Here is a unique picture of Australia over the past 60 years by one who is both an outsider and an insider. It provides a picture of this country that may be uncomfortable to the reader at times because it tells truths that they would rather not hear. It is written by a man who not only has a soul but is willing to share his spiritual insights with us. If you wish to understand Australia as it really is, you must read Raj!” –     Associate Prof. Dr Greg Melleuish, School of History and Politics, University of Wollongong, Australia

“Thought provoking! Reflections based in sixty years at the heart of Australia’s post 1945-immigration process raise disturbing but necessary questions. Optimism tinged with realism prevails. Most strongly recommended.” –     Dr. John Atchison, Honorary Fellow, School of Humanities, University of New England, Australia.

“A gross understatement of the author’s achievements. A coloured immigrant, having been denied equal opportunity and fair treatment, in spite of proven managerial skills, became a prominent leader and an agent of desirable changes in civil society. With his insights, he offers hope for a racially diverse Australia.” –     Danny Ronis, retired Commercial Manager (treated as a ‘wog’, in spite of being born in Australia, because my father was a European.)

OTHER REVIEWS

The US Review of Books ‘Recommended’

“…my personal river of Destiny took me to where I had to go, no matter how hard I paddled to change directions.”

“What path does a man’s life take, and why? This nonfiction narrative is the author’s personal account of his journey. Born into a Ceylon Tamil family living in British-colonized Malaya, he was used to a multi-cultural environment. … After the war, he was accepted to study in Australia, and later had a distinguished career working with refugees and immigrants in the midst of racism.

This 411-page work does not get bogged down. Ratnam gives enough explanation to keep his story flowing without belabouring the issue. … It is not only the author’s life that is interesting, but it is how his background mixed with the larger significance of events happening around him that makes this book stand out. Ratnam discusses both harmony and prejudice based on race, religion, language, and customs, providing insight for any college student of sociology, race relations (including job discrimination), history of Malaya and Australia, Hinduism, or migrant settlement policies.”

Kirkus Discoveries – review

“A detailed exploration of a personal journey through varying cultures and countries. … Ratnam has a rare view of spiritual destiny, colonial politics and cultural identity. This memoir traces his childhood … to his move to Australia … creating a diverse array of cross-cultural situations. From the arrogance of British colonials disparaging the Asian cultures in ‘40s-era Malaysia, to the fight for immigrant equality in present-day Australia, the author examines racial and cultural divisions. He also speculates on the role that destiny places on life’s journey.”

 

 

 

‘The Dance of Destiny’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

This book was originally intended to be a memoir, for the benefit of my extended family. Blood- and marriage-related members of this family live mainly in Malaysia and Singapore; some are, however, to be found in Britain, the USA, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Sri Lanka. However, when 14 readers in 4 countries found Part 1(‘The wheels fell off’) very interesting; and a few others later found Part 2 (‘Falling into holes which were not there’) had deep spiritual implications, I had to publish it. In any event, a clairvoyant foretold its publication (in 2004).

This is a personal story, which is also reflective of the recent history of three modern nations.  It is written in the first person as experiences, thoughts, relationships, and observations. The latter are of life, of society, and of individuals, as well as of psychic phenomena, and of the Cosmos. The story is set in colonial British Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore) and in White Australia.

The personal story is of a peaceful life being suddenly transformed into disasters, the major ones having been foretold by a yogi from the Himalayas. These events are portrayed as wheels falling off the author’s life-chances cart. Other disasters are represented as falling into holes which were not there, a quaint concept of philosophical import. Suffering and sorrow, trials and tribulations, juxtaposed with a sustained extraordinary effort to survive, and some consequential achievements and joy, lead the author to examine the nature and role of Destiny. This naturally leads to assertions about matters spiritual. Spin-off benefits of this approach are an understanding:  of cosmic cause and effect; of an acceptance of ultimate Reality as an achievable prospect; of the bonds available between fellow humans; and of prospects of a desirable future when Asian values uplift the ‘fair-go’ ethos of Australia; and vice versa.

This understanding is relevant to the historical presentation of British colonial arrogance, Japanese brutality during its military occupation of Malaya, as well as the progressive evolution of a cohesive multicultural Malayan people from diverse ethnic origins. This scenario is then contrasted with the author’s experiences of the racism of the White Australia era, and the ongoing sensitivity and some fear by the Anglo-Celt Australian of coloured people from ancient civilisations and their cultures.  A further contrast is the religious tolerance already manifest in pre-war Malaya with the bitter religious contest of post-war Christian Australia. The author experienced both racism and tribalism in his career, being “too black” to be a psychologist, and the Australian worker in the private sector being “not ready to accept a foreign executive, especially a coloured one.”

Part 1 of the book (‘The Wheels Fell Off’) deals predominantly with pre-independence Malaya until 1953, and a brief East-West interlude.  The latter reflects the author’s marriage to, and a brief but interesting life in Singapore with, his Anglo-Australian wife. This part ends with the wife rejecting the husband on a cold winter’s morning at the kerbside of her parental home in Melbourne shortly thereafter. To rejoin her, the author, the abject black sheep of the family, the pariah of the community, had cut off any claim he had to return to his roots.  This left him in limbo, both geographical and societal. The ending to Part 1 is indeed dramatic.

Descriptions of ordinary life under the Japanese (not commonly published) have historical significance, according to a professor of history and politics in Australia.

In about 65,000, words the author has woven a light mesh of geography, history, sociology, politics and philosophy, in which he has embedded the story of his ‘wheels-falling-off’ experiences.  More than a dozen readers in four countries have said that it is an interesting ’read’, and well written.  The three pre-publication endorsements and the professional appraisal confirm this.

Part 2 (‘Of holes which were not there’) is set in Australia, from 1953 to the present. In about 65,000 words, it covers 55 years of the author’s life as a settler in a country he did not choose to live in, commencing with his exposure to the virulence of White Australia. His varied and highly contributory life; the career barriers experienced (including the shifting of goalposts, racist treatment, and the ganging up by some Roman Catholics of a so-called Irish persuasion); personal involvement as a volunteer in education policy, in career protection in the public sector, and (currently) in community health services; and some confusing psychic phenomena, are woven into a coherent whole into this part of the manuscript. As well, relevant aspects of society and community relations are included.

This part also reflects some post-war history of Australia (as evidenced by the first academic endorsement), and the successful integration of immigrants into a maturing and progressively more tolerant multicultural nation. The author, however, offers some strongly critical comment on official policies relating to multiculturalism, ethnic affairs, refugee entry, and citizenship, all based on his in-depth experiences.

The author, however, highlights with warmth the on-going ‘fair-go’ ethos of Australia, and the open-ness and reliability of the self-confident Anglo-Australian worker, whilst expressing concern about the individualism of the immigrant-created nations of the West, in contrast to the time-tested communitarian values of Asia and much of non-Protestant Christian Europe. His conclusion affirms his hope that his country of involuntary adoption will be a politico-societal beacon to neighbouring countries, with both East and West learning from each other’s cultural values.

In his attempts to explain events and behaviour which otherwise make little sense, the author has titled his story ‘The Dance of Destiny.’ Believing that this MS fits into the genres modern literature/memoir and society/philosophy, he offers his inter-cultural experiences and his philosophy (including a belief in one people arising from ethno-cultural diversity) to an intelligent global readership, as well as to those who might simply want to read an interesting and well written story.  The target reader is the genderless Everyman.

 

‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

Appraisal

“What a beautiful mind!  Hidden Footprints of Unity is a substantial work from an intelligent and spiritually perceptive man. Arasa has skilfully navigated his way through a vast array of subjects: the ‘strange sensitivity to skin colour by most adult whites … the search for the Divine … the desire by some to peer into the Void … the issues of a divisive tribalism and the imperatives of an evolving new Australian national identity’.  He has produced an eminently readable memoir, uplifting, provocative, and well written. He writes with a light touch on complex issues. His use of pertinent, often amusing, quotes adds a further dimension to his vision of the inter-connectedness of mankind.”

Arasa’s ideal is the Aussie Family of Man, evolving from the recently achieved cultural diversity. There are signs (footprints) that exist, but we must seek in order to find them. This memoir by an Asian immigrant reflects half a century of observation and analysis during an intensively interactive life in a fast-changing Australia.”

Synopsis

A memoir by an Asian immigrant. He offers his observations after more than half a century of an intensively interactive life covering an unusually wide range of activities in Australia.

Deposited by Destiny in a strange mono-cultural, mono-lingual, mono-chromatic nation which displayed contradictory attitudes towards fellow humans (derived from a misguided perception of the significance of skin colour), he has observed and analysed his fellow Australians whilst adapting, in a substantially contributory fashion, to his new home.  This record is not, however, a litany of whinges about the difficulties of life in Australia for a coloured person (especially in the early period) or even a recital of personal achievements and contributions – but some details of his personal experiences naturally provide some relevant ballast. It is neither effusive in gratitude, as might be expected from an imported ‘blackfellow’  who has had, on balance, a good life in a white nation; nor is it  exprobratively critical, although his cultural values are, at their core, somewhat at variance with those currently displayed by some fellow-Australians in key areas of human conduct.

Instead, this record focuses on the realities of life in the two principal areas of human significance: inter-community (especially black/white) relations, and the universal search for the Creator. Commencing with a look at that strange sensitivity to skin colour by most adult whites he has encountered, his narrative moves onto that rather weird competitive urge displayed by mere mortals in their search for the Divine, and then onto that understandable desire by one and all to peer into the Void of the future. Finally, it touches upon the issues of a divisive tribalism, and the imperatives of an evolving new Australian national identity.

Endorsements (pre-publication)

Chapter 4 – ‘Which Way to the Cosmos?’

                “I find the concepts in ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ most appealing, coming as they do from an agile mind which has managed to embrace cultures usually seen as competitive, or even enemies. This book should prove a precious contribution to mutual understanding”.

  • James Murray, SSC, recently retired Religious Affairs Editor, ‘The Australian’

Chapter 5 – ‘Peering into the Void’

              “As for your writing, it takes us out of our norms, our comfort zones, and reminds the reader that what we assume is objective historical reality is often mere permeable ideology, an arbitrary sense of order imposed upon the flux of life”.

              –    Paul Sheehan, Columnist, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and renowned author.

Chapter 2 – ‘The power of pigmentation’

              “The value of Chapter 2 lies in its use of personal experience of living in Australia. One is struck by the author’s sincerity and, at times, magnanimity in recounting the lack of tolerance at the hands of colleagues and acquaintances.”

  • Jerzy Zubrzycki, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, ANU

Chapter 6 –  ‘The end of tribalism?’

               “No question is more likely to provoke a quarrel between friends than some aspect of population policy. Are there too many Australians? Are the ones we have the right kind? Raja Ratnam is doubly privileged to reflect on such matters. He was a Malayan Hindu arrival when White Australia prevailed. By the 1980s, he was a senior public servant dealing with high policy.

His comments strike me as contrary and contradictory. He can be as anachronistic in his portrayal of Aussie customs as he is penetrating in his glimpses into how all Australians have managed the personal strains of living in a new place with even newer-comers. He is at his most perplexing when retelling his professional involvement with immigration policies. No one will read through this chapter without crying out “Too right” before having to stop themselves slamming the book shut with a shout of “What rot”.

Yet his retrospect and his prognosis are conveyed in a congenial voice, one that should contribute more to the sense of communal responsibility that he champions. Meanwhile, his neo-Liberalism seems set to demolish what Australia retains of these values.”

               –   Humphrey McQueen,  historian and renowned author.

 

 

 

Accolades for ‘Destiny Will Out’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

When this book was published in Britain (because Australian publishers were not interested), and distributed in Australia, the response from senior academics was incredibly warm. As one said to the author “This is the first occasion when we are able to know about the first-hand experiences of our early Asian students.” Another said, in relation to the extensive official efforts to assist immigrants to settle successfully in Australia, “This is the first time that we have had access to an ‘inside’ story; can you tell us more?”

And the Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs bought a copy; no one had presented the totality of Australia’s successful settlement policies before. And that was because the author had been responsible for all these policy programs (and was the only one at that time).

That he was thus knowledgeable was reflected in him being considered for the position of Chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council of South Australia and, then, Western Australia. Alas, parochialism had to prevail. As there would have been no increase in his remuneration, it was the challenge which attracted him.

The accolades

“——-a well-written, honest, first-hand account of the trials, the pain, the pleasures, the frustrations, and the ultimate success of an Asian immigrant in Australia——-contains important lessons——-.The story is peppered with keen observations, acerbic comments, strongly expressed opinions and wry humour.——-Totally fascinating and strongly recommended”. —Probus News (Spring 1999)

  • “——-honest, insightful, and marked by a genuine perception of the workings of Australian culture and society——-provides an intelligent and spiritually perceptive man’s views and reflections on how Australia has changed over the past forty years.——-It is the sort of book that should be widely read as an antidote to the blinkered views held by both pro- and anti-multiculturalists, because it offers humanity (and spirituality) in an area too dominated by abstract and barren intellectualising” —Dr Gregory Melleuish, Senior Lecturer (History and Politics), University of Wollongong,, and author of “The Packaging of Australia”
  • “——-a timely book. The author is well qualified to comment on burning issues of ethnicity, tribalism and cultural hegemony, ——-having had personal experience of settlement in Australia over a period of half a century; voluntary involvement in a range of community organisations; and work experience as a senior public servant——-” —Prof Jerzy Zubrzycki, Emeritus Professor; and Member, National Multicultural Advisory Council

.· “A rare blend of experience, reflections, and strong judgements, grounded in keen insight. Arasa knows how vote-seeking parliamentarians and ambitious ‘ethno-politicians’ do not see how their actions work against the life-chances of immigrants, by distorting social justice, democracy and language as power foci of official multiculturalism. A cleansing fire! Highly recommended!” — Dr John Atchison, Senior Lecturer (Classics, History and Religion), University of New England.

 “——-a narrative interspersed with charming homilies and thoughtful commentary about Australian society and its reaction to the substantial contact with people of non-European origins——-” “——-a wealth of empirical material regarding the transformation of Australian society, with particular regard to the sensitive areas of immigration, cultural diversity and race relations.” ——-“He has many salient points to make about the distinction between cultural diversity and State-funded multiculturalism, and the problems of public education and the welfare system—–” “This authentic testament of the migrant experience in the midst of the White Australia policy also offers refreshing perspectives, bereft of bureaucratic jargon and, more importantly, of the sort of predictable rhetoric one has come to expect from some political activists.” –Jason Soon in “Policy” (Spring 1999), organ of The Centre for Independent Studies, Australia.

“The family re-union (immigration) program and structural multiculturalism have come in for their share of criticism and analysis in the 1980s, and Arasa has some pungent insider’s comment on these topics and on the humanitarian (refugee) intake.” –– Dr Katharine Betts, (Senior Lecturer, Swinbourne University of Technology) in “People and Place”, vol. 7, no. 2, 1999

Reader responses

“——-thoroughly enjoyed it. It is well written, informative and slyly witty.” —Noel Purves, Retired school principal, Western Australia

“Raw honesty, with unsettling insight. Read it and reassess multiculturalism.” —Danny Ronis, Planning Manager, South Australia

“…….I found his account of childhood…….fascinating and nostalgic,…….his experiences of emigration to Australia and subsequent struggles to understand and come to terms with the culture are where he affords insight and sympathy with the new immigrant’s plight.” —Philippa Cairns, Co-ordinator, ESOL (English as a Second Other Language) Home Tutor Service (Western Bay of Plenty). New Zealand.

“I must congratulate you on your commendable work in bringing out a worthy publication. I enjoyed your language, particularly your humour and quotes.” —C. Rajadurai,, former Bursar, University Technology; Executive Secretary, Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia; and community leader, Malaysia.

“I recommend that all Australians read this book to understand what immigrants go through” —Maria de Rocco (ex-Italy), Music Tutor, New South Wales.

“……Arasa’s insight into problems that arise, along with suggestions on how to avoid them and live in harmony in a multiculturally enriched society is an intriguing read.” –-Hilary Chaly, Legal Executive, New Zealand

“Arasa’s book is poignant and informative for anyone of adult age. We have lived through enormous cultural/political changes in Australia since World War Two. I have watched the face of the nation change, and read the book with fascination……..” –Maureen Nathan (ex-South Africa), Pharmacist, New South Wales.

“A definite inside story reflecting prejudice and his success against mountainous odds due to his colour……..Excellent reading.” —Dr. Zyg Atlas (immigrant), medical practitioner, and author of “Just One Life”. Victoria

“It is the detail about your personal history and about your experiences in Australia that are particularly rewarding for the reader ……….Full marks for the penetration and perspicacity of your observations, the lucidity of your English, and the wealth of detail”. – –Robert Purves, barrister-at-law, UK and Australia.

 

Why blame God?

About a decade ago, a close friend who had cancer, said to the rector of her church “I thought God would have cured me by now.” A few years later she died. On the day preceding her expected demise, I had promised her that she would be going to a much better place, since she did not want to die.

Digressing – I have talked to a number of senior citizens who made it clear that they feared death. How could any old person live with such a terrible feeling?

I have also talked to many people who blame God for their tribulations and other disasters. Why? Because the Creator of all must be responsible for all that goes wrong (such as man-made wars); or which is morally wrong (such as evil intent in humans); or some personal misadventure. I am uncertain whether God is also blamed for natural disasters or cosmic catastrophes; I suspect many do.

Why set up a straw man and then throw stones at him? University courses may do that; but, in the real world, one’s expectations should surely be drawn from the observed, the known. Thus, is God really an interventionist Creator? Or, have some of us imagined God in the image of an all-powerful father? A father who can be blamed for not delivering that ice-cream we thought we had earned by behaving well?

Why not accept the strong probability of autonomous processes in our transit through life on Earth, from our distant historical origin to where we are now. There are millions of such processes in life, in Nature, including the miracle of the birth of fully-formed babies; the empathetic behaviour by humans such as contributing to civil society; the symbiosis between insects and plants, and plants and humans; the exceedingly complex inter-connection between almost everything in the Universe; and the evolutionary process which enables improvement through successful change.

Why not look for the simplest, but adequate, explanations? If a Creator exists (and we have no proof of that), all that is required is an arm’s-length Creator who set up a simple machinery, gave it the breath of life, of growth, of variation – and let autonomous processes to proceed thereafter. No one can then be blamed for anything not to our liking. Why expect the Creator to do more? So that we have someone to blame?

We do need to grow up, and face the dark; that is, accept what is unavoidable – and adapt and evolve!

 

How Man arrived in the Cosmos

How soul-satisfying is the beauty of the Universe at all times, and which we are also made aware of in other ways. The majesty of the mountains which tower over all; the sibilance of the sea at rest; the scintillating sensual sunsets; the joyful bombasts of birdcalls; and the soothing scenery surrounding unprepossessing man-made constructions; are only some of the sights and sounds which uplift our spirits.

How incredibly complex is this Universe and its components. The miracle of birth; the very visible and innate love between the young – animal to animal (or bird), and between human and animal (and bird); the structure and functioning of our solar system which affect our lives insidiously; the strange balance between animate and inanimate life on Earth; the mostly unconscious bond between humans of all varieties; and an unavoidable instinctive yearning by many of us for merging with what we conceive of as the Divine; and the unbelievably complex arrangements within our bodies, such as the provision of energy by our cellular structure, which represents life; these are key features of Cosmic complexity.

These, and the totality of the inter-relationships discovered in the Universe, have led me to believe – and to accept – that logically there has to be a Creator of all that is. How and why are questions beyond our comprehension.

As one who was introduced to the scientific method, I follow ‘Occam’s Razor,’ the principle which says that that the simplest adequate explanation is best. Yes, it has to be minimally adequate.

Such an explanation of the origin, structure, and operation of the Universe and its components can be thus: An arm’s-length Creator set up a simple core ‘machinery,’ imbued it with a capacity for continuous change, with an associated sense of ‘purpose,’ and allowing evolution (change reflecting improvement or betterment) to occur.

Purpose (including human free will) can explain, in part, where we are now; possibly aided in our formation by ubiquitous bacteria, and by (Sitchin’s) 223 extraterrestrial genes (not found anywhere else on Earth) during our development. Chance and radiation/bombardment from distant space, as well as solar bursts, would also have had significant impacts on our path to the present.

No Earthly mind can prove – or disprove – this attempted explanation. No one can be blamed or receive credit for what has eventuated. Adding additional complexity may reflect only egoism.

What is postulated is an autonomous process, operating post-creation. A comparison – when sperm fuses with ovum to form a zygote. Asking ‘Why?’ would not be relevant.

Are humans programmed for spiritual experiences?

I had a spiritual experience in a Yoga Ashram. It was an incredibly emotional experience when I was in deep meditation. It was personal.

On the contrary, Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual exposure (refer a relatively recent post of mine) was about the underlying processes of the Universe. His description of the event – in a dream? – was unbelievable. It cannot be discounted. A real experience cannot be sneered away by professional sceptics. We know very little about ourselves and our Earthly home.

Is there a facility in the human brain (and psyche) which enables some of us to have religious or spiritual experiences?

Many years ago I read that some scientist had made the following discovery. When an electrical probe touched a particular part of the brain, the patient reported sensations which seemed to be, or were interpreted as, of a religious nature. What staggered me was the suggestion that the origin of religious experiences had now been found.

As I wrote in one of my books, this is akin to saying that the music, scenes, etc. we experience through radio or television actually originate in these machines!

However, I realised that a specific area of the human brain may be ‘programmed’ (by evolution?) to receive signals which we interpret as religious or spiritual. Surely, we have all been emotionally influenced by beautiful sights, inspiring music, religious chants, and suchlike – up to a level akin to ecstasy.

Neuroscientist Prof. V.S. Ramachandran said “ … with the lie detector we were able to show that the human brain apparently responds particularly strongly to religious ideas … … we concluded that evolution might have equipped the human brain with special circuits for spiritual experiences. That would explain why all people have a religion. … … these are highly speculative ideas … “ (Refer Ramachandran’s article on Consciousness ‘In the Hall of IIlusions’ in Stefan Klein’s ‘We are all stardust,’ – a most interesting book.)

In my view, it pays to have an open mind to achieve a glimpse of reality.

First impressions of Black Australia (3)

“When I worked, after retirement, as a lowly service station attendant, providing driveway service late at night, I met a wide range of Aborigines, a few seemingly full-blooded. There were those who were apparently well paid, driving expensive cars, and employed by Aboriginal organisations. I was told by a couple of them that, in spite of their academic or professional qualifications, there were no jobs available to them in the private sector.

At about the same time, the federal government was talking about unemployed Aboriginal people learning to conduct their own businesses. Why weren’t the unemployed whites asked to do this too? One would also need to ask whether many whites would accept Aboriginal professional, quasi-professional or trades people. The antipathy against Aborigines seems to me to be very substantial.

Other Aborigines I met ranged from a couple who worked for the state government, to a goodly number living on welfare. From time to time, a dilapidated car full of apparently inebriated not-so-young Aborigines would arrive at the service station, noisily arguing, often using the filthiest language. On seeing me (perhaps it was my grey hair), they would become silent and be most polite. In the streets, I might be bumped accidentally by an Aborigine, and the apology addressed to me as Bro or Brother was prompt. I could never fault the behaviour of an Aborigine in my presence.

The most impressive Aborigine I have met to date is a young lady, who developed her Aboriginal heritage only after reaching adulthood. Today she is an elder, busily guiding her people, as well as building bridges between black and white. I sense, with regret, that only a minority of whites are interested in reconciliation, and in assisting the Aboriginal people to develop themselves. In the light of the country’s history, any effort to reach out to the Australian indigene in an un-patronising manner is surely a most progressive step. However, when I attended, as a member of a local adult education committee, a reconciliation study, I was impressed with the understanding and goodwill displayed by the whites participating, and the way local Aboriginal women guided the group.

Yet, I am saddened by the sight of Aboriginal people who are, by build and features, essentially European. However, because they sport a nice tan, they are not part of the mainstream populace. I see so many healthy and happy looking indigenous people, with nicely behaved kids, just wandering around, presumably living on welfare. Others, most employed in Aboriginal organisations, are rarely seen in public.

Obviously, class differences exist amongst the indigenes, as with the rest of us. Collectively, though, they seem a separate caste — the Australian untouchable. Something, surely, has to be done to break this logjam of Aboriginal marginalisation. By providing jobs and skills training, governments and the private sector might induce some of the indigenes to integrate (but not necessarily assimilate) into the mainstream — ie to join the immigrants being integrated. Just as the immigrant ethnic communities are encouraged and enabled to retain those aspects of their tribal cultures which are not incompatible with the institutions and public mores of Australia, the indigene should be free to hold onto his Dreamtime or other cultural traditions, whilst integrated.

Integrating with the mainstream population should not require the indigene to reject, or disengage from, any Aboriginal self-determination service structures that exist or that might be introduced. After all, ethnic communities are free to have parallel settlement service structures (often funded or subsidised by governments), which are generally ethno-specific.”

The above are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity,’ which was published in 2004. Hopefully, there have been increased opportunities made available since then to Australia’s indigenes to reach parity, in both economic and social terms, with mainstream Australians, without losing their status as the First Peoples of Australia.

The good news is that in dance, drama and art, our indigenes have made their mark. Have they had equal exposure in access to the public? Public exposure has, however, highlighted their great sporting skills. As well, a handful seem to have reached great heights in politics, the law, and academe, presumably through personal effort.    

 

 

 

First impressions of Black Australia (2)

This is part 2 of a chapter titled ‘To have a dream’ in my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’  This chapter was headed thus:

“It is a great shock … to find

that, in a world of Gary Coopers,

you are the Indian”.

– James Baldwin

“The first Aborigine I talked to seemed to be a tradesman. It was in the 1960s. He confused me by asking about my colour. I felt that he lost interest in me when I explained that I was an Asian immigrant. I never saw him again — not surprisingly, as this bar was becoming popular with public servants. The latter, having recently risen from the working class, are normally very fussy about the company they keep, especially as they move up their career ladders. One should never be seen to socialise with anyone below one’s level.

I then met the redoubtable Charlie Perkins, a recent graduate. He addressed a group of university graduates, and impressed us with his enthusiasm and vision, as well as with his plea. He asked that the Aborigines should be given the opportunity to adapt to modern society, to control their own lives and finances, even if they made many mistakes during the learning process. He received a standing ovation. When I met him again, I was looking for a job at senior executive level, and he was the head of the Aboriginal Affairs Department. He had changed. I sensed a certain arrogance. He may even have suspected that he had been fast-tracked as part of the government’s window dressing. All his senior advisers were white. His official life could not have been easy. I did not obviously appeal to him.

A few years later, I was a member of a committee deciding a promotion appeal in that department. A young Aborigine was the appellant, against the promotion of a white officer. I realised then how tough it would have been for a young Aborigine, with ambition and his own vision, to make progress in a department dominated by whites, and where the government might have its own concealed agenda.

Somewhere along the line, I set about trying to help Aborigines in the public sector in Canberra to improve their skills, thereby raising their confidence and presentation. I offered training in chairmanship and public speaking (skills shown to benefit everyone); and on their own terms. They could have their own Aboriginal club within Rostrum, an Australia-wide organisation well regarded for its training capabilities, and whose graduates were in senior positions in both the private and public sectors. Or, we could provide training in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, there being no indigene employed elsewhere. Or, they could train themselves in that Department under our expert guidance. We had the skills and the will.

There was, regrettably, no interest, in spite of my trying to persuade the highly-regarded Captain Saunders (ex-Army and an indigene), and the Department’s senior management that what I offered was valuable. So, that was that. Since it would have cost the Aborigines nothing, except a little effort to learn and to practice …!”

As a former colonial subject, and as one who believes in having, and displaying, self-confidence, with pride in one’s cultural ancestry, I was sorely disappointed that Australian Rostrum’s free gift to the Aboriginal members of the federal public service in the national capital was rejected. Progress in any endeavour requires the acquisition of requisite skills.

My colleagues and I taught public speaking (especially making impromptu speeches) as relevant training in being able to present one’s view at meetings while seated.  That Rostrum training had assisted many to reach senior positions in both private and public sectors was well known.  

 

 

 

 

Destiny – God – and the spirit realm

“ What was to happen to me, and thus to my family, was actually foretold to my mother and me soon after my father’s demise, but in an indirect and somewhat casual manner by a visiting yogi. But, his message or warning had not registered with us. Thus, we had to perform the dance of Destiny as laid out for us. So, why was he sent to alert us?” … …

“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? “

These are extracts from my second memoir (and a very personal one) titled ‘The Dance of Destiny’. Like ‘The Karma of Culture,’ ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity,’ and ‘Musings at death’s door,’ it was Recommended by the US Review of Books.