Cheapening Australian citizenship

For years, the residence qualification for citizenship in Australia was a total of 5 years out of 8. Then, reflecting a quaint policy of harnessing ethnic votes, including offering some ethnic empowerment, the qualifying period began to be reduced. One government reduced this period to 3 years. The other government educed this period to 2. Just like competition in the retail sector.

Reducing the waiting period for permanent residents to apply for Australian citizenship from 5 years out of 8 to 3, and then to 2, may not have captured the ethnic vote. The reality is that immigrant voters engaged in business tended to vote conservative; the workers generally voted labour. However, this diminution of the value of citizenship allowed those with criminal intent to keep their heads down during this period. With citizenship, they could not be deported.

Prime Minister Howard’s 4-year residence requirement was a pragmatic solution. Was lawful temporary residence included in the qualifying period? Currently, a total of 4 years’ residence, with a minimum of 1 year’s permanent residence is required. As a consequence, now there is a perception that a 1-year residence as a permanent resident should be enough, even without any prior temporary residence. What are the risks for the nation?

Dual citizenship (introduced for political purposes) had already diminished the value of our citizenship. Australian citizens can now fight for their country of origin, if they have dual citizenship.

To re-clad citizenship, which requires a commitment to the nation, it is surely desirable that 4 years of permanent residence be a primary requirement. A secondary requirement is that those seeking our citizenship should demonstrate clearly that they wish to integrate into the nation. What is unfair about these requirements?

(I was the Head of the Citizenship Branch in the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs, whose expert team conducted the first ever review of our Citizenship Act – in the early 1980s. It was my recommendation, which was accepted by the government, that no one should govern, administer, or fight for the nation without Australian citizenship.

Beware those who want to make citizenship easy to access. Ask ‘Who benefits?’

I am also the author of a number of books, under my author name Raja Arasa Ratnam, on the successful settlement – integration – of immigrants and refugees. Refer amazon kindle)

 

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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?

 

Intimations about the Afterlife

I had a dream recently. I woke up at the conclusion of the dream, wondering whether it followed my recent speculations about the Afterlife. As a metaphysical Hindu, through some in-depth reading and careful analysis, I accept the probability of the existence of my soul, the reincarnation process, and a re-charging domain I conceive as the Afterlife.

The concept of an Afterlife is very challenging. Would insubstantial soul-entities, the spirits of former Earthlings, need a home of substance? But then I cannot conceive of an insubstantial place where a goodly number of soul-entities could sojourn. However, I realise that at age 89 I can expect to have my curiosity satisfied very soon.

Since I had been advised by a casual clairvoyant (or seer) to listen to my subconscious for messages from my Spirit Guide, I wonder if my dream was more than wishful thinking. Living in a flat country whose highest mountain is a mere pimple, whose rivers do not seem to flow like those in New Zealand, and whose dry terrain does not attract much rain (except for sudden troubling downpours occasionally), my subconscious may be seeking to compensate for this deprivation by Nature.

In my dream, I was on a lush mountain top, with a raging river below on one side and a cliff on the other – which allowed me to see the distant sea and a rocky shore. It was raining, but I do not remember getting wet. I heard voices, yet neither saw nor met anyone. It was as if we were all avoiding one another. In the morning, I again remembered this compensatory dream. After all, had I not been born and bred in a lush tropical terrain? Had I not enjoyed the years I had lived there?

Then, much to my great surprise, during my sleep a few nights later, I had a thought flitting through my mind. Intuitively, I felt that spirits created their own personal environments in the Afterlife. Was that message from my Spirit Guide? As a recluse of many years, I am attracted to this possibility.

Indubitably, the conceptual vista of my soul as a time-traveller, traversing countries and cultures through the occupation of a long series of human bodies, and living (with all its pains and pleasures), and learning while necessarily adapting to a new home, and ultimately returning to The Source morally purified is spiritually satisfying. As ever, it is the journey (in spite of great suffering on the way) which matters, not the arrival Home.

Evidence of life after Earthly death

My personal evidence is as follows. After reading a large compendium providing an up-to-date summary of findings in the paranormal realm, I went to consult a clairvoyant. He had been recommended to me. I wanted to ask him (hereafter referred as C) how he went about his business.

At the doorway to his consulting room, C greeted me thus: “I have the spirit of your uncle with me. Will you accept him?” I was totally flummoxed. Since I had 3 uncles, and C could see the spirit, I had him describe the spirit. His description covered height, skin colour, clothing, and footwear.

Since he was obviously my no. 1 uncle, the oldest in his family, I naturally accepted him. He had also been the second-most important man in my life (after my father). But, as I could not see him, and as he communicated silently with C, I had to rely upon C to know what Uncle said.

I was told that Uncle had been sent by ‘higher beings’ to advise me, as he was “the one I was most likely to accept.” What Uncle said to C indicated that he knew what happened to my life after his death; he even described the cabin bag that I had brought to Australia from Singapore. He referred to his sister, my mother, in a tone of reminiscence; and advised me about my spiritual progress. Near the end of an hour-long session, he responded to a comment that I had made to C. That meant that he could hear what I had said. Since he could see C, I assumed that he could see me too.

It is undeniable that Uncle had retained his mind and his memories after his death; that he could communicate with C; that he see and hear me; that he could process my message and respond to it as if he had a brain as well; and that he could project himself in and out of the material realm at will.

An insubstantial entity had displayed his ability to relate to the realm of substance from which he had departed, using organs of vision, hearing, thought, and memory – which are Earthly facilities. How? All these organs had been cremated with the rest of his body years before.

What is significant is that C provided a comparable service to many others, including 2 of my friends. They confirmed to me that their experiences with the spirit realm through C‘s skills were comparable to mine.

To the professional intransigent sceptic I say this. It is pure folly to proclaim that something is not, or cannot be, without being able to deny real experiences of fellow-humans in a substantive manner. Think about those who claim that God is not, but without being able to prove that assertion.

C is clearly able to contact the spirit realm. He has told me that he obtains advice from the spirit realm through his own Spirit Guide before certain consultations. I suspect that, although he had no previous contact with me, he had sought advice about me. For that I am grateful.

I now have evidence that life on Earth and in what I refer to as the Afterlife has meaning. My Hindu religio-cultural inheritance in this life, suggestive of a continuity of Earthly life through many incarnations, should sustain me through alternative cultural milieus through time.

Following that consultation, I began to write about what Uncle had suggested – “to seek to contribute to building a bridge from where you came to where you are”; to wit, migrant integration into the nation of choice. My books are available as inexpensive ebooks at amazon.com (USA), and its international affiliates (Canada, UK, Australia, France and Germany).

Since that life-changing experience through meeting Uncle, I have had certain other exposures to spirits. I believe these to be spiritually uplifting.

Do out-of-body experiences indicate life after death?

Is there a realm in which previously-human beings reside? Do out-of-body experiences provide necessary evidence? There has been an avalanche of such experiences. These involve a place surrounded by light, with people (including a relative in some cases) advising return to Earth. Many have been investigated thoroughly.

Clever sceptics of a scientific mind have offered explanations which implicate: a subconscious characteristic of some human minds to project a subterranean expectation of a post-death state; or a potential for certain biochemical changes to occur in the brain during the dying process; or for a subliminal psychic need to unveil themselves immediately after death, especially after a traumatic experience such as a terrible death caused by accident, or by a prolonged painful illness.

But to no avail. Where is the evidence to back up such explanations? This is a favourite stance of modern scientists.

I had an out-of-body experience at age 18. I found myself floating horizontally at ceiling height. I had been suffering from dengue fever (that bone-crushing disease) for about 5 days, with increasing pain. Anyone touching my mattress would cause me terrible agony; I could not move. Seeing my body laid out on a different bed so frightened me that I woke up in my bed. I then sweated heavily, and began to improve.

That was an out-of-body event with no out-of-life implications. But, how is one to explain what happened? My imagination? Not probable. I am a sceptic. I doubt that my subconscious can over-ride that mental state.

Late in life, a senior citizen told me about her out-of-body experience when she was 13. She recalled walking along a bridge. At the end of the bridge, she could see a bright light and some figures. She recognised one of the figures as the mother who had died, leaving her 3-year old behind. When she reached her mother, the latter said to her “Patty, you have to go back.” The significance of this report is that no one had ever addressed her as Patty.

Another friend told me about her husband. He had proven himself as slightly psychic from time to time. After his near-death experience late in life, he discovered that his hands had acquired healing powers. Not every survivor of a near-death experience is so fortunate.

Those who were briefly clinically dead have reported experiences which are fairly similar. The general pattern is that they are outside the physical body, often floating near the ceiling. Or they experience flying or walking. They can feel the presence of others. They also experience a natural border which has to be crossed. They are then advised to return.

Could a ‘collective unconscious’ (possibly a past species-memory) explain the out-of-body experiences of some individuals? Why only some? Are these exceptions?

The experience of being sent back to life on Earth after an out-of-body event may be lit by a simple explanation; that the out-of-body excursion was an error, a mishap. Being temporarily clinically dead may have aroused some deep impulse (of unknowable origin) within the individual to escape life.

If Hinduism is correct in postulating that each of us is born with a broadly programmed trajectory of life, a life-path, a personal destiny, then a temporary hiccup cannot take the individual away from paddling on his river of destiny. That has implications for the cross-linkages of human destinies as time goes on. Is Hinduism correct in this regard?

One reality may not be deniable; that there is a realm or dimension which is home – temporarily or permanently – for those who have departed Earth. Near-death or temporary clinical death out-of-body experiences may reflect this reality.

Christianising a secular nation?

Thirty percent of Australians stated in the recent Census that they have no religion. The most powerful of the Christian churches in the nation can claim perhaps no more than 20% support. In reality, attendance at all churches is reportedly visibly low, except for a new expression of Christian faith.

Officially, Australia is a secular nation. There is no evidence that the behaviour of church-attending Christians (of whatever provenance) is more responsible than that of others who say that they are also Christians; or that Christians are more socially responsible than those who belong to other religions; or who are atheists and agnostics.

The crucial issue for society is whether ethical conduct is programmed by regular attendance at a place of worship; or through being taught about the religious beliefs of one’s family and community. Or, is it the case that children develop a sound distinction between what is right and what is wrong in conduct and thought, and what is fair and just, through the behaviour of their parents?

And, is there also not an innate sense of equality or fairness displayed by many little children, even through the tantrums of that stage of growth known as the ‘terrible twos’? Where does this undeniably inborn display of what is fair come from? A past-life intimation? Why not? And where do parents and teachers learn about ethical conduct? Surely through the above processes!

In terms of the influence of religion, humans pray to God, or to spirits of one kind or another, for safety, succour, or salvation – instinctively. They learn codes of conduct through socialisation. What we are all taught about the religion of the family or tribe represents the following: a rationale for ethical behaviour; an explanation of what is observed and experienced in society; a guiding light for the journey of Earthly life; and a promise of what death may bring.

Each religion has its own vision, reflecting its historical origins and development. Together they light the various paths of existence. None can claim to be unique or even superior. How could they?

A full belly and material security may result in the negation of a religion, with some attracted to a spirituality which engenders a mutual respect for all human life (as well as all sentient life).

When Australia began to collect needed immigrants from 1948, it allegedly set out to gather Roman Catholics from Europe; and then from the Levant. When the White Australia policy was nominally ended, for about 3 decades the majority of Asians accepted were light-skinned East Asians who were Christian. (Refer Census data 2012). Preference was then seemingly given to Christian refugees and humanitarian entrants. Asylum seekers arriving by air and by boat, family reunion, and (possibly) poor selection led to other entrants.

It is probably the Anglo-Celts who have decided that they do not need religion. State schools enabling Christian lay-persons to inform students about Judeo-Christianity may turn the tide – mainly for the benefit of churches and Bible societies. An important issue is whether government schools in officially secular Australia should involve themselves with divisive, even competitive, religions?

Ideally, state primary schools could offer an education about the nature and role of religion. I recommended this when I was the Chairman of a school board; while my Board and the education authorities accepted my proposal in principle, it was not implemented.

All high schools could teach comparative religion – professionally; that is, without confusing cultural practices with core tenets of each religion. The objective would be to enable our youth to understand that all the major religions share 2 core beliefs; and that differences reflecting theological approaches are not barriers to mutual understanding that diverse paths lead to the one and only God of mankind.

Religious people of all faiths, as well as those of a spiritual mind, are good people; as are those who do not need religion to guide their behaviour.

Do authoritarian religions produce intolerant bullies?

In mid-2017, one of the Australian States is reportedly about to legislate the availability of physician-assisted death, with necessary safeguards to avoid anyone being killed, and preventing an avalanche of deaths rushing down a slippery slope. Up pops someone protesting against this availability.

He does not want this right, but I do. He has no right to speak for me or to represent the whole population. No one has, not even a bioethicist or a theologian representing a church of choice. In fact, over many decades, more than 80% of the Australian populace has sought what was once described as voluntary euthanasia, now defined more specifically as physician-assisted death under the most stringent conditions.

His defence in seeking to interfere with my right is that his God, through the medium of his priesthood, denies such a right – which is based on compassion. Since his God is surely the universal god of all mankind, how could he claim that his priesthood has sole right to interpret God’s wishes? In the absence of revelation, has not his priesthood made an arbitrary judgement – an assumption – on this matter?

This church, whose spokesmen have persistently opposed voluntary euthanasia (as well as certain processes related to the nether-regions of women), is based on a claimed authority, and had exercised strong control (as evident to me during my residence – as an adult – for nearly 70 years in Australia).

Those who belong to this church are entitled to live by the codes of conduct set by its priesthood. The rest of us should not be required to do so.

Thus, no more than 20% of the Australian population can be claimed by their church to oppose the right to voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted death sought by more than 80% of the population over decades. The 30% of the population who stated in the last Census that they had no religion can surely demand that religious institutions (or their spokespersons) do not interfere in their lives by claiming to speak for a God they deny. These people are atheists, with a right be so.

Australia is officially a secular nation, in spite of the apparent control of national policies by Roman Catholic politicians currently. Hopefully, State Governments will allow compassion as a human right, by challenging any church-determined policies to the contrary. We do need choice, not rule by religious bullies!

On the sea of life, let us all paddle according to our respective rhythms. Do respect my right as I respect yours.