Individualism vs. communalism in modern societies

Society is that highly organised and integrated collective of individuals, organisations and institutions which, in any civilisation, has specified roles, functions, and responsibilities to enable arms of that civilisation to operate as efficiently as possible, while offering security, social stability, good governance, and practices for the furtherance of its youth into useful future roles, within an evolving environment which is necessarily potentially destabilising.

Without such a structured entity, humanity would probably operate in a chaotic manner. Unlike the physical and chemical world, where there can be found coherent patterns of stability within the observed chaos, there is no basis for assuming that similar stability would underpin any chaos of humanity. Indeed human chaos is underpinned by social instability through unfettered selfishness. The events of recent history throughout the world support such a conclusion.

In those 4 nations which I describe collectively as the Ultra-West (viz. the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), which were developed through successive inflows of immigrants from Europe (including Britain), it would have taken quite a while for society to be formed in each location. By necessity, the earlier arrivals had to be self-sufficient in finding a place for themselves and settling down. It would seem that, by the time each society had achieved a necessary stability, and by the very nature of the circumstances of settlement, an ethos of individualism had permeated the psyche of the people. Church attendance may have been the exception. Any sense of communalism which may have prevailed ‘back home’ may have been weaned by new necessary lifestyles.

There may be a flip-side to this development. Did societal alienation then evolve? Through a deficiency in support from one’s extended family (assuming there was one in proximity), a degree of communal support may have been necessary. That is, officialdom may have had to step in to some degree to alleviate extreme hardship, in a material sense. But what of the psychological bulwark available to some degree in more traditional societies?

Francis Fukuyama, an American scholar of renown, wrote in depth of the deterioration of society in the USA, a civilised nation. The USA is a leading member of the Ultra-West. Australian society appears to be following the USA. While Australia is heavily committed to welfare while ruled by the ethos of individualism, it is gradually becoming acclimatised to American culture, business practices, and the philosophy of governance.

This spirit of individualism seems to have engendered claims for more and more personal rights. Taken to extremes, traditional respect for others may be diminished, if not ignored. Conflicts over relative individual rights can occur. In Australia today, surnames and addresses indicating respect for age, position, or relationship have given way to the universal use of first names.

Rights breed rights – even in the open! The proliferation of claimed rights, aided by those using the courts to acquire yet more rights (even for unlawful asylum seekers) can be juxtaposed with the reality that rights are not set out in the Constitution, or a Bill of Rights, or official policy statements in Australia. This results in all manner of societal difficulties, primarily because of a lack of corresponding or counter-balancing personal responsibilities towards the collective.

Some consequential effects of enhanced access to claimed personal rights are the suffering caused to children through the impermanence of marriage and cohabitation, a fear of empty streets (casually brutal attacks by louts or a threat to children), the serious abuse of generous welfare and free medical services, a denial of personal responsibility (eg. acquiring skills to enable employment or to re-locate to centres offering employment), and escalating demands by the well-off for ‘middle class welfare.’

In the light of the above, the unavoidable conclusion is that, at least in the USA and Australia, modern society does not generally offer the cohesion and mutual kin and community support of traditional societies. Does not such support implicate a certain spirituality inherent in mankind to look after one another? Unless governments step into the vacant shoes of extended family, could not escalating personal rights without matching responsibilities be seen to lead to social alienation and to the deterioration of these societies?

Would not weak social bonds and an uncertain sense of community indicate a diminution of valuable social capital?

 

 

‘Musings at Death’s Door’ – Extracts

Preface

“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 (although recent black humanitarian entrants are viewed askance by some, mainly because they may not be economically viable for a long time), 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 both official policies and much of interpersonal relations.  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 also deplorable.

These 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, eg. 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.

Where goes my adopted nation, to which I have made a substantial contribution, especially in civil society?  With little time left, I ponder about those issues of interest to me.  These, I believe, are relevant for all thinking fellow-Australians.  My musings are naturally filtered through my bicultural values.”

Biculturalism

Being a bicultural Asian in a Western nation has given me a significant advantage.  I can understand the divide between those acculturated (as I was) in what the former Prime Minister of Singapore (Mr. Lee Kuan Yew) popularised as ‘Asian values,’ and those who were conditioned by life in an immigrant-created nation which could not provide extended families and their near-universal role.  Newly-inhabited countries such as Australia simply lacked the communal support that one is born into in Asia.

By necessity, I became acclimatised to living, initially alone, later within my own nuclear family, in a society which requires self-sufficiency.  In some of us, this situation engenders a wish to contribute to the welfare of one’s community by volunteering time and effort.  I have thus had my head in the clouds of Asian values (metaphorically speaking), with my feet firmly planted on the hard rock of individualism, which now respects not authority figures and even one’s elders.

For individual Asians in this bifurcated society, there is the solace of a spiritual life.  This assists me in achieving a necessary balance between two cultures.

Now, who am I?  What is my background?  And how am I enabled to ponder at some depth about my adopted nation?

I am 83.years old.  I am thereby well past my statistical use-by date.  No member of my extended family has survived longer.  Greater longevity may of course have applied to earlier generations living in our ancestral land in Jaffna in the north of Ceylon; we are known to be a hardy people.

As a tribe, we are also known to have earned an adequate living from a harsh land for more than two thousand years; to have competed more than successfully with the Singhalese majority of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in academe, in civil society, and in the public service, while living under British suzerainty.  Subsequently, we have adapted successfully to the diverse Western nations to which, as an on-going diaspora, we migrated.  Initially, migration was for economic reasons; later, for political reasons.

In Australia, to which I was despatched by either my personal destiny or the spirit world, I have adapted successfully.  Indeed, I have also integrated successfully, including holding leadership positions in civil society.  My initial preference was naturally for living with my own people in the land of my birth.  Why so?  Because the land of my birth was, already in my time, multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-religious; and with a mutual tolerance between the Asian communities there far in advance of that level of inter-cultural tolerance to be reached in Australia by the end of the twentieth century

It is highly probable that I will be ejected from the departure lounge of life fairly soon.  Because my observations of key aspects of Australia, from the vantage point of ‘Asian values,’ began more than six decades (or about two generations) ago, there should be some socio-cultural and historical value in the attached musings.  I need to highlight, however, that my thoughts have been filtered through my anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-communist (that is, freedom-loving) values.”

 

 

 

 

‘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.

 

‘The Karma of Culture’ – Overview

Chapter 1       Be  True To Thine  Self

There is a tide in the affairs of men

which,  taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

  • Shakespeare

I am an integral part of a nation founded in fear. It lives in fear. While it struts the world stage – for example, as a “wannabe” mediator between two nations with nuclear warheads, or as an effusive preacher on human rights to any Asian or Pacific nation which might listen – it continues to be a little fearful.

Chapter 2           Unity In Diversity

She tried to found a salon

but only succeeded in opening

a restaurant

  • Oscar Wilde

My relatives and friends, whether living in  South East Asia, the USA, Britain,  or  Australia, speak a lot of English at home and in their ethnic community relations. Some have given away the Hindu religious taboo against beef. Some ignore the social taboo against pork. Yet, in almost every way, their life in their countries of residence is governed by their social customs and cultural traditions.

Chapter 3        A  Silent  SlippagePeople will not look forward

to posterity, who never look

backward to their ancestors.

  • Edmund Burke

Anyone brought up surrounded by what is known as Asian values, in that escalating culture war between East and West, will be quietly despondent about the deterioration in Australian families. What are the changes which have emerged, like a slowly rising volcano from the deep seas of a violently disrupted ocean? When and how did these changes come about? What impacts of these changes are manifest, and what are their consequences?

Chapter 4        Keeping The Bastards  Honest

 All animals are equal

but some animals are

more equal than others

-George Orwell

A colonial subject dreams of the day when the hated, arrogant, oppressor has gone. His people will be free to rule themselves. But, before his reluctant departure, the coloniser sets up a new form of government. In doing so, he is quite certain that the people are not yet ready to govern themselves. Has he not been preparing them for that great day when they are able to rule themselves in an acceptable manner? (I was told that this was taught to children in British schools.)

Chapter 5      Here  Comes  The  Neighbourhood

Her frocks are built in Paris,

but she wears them with an English accent

  • Saki

For more than half a century, I have watched with amazement (and some embarrassment) at the way the official Australian, his media acolyte, and many ordinary citizens, hold, so assiduously, onto that antiquated “whitefella” view of the neighbourhood beyond the nation’s shores.

Chapter 6      We  are  one

“The whistle shrilled and, in a moment, I was chugging out of Grand Central’s

dreaming spires,  followed only by the anguished cries of relatives who would

have to go to work. I had chugged only a few feet when I realized that I had

left without the train,  so I had to run back and wait for it to start.”

– S.J.Perelman

 

In spite of some quibbles and a few strong criticisms, I do aver that Australia is a wonderful nation. It is indeed the nation of the future. We, the people, are a mix of diverse origins living together amicably. As one of the very large influx of post war immigrants, I can say that most of us work very hard to improve ourselves and thus have a positive impact on the nation. Both by choice and by opportunity, I myself have made a small contribution to the direction taken by my nation over the last half century.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To conclude:

The desirable pathway for us is clearly visible, without further elaboration. Notable Western leaders and learned writers have contributed to defining this pathway. All that we need is a little more maturity, courage, and responsibility from our future leaders; as well as a vision of what we ought to be as a people and as a nation- state.

Such a place and position might be as a sovereign state, relating as an equal to the sovereign states of Asia, without any crap about white multicultural man in the southern hemisphere leading the multi-tribal coloured Asian heathen towards the light. Neither Christianity nor the ultra-West’s vision of democracy has a claim to be unique or even durable. There are many paths to our Creator, as the tolerant forest faiths of Asia have demonstrated for more than two millennia. The paths to political freedom have to evolve, not to be imposed. And more equitable treatment of our indigene, with equal opportunity for all coloured people, is a must, lest the Creator finds us wanting!

We might then expect that there will be less divergence from the intent and impact of Asian values as against Australian practices in all spheres of human action. Then we can all claim to be equals, and our babies can continue to wiggle their toes at us with mutual joy.

 

(Comment: Although written about 15 years ago, Australia’s relationships with our Asian neighbours need more tweaking. When the nations of South East Asia join up with China in a co-prosperity and security pact, we do not want to be an isolated outpost of the Christian West. Our national sovereignty cannot also afford non-integrated cultural diversity.)     

‘The Karma of Culture’ – Issues

Modern Australia is collecting immigrants with a shopkeeper mentality. It is as if the world is running out of people. We also collect deserving refugees, and accept reluctantly economic migrants who claim asylum, and who cannot be sent home because of an out-dated UN Convention. We have enough taxpayer money to give to uneconomic unviable entrants for years at a time so that the shopkeepers remain viable. But we are kept afloat as a nation only because of foreign capital inflow, which increases foreign ownership of Australia.

Against this economic policy, we expect new entrants to integrate into the nation. But there can be cultural barriers to this hope. The hither-to successful combination of habituation, public education, and community acceptance may now become eroded by official tolerance of efforts by new entrants to adhere to cultural values more in tune with practices in countries of origin, under the guise of an ephemeral ‘multiculturalism’ policy.

A viable immigration policy requires new entrants to adapt to the institutional structures and societal mores of the nation they chose to enter. Other adaptation may be advisable in order to access the equal opportunities available in Australia, underpinned by its traditional ‘fair-go’ ethos.

The following extracts from the Preface to ‘The Karma of Culture’ highlight the issues in immigrant adaptation.

“One’s culture provides the template for dealing with life. Its base is laid in childhood, through the values imposed by family and community. The cultural practices of one’s tribe reinforce these values and associated perceptions. The impacts of nurture (experience) upon nature (inheritance), as one passes through life, are filtered through this network of cultural values.”

“In the migrant-receiving countries of the Western world, the core issue of a conflict between a sustained attempt by immigrants to retain their cultures and the osmotic force of equal opportunity offering  an earlier and  smoother integration into the values and mores of the host people bobs up and down in the seas of social policy.”

“The need for an immigrant to reconcile inherited cultural values and associated practices with the predominant values and practices of an adopted nation-state can create stresses on both cultures. The issues which arise from this cross-cultural impact are those of : equal opportunity; whether  a unified people can arise from widely divergent tribes; whether the individual or the family unit has priority in terms of rights and responsibilities; the definition of family, and its role in society; cultural and political sovereignty in a globalising nation-state; the place of the Creator in modern life; and whether Australia’s “fair-go” ethos needs an infusion of Asian values.”

The following extracts from the final chapter have relevance for the future.

“ Yet, that Anglo-Celt ethos prevails; as do the political and other structural institutions inherited from Britain. These are accepted without challenge by that army of post war immigrants, not all of whom had much prior exposure to these valuable mechanisms. Just as the diverse tribes from the British Isles formed themselves into the modern Aussie, without significant erosion of core cultural traditions and values, so we immigrants are re-shaping the nation-state and the national identity, to produce a palimpsest. Core characteristics of the Anglo-Celt Aussie inheritance will therefore not be swamped.

This outcome is being achieved only by goodwill, by both hosts and new settlers. We settlers recognise and value that which has been made available to us.  Many of us understand the anxieties generated in the host people by the relatively sudden huge influx of a very great variety of outsiders. In turn, many of our hosts realise that, while nothing can remain the same, the changes triggered by us will prove to be beneficial in the long term.”

“At least, some of us have improved the colour of the nation! Through the positive impacts of ethnic and cultural diversity, we are also better equipped to relate to the coloured nations to our north. And we do need to relate to them with mutual respect. And to intrude less into  their socio-political structures, and their cultural institutions. Hopefully, we will become less apprehensive about their religious beliefs, as we become better educated.”

The following is an extract from the professional appraisal of the book.

“This book provides a thoughtful and fearless approach to some important and highly topical questions. What constitutes Australia’s nationhood? What is her role in Asia and in the world? How can, and should, the burgeoning economies of Asia contribute to the development of Australia, not just as foreign investors and trading partners, but in terms of cultural and spiritual values? What is the nature of democracy, and how can democratic ideals be realized in Australia and in its Asian neighbours? What is the meaning of multiculturalism in the Australian context?”

 

(Comment: The issues of immigrant integration in a nation at the edge of Asia are quite profound. Regrettably, Australian politicians are known more for their politics of survival – while adhering to their cultural values – than for their ability to implement sound policies for the long-term betterment of the nation. The needs of electorates are submerged by party politics or by personal idiosyncrasies. However, Asia will change Australia for the better.)    

 

 

The sham of representative democracy in the Ultra-West

“Australia’s political system, as a whole, is based on the indi­vidualism underpinning the political and social ethos of the relatively new nations of the West created by European immigrants; viz. the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand being the nations of interest to us. I term them the Ultra-West. Their tribes are almost all political, even if tinged heavily by reli­gion, or otherwise coloured slightly by ethnicity.”

“My unusual experi­ence with Australian representative democracy at its three levels of government says that it is quite a sham. Its advantage over tribal or other forms of leadership is that our political leaders can be replaced from time to time – but, to what end? Since the tribes of Western democracy, the political parties, would remain permanently on the pitch, how is the nation better off?

Isn’t our choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, there being little difference in modern times between their poli­cies? In the dark of political control, all cats are grey, remaining categorically self-centred; like cats at dinner time, our political parties at election time offer voters unlimited love!”

“Elected pol­iticians are required by their party leaders not to ever rock the boat. It is party policy which denies us voluntary euthanasia, (sought by about 80% of voters) indicating quite clearly that the Vaticanites have achieved control of both sides of politics in Australia.”

“In this context, how different are we from non-European nations ruled by a theocracy, or a god-king, or the military, or a satrap of a dominant foreign power, with some camouflage provided by a form of election?”

“We effectively vote for a party, the candidate being of no significance. He is not going to become rich through our vote for him. It does not matter if the candidate is a prize donkey, a failed priest or business person, or a young party hack, or a nobody with powerful connections, or a dyed-in-the-wool trade union leader. Actually, in terms of a knowable track record, a union leader may be a sound bet because of an identifiable work experience. There is nothing more insulting than to be offered a candidate of, say, 20 years of age, with no significant work experience, and whose brain is not hard-wired to the functioning level of the average adult!”

“On sensitive issues such as voluntary euthanasia (no one would be killed under such a policy), overseas aid directed to family planning (viz. birth control); replacing the monarchy with a republic; direct election by the citizenry of the presi­dent of a future republic (instead of being appointed by the government of the day); a national bill of rights; the importa­tion of certain medications related to birth control; how do we allow the values of the Vatican and other political conser­vatives to prevail at all times? The view that our lives should be guided by authority – how different is it from the prac­tice of the former Soviet, or the current rule by the Chinese authorities?”

These are extracts (with minor editing) from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.” My writing reflects more than 6 decades of a highly interactive and contributory life, as an adult, in Australia.