The 10-point Plan to protect ‘white space’

Following the Wik decision by the High Court, and the fear campaign, by a white government, white pastoralists, and other white groups, that nearly 80% of Australia would be over-run by black people, the federal government spun into action to protect white space.  The following paragraphs are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ (an ironic title in the current context).

“After a lot of thunder, lightning and hot air had upset everyone, the government got through a ‘ten-point plan’, with the help of an independent senator. In the late 1990s, when the national Parliament pushed through legislation to reduce the property rights of the indigene inherent in native title, it was the whites (politicians, clergymen, and legal advisers) who reportedly decided (yet once again) what was best for the Aborigines.  The latter said that they were excluded from the negotiations!

Overall, it was a despicable exercise. The risks of having the blacks go walkabout on leased land (ie public-owned land), of their having any kind of a say in the potential use of this land, of any diminution in the government’s freedom to be generous to its supporters, was all too much for the government, and its pastoral and mineral constituencies. 

The federal government cannot, of course, extinguish native title without paying compensation. As a consequence, there was a fine juggling act between the federal and state (and territory) governments in the late 1990s. The latter governments were now to provide a statutory regime acceptable to the former, which would achieve an effective extinguishment of native title rights — but which did not cost much to taxpayers, and did not violate the Racial Discrimination Act and sundry international obligations! This was not asking too much, was it?

This federal government approach is akin to a white colonial government employing coloured mercenaries to carry out the more dastardly acts of subjugation of other coloured peoples (eg. Gurkhas against the Maoris of New Zealand).

Was it not St.Paul who said, “We wrestle … against spiritual wickedness in high places”? The indigenes and their supporters were both up in arms and despondent, realising that their recently acquired justice was short-lived. Consequently, the only appeal mechanism available (for what that is worth) is in the international arena. For some inexplicable reason, I keep recalling Arnold Toynbee’s ‘No annihilation without representation’, whenever extinguishment of Aboriginal native title is mentioned.”

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10-Point Plan for ‘bucket loads of extinguishment’ of Native Title

“MR HOWARD’S TEN POINT PLAN

  1. Validation of acts/grants

The validity of acts or grants made on non-vacant crown land since the Native Title Act will be guaranteed by law.

  1. Extinguishment of Native Title on “exclusive” tenures

“Exclusive” tenures such as freehold, residential, commercial and public works (in existence on or before 1 January 1994) would be confirmed by state and territory laws.

  1. Government services

The provision of government services to land on which Native Title may exist would now be made easier.

  1. Native Title and pastoral lease

Native Title rights over land held under agricultural and pastoral leases would be permanently extinguished if they interfere with the rights of the leaseholder.

Activities other than farming and grazing would be allowed on pastoral leases, even if Native Title exists, provided the dominant purpose of the lease remains primary production.

  1. Statutory access rights

If those who register a Native Title claim can demonstrate that they currently have access to land held under a pastoral lease, access to that land will be guaranteed by law until the Native Title claim is settled.

  1. Future mining

For mining on vacant crown land:

  • the registration “test” for a Native Title claim would be more difficult
  • there would be no negotiations over mining exploration
  • only one Native claim for negotiation would be allowed for each mining project

For mining on “non-exclusive” tenures, such as current or former pastoral leases:

  • the right to negotiate would continue to apply until State and Territory governments provided arrangements acceptable to the Commonwealth government
  • compensation would take account of the currently co-existing Native Title rights
  1. Future development

For vacant crown land outside cities and towns:

  • the registration “test” for negotiation of a Native Title claim would be more difficult
  • there would be no negotiations over acquisitions for government-type infra-structure
  • For compulsory acquisition of Native Title rights on other “non-exclusive” tenures, such as current or former pastoral leases or national parks:
  • the right to negotiate would continue to apply until State and Territory governments provided arrangements acceptable to the Commonwealth government
  • compensation would take account of the currently co-existing Native Title rights
  • future management actions for national parks or forest reserves would be allowed forfuture activities such as taking of timber or gravel on pastoral leases would be allowed for
  1. Water resources and airspace

The ability of governments to regulate and manage, surface and subsurface water, offshore resources and airspace, and the rights of those with interests in these areas, would be put beyond doubt.

  1. Management of claims

For new and existing Native Title claims there would be:

  • a more difficult registration “test” for negotiation of a Native Title claim
  • amendments to speed up the processing of claims
  • encouragement for States and Territories to deal with claims
  • a sunset clause within which claims had to be made
  1. Agreements

Measures would be introduced to encourage the negotiation of voluntary but binding agreements as an alternative to formal Native Title agreements.”

(Source: ‘Teaching Heritage’ a New South Wales Government document)

 

 

Extinguishing Native Title – Keating 2011

Extinguishing Native Title through 10-point Plan  (June 1  2011    Sydney Morning Herald)

The 10-point plan that undid the good done on native title – Paul Keating

As prime minister, the pastoral lease question was a vexing and torrid one for me. And for this reason: notwithstanding that the Commonwealth government’s legal advice was that the Mabo (No. 2) judgment had the effect of extinguishing native title on lands subject to pastoral leases – I did not agree with that advice. That is, I did not personally agree with the logic behind the advice.

I had lots of supposedly good people urging it upon me; like the former leader of the National Party Tim Fischer, who was doing his level best to turn pastoral leases into quasi-freehold titles at the expense of Aboriginal people.

I knew there was a massive potential loss here for Aboriginal people – because in 1993 a very large proportion of the land mass of Australia was subject to pastoral leases. In Western Australia it was 38 per cent of the state, in Queensland 54 per cent, South Australia 42 per cent, NSW 41 per cent and the Northern Territory 51 per cent.

Given the scale and importance of it, I was determined not to deny Aboriginal people the chance to test this question before the High Court. So to keep the naysayers at bay and to fend off the opportunists, I decided to record in the preamble of the bill that on the government’s view, past leasehold grants extinguished native title.

I had these words in the second reading speech and in the preamble to the act but I refused to make extinguishment a fait accompli under the operating provisions of the act.

I knew that the whole idea of pastoral leases over Crown land arose because squatters decided to move on to land for which they had no title and where their activities, grazing or otherwise, were uncontrolled. The motivation for the legislative regime, first in NSW in the late 1820s, was to put some control on squatters without conferring on them a freehold title to vast tracts of the country; country largely occupied by Aboriginal people. So I understood that when the various colonial and state governments came to issue pastoral leases they did so knowing that the pastoral activity would occur over lands where Aboriginal people were still conducting a traditional way of life.

I told officers of the Attorney-General’s Department at the time that I regarded their advice as black letter property advice, wherein they failed to understand how and in which ways the High Court was peering through the common law to the development of native title rights over the course of Australian history following European settlement.

As it turned out, in the Wik decision of 1996, the High Court held that the grant of relevant leases did not confer on the lessees exclusive possession of land under lease and correctly, in my view, made clear that, in the case of the Wik and the Thayorre people, that a relevant intention to extinguish all native title rights at the time the grants were issued was not present. That is, the grants did not necessarily extinguish all incidents of the native title rights.

Of course, that decision of the High Court was attacked mercilessly by the Howard government. That villain Tim Fischer boasted that there would be bucket loads of extinguishment, in the Howard government’s response to the decision.

Many will be familiar with the sorry tale that became part and parcel of the Native Title (Amendment) Act 1998. That amendment arose from the Coalition government’s so-called 10-point plan, a plan facilitated in the Senate with the support of Senator Brian Harradine under the advice of the Jesuit priest Frank Brennan.

As an aside, and as a Catholic, let me say, wherever you witness the zealotry of professional Catholics in respect of indigenous issues, invariably you find indigenous interests subordinated to their personal notions of justice and equity: because unlike the rest of us, they enjoy some kind of divine guidance. And so it was with the Wik amendments.

The amendments were titled ”Confirmation of past extinguishment of native title”. But it was never clear that all freehold grants and leasehold grants permanently extinguished native title. Mick Dodson said at the time: ”By purporting to ‘confirm’ extinguishment by inconsistent grants, the Commonwealth is purposely pre-empting the development of the common law – not allowing sufficient time to integrate the belated recognition of native title into Australia’s land management system. This does not require the obliteration of indigenous interests so as to favour non-indigenous interests.” Quite so.

The Howard government’s 1998 amendments cut across the spirit of the Keating government’s 1993 act; the notion that the legislation was, first and foremost, of a beneficial kind – enacted to redress historic inequities, rather than to compound ones sanctioned by earlier acts.

Paul Keating was prime minister from 1991 to 1996. This is an edited extract from the Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration delivered at the University of Adelaide yesterday.

 

Demonising Native Title rights for indigenes

Following the decision by the High Court in the Wik case that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title; and that, in some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title.

Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

The federal government then contributed to the panic that followed. What about our backyards, swimming pools, and tennis courts; can they take them too? This was asked by the newest demagogue then. The threat of Aboriginal intervention under native title will reduce the transfer value of the leases — this was yet another whinge. Apparently this has not happened yet. The federal government did little to allay these fears. Indeed, many of us realised that the government was actually fuelling irrational fears.

A white female pastoralist was reported in the late 1990s to have been fearful when her property was the subject of a native title claim by an Aboriginal community. She thought that, if successful, the Aborigines would simply take possession of her property. After she had met the claimants, she knew otherwise. Why had not the government or the media made this clear? Were they in cahoots with the powerful pastoralist lobby groups? It seems so.

She learnt that the Aborigines’ aim was co-existence.  They only wanted access to significant sites to conduct cultural activities for young people. She was quoted in the press as saying: “When sheep and cattle were moved in, the land the indigenous people lived off was badly affected. They had to find other ways to survive, and the problems were compounded by the aggressive acts of the pastoralists and the local white authorities. During the 1920s and 1930s indigenes were herded together in designated Aboriginal reserves, with little shelter and no water. The communities were split up, their culture fragmented. They gravitated towards the edges of towns … ended up outcasts, on the fringes of white society”.

Where politicians had promised ‘certainty’ to the pastoralists, she reportedly felt that she had been kept in the dark, misled, and betrayed. She was further quoted as follows: “… people like me were being used as tools, in what was obviously a political agenda being used to continue the hurt and dispossession of people who have been hurt their whole lives”; and “… there are people fanning the flames and spreading misinformation”.  She also quoted the Prime Minister of the day as claiming publicly that it would be possible for 78% of Australia to be under ‘veto’ (for development) by Aborigines. Has the government resiled from this ridiculous claim?

Her comment to that was: “I’ve no doubt that most Australians would have believed him. If I hadn’t informed myself, I’d have believed him as well”. Her final comments are noteworthy. “I did not hunt the (Aborigines) off their land: but what I have today I have partly because others did. If I inherited the fruits of the pioneers’ achievements, I also inherited a debt to those they dispossessed”.

That says it all. And what a wonderful human being — a beacon of light. This enlightened white lady has reached out to the Aboriginal people. She is also educating people in her situation about the need to work with Aboriginal people.

As asked by a respected academic in another, but comparable, context: “If lying comes to seem an acceptable political means to a worthwhile end, what will prevent democracy degenerating into a struggle between elites whose relationship to the electorate goes no deeper than the conduct of an auction …?” In any such auctions, the Aborigines will not be viable bidders.

(The above extracts are from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Since the book was published only in 2005, I do not believe that the Australian Constitution will be mended any time soon to recognise the Australian indigenes as the First Nation Peoples of Australia.)    

 

 

The demise of terra nullius through Native Title

The High Court opened up a very large can of worms when it determined (in the Mabo case in 1992) that the Torres Strait Islanders (TSI) and, by implication, the Aborigines, had native title rights under common law. This did not help to contribute land to an Aboriginal or TSI nation. A native title right refers simply to a residual right to share in the use of land, but only in a customary way. Under the High Court’s later determination (in the Wik case in 1996), the rights of the Aboriginal community are subordinate to that of the lessee.

In the Mabo case, the Court said: “Where a clan or group has continued to acknowledge the laws and … to observe the customs based on the traditions of that clan or group, whereby their traditional connection with the land has been substantially maintained, the traditional community title of that clan or group can be said to remain in existence”.  Native title refers to the common law rights of access and use of traditional land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The rights include hunting, gathering, fishing, ceremonies, and just living.

The High Court thus put away for good that useful argument favoured by settlers and Australian jurists that Australia had been an empty land (‘terra nullius’) when occupied by Britain, contrary to all the evidence against that view.

The Court, by finding that the indigenes of Australia had indeed been in possession of their lands, brought the law in relation to Aboriginal land rights into line with current standards of justice. As the eminent historian Prof. Henry Reynolds said, “Terra nullius was out of step with international standards of human rights, on the one hand, and with fundamental values of common law, on the other …”. Mr. Justice Deane of the High Court (subsequently Governor-General of Australia in the late 1990s) remarked back in 1985 that “The common law of this land has not reached the stage of retreat from injustice”, in relation to the nation’s recognition of native title.

However, justice did arrive at last — at least, in the legal realm. In the mid 1990s, the High Court again upset the conservatives, the racists, and sundry fellow travellers. The resulting outbursts were most illuminative, displaying a range of bitter and irrational assertions, suggesting that professed beliefs in law and justice by many in influential positions (including parts of the media) are not deeply held. As Thomas Carlyle said “Can there be a more horrible object in existence than an eloquent man not speaking the truth?”

The High Court, by a majority decision (in the Wik case), held that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title. In some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease. However, in any conflict between the pastoralist’s rights and native title rights, the former rights prevail.

Reportedly, the decision took into account an official policy dictated from the UK in 1848 that the grant of a pastoral lease gave “… only an exclusive right of pasturage for their cattle and of cultivating such land as they may require …”, but that the lease was “… not intended to deprive the Natives of their former right to hunt over these districts, or to wander over them in search of subsistence, in the manner they have been hitherto accustomed”.

Following the Wik decision, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title. Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

(The above is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Is it surprising that Australian politicians and their acolytes see no need for human rights legislation? Have Mabo and Wik empowered the TSI and Aborigines in any meaningful way? Have Native Title rights been undermined by officialdom since Wik?)    

 

 

 

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU Quotes

Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.
The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.
Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends.
Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.
I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere.
(From BrainyQuote.  Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics before and after independence.

I have read his book ‘Glimpses of World History’ – compiled from the letters he wrote to his daughter from jail. He had been incarcerated because he wanted India to be free of the British. I was impressed with his perspectives and knowledge.

 I was 13 when I used to read a chapter each evening to my family, just when the Japanese Army had begun to drive the British from Malaya. By the time Japan had conceded defeat – in 1945 – it was clear that European colonialism in Asia would end soon – thanks to Japan.)      

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extracts from ‘It all went terribly wrong’

“That’s a great prospect,” he thought to himself with silent glee. He was peering through the convenient slit in the curtains across the bay window. There she was – a sight to behold. Solidly built, languishing on the sofa with her eyes closed. What was uplifting was that she was nude. In the soft pinkish light, she looked delicious. On a warm night, her nudity was unexceptionable.”

“He sneaked up on the woman silently. Her long blonde hair further cushioned her head. Bending over her from behind, he clamped a hand over her mouth. Her soft lips were parted. With the other hand, he grabbed her by the throat. Then it all went terribly wrong. He heard a terrible scream. It had burst from his brain. It had then worked its way to his lungs and then to his throat. Blindly, he rushed out of the room.”

“He found himself in the master bedroom. In the soft green light, he saw yet another unclad body. But this one was different. It did not attract him as had the other dead one. A huge knife handle was sticking out of the back of the male body. This time he heard no scream.”

“Still running wildly, with the testosterone now replaced by bile rising into his throat, he found an exit. It was the side door. He rushed out, only to trip over the dead body of a very large dog. “It all went terribly wrong” was his thought as he crashed to the ground. As he fell, his head hit a concrete pillar. As he lost consciousness, he felt a strange sense of gratitude; the dog could not bite him.”

“In the meanwhile, a neighbor had rung the police. She was an elderly woman, made slight by wear and tear. She was in poor health, with weak eyes, but with excellent hearing. She had told the police that she had heard screams from next door. … … The latter were screams of joy, she had said to the police. Even in her present physical condition, she was able to remember her own experiences. For memory is not a function of age but of significance.”

“The police finally arrived. They usually do. … … Unsurprisingly, he tripped over the dead dog in the dark. As he fell, his revolver was discharged accidentally. The bullet hit the man in black just as he was trying to get up.”

” The ghosts, seeing all and hearing all, including private human thoughts, giggled to themselves with silent glee as they glided away gracefully to that gargantuan garden for ghosts.”

(This is one of the short, short stories in my book of fiction ‘Pithy Perspectives.’)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults (Part 4)

The Bell

The Committee met. They sat in a safe niche in the garden wall from which they could contemplate Max sunning himself. What was more disconcerting was that the mice could hear him purring in his lethargic state. Was he mentally visualizing his catch of the day? They were naturally aware that hunters, like sportsmen everywhere, tended, from time to time, to rehearse those actions which were essentially inherent in any success in their endeavors. Collectively, the mice then veered their minds away from such a debilitating and despairing vision.

When they began to consider their problem, their minds turned predictably to the idea of a bell tied to Max’s collar. This was normal. For minds, whether human or animal, tended, like cars and mountain goats, to follow the tracks already laid down. Some of the tracks of the mind would have been laid down generations ago, and genetically transferred. Like most of mankind, mousedom does not bother to ask, “How is it so?” I mean, who goes about asking, “Who made the sun rise today?” Of course, roosters in the farmyard (and humans born in the Chinese Year of the Rooster) intuitively know that they cause the sun to rise (when they start to crow). This they do when certain electromagnetic vibrations integral to both sentient life and the allegedly inert rock called Earth coincide. Such synchronicities are really not coincidences, but predictable – like the minds of House’s Committee of Wise Mice.

At their first meeting, they chose to live up to their name by deciding wisely not to call for submissions from the rest of the tribe. The thought of Mona (the moaner) and Porthos (the Insistent) offering relevant and sound advice was akin to believing that Max would suddenly fall dead. The morbidity of that menace, consequent upon some strategy concocted by the Committee, was to be deliberated upon later. Foremost in their collective minds was the bell. Virginia had already donated a light bell with a superior tinkle from her toy collection.

Their deliberations went thus. Logically, they first dealt with the question of how. That was easy. The bell would be tied with a loop of fishing line found in the garden to Max’s collar. The question of who led them unimaginatively to Virginia, but she was really too little. A Lilliputian solution was discarded as there was likely to result a great carnage. Mice are not like ants, capable of acting in concert. The prospect of achieving Nirvana prematurely through collective action, even in the interests of a common cause, was not enticing. The mice were not as foolish as those men described in the so-called World Wars of the twentieth century as gun fodder, and who seemingly periodically were sent to save empire, introduce democracy (even with a tribal twist), or to reduce the number of unemployables in the economy (dastardly as this may appear). Whicky, they knew, would not do it – he was an honorable cat. Conscripting an adult was to imagine the impossible. The bell was clearly out – never to be heard tinkling the arrival of terrible terror.

Deportation or death

Other options had to be considered. Could we, asked a Committee member, have Max taken away; that is, sort of deported? After all, some nations get rid of their unwanted residents by deportation. But then, the deportees-to-be first need to be identified as illegal residents. However, Max was a legal resident, adopted by his owners (Max’s imagined slaves). Ha, said the Committee, in our yard he is an illegal arrival like the boat people sailing onto Australian shores. Could we ban him from entry? What a lovely thought, the Committee said. But how? Have the garden hose turned on by a switch tripped by their infamous illegal as he hopped over the fence? No, this is beyond the capacity of mice, cats, and a little girl. In any event, mice too do not like to be made wet – not involuntarily.

Could we have the menace somehow removed, asked the Committee. I suppose the people living under the heavy heel of Stalin, Pol-Pot, or Hitler had asked the same question, said House – and in the same act of futility. Could Virginia’s family somehow convince the owners of Max to get rid of him? A parallel was the past practice of moving to another parish those members of the cloth accused of molesting some of their flock. Ah, that would mean, said House, opening the Pandora’s Box of the unusual connection between the normally unwanted fellow occupants of Virginia’s home (to wit, the mice) and the hitherto unknown and unbelievable communication (spoken and otherwise) between mice, cats, and their child. No, no, that would not do at all. Some matters are best left alone.

That Max might voluntarily keep away from Virginia’s back yard was not even considered, as it was totally improbable. Cats, like the Romini of old in mankind, are the most nomadic spirits in the animal kingdom, are they not? What then? Death? By suicide squad? A sort of jihad? Were there mice in Iraq or Palestine who might be consulted? Whereas there is no evidence of jihadist mice in these countries, perhaps they might offer advice based on their observations. House chuckled to himself at the thought of some of his tribe sidling up to Max with explosives strapped to their backs, ready to take their enemy and themselves to kingdom come – for no one escapes life alive.

The Committee met again and again – and found no solution. Unlike Senate Committees in certain parliaments in the Western world, the members of the Committee were one-pointed (in the vernacular of the Hindus); that is, totally focused on the point at issue. There were no divisive politics, no stage managing, no political mummery, and no bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. The urgency of their deliberations was indeed underlined by the daily loss of a constituent. If the mice had belonged to a religious institution, their priest would certainly have been very busy and the vendors of religious artifacts and icons would each have made a small fortune. For it is the nature of religion that the agony, fear, or uncertainty of the faithful provides the priests and profiteers with sufficient sustenance to submerge their own subliminal insecurities.

Finally, House and his Committee admitted defeat. Despondency descended. The derailment of the intended death-defeating drama of belling Max brought despair. House felt keenly the desolation of the failure of leadership. Then, hallelujah, a savior came to House’s aid. Miracles may be as rare as hens’ teeth, but they can occur. At a private meeting, Whicky suggested to House that he might have a solution. His idea was so problematic, he said, that the stars, which are normally value-neutral, might just take pity on the defenceless mice.

 

 

“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults” (Part 3)

Whicky, the Tolerant

Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! What is to be done with Maxwell? There he is, resplendent in his shiny black coat and sleekly cuddly because of his skill in capturing a mouse-sized snack each day. Yet he is grumpy. He does so want the respect that he feels he is entitled to because of his Egyptian heritage. At minimum, he would accept his birth name Maxwell. He thus hates Virginia’s Maxie-baby. She likes him in spite of not approving his extra-mealtime foraging. He hates more being called Max by the family, although he realizes that many Australians have grave difficulty in articulating words of more than two syllables – something to do with their low-brow ancestry, he feels.

He most hates the name Mangy Max that House prefers. Yet he accepts me addressing him as MM – a sign of pure friendship. On the other hand, yes, on the other paw, who else could he talk to since he barely deigns to recognize his human slaves? Of course, being required to be celibate makes him quite cranky and a little vicious. He has heard of similar behavior in certain religious schools in his neighborhood – which enables him to be more tolerant of himself. Ah, the self-satisfaction of self-satisfaction! Only we cat-gods can understand that.

In his arrogance, MM is ignorant of House’s plan for him. Virginia is, however, well aware of all that is going on. How so? She is strangely gifted. She is able to hear as well as understand the language of mice and cats in all their simplicity (a little like the Malay language now known as Bahasa) – and tells me all she knows. After all, she is my pet slave. And I suspect that in lifetimes past we may have been together in old Persia with her as queen and me as god. It is of course possible that our roles were reversed then. Gods have indeed been transmogrified (no pun intended) into humans since Earth became inhabited.

Unlike MM, I am able to share my home with House the Mouse and his mob. This is because I am aware, as the followers of the Buddha have taught for centuries before the advent of Christ, that all sentient beings are worthy of respect and care. Since, in their philosophy of the meaning of existence, the bodies of all sentient beings (that is, beings with the power of self-perception) are interchangeable as temporary homes for our souls, the imperative of mutual respect, if not love, is paramount as a guide for living. Did not Jesus later talk of the imperative of mutual love and care for fellow humans? Those of us who have been gods and humans are empathetic to his teaching, although we believe that it is regrettably truncated in its compass.

I think that it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, for the mice to nobble MM by belling him. Could I help them? How? By holding him down while they tied a large bell round his fat neck? What would MM’s slaves say about that? Had the mice thought about that? MM’s slaves might indeed like MM to reduce the population of mice in the paddock, even if it is not their property. For it is the nature of the landed gentry, no matter how they had acquired their land, to exhibit an almost prurient (as in morbid) interest in adjacent properties. I wonder if in these circumstances little Virginia might be able to help. But how? She is indeed little and possibly not strong enough to either hold down MM or to tie the bell in a Lilliputian scenario with a horde of little mice tying down a sleek cat. Now that would be a sight, would it not – a descendant of one of the gods of ancient Egypt being held down by common, nomadic, foraging, lesser beings like mice?

House, the Leader

“My, oh my,” I said to myself soon after that tumultuous confabulation of the members of my tribe. “There’s that sleek slob of a sanctimonious, self-satisfied scum of the moggy breed, salivating in the sun, no doubt at the thought of a slight snack on the sly, so to speak.” To be fair, I realize that Mangy Max is only displaying an inherited instinct, neither greed, nor hunger, nor any viciousness. I am aware, even as a member of a lesser species of the animal kingdom, that the gods of yesteryear had already displayed an almost infinite capacity for destruction, acted upon with indifference (as is the right of the gods). It was their nature, as the ancient Hindus and early Greeks had been made painfully aware – the goddess Kali comes readily to mind. There were, of course, no pharmaceutical companies around then to modify or rein in an inherited behavioral attribute.

“What to do,” I thought, day by day, as Mangy Max pawed off yet another member of my tribe. There was, of course, no risk of total depletion of my mob. My tribe could indeed be compared with that major Christian sect which had, until recently, a great propensity to multiply. Eventually, in the same way that this sect would have out-numbered every other sect of every religion had its leaders been successful in their efforts to keep their women in the kitchen and perennially pregnant, so my tribe would have increased in a probably Malthusian manner; that is, where the available food could not fill all our empty bellies. I realize, only too sadly, that Mangy Max was thus in tune (even unconsciously) with the instincts of Gaia (the Soul of Earth). That is, I do realize that there has to be a balance between the capacity of Earth to produce nourishment and those bellies which need that nourishment.

Malthusian proclivities aside, there is the issue of fairness. Sneaking up on someone to kill, rather than to indulge in open warfare, is an act of a terrorist. My tribe has therefore started (perhaps in the manner of Emperor Bonsai) our own war on terrorism. However, just as European colonizers blasted their way around the world in recent centuries by using their big guns, so Mangy Max has the benefit of a big and heavy paw (or two, or four), each armed with sharp claws. My inoffensive tribe, like the poor so-called natives in all the ravaged continents, has no defense against a marauder offering pillage, rape, or sudden death. It must be recognized however that, in contrast with the destruction of whole economies and their associated societies (in the name of mercantilism and Christ), Mangy Max was, in reality, a relatively kindly soul. Yet, he had, as I have fervently repeated, to go or to be nobbled or to be made a Buddhist. That is, Mangy Max’s future has to be either conversion or containment or (as lesser options) deportation or death.

Being down-to-Earth, as good leaders are expected to be, I have set up a Committee of Wise Mice to inquire into the problem of who would bell this cat. Since we have no realistic way of belling our persecutor, I propose to widen the Committee’s terms of reference to examine appropriate alternatives. These (obviously) are to have Mangy Max destroyed, removed, reduced to incompetence as a mouser, or forced to change his ways; that is, not to eat mice.

………………………………

Virginia continued her narrative. She might have been modeled on Scheherazade, but her motives were different: her life was not at risk!

 

“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults” (Part 2)

The Who

“So, the tribe had ineluctably glided from an intended chatty confabulation straight through to the formulation of an action plan, bypassing that conference stage when all those present, or factions thereof, would have been consulted. House’s unilateral conclusion and decision now faced the tribe with a requirement to define a plan of implementation; that is, to focus on how now that the what had been set out as the desired outcome. If House had only been able to watch the news on TV, he would have noted the parallel path followed relatively recently at an international forum by that infamous trio, the Council of the Chilling.

Led by a leader for whom time is a fast flow of funds well lubricated with petrocarbons, this Council sought to impose regime changes and a form of democracy based on individualism upon tribalism-based theocratic or military-controlled governments, wherever they were to be found. Like the right-to-lifers genuflecting before the throne of a theocratic ruler way over the seas, who are prepared to kill humans who do not agree with them on matters relating to the netherlands of the female members of humanity in order to save what they choose, arbitrarily, to define as human life, the members of this Council of the Chilling were quite willing to kill (and maim) women and children, but only collaterally of course, in the name of Western capitalistic democracy. House’s decision making had an international precedent.

Not knowing that mice might mimic mankind, the tribe waited, quivering in a silence well larded with both uncertainty and anticipation. House’s authority was thereby multiplied a thousand-fold. With a wink toward Angelina (his wife number two), he spoke again. Knowing that brevity beats bombast and obfuscating oratory, he said simply: “We know what we need to do. But, we will not waste any time discussing how we will do this. The question for us now, to be dealt with in real-time, is who will do it.” In adopting this approach, House had another international precedent, although he was not aware of it (at least in his conscious mind). The Council of the Chilling had taken a similar path in attempting to put tribal governance to a cryogenic death; it knew what it wanted to do, but without working out how this would be achieved in a durable manner, it had decided who would do it.

In the silence that had reentered the scene, neither Mona the moaner (House’s number one wife) nor Porthos (who once thought that he had a clear and undeniable thought to offer) nor anyone else had anything to say. Their thoughts and feelings had all been forcefully exploded only recently in that frenzy of self-expression. Instead, they were busily thinking about life and death – death without warning and a certain predictability about it, a martyr’s death (although they had never heard about Islam), and whether there was possibly a pleasurable life after death.

However, like any good leader, House realized that stressful peregrinations through mental minefields needed a break. In humankind, this might involve a Bex (a headache powder of yesteryear), a cup of tea (a drink still in fashion), and a good lie-down (most fashionable with unionized workers in industrial nations of the Western kind). Mouseland offered a similar process of rejuvenation. He would recommend that. However, like every clever and manipulative political leader in mankind, he realized that a holding pattern of non-action had to be embarked upon immediately. This would be akin to a Royal Commission, whose report he would subsequently reject (as is done in many a democratic parliament) if it did not concur with his own views.

With this template in mind, he closed this extra-ordinary meeting of the tribe with these words resounding in the ears of his tribe: “I will arrange for a Committee of Wise Mice to inquire and report on our long-standing problem. Those of you who are of a practical nature will, of course, speak before this Committee. The question before all of us is simply: ‘Who will bell the cat?’”

 

Thus ended the parable recounted by little Virginia who had somehow learned to understand the language of mice and cats.

Since life, as experienced, can (and will) be viewed in different (and possibly contradictory) ways, the perspectives, complexities, and concerns of the major participants in this saga pertaining to mice and mortality are indubitably worthy of note.

 

Maxwell, I am

I am, I really am, I bloody well am, Maxwell – not Max, certainly not Mangy Max. It is bad enough to have a glorious name like mine reduced to something meaningless like Max, or modified thereafter to Maxie-baby by little Virginia. But the shame of it all to be now referred to as Mangy Max (by House) or MM (by Whicky). And this is in spite of my glorious black shiny coat, the result of my daily diet of a scrofulous mouse. These mice are so slow-witted as not to notice my right paw in its descent upon their hind quarters.

It was House the Mouse who first used that most disparaging appellation Mangy Max. He had spat out that derogatory nickname in an inflammatory intent to create a curse – somewhat in the manner of Montezuma’s Curse – when complaining about my behavior towards his tribe. His complaint had strangely been to Whicky, my neighbor and friend. Whicky, a long-haired Persian (cat, of course), whose historical ancestry is as glorious as mine, shares his abode with House and his mob.

Purely as an aside, why does he do that? Perhaps the eyesight of the Persians had been dimmed during the Dark Ages in Central Asia and the Middle East. This was the time when there was war in the heavens. Dragons then ruled (for a while) that part of the Cosmos in which Earth rushed unperturbed on its regular rounds while Earthlings trembled in fear or trudged through the deserts for decades in semi-darkness. Their gods (which included cats of course) and their farming animals also suffered from this blindness. Well, that might explain Whicky’s seeming stupidity. As a further aside, you will, I am sure, pardon my attempted alliteration as I have so little joy since my family jewels and then my competence to propagate my line of ancient gods were dedicated to the compost heap. I know where they were deposited because Whicky told me so. How did Whicky know? Because his principal slave Virginia (but who actually and foolishly thinks that Whicky is her pet) told him so.

Returning to human folly like the humans I had adopted and trained, Virginia and her family thought – oh dear, how shallow these humans are – that they were the ones who had adopted us as their pets. Mind you, it is a kindly intended description. The connotation of possessing a pet powerfully led to these humans being propelled into a state of smug satisfaction. Pardon the alliteration again, but they are so satisfyingly soothing in the light of that space in my netherlands. I am almost light-headed, indeed slight-headed as well, so to speak.

This unsuspected role reversal allows us gods of Egypt and Persia (and no doubt other places as well) to so dominate our humans. We can climb up curtains (something our Siamese brethren are wont to do), scratch and tear fabric-covered furniture (all of us enjoy that, even when there are trees with appropriate bark in our back yards), or disdainfully look askance and refuse to react when called, picked up, handled fondly, or otherwise shown affection. By these attitudes and actions, we indicate with such sweet subtlety that we, the descendants of the gods, cannot be ruled. Mealtimes are, however, a different kettle of fish (a heavenly thought). Even humans show respect for the cook, don’t they? I mean, a stomach which rumbles forever is so un-majestic!

My innate majesty requires me to regain my proper name and public respect. What is it about these antipodean relics of a eugenically-cleansed species of humans that they need to reject or at least to confuse those necessary gender, tribal, or other ancestral boundaries? For example, someone known as Ali is not a turbaned Turk, but a girl with the birth name Alison. Her modern-day surname of Mead has been truncated from Meadowcroft. I wonder why she chooses to discard the evidence of her tribal, cultural, and geographical heritage. She really should learn from us cat-gods as we surrealistically survey the scene surrounding us with sly satisfaction.”

 

A snapshot of author Raja Arasa RATNAM

A Hindu Malaysian Australian, with a residence of nearly 7 decades in the Land of Oz, and participating fully (and therefore atypically) in Australian civil society (and at leadership level), with his work and social life taking him across almost all levels of the Australian people, and a variety of industries and occupations.

He has thereby been able to observe, most carefully, communities of immigrants, Anglo-Celt and other Australians, segments of the business and public sectors, a trade union environment, the work-shy and other welfare dependants, the asset-rich age pensioners, as well as many of those unable to offer long-term commitment in human relations, even within family. A marginal member of a community is often better enabled to identify the structures and operating inter-relationships of that community and, thus, its ethos and essence.

He has lunched with a Governor-General, and shared the head table with a couple of State Governors and Federal Ministers – at different times of course. He has dealt officially with captains of industry and commerce, senior public officials and ethnic community leaders.

In spite of this highly intensive interactive community life, he has not lost himself culturally. His core values, formed in his youth in Malaysia, have remained with him. A bulwark in his early years in the slipstream of a weakening White Australia ethos, his “Asian values” perspective has enabled him to chart the waves of the sociological changes engulfing him, without being drowned by the current. Being able to be an integral part of his essentially Western environment without losing his connections with his own traditions, and always being aware of his ancestral values, he can straddle the cultures merging in the new cosmopolitan Australia. 

His first 4 books (viz. ‘Destiny Will Out,’ ‘The Karma of Culture,’ ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity,’ and ‘The Dance of Destiny’) led to a senior academic reviewer to state that they represented a sliver of Australia’s post-war history. That is because, since his arrival in Australia in 1948, he has lived through the worst demonstrations of the White Australia policy, in particular, the eventually-failed effort by the then Minister of Immigration to deport Mrs. Anne O’Keefe and her family back to Indonesia.

His own experience of an Australian ‘ignoramus’ seeking to protect ‘white British space’ stolen from the Aborigines was to be attacked in public thus in early 1949; ‘Why don’t you go back home, you black bastard?’ In early 1950, a fellow student said to him, ‘I don’t mind you, but I do not many more like you in my country.’ In the mid-1950s, he was too black to be employed as a psychologist (he had qualified as a research psychologist in the University of Melbourne); a little later, when he had qualified as an economist, “the Australian worker is not ready for a foreign executive” (said to the Head of Melbourne University’s Graduate Employment Unit).

In the late 1970s and in the mid-1980s, much effort, including some unethical conduct, was spent to prevent him remaining in the Senior Executive Service in the federal public sector (if he had succeeded, he would have been the first foreigner at that level). He had been on higher duties, however, for almost a year in each of 2 government agencies, without complaint or criticism from anyone. It is difficult to counter a WASP or a religio-political ‘tribal.’

At another level, in spite of the non-discriminatory immigration entry policy of the 1970s, there remained a relatively closed entry door for applicants from the Indian sub-continent. The 2001 Census showed that the majority of Asians in Australia had arrived from East Asia, and that the majority of the Asian immigrants had claimed to be Christians.

Another reviewer said this in relation to a book which was not published.

“ … what I liked about the style of writing is its unpredictability. The author cannot be read as belonging to any particular intellectual ‘tribe’.  Overall, it is very stimulating and different to other pieces of social commentary written in this country. That is its real strength.”

“… in many ways, it is an immigrant addition to that style of social commentary practiced by Conway and Horne……..but the author’s ‘outsider’ status gives him the insights that they lack.”

Non-publication was to avoid unwarranted controversy. The key issues were, however, woven into his other books. The purpose of publication was to inform, not to antagonise.

Since the spirit realm had brought him to Australia, he saw his role in life as building bridges. Indeed, he began writing his books only in response to a suggestion from the spirit of his uncle that he “could seek to contribute to building a bridge” from where he came to where he is. His own settlement experience and his work (over 9 years) on all the policies relating to the integration of immigrants enabled him to write his books and (later) many articles for publication. (Refer ‘The Dance of Destiny,’ his 4th book, and ezinearticles.com)

His message to newly-arrived immigrants and others: Ignore oral expressions of intolerant ignorance; but challenge significant acts of discrimination such as denial of equal opportunity. He himself had been unable to counter racial discrimination (skin colour and being ‘foreign’) and tribo-religious discrimination (Mass-related ‘not one of us’).

Yet, he bears no grudges. His experiences reflected the ethos of the white Christian supremacy of his time. Time and the human spirit do, however, bring desirable change. Australia is on the road to the Family of Man!