Aggrandising colonialism’s cultural ancestors

Was it not the Scottish Enlightenment (centred on Edinburgh University) which offered intellectual enlightenment to the English? Did that widened understanding of matters significant seep into the psyche of the buccaneers of the East India Company and, later, into the policies of the British rulers of India? Probably not! Were not the latter imbued with the objective of enabling their ‘natives’ to achieve a speedier access to Nirvana through being clutched to the bosom of Christ, while continuing with their own role as shopkeepers?

When scholastic writings by white supremacists did not convince subject peoples that the ‘white race’ was genetically (inherently) superior to all other ‘races,’ the British colonial mind seems to have sought appropriate intellectual and militaristic forebears in continental Europe.

Fortunately, there were the philosophers of Athens, who were not pre-occupied with the semantics of the Church; Macedonian Alexander (the Great), who allegedly introduced everything Greek to all the tribes on the way to the Indian sub-continent, was also available.

Two further developments aided the search for an appropriate cultural ancestor. European scholars of Indian philosophy were cleverly able to date Indic writings to no further back in time than about 1500BC. This allowed Abraham and his people to establish Judeo-Christianity as the religious ancestor of Europeans, with priority over Hinduism.

Then came the acolytes of these scholars, who claimed with great certitude that no ‘black peoples’ had contributed in any substantive manner to human civilisation. These black people were presumably the Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians and Indians, and anyone else with a nicer skin colour than (coppery) white. Strangely, the Mediterranean cultural ancestor and the Levantine religious ancestor could not have possessed that superior white colour!

I now ask these two questions. Who taught Heraclitus that ‘It is all fire up there’ (or words to that effect)? An unknown Indian whose name is not recorded in a text book allegedly reached that conclusion thousands of years before.

Second question: Did not the Bible draw liberally upon Sumerian writings, while the Vedas of the Indic people have been dated, through known planetary configurations, back to about 7,000 BC?

After the modern Western neo-colonials have self-destroyed themselves, or hopefully matured morally, could we recognise that we human beings are all one species? Could we also accept that each one of us will probably have different religio-cultural ancestors in each life on Earth?

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Inter-cultural transfers of values and practices

Revelation from On-High (Heaven, that is) has apparently been known to occur. However, it surely is a rare event; and may be unreliable (while unverifiable).

The transfer of learning and of new ideas, or new cultural practices and their underlying belief-rationale, occurs through enduring exposure. For example, the diverse peoples of Southeast Asia became acclimatised to Hindu religious practices and their associated belief systems through ongoing contact with Indian traders; later, the latter’s priests (who, unlike Christian priests, do not seek to proselytise and convert) would also have had an impact through the observed display of their rituals.

Emperors and other militarists are, by their very roles and actions, not known to be effective transmitters of durable new cultural practices and associated values. Their ambassadors have a political role, including reporting to head office their observations on their new temporary environment.

Traders move on their own trajectories, unless paid to be spies. Together with settlers from other cultures, they have a pervasive effect on the people they encounter, but without intending to change anything. In this context, I am reminded of Megasthenes, the ambassador to (Indian) Chandrangupta’s Empire from Seleucus, the successor in the Middle East to Alexander the Great. He made some very interesting observations.

Ironically, Alexander reportedly sought to adopt, without success, certain court practices of Persian royalty. Perhaps the priestess in Siwa (Egypt) had confirmed his alleged belief that he had been sired by a god. The adoption by officials of the British East India Company of the traditions of their predecessors, the Mughals, was however so successful that they were criticised by England’s class-riven rulers as ‘going native.’

When a tribe changes religion by fiat, by the ruler’s decision (for example, the Khazars of the Caucasus and the Singhalese of (modern-day) Sri Lanka), would the cultural changes have involved more than a change of religious belief? The conversion by British evangelists of some Indians and Ceylonese did not appear to have altered their behavioural values and practices in the Asian communities I observed; only religious observance was amended.

Naturally, in time, for a variety of reasons, cultural practices will change. My extended family is an excellent exemplar. I recall a visiting academic from Greece in Melbourne in the early 1980s who was criticised for saying that. He had pointed out that Athenian cultural practices had changed over time; and that island culture, which was not the same as Athenian culture, had also changed. Somewhat unwisely, he had wondered (as I understood him) whether one could really talk of Greek culture.

In truth, is any culture uniform across a people? There are classes, castes, and sub-cultures in countries which are familiar to us, eg. Australia, Britain, Japan, Malaysia, India.

Culture is indeed a moveable feast. In modern times, a degree of fusion between hitherto separate cultures can also be expected. What value is there in cultural competition or aggrandisement?

The value of history

The examination of events which had occurred in the past, or are believed to have occurred, in (say) 5-year rolling cycles (a useful statistical approach) can, I believe, provide a more meaningful vista than a parade of individual events. To be adequately explanatory, one would also need to understand motivations.

That is, what were the triggers? A unilateral initiative or a reaction? The personal ambition of a leader? A tribal thrust reflecting historical memories, including rancour at past injustices? Tribo-religious greed for land, souls, and other resources? Expectations of gain? National stupidity? The economic forces at play? Or the imperatives of suvival?

A broader issue relates to leadership, whether in an offensive or defensive mode. Does a great leader arise from the prevailing circumstances or does a leader-in-the-making create the circumstances he or she needs? I am reminded of 2 female leaders in recent times – Mrs. Golda Meir of Israel and Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka. Then there were Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. I believe that these ambitious leaders surfaced only because the flow of the political current was propitious. Ditto Adolf Hitler.

On the contrary, while I received a sound education under the colonial British in Malaya, my study of history was partly wasted on what I thought of as ducks and drakes. The ducks were the dukes, earls, et al of Britain. The drakes referred to were notables in Europe, eg. Charlemange, Loyala, and others.

It was only when, after the end of WW2, I read Harold Lasky and others of like mind, that I realised that taught history was totally irrelevant for an adequate understanding of humanity-on-the-hoof. Sundry tribes had been rushing here and there all over the world, including Europe; and tribal and (later) national boundaries were shifted freely.

Official history, or only some prevailing historical presentations, seem Eurocentric – and some of it truly foolish. For example, that the Greek (not Macedonian) Alexander the Great had conquered India. The Encyclopaedia Britannica had Hindu Indians praying to a range of gods, but there was no mention that these gods were only manifestations of the one and only Creator of mankind.

Then there was Muller who apparently could not accept that Hinduism is older than Judaism. There are others who cannot accept that learned Athenians and their philosophers may have learnt from Egyptians and Persians, whose civilisations also go back a long way.

In contrast, I found a series of books on history by Cambridge University about the origins of cultures all over the globe most educational.

We do need to know the long-term trends of significant events which have occurred over long periods of time, their motivations, and their consequences. I found Nehru’s ‘Glimpses of world history,’ which provide brief outlines (and their significance) of major trends throughout recorded history; Jacques Barzun’s ‘From Dawn to Decadence – 1500 to the present’; Martin Bernal’s ‘Black Athena: The Afroasiatic roots of classical civilisation’; Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak & David Frawley’s ‘In search of the cradle of civilisation’; Allan& Delair’s ‘Cataclysm: compelling evidence of a cosmic catastrophe in 9500 BC’; Stephen Oppenheimer’s ‘Out of Eden: the peopling of the world’; and sundry other authors of relevance, to be illuminating.

Since the past is embedded in the present, we do need to know how we were shaped. When in doubt, let us keep our minds open.

The history of nations can be confusing

My country of birth was Malaya, which included Singapore. Today, Malaysia excludes Singapore but includes Sabah, a slice of Borneo. Malaysia is now a Muslim Malay nation, regardless of the substantial development contributions by the elders of the multi-ethnic Asian communities living there.

My father was born in Jaffna, an independent Hindu Tamil territory, in colonial Ceylon. Now, Buddhist Sinhalese control the whole island (thanks to the colonial British), which was re-named Sri Lanka.

India was a conglomeration of independent principalities ruled by the Muslim Mughals from Central Asia for centuries. The Mughal rulers were the descendants of Genghis Khan of Mongolia. Genghis was the ruler of the largest contiguous empire ever. Since Alexander and Constantine are known as ‘the Great,’ Genghis could fairly be described as ‘the Greatest.’

The British then united almost all of the principalities into the nation known as India. Then, in an act (which one of my elders described as an act of bastardry), Pakistan, a Muslim nation in 2 widely separated segments, was created. An unnecessary division of a co-existing people led to inhumane consequences. The religio-political tension between these nations may delight the ex-colonials. Then, Bangladesh was hived off. Who benefited from the division of the sub-continent into 3 nations, since Muslims live as equals, and individuals have risen to power, in modern India?

Need or greed would have led to various tribes entering the lands of other tribes in Asia. Over time, boundaries became flexible, and some tribes apparently merged. No boundary seemed to be durable. What is known about these tribes? That depends upon whether their names are in Persian, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Indian, Greek, or some other languages. In the apparent absence of indigenous records, one is limited to the claims of the colonisers or invaders.

have read that most of the tribes named in history are known by only their languages; and that ethnography is mute. Bias, even in academic circles, is not unknown, hitherto influenced essentially by Eurocentrism (the residue of colonialism). For example, an economic historian recently claimed that the major civilisational developments of mankind arose in Eurasia!

Contradictorily, and amusingly, there is apparently a school of historical thought which claims that no ‘black’ people could have contributed to the origins of civilisation. There go the ancient Indians, Egyptians, Mesopotamians (especially the Sumerians), Persians, and other peoples outside Europe. History based on where coins have been found is obviously challengeable. Ubiquitous traders respect no politico-cultural boundaries. They spread philosophy, social customs, coinage and goods.

Those who claim Athens as the font of new knowledge for Europe are challenged by the claim that Athens was established by Egypt; and that, at one time, 50% of Athenians were Egyptians, with many Athenians (such as Pythagoras) studying for years in Egypt.

We cannot all be leading nations, even in history. If, in each life, we are born into different cultures, hopefully – in time – our souls may intuitively guide us to the realisation that difference is insignificant in impact when we are all connected to one another in time and space.

Racism and tribalism (2)

Tribalism is easy to understand. What is racism? Traditionally, race seems to have been synonymous with tribe. Yet, the term race could not possibly have been applied rationally in the unending confrontations between the tribes, later, the nations of Europe; these people are too much alike in appearance through significant cross-breeding. That is, over a long period of time, many of the tribes of Europe moved into the temporarily traditional terrain of others of that stock, thereby creating a blended variety of European of white appearance. Yet, there are significant pockets of Europeans displaying visibly divergent appearances in cranial structures and facial features.
A similar pattern of long-term blending, with significant pockets of facially divergent peoples to be found – going from East to West – in the lands of China (excluding its occupied territories), the southern coast of Asia and islands south and east occupied primarily by the people known as Malays, the Indian sub-continent, Central Asia (including China’s occupied territories), Western Asia, Arabia and adjacent terrain, North Africa, Central and South Africa (excluding the settlers from Europe), the Americas before it was invaded by Europeans, and the diverse peoples of the Pacific.
Within each of these huge areas, there are fine gradations of skin colour, reflecting earlier incursions and intermixing. Yet, there are visible similarities in body shape, cranial structures and facial appearances which can separate the bulk of the people in each major geographical category (as defined above) from the others. The categorisation set up above is obviously not a fine cut, but a broad-brush canvas with tolerable credibility.
It is not surprising that an attempt was once made to identify only 3 categories of humans – white, black and yellow. The success of European colonisation had led to the claim that white people were at the top of the totem pole of inborn abilities. A major problem was that the white people were described as Caucasian, which also includes my ancestral people. We are apparently Caucasian too! And many of my family are quite light in colour, implying that there is a North Indian or even a Central Asian strand within my genetic inheritance. For instance, the son of a nephew has green eyes. And I have been taken to be a North Indian by North Indians, while the Tamils have no trouble in identifying me as one of them. Back to the drawing board!
A more difficult problem is that skin colour, shape of cranium, and facial features aside, we humans are too alike. ‘What a bummer’ said my pink-faced Eurasian friend, whose Malay grandmother’s genes having been totally submerged by the genes of a single European ancestor.
It is my belief that the term race was conceived by the colonising ‘supermen’ to apply to inferior coloured people. I thus argue that ‘race’ is a construct of colonialism, which asserted then that white people are inherently (that is, genetically) superior to all other people. There was nothing new in this sort of claim. The Chinese just know that they are a superior people. So do the Indians. My mother was not far behind in making a similar claim.
Indeed, this pride in our ancestry enabled the early Asian student entrants like me to ignore those Australians who had cloaked themselves (without cause) in the garb of superior colonial Christian whites. I found it fascinating to observe common-garden Aussies behaving in this way.
The rulers of this superior species residing in Europe then fragmented the diverse non-whites into a number of races, the categorisation varying with the definer. All discriminatory policies and practices (apart from those of religion) referred to an implicitly inferior ‘race.’

 

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’)

 

Back-door entry to Australia

One cannot obviously be a puritan in the administration of humanitarian entry (HE) policy. … …  .  This is also where back door entry policy, the admission of asylum seekers, also comes in.

Equipped with a passport from one’s country of nationality, a return airline ticket, enough money to cover the nominated period of the visit, a visa and other documentation identifying one as a businessman, visitor, student, etc., one can, after arrival, convert to asylum seeker.  The applicant cannot be thrown out as an over-stayer while awaiting a decision.  Then the repeated access to appeal courts, presumably at taxpayer expense, an access not so readily available to, or affordable by, an ordinary Australian citizen!

But, who feeds, accommodates, and pays the medical bills for these asylum seekers while they await this back door entry?  A Singhalese person claiming a fear of persecution in Singhalese Sri Lanka, or a Malaysian Chinese making a similar claim about Chinese-dominated Malaysia, indicate the waste of investigatory resources arising from such asylum claims, and the opportunism of applicants and their very vocal supporters.

The public has little to no information about what happens to those legal arrivals, the ones who arrive by air with an appropriate entry document.  These represent the greater part of these asylum seekers.  Reportedly, most of these applicants are allowed to remain.  On what basis?  Surely all those accepted could not have produced evidence of persecution or discrimination.  Were they also assessed as capable of earning a living in Australia?  Are the rejects only those who have failed security checks?  Who provides the necessary information?  The authorities from whom the applicant claims to be fleeing?  Since there seems to be no shortage of local supporters for these applicants, is this form of entry a variation of family reunion?

  On the other hand, we are flooded with information about unlawful boat arrivals.  Their very vocal Anglo-Australian supporters present them as a form of sacred cow.  For instance, we are not allowed to describe them as illegal arrivals!  Australia is not to be allowed to reject any, in spite of a seemingly unlimited right of access to appeal courts at taxpayer expense.  No reject can be sent home.  Indeed, there was that incredible claim that there should be a separate entry category for rejected asylum seekers!

Asylum seekers should also not be kept in detention where they are provided with full board, education, health and welfare services, we are told.  But we are not told who will house, feed, and medicate them were they to be free to roam all over the country while they await a decision.  Will their supporters accept that responsibility?  Or, is the poor taxpayer expected to provide accommodation in the community (in spite of the thousands of Australian homeless people needing a warm bed), with cash support from Centrelink (the welfare agency) and medical services through Medicare?  Officialdom is apparently already required to provide public housing to those accepted as refugees.  Welfare benefits and Medicare automatically flow from acceptance.  Presumably, family reunion is then available.  Who wouldn’t want to be an asylum seeker!

The Anglo-Australian supporters of the boat arrivals claim that all asylum seekers are genuine refugees (how would they know that?) and that they have all suffered trauma and torture (anyone with any evidence?).  They seek speedy decisions in spite of the reality that almost all arrivals have torn up their identity papers and other documentation which got them to Indonesia.  What does that behaviour suggest?  That there is an intent not to be honest?  Why?  Could some of them be al-Queda or Taliban, or are members of drug or other criminal cartels?  How are our authorities to know?  We are told that detention has caused mental health problems;  but, were those with such problems sent by their families?

There is another moral problem.  How could anyone risk the life of a child or one’s womenfolk on one of the asylum seeker boats?  Is it then the case that the journey is not as dangerous as it is said to be?  In a comparable past experience, were the Vietnamese boat people arriving in Thailand and Malaysia as exposed to the sea and piracy as was claimed by their vocal supporters?  How believable is an economic migrant seeking entry by the back door?

 

(The above is an extract from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society,’ published in 2012. Since then, much has changed. Initially, a more open door to illegal entry led to a large number of arrivals. With a change of government, Australia’s borders became more tightly protected against arrivals by sea. What of legal arrivals claiming asylum?

There are claimants yet to be assessed, reportedly living in Australia. Then, there are those placed overseas. It is indeed a somewhat murky situation. I am not aware of supporters of asylum seekers willing to take them into their homes, finding jobs, and generally looking after them; except to assist them with their applications and review appeals; and to make loud public protests.

The taxpayer cost of supporting accepted asylum seekers seems high. 91% unemployment after 5 years is a very heavy load for those who cannot minimise their tax burden.

Back-door entry obviously needs to be denied; or the nation loses control of its borders. An integrated populace needs to decide who joins them.

    

 

 

Side door entry to Australia (Part 2)

The Labor Party then sought white left-wing  HEs (humanitarian entrants).  So I was informed.  We found them in post-Allende Chile.  However, there soon developed a flood of applicants from all of Central and South America.  Then the Vaticanites enabled East Timorese to receive HE admission, even when they were living in Portugal, their country of nationality!  Our senior bureaucrats and Ministers can indeed be very flexible in their decision making.

All of a sudden, Poles living within Poland could qualify as HEs!  How influential was the Polish Pope?  Then, for a while, ‘White Russians’ came from China as HEsThese had fled the arrival of communism in Russia 60 years before.  An all-white colleague of mine used to claim proudly that he was Chinese; he was born in China of White Russian parents.

There were also Jewish Russians who had been permitted by the Soviet Government to join close family in Israel but who, on arrival in Vienna, sought El Dorado in Western nations.  The Prime Minister of Israel in the 1980s was not happy at having up to 85% of potential citizens deflected elsewhere, mainly by professional recruiters from the USA.

Then, contrary to policy, presumably through Ministerial discretion, a number of Jewish Russian women married to non-Jewish men were permitted entry to Australia.  They had left Israel because they did not like their experiences as second-class citizens of Israel.  There are two other classes below them, as confirmed to me by my good Jewish Australian friend who had spent some time in Israel.  (My friend is not ‘self-hating,’ is knowledgeable, and observes the Jewish traditions.).  One of these Jewish Russian women subsequently worked for me in the Department of Immigration;  she was a worthy immigrant, who also told me a great deal about Israel.

When a global HE policy replaced the Middle Eastern HE policy, the first batch approved overseas were not Baha’is, as expected, but Afghan carpet merchants from Pakistan.  Some of Australia’s visa-issuing embassy staff were very flexible.  At that time, the Baha’i were the only people known to be persecuted in the Middle East.  A little later, we accepted a number of Bahai’is.  As with other HEs, they were placed in a migrant hostel in a city in which resided members of the same community. These had agreed to assist the initial settlement of the new arrivals.  A kind hostel manager had arranged for a local imam to greet the arrivals.  The next day he rang me to ask what he was to do with the halal meat.  This was the measure of the care we gave all new arrivals.

Some Ministerial approvals were also so flexible, that I was threatened by an ethnic Australian sponsor of his relatives overseas when I pointed out that I did not have the authority to approve entry outside policy.  The sponsor himself had benefited from an earlier flexible Ministerial approval.  Eminence in one’s profession can engender uncivil conduct!

For a short period only, the Tamils of Sri Lanka had entry as HEs;  not surprisingly, the majority approved seemed to be disproportionately Christian.  Yet, this was a generous entry policy, as even migrant entry from the Indian sub-continent had been constrained for years by positioning a strong arm against the entry door.  This was achieved by limiting the Australian immigration staff over there.  Two of those who had worked in this region subsequently worked in my team, one after the other.  They were not posted overseas after unwisely protesting to the head of the department about this discriminatory practice.

Eventually, I was directed, but at my initiative, to close down the White Russian and East Timorese policies;  they were not needed.  The other ethno-specific regional HE policies were far too sensitive politically;  our global HE policy did not obviously pay adequate respect to the tribo-cultural sensitivities of the communities affected.

There had to have been great flexibility in approvals at certain overseas posts.  Why?  Because, surprisingly, many HEs, especially the Poles, subsequently returned home to obtain jobs in keeping with their qualifications (such jobs not readily available in Australia).  Vietnamese HEs who had allegedly fled the takeover by the communists went back to Vietnam as Australians to conduct businesses.  So much for their earlier ‘genuine’ fear of persecution or discrimination!

 

(The above is an extract from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’

Only careful selection of applicants for migrant entry to Australia, by Australian officials assessing their potential for integrating into the nation, can ensure subsequent inter-community cohesion. Acceptance of Australian institutions and social mores and values, and an ability to learn English, were essential pre-requisites. Applicants were also discouraged from introducing their tribal prejudices into Australia. Side-door entry was not as stringent.)