The facade of democracy

Australia plays a prominent part in the push for developing nations of interest to the Western world to adopt our form of politics.  A vote for each adult should lead to governments based on representative democracy.  This will replace traditional tribal governance with rule by political parties (the new form of tribalism), aided and abetted by religious groupings (the other form of tribalism). … …

Western democracy is the form that Australia and its stepfather the USA insist, either patronisingly or ferociously, on foisting upon countries of interest to us.  These include the most powerful, viz. China, to the least, viz. any small nation being ‘minded’ by Deputy Sheriff nations appointed by Sheriff USA. … …

I mean no disrespect to the notion of sheriffs delivering democracy, but do wonder if the form of democracy preferred by the Ultra-West is the optimum form for citizens in non-Western nations to participate in their governance. … … Is it that democracy simply permits foreign exploiters to rip off some of these nations, and to pollute their rivers, without much benefit to the ‘natives’?

Does the one-size-fits-all approach to democracy take into adequate account the wide variability in governance prevailing in those countries we believe should have policy or regime change?  Purely in passing, I do wonder how Australia can claim to have a view as to whether there should be regime or policy change in another country.  Who the hell are we?  We Australians would not accept being on the receiving end of such views if held by another nation.

In any event, does our insistence that other nations should adopt our preferred form of democracy also allow for the variability found within the nations of the West, especially in the areas of eligibility for voting rights, optional vs. compulsory voting, delineation of electoral boundaries, terms of office, bicameral vs. unicameral parliaments, etc?  Does it realistically allow for the variable stages of socio-economic development in the real world and, probably, the need for a compromise approach?  Or, is this just an attempt by us either to break down tribal leadership, or to impose neo-colonialism?  Should the target nations consider this adage:  Beware the peddler promising you a charmed life were you to buy his snake oil?

… … 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 – 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! … …

Our 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 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.

In the rest of the nations created by white people for themselves (white people accounting for no more than 15% of the world’s population), tribal allegiances of a varying nature may continue to prevail.  After all, the white nations of Europe began to be constructed only about four centuries or so ago to reflect tribal agglomerations, the presence of some minority tribes notwithstanding.  Each tribe underpinning a nation is necessarily infused and influenced by its religious affiliation.  In this context, how different are they 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? … …

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?

On these and other major issues such as the nation’s involvement in someone else’s wars;  and the demands of our stepfather or heavy-hitting foreign investors or rich contributors to the party, what can we voters do to have official decisions reflect the will of a substantial majority?  The popular answer is ‘sweet fanny adams.’ … …

Could true democracy then be achieved by independent parliamentary representatives who would vote in parliament as directed  by their voters?  A citizen’s referendum on major issues?  Religious fanatics and agents of foreign powers would then be effectively contained.

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

 

 

 

 

 

‘Musings at Death’s Door’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM – Overview

‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’

Near what I considered to be the end of my life (as erroneously forecast by an otherwise accurate clairvoyant), I decided to take a rear-vision-mirror look at the nation into which I had been sent by the spirit world (I did once think of it as exile). Having survived the White Australia era unscathed; having had my career path blocked four times unfairly; having a creditable record of accomplishments during my contributions to civil society; having experienced a full life in a Western milieu over nearly 7 decades, while retaining the spiritual values of Asia which had formed me, I was in a position to place on record my considered conclusions about Australia and its society.

During a 30+ year career as a public official, I had spent 14 years dealing with the private sector, and 9 years with leaders of our immigrant communities, with some significant contact with ministers of government, and a slight tussle with a shire council about citizen rights; and served on many committees wherever I lived. My Anglo-Australian wife supported me in all these activities.

I had been the national president of Australian Rostrum (akin to Toastmasters), and responsible for opening membership to women; the founder of a public speaking competition for primary schools in the national capital and surrounding townships, and co-founder of a comparable nation-wide competition for secondary schools; as foundation chairman of a school board, I had produced (and had accepted) an outline of an educational program for primary school students about religion.

I had also received a Meritorious Service Award from my trade union for my decade-long contribution to career protection in the federal public service. My only failure was in my efforts over 7 years, after retirement, to achieve improved health services in my Shire. I feel that I understand my country of adoption to be able to write objectively, while being proud of its achievements.

An endorsement pre-publication

“Raja Ratnam has lived a full life and made significant contributions to Australian life over six decades.  His experience as an Asian in Australia from the time of White Australia to that of multiculturalism is unique.  This book is a final distillation of the wisdom he has gained over that time. He provides insight into a wide range of areas from society and culture to religion.  And even better, his insights reflect his unique experience.  There is wisdom here and, like all of his work, this book is rich, intelligent and provocative. A major contribution to Australian culture.” –Prof. Greg Melleuish, History & Politics, Wollongong University

A review

Recommended by the US Review of Books, as follows:

“Before I leave this shell, my body, I need to recognise what it is that I have learnt from my turbulent but interesting life.”

“This book is a commentary about how Australia has changed since the author first moved there in 1948. This work stands on its own merit, however his previous nonfiction work, The Dance of Destiny, describes the prejudices he, as an Asian from British Malaya, experienced. Those experiences are discussed in this latest book, as they relate to his observations of how society has reacted to different races, nationalities, languages, and religions.

Ratnam witnessed a change from White Australia to a multi-cultural, multi-lingual nation. During his years of public service, he achieved several high-ranking positions in areas of refugee settlement and migration, education, and humanitarian work. He was also denied positions because of his ethnicity. Even though he was well-known in his field, including serving as an advisor at a government level, he still faced racism from time to time. In the early 1970s, the country developed an official entry policy that was non-discriminating. Skin color was no longer an official issue. In fact, as more immigrants arrived from ethnically diverse backgrounds, more social workers were needed who could speak those languages and understand the cultures.

This well-written book flows easily from one point to another. It is excellent for anyone studying sociology, public service, immigration policies, and related categories. It is also a recommended read for those who are not necessarily students, but who are interested in how a nation went from being “very British” to one of diversity acceptance. To use the author’s words, “Today’s Australia is not the nation I entered in 1948.”

Presentation at Beijing Book Fair 2016

The book was presented at this fair by Dr. Irina Webster of the Australian Self-Publishing Group.

Chapter headings

Chapter  1     On Biculturalism

Chapter  2      On Subservience

Chapter  3      On Family & Society

Chapter  4      On Governance

Chapter  5      On Racism & Tribalism

Chapter  6      On Multiculturalism

Chapter  7      On Migrants, Refugees & Asylum Seekers

Chapter  8     On Religion

Chapter  9      On the Cosmos

Chapter  10      On National Identity

Chapter  11      On Empires – gone & going

Chapter  12      Conclusion

 

EXTRACTS from chapter 12

From early boyhood I have wanted to know about the Cosmos;  about nations and why they behave as they do;  about key aspects of society anywhere and everywhere;  and about what makes we humans behave the way we do.

More recently, I have pondered the following issues.  What determines the trajectories of our lives?  Does the spirit world normally impact upon humanity?  If so, why?  Is there a Creator behind human affairs as well as the Cosmos as a whole?  How can we really know what we think we know?

My most recent interest is in how people divided by their cultures, including religion, can reach out to one another.  How can we un-learn taught prejudice, and accept that inner yearning within us to accept one another?  Would a sense of belonging to the same nation (hopefully with some pride) induce a feeling of one people, in time?

Perhaps because of my increasing understanding of humanity, and possibly some maturity on my part, I find myself becoming more frivolous, while simultaneously ‘taking no shit’ from anyone.  I have had enough of ‘racism,’ tribalism and religious prejudice.  Thankfully, I have finally achieved mental as well as spiritual peace.

My musings, as recorded above, are obviously tentative.  If I have time, I would possibly revise them;  but that will not happen.  So, why record these musings?  To show that I have learnt.  To whom?  It is always possible that the Cosmos will guide some kindred spirits to take my thoughts into their ponderings about what it is all about; in which event, I would not have lived in vain.

Nevertheless, I will take with me my learning and add to it through my future lives.  That is my perceived trajectory of re-iterative existence, hopefully leading to that realisation of why it is so.

 

 

 

 

 

‘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’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

Australia, throughout its brief history, has experienced 2 ethno-religious cultural challenges in its efforts to achieve and maintain a secular society. The first, the early divisive influence of Roman Catholicism, has seemingly been tamed. The keen observer will, however, note that the social policies of the nation are dominated by the Vatican’s values; for example, compassion is constrained by so-called pro-life edicts.

The other challenge to the institutions and social mores of the nation has recently arisen from a tiny segment of the immigrant Muslim intake. Since Islam makes no distinction between the secular and the religious, some Muslims seem to experience difficulty in adapting to the nation they chose to enter.

Australia’s achievement in the past half-century has been its success in integrating a very broad spectrum of culturally diverse ethnic communities into the Australian ethos. We will not regress. My book deals with the principal issues, in the context of Australia’s surrounds of Asian spiritualism.

Endorsements pre-publication

“Writing from the perspective of an Asian Australian, Arasa addresses some of the fundamental questions confronting human kind at the present time. The clash of collectivism and individualism is seen as an East/West issue. Here is available, perhaps for the first time, an insightful ‘take’ on Australian society written by an ‘insider’ who, paradoxically, is an ‘outsider’ as well. …enormously interesting and not uncontroversial …” — John Western, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Queensland, Australia

“Ratnam’s book is a wake-up call for a more independent national policy on immigration and multicultural policy. Coming from a well-informed former migrant, who has embraced this country as his own, his message has particular value. … Impressed with the depth of (his) analysis” — Professor Bob Birrell, Director, Centre for Population & Urban Research, Monash University, Australia.

This is a book that every Australian should read. It provides a unique insight into the society and culture of contemporary Australia from someone who has been both an insider and an outsider in Australia. It has a refreshing honesty in an age in which ‘spin’ and euphemism too often combine to hide the true nature of things. You may not always agree with what the book says but you will be compelled to sit up and think more deeply about our contemporary world. I think that the book has that element of honesty and insight that much of what is currently published does not. I hope that it will be read widely.” — Associate Professor Gregory Melleuish, Head, School of History and Politics, Wollongong University, Australia.

REVIEWS 

The US Review of Books

Karma of Culture by Raja Arasa Ratnam

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

“It is now Anglo-Celt Australia which therefore has to change. It needs to rebuild its communities to enable the close inter-relation- ships between individuals, which used to prevail before individualism took over their souls.”

This is an enjoyably erudite text that will mean most to thoughtful Australians of all cultures. Ratnam served for nine years as Director of Policy on Australian migrant settlement related issues. Surprisingly, to an American reader, his descriptions of some of the worst ills of current Australian society sound almost exactly like the ills of American society: a large and seemingly expanding lower class of people dependent on government subsidies, subsidies in the main funded by an increasingly burdened middle class, while a small number of very wealthy people look on and offer no assistance to either.

To inhabitants of eastern Asia, Australia beckons, its welcome including housing, health care, and other aid to newly arrived immigrants and even more to those who stay longer. But sadly, despite this open door, old biases remain intact: “The most ridiculous manifestation of such prejudice relates to attitudes to study displayed by Asian children. They are accused of studying inordinately hard, and not developing a rounded personality through participation in sport.”

Ratnam makes a plea for a true multiculturalism that does not force one group to tamp down its cultural practices or religious beliefs (many Asians claim to be Christian upon immigrating, change their diet or manner of dress, in order to make themselves more acceptable to the dominant group) and does not take the color of one’s skin to be one’s only calling card.

Ratnam’s Hinduism is reflected in the book’s title; he says the book came to him as a suggestion “by the spirit world.” It would be hard to find a more cogent and simultaneously engaging treatise on this subject, so neatly organized and neatly phrased that even a neophyte can readily grasp its essence.

The Karma of Culture will, one hopes, be read by serious students of Australian politics, culture, and sociological issues, and by some ordinary people who want to be better informed and can see the correlation between the problems in Ratnam’s Australia and those of rest of the so-called civilized world.

RECOMMENDED

 

Appraisal – pre-publication

“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? These questions are raised in an intelligent and thought-provoking way.”

“You give us valuable insights into your own experiences as an ‘outsider’ in a predominantly white ‘Western’ environment, who has been able to become part of that environment without losing your deepest links with your own culture. And you demonstrate that the influence of Eastern philosophers – to which Australia is uniquely exposed among Western countries – has the potential to counteract the West’s slide into materialism and the spiritual impoverishment that provides fertile soil for cultism and fundamentalism in all their forms.”

“This is a hard-hitting, insightful book that will appeal to academics, public servants, students, and many members of the general public………..”

 

 

 

International laws – why bother?

The recent development in the USA, the nation of exceptionalism, of a policy of ‘America first’ has implications for the future of international laws. The following extracts from ‘Lawless World: America and the making and breaking of global rules’ by Philippe Sands, an eminent former professor of law and a practising barrister in the UK, seems pertinent.

“In the 1940s the United States and Britain led efforts to replace a world of chaos and conflict with a new, rules-based system.  … …  they hoped to make the world a better place, free from fear or want. They proposed new international rules to place limits on the use of force, promote the protection of fundamental human rights, and enshrine free trade and international economic liberalisation.”

“Over the next fifty years the mission to deepen and develop international law was, broadly speaking, successful. … … But it may have been too successful a mission. The rules which were intended to constrain others became constraining of their creators.”

“At the opening of the twenty-first century the world was a very different place from the one restructured by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill half a century earlier. International law had wrought a revolution, with rules reaching into the nooks and crannies of everyday life. … … With the election of George W. Bush in November 2000, a US Administration took office that was outspoken in its determination to challenge global rules. Soon it turned into a full-scale assault, a war on law.”

“I trace the efforts of the first George W. Bush Administration to remake the system of global rules, from the abandonment of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, through the attempt to disapply the Geneva Conventions and other human rights norms at Guantanamo and other places, to the virtual disavowal of the United Nations’ prescriptions prohibiting the use of force. … … Faced with this onslaught the British Government was often silent or, in certain respects, a willing handmaiden to some of the worst violations of international law. Together the two countries were trying to remake the global rules.”

The above extracts were from the Preface. The following extract is from the back cover of the book.

“ … America has reneged on agreements governing war, torture and the environment – with Britain often turning a blind eye or colluding in some of the worst violations. In recent years, America had abandoned the Kyoto Protocol and the Statute of the International Criminal Court, ignored human rights standards at Abu Graib and disregarded the UN’s prohibition on pre-emptive force. Are we on the verge of a new world order where the most powerful nations can put aside the rules that no longer suit them?”

“Leading international lawyer Philippe Sands has been involved in high-profile cases including Guantanamo and Pinochet.”

From p. 238 Final chapter

“There are usually good reasons why international laws have been accepted. For the most part they work reasonably well. Imperfect as some of the international rules may be, they reflect minimum standards of acceptable behaviour and, to the extent they can be ascertained, common values. They provide an independent standard for judging the legitimacy of international actions.”

A personal comment.

As a former colonial subject, I am inclined to believe that rules have never applied to, or restrained, the powerful in the history of mankind. Even if agreed international human rights standards are ever established, there has to be a balance between the integrity of sovereign borders and the accountability of international agencies and courts.    

Imposing one’s values upon others

Recently, reportedly, Australia asked the Philippines Government to dispense with the death penalty. Why? Isn’t the Philippines an independent, democratic, and Christian nation? Just like Australia? Have we asked the USA the same question? Would we dare to do so?

Not long ago, when Indonesia executed 2 Australians convicted of involvement in the illegal drug trade, those opposed to the death penalty made a terrible fuss. Since there is an underlay in Australia of antipathy to ‘Muslim’ Indonesia – in spite of its wonderful policy of Panchasila – one could legitimately wonder if white supremacy was the trigger.

Before that, when Malaysia had applied the death penalty to an Australian convicted of involvement in the illegal drug trade, reportedly, a senior politician in Australia had made intemperate utterances against the Malaysian government. So, what’s new?

Now, we have some politicians and priests who, allegedly, wish to interfere in Indonesia’s sovereignty; they seek to separate Irian Jaya from the rest of a nation with vast ethnic and religious diversity. Interestingly, according to a senior academic I met in Malaysia in the 1970s, there had been an effort to create a brown-skinned, Christian nation between Australia and the rest of Indonesia. The intention had been to establish a buffer to protect Australia from the ‘hordes from the north.’ Today, it might be just the anti-Muslim busybodies at work.

Then, when the member nations of ASEAN showed signs of a capitalistic independence from the West, the latter formed APEC. An Australian, a Japanese, and an American each claimed independent paternity. Was APEC intended to ‘smother’ ASEAN? Yet APEC apparently did not contribute to protecting those nations of south-east Asia being targeted by those intending to bring down their economies and currencies.

Prof. Krugman’s advice to Malaysia to prevent any outflow of portfolio capital saved that nation. The IMF was subsequently accused of promoting a policy which would have caused the Indonesian peoples great pain. Was neo-colonialism the ghost in this policy advice?

Australia has also gone into battle zones behind the USA. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria seem to be chosen playgrounds by those Westerners who cannot just mind their own business.

We in Australia are not a chosen people. We cannot claim to be a nation of exceptionalism either. We continue to be a dependent nation. When China and the nations surrounding the South China Sea reach an accord, we risk being left isolated at the edge of Asia, and also the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Fear-fuelled subservience as a satrapy

Does not a permanently full belly hamper independent thought, especially about being subservient to the collective which provides the sustenance? This has implications for official policy at a national level.

The nation I adopted more than six decades ago is a well-fed, but somewhat anxious, polity. It is effectively a satrapy of the USA. Why should that be so? Because of a fear which percolated the national psyche right from the invasion of terra australis by Britain. The nature of this fear? Being sur­rounded by coloured people holding foreign faiths who were clearly not ‘us.’ Worse, these were the people then (and pos­sibly now too) deemed inherently inferior by the colonisers of Europe. The Australian nation-to-be hung on to the apron strings of Mother Britain until the threat by the Japanese led to the Government placing itself voluntarily under the umbrella of step-father USA.

I would therefore prefer Australia to become the next state of the USA. Why so? It is better to be a fourth or fifth cousin than to be a menial, that’s why. Were this to happen, there would arise the following benefits: the republic/mon­archy divide would be resolved to reflect the majority view of the Australian public; since about 85% of us wish to vote directly to elect our president, rather than have the govern­ment choose one for us, the US presidential election process would suit us immensely; since we are happy to fight in any war in which the US is involved, we will not have to pay for the weaponry from the US as we do now; and we will also become less welfare and less foreign capital-dependent and more enterprising in terms of economic viability.

Having loosened Mother Britain’s apron strings to obtain the hoped-for military protection of step-father USA, my nation now has its foreign policies determined by the USA. It is therefore quite appropriate for our Prime Ministers to pay their respects in person at the White House, and then to dem­onstrate our obeisance to our ‘emperor’ by conveying a mes­sage or two to designated foreign nations and institutions.

This subservience to our step-father has been strength­ened by the increasing military power of China. Strangely, while the religio-cultural values and practices in the neigh­bourhood continue to bother conservative white Australians, especially of the Roman kind, we are not slow in preaching to some of our near neighbours about converting to our polit­ical structures. We continue with our chosen role of a supe­rior cultural leader.

These are extracts from my book “Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society”

 

 

 

Tribal conflict – a legacy of colonialism

In Europe, the home terrain of the colonial rulers, nations had been created, about five centuries ago, on the basis of coherent tribalism; that is, an occupancy of the land, and a shared history, language, ethnicity and religion.

Within the unrealistic national boundaries created in the colonial territories, one or more lesser tribes became domi­nated by, or subservient to, a larger tribe. The Hindu Tamils of Ceylon, became an unequal political minority in the new nation of Sri Lanka to the majority Buddhist Singhalese after the British left; they seem to have been better off under the British. With the recent end of the claim for regional autonomy in their traditional territories by the Tamils, the Singhalese are reportedly copying the Israelis in infiltrating the lands of the minority (but without any claim that their god gave them the land in a historical past).

The breakdown of the old Yugoslavia, the devolution of political autonomy to the Scots and the Welsh within the United Kingdom, and the split of Czechoslovakia provide sufficient evidence that artificially created nations may not be durable. Pride in their ethnic heritage lead some tribes in such nations to seek independence. In the future, they may seek to merge with their counterparts in other mismatched tribal agglomerations.

For example, the southern Moslem states of Thailand might logically belong with Malaysia. Does the Buddhist nation of Thailand rule the southern states according to Buddhist teachings? Are the Moslem peoples in the southern regions of the Philippines rightly ruled by the Spanish blood-infused Christians of that nation? … …

In the case of Indonesia, with its official cultural toler­ance set out in its praise-worthy principle ‘Panchasila,’ the very wide diversity of its ethno-religious peoples spread over so many islands may mitigate against equitable and efficient governance. Tribalism can be expected to over-ride a shared hoped-for nationalism, especially if the Roman Catholic priesthood has any influence.

When one considers what the British did to the Indian sub-continent, after bringing together a great variety of peo­ples previously ruled as independent entities, one can only wonder at the seemingly unlimited capacity of the relatively tiny (and now unimportant) nations of Europe to create inter-tribal mayhem elsewhere. That their chickens are now coming home to roost, in the form of their former subject peoples now claiming a home with their former ruler, may be seen as cosmic justice. Or, will cheap labour compensate for the presence of the unrespected ‘other’ of yesteryear?

These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’

The legacy of European colonial empires

What was the legacy of colonialism? In British Malaya, now Malaysia and Singapore, the positive gains were: the English language, now the language of international rela­tions; Western democracy (for what that is worth); respect for law and order in the British way (but needing some serious improvements to deliver justice); and a form of mul­ticulturalism which is potentially more equitable than the traditional forms.

Colonialism, allied to slavery, ‘blackbirding,’ contract transfer of labour from one colony to another, and free immigration entry as needed, contributed to the juxtaposi­tion (and some intermingling of genes) of diverse popula­tions and cultures. This did enhance inter-cultural contacts and relations between the peoples affected. Did the colo­nies of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Belgian, French and Germans benefit in a similar manner? They were known to be more brutal than the British. Certainly, Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the communist revolution which drove the French out of Indo-China, learned about obtaining independence through revolution during his studies in France.

A cursory scan of some of the better-known empires to see if they offered durable benefits either to the subject peoples or to mankind in general might be of some casual interest. The difficulty inherent in this endeavour is in separating civilisation from empire, the former generally localised but often making a contribution to the future of mankind, the latter often generalised geographically but soon not worthy of remembrance. Civilisations endure. Yet, apart from those of China and India, has there been any substantial long-term continuity of civilisations?

China’s contribution to mankind is the emphasis on good governance, with a passing reference to the Void of the Cosmos. India’s contribution? Metaphysical speculations about the meaning of human existence and its relationship with the Cosmos. The contributions, both artistic and techno­logical, by the empires of old pale into insignificance against the wide range of the contributions of China and India (their current deplorable human rights record notwithstanding).

These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’

The modern hegemonic empire

It is the new form of empire, however, that is most inter­esting. This is the hegemonic empire, based on influence (including threats and bribery). Only one exists, and it is almost global. Australia is a respected part of it. The empire of the USA does not physically control any foreign territory (except for a few islands here and there), unlike the Chinese and the colonising nations of Europe. It exercises influence in a variety of ways that are decidedly clever.

It appoints so-called ‘deputy sheriffs’ to safeguard the interests of the West in their respective bailiwicks; it has trade and mutual-defence agreements with nations which seek protection from imagined foes; and it has military bases here, there, and everywhere to protect the nations of the West and their allies. The USA will fight terrorism anywhere and everywhere; defend itself from attack by enemies, real or cre­atively conceived; keep the sea routes open, thereby making other navies unnecessary; sell armaments (its primary objec­tive?), and contain political threats, even imagined ones. This has given it the right to have a foothold in all sorts of places; we Aussies are grateful for such protection!

It also makes generous grants as strategically needed, to keep unpopular, even undemocratic, foreign leaders in power. Their job is to ensure that the needs of the USA, viz. oil and other resources, bases, access routes and export opportunities, are met.

Its deputy sheriff Israel is furnished with the latest weaponry to prevent an Islamic resurgence. This includes the intended breakup of Iraq into three ethno-religious regions; so wrote an Israeli scholar recently. A strong foothold on Iraqi soil will give the US power to over­sight lesser nations and overlook the more powerful. … … The US will also enable Israel to recover Judah and Samarra as that pure Jewish nation that their God decided was OK, even as it works assiduously to bring about ‘peace’ between oppressor and oppressed. Justice? Only the Court of Cosmic Justice can ensure that.

Ethnic cleansing, like ‘rendering’-with-torture, and assassination are acceptable, but only in the interests of protecting Western democracy. Australian politicians who visit Israel without being able to notice the plight of state­less Palestinians couldn’t possibly have any concern with this view of the Middle East of the future.

Thus, acceptable democracy in these nations of interest to the West is one with tribal leadership either adequately constrained or destroyed. The desired tribes are political par­ties. The good news is that there is no intended destruction of native cultures. The bad news is that, without occupying each country of interest, tribalism will continue.

These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’