The British came – and went (Part 3)

As the last British governor of Hong Kong vacated his post, he reportedly uttered regret that the British had not had enough time to introduce democracy to the island. Through 99 years?

Where democracy involves direct governance by the people – as perhaps in ancient India (refer Nehru), pre-Viking Britain (refer the Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences), early Athens (refer Plato), or even early capitalistic Britain (refer any number of historians) – not every male resident would have been so entitled. I hold to my hope that the good of the people had been the ethos underlying judgements in those places; in reality, the perceived benefit to decision-makers may have been the primary motivation.

Representative government of the modern kind, which purports to give every franchised individual a vote in deciding which political party should rule during a definable period, appears fair. Yet, where voting is not compulsory, those who eventually realise the futility of believing that they contribute to governance will not bother to vote.

In Australia, with compulsory voting, the ‘donkey’ vote can prevail. In more recent decades, many who reach voting age (18) are apparently not registering themselves as voters – reportedly without penalty, in the main. Penalties do apply to those who are on the electoral roll but did not vote.

Western democracy in Australia involves choosing a political party, through voting for the candidate nominated by the ‘poobahs’ of the party. There are no known selection criteria for candidates; and no set qualifications in terms of education plus work experience.  Elected representatives must support their party in federal and state parliaments. Voters are not asked about their needs.

Recently, the Pope appears to be the second object of fealty for both major coalitions. Accountability is only through elections, giving voters a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee (refer ‘Alice through the looking glass’).

No accountability procedures seem to apply to local government. There are no perceivable political loyalties; only personal interest. Rate payers, the voters, are not consulted.

Western democracy did appear to be a benefit for former British colonial territories. However, the vote available to every adult, especially in multi-tribal nations, regrettably subjugates minority tribes – even those who had lived within their own lands. I cite Ceylon, where ancient Hindu Tamil lands became subject to control by Buddhist Sinhalese, after Britain left a political heritage of Western democracy. The British colonial authorities, well-known for their divide-and-rule practices, left a legacy there (and everywhere) which makes a mockery of effective democracy.

This situation applies in, say, Africa, where European ‘spheres of interest’ led to boundaries of colonial-created nations cutting across tribal boundaries. In almost every nation so created, minority tribes became subject to domination by the majority tribe. A passing thought: Were former superior colonial Christians of the ‘white race’ then able to argue that the ‘coloured races’ are really unable to rule themselves? (Singapore’s Mabhubani, when Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote a clever sardonic book titled “Can Asians really think?”)

Western democracy needs improvement. The pretence of ‘representative’ government is absurd. The control of a nation by political parties, which govern from election to election, is deplorable. Surely democracy can be modified to be more equitable. Today, control by Vaticanites of Australian politics and human rights (a role reversal – control by a minority tribe) continues.

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Will the West be overtaken? (Part 2)

‘Why the West rules – for now’ by Ian Morris is interesting while challenging. His representation of China as the East is somewhat selective; he ignores any significant historical developments in mid-Asia. How could the Indian civilisation be the oldest continuous culture on post-Deluge Earth? Indic philosophy, not being consumer-oriented, allegedly developed an understanding of mankind in the universe a long way back in history.

Morris also conflates West Asia (“the first Westerners”) with Europe and the USA (the latter two normally known together as the West).

Then, is consumption of food the best criterion for comparing social development? A high average figure of consumption may cover vast disparities within the community. Is there not a place for moral or spiritual progress? Man shall not live by bread alone.

Yet, the Morris thesis is worthy of attention. There is this question: Did not Europe develop industrially and philosophically much later than the core cultures of Asia? Only after the 15th century CE was Europe joined by Morris to Western Asia as ‘the West’, except for the 500 years from 250 BCE when Rome was first linked to West Asia as ‘the West.’ A new nation created by European emigrants, viz. North America, was subsequently added to ‘the West.’ Ultimately, it is the USA, as ‘the West’, which is compared with China.

Morris, who writes in a very erudite manner, is most knowledgeable about all the major events of human history. He shows how ‘the West’ was ahead of China for at least for 2,000 years until 541 CE in terms of social development (as defined by him). Then China moved ahead until 1773. Industrialisation and battle-capacity subsequently enabled the West to get ahead again. China will, however, soon catch up, he expects (a somewhat unavoidable conclusion).

The reality is that China already contributes to consumption in the USA. Its recent economic, technological, and military advances, allied to a probable future in association with most of East Asia and probably all of Southeast Asia, while simultaneously linked to Central Asia through the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, will soon equal the military and industrial might of the West (the USA and its satrapies and NATO).

While Morris’ analysis is most impressive, his scenario seems to be much ado about little. A combination of economic success and military power (subsuming the necessary information technology and organisational competence) will probably result in China, Russia, and the USA eventually forming a tripartite global system of power-based governance – – by necessity.

Like the poor in developing and developed nations, the rest of humanity will survive, hopefully in peace; with energy consumption more equitable than at present, in the penumbra of this most probable governance relationship.

How will geography, impacted also by sporadic cosmic catastrophes, respond? Would the presence of 3 powerful nations, eyeing off one another with some suspicion, provide more protection than hitherto to the smaller, weaker, and unprotected nations?

Multicultural, ethnically diverse or one people?

In the 1970s and 1980s, ethnic empowerment (my phrase) became federal government policy. Since 1948, selected able-bodied European immigrants had to find their way wherever they lived in Australia. Now, their successor entrants had to be shown their way by social workers. These would be employed by their ethnic communities at taxpayer expense. Settled ethnic (European) populations, with few new entrants, were to be served too!

Coincidently, during that period, both sides of politics decided (on obviously faulty advice) to chase the so-called ethnic vote. Instead of a residence of 5 years out of 8 to qualify for the grant of citizenship, one government reduced the qualifying period to 3 years; this was followed by the other government reducing it to 2years. The beneficiaries would have included those with a criminal intent; by keeping their heads down for only 2 years, they could go back with Australian citizenship. Dual citizenship was not then available.

Multicultural policy was also introduced – to manage multiculturalism; that is, to tell us ethnics how to relate to one another. Quaintly, some British then claimed to be an ethnic community too, displaying a revived Morris dance. Since the Anglo-Aussies had already accepted us foreigners as fellow-Australians, what was there to manage? By the very fact of being foreigners, we got along with one another. Ethnic enclaves had not been formed as yet.

To guide the government, ethnic advisory committees were established. There was also a Minister for Multiculturalism, with attendant public service staff. What did they all do? The parallel migrant-settlement service managed by the ethnic committees was also never evaluated for its effectiveness.

State governments were not slow in establishing counterpart ethnicity-focused structures. What did they achieve? In essence, what ethnic tribal chiefs opposed was ‘mainstreaming,’ where governments provided necessary services to the public irrespective of ethnicity; that would have saved a great deal of taxpayer money. Needed services, when ethnicity based, emphasised cultural differences.

Why were cultural differences relevant? Interpreters were available in both public and private agencies. Gone were the days when children interpreted for their parents; or when some host people raised their voices to be understood.

A prime minister and a state premier then replaced culture retention with shared citizenship, and pride in being one integrated people. Most of our children had already led the way to one people through their education, socialisation, sport, and habituation.

In what ways do people display their ethnic origins in day to day living? Are not diverse clothing styles over-laid by a shared Australian accent in spoken English? And in shared community attitudes?

Could we just be Aussies without burbling about how culturally diverse our origins were? Do allow our young to lead us.

Celebrating nationhood

The celebration of Australia Day has come and gone, exacerbating the division in the populace as to the appropriateness of the date.

Pride in one’s nation is wonderful; and advisable. However, when the visible, audible, and palpable underlay of the populace, the indigenes of Australia, remain the underclass in the nation after more than two centuries of control over their lands, their lifestyles, and their life-chances, could they be expected to commemorate the anniversary of the date of invasion by the British?

Australia was formed as a nation on 1 January. Celebrating Australia Day on the date would, however, deny an extra public holiday. We can’t have that. Public holidays should also fall on a Friday or Monday, enabling a long weekend for full-time employees. The operators of small businesses and their traditionally casual employees can have no say in this matter. How then decide on an appropriate day?

Then there are the ‘trogs’ of this nation. Another generation of these will have to join their Maker before any Aboriginal rights, or even recognition as First Nation Peoples, could ever be considered. In this allegedly democratic nation, what a large majority (say 80%) of electors or the population want has been repeatedly over-ridden by (concealed) cultural superiority, sectarian religion, or political-party affiliation. Our elected representatives represent only their parties, which represent only their own interests. Re-election is all that matters.

Now that the federal government has increased both entry numbers and the ethno-lingual diversity of the immigrant intake, seemingly in the belief that the world will soon run out of migration-seekers, there will be a natural tendency for some new settlers to remain involved in the politics ‘back home,’ to the extent of returning to fight their tribal opponents.

Others will yearn for some aspect of their traditional culture which is incompatible with Australia’s institutions or cultural values and mores. It may be the next or succeeding generations which feel Australian – and with pride.

Successful migrant adaptation can be expected in a country known for its ‘fair-go’ ethos.

When will our Aborigines be accepted as a distinct people, and that ‘bridging the gap’ in disadvantage goes beyond political rhetoric? I fear, not racism based on skin colour, but tribal superiority based on cultural conditioning over more than two centuries.

‘They need to be like us’ used to be said frequently. They clearly have. What now, in this highly-vaunted multicultural nation?

Asianising Australia

Prime Minister Holt, the one who seemed to have given himself to Neptune (the Lord of the Sea), was the first Prime Minister to realise that his now independent Asian neighbours had no time for the superior white man. Mindful of an electoral backlash, he allowed only a few tanned Asians to enter Australia as permanent residents in the 1960s. Was it not strange that they were all medicos?

Later, when medical specialists had also arrived, as a couple of them told me, Anglo-Aussie GPs would tell them to call upon their own people to provide referrals. A medical degree touched not the racism of these Aussie GPs; or, was it only ethnocentricity? Or, a fear of competition?

Then, there arose the issue of tribalism dividing immigrants. When, in my role as Chief Ethnic Affairs Officer for Victoria in the early 1980s, I addressed members of the Indian Association at a dinner, I relied on advice from their president. I said that, were I to be seen urinating on the wall of a building, all Indians would be tarnished by public disapproval; and I am not an Indian.

The president’s concern was to avoid splitting the Indian community in Australia by tribalism, although strong tribal links may be the norm in India. In contrast, the Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) community in Australia was already split by ethnicity into 3 representative organisations; tribalism prevailed. But that was also the norm with a number of European ethno-cultural communities in Australia.

As for an allegedly open immigration door operating from the early 1970s, there was a strong hand limiting the entry of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. Until the end of the 20th century, preference was given to the lighter-coloured East Asians, preferably those who claimed to be Christian.

By then, many wealthy people from Hong Kong had obtained residence rights in Australia through a quaint policy which allowed immigrant entry were the entrant to possess half a million dollars. The official theory was that these entrants would commence businesses in Australia. I am not aware of any official follow-up (Australia does not seem to do that.)

Since these Hong Kong businessmen were only seeking a bolt-hole were China to change operational practices after its recovery of Hong Kong, many of these new Australian residents went back to their usual high life-style as soon as possible; but leaving their offspring behind in large homes. Auckland in New Zealand had a similar experience. As I was told by a local, the suburb of Howick became known as Chowick.

After my retirement, I was told by a Chinese from Southeast Asia that he had sent his half-million to his brother, who had then also migrated. Later, it was reported that certain bankers in China had enabled a number of Chinese to become Aussie residents by recycling the same half-million. Who would be surprised by such enterprise exploiting incompetent policies?

Today, non-residents are apparently able to buy residential property in Australia in order to obtain capital gains. This practice prices homes beyond the financial capacity of first-home buyers.

Today, Asians and other coloured people help to fill the land at a rapid rate (in case the globe runs out of requisite applicants for entry), with very rich Chinese also reportedly buying productive enterprises, farms, and infrastructure. The ’yellow hordes from the North,’ the ‘Chinks’ and ‘Chows’ are no more. I have not been a ‘black bastard’ for ages.

Clever, hard-working Asian-Australians can be expected soon to enter the political arena, to nudge white Vaticanites off their pedestals of power. Multiculturalism also means the sharing of political power.

Yet, Australia, not being in Asia, cannot be of Asia. We will continue to belong to the political West, led by the USA.

Authority and religion are incompatible

I grew up in a non-authoritarian religious environment. As ritualistic Hindus, my family attended our Pilleyar (Ganesh) temple frequently; and we prayed each evening before dinner. Our priests were facilitative, not authoritative. As a Seeker, but a loner, I did not seek a guru to whom I would be expected to give total loyalty, when I sought to proceed from the ritualistic path to the metaphysical path. I sought guidance without control.

When I arrived in Australia, I found substantial priestly control in one Christian sect. This control seemed to be based upon bestowed authority. I wondered why authority and control were considered necessary in any religion. Was not the responsibility of any priesthood to assist their believers to reach out to God without any duress? I noticed that authority was also used to keep separate parishioners away from fellow-Christians in other sects. Other religions were clearly taboo. Fortunately for society and mankind, this control is waning – through withdrawal.

As older religion, an Asian one, based on feudalism and authority, is being destroyed for political purposes. Yet its humanistic philosophy has enriched and guided many people in the West. The behaviour of some traditional followers, and the reported utterances of a couple of their regional leaders, however, contradict the core beliefs of that religion. Of course, feudalistic authoritarianism and religious ideology have been shown throughout the history of mankind to be incompatible.

Unacceptable recent behaviour of priests in the West is now well-documented. Institutionally-asserted authority and its delegation to priests will, I fear, diminish the role of religions. Mankind does need religious faith.

Yet, it may be better for each one of us, no matter how great our need for spiritual succour, to seek communion with our Creator at a personal level. I certainly do not need an intermediary, even a non-authoritarian one.

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.