Some interesting aspects of multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is just another term for ethno-cultural diversity. The world over is largely multicultural. When that term was temporarily linked with the term policy in Australia, a vision of a separate sand-pit for ‘ethnics’ did arise, for some. Here are some interesting facets of experience.

“When ethnicity was in vogue, I asked publicly whether I, Australian by citizenship, Malaysian by birth, Ceylon Tamil by distant ancestry, and Indian by culture (Hinduism) could identify myself as an ethnic; and, if so, by what criteria. Even the academics were silent! What of those who are the products of marriage across nationalities or ethnicities? More and more of our young are marrying across parental cultures.” … …

“Cynically, I did ask some of the ethnic community leaders who were second or third generation Aussies if they spoke their mother tongue fluently; and with whom (other than their mums) did they speak. Did they read books, see films and attend plays in that language; dress the way their ancestors had back ‘home’ (except for multicultural festivals in Australia); and celebrate their tribal cultures in any meaningful manner? I also asked if their communities reached out to other ethnic communities as equals.

Then there is the issue of some Australia-born descendants of immigrants going back to their tribal lands to fight a traditional, or even a new, enemy. Further, if integration is rejected by them, would that affect their right to call on the equal opportunity that is available? And since social superiority is given little air in Australia, how would ethnic superiority be viewed? I believe these questions to be relevant.”… …

“In the early 1980s, I once observed 3 teenagers on a tram. Their heads suggested 3 different European regions of ancestral origin. They were dressed almost identically, and their speech accents were identically Australian. This was evidence of integration. Travelling through the city, observing, I saw few turbans, skull caps, head scarfs or face covering. Careful immigration selection was the explanation. Why is the situation different now?” … …

“By and large, were tribal leaders, that is, the priests and politicians, to keep away from the fields of cultural interaction, we the people will eventually reach out to one another? How so?

Excluding the exploiters, there is an innate human tendency – displayed so satisfyingly by children – to do so. In Australia, thanks to the public education systems, by the third generation, youngsters will feel, and behave as, part of a whole far wider and deeper than the family or an ethnic community. The gestalt effect will take over.

How does this work? Good immigrants will tend to retain their values almost intact, while modifying their behaviour as appropriate. Those of their children exposed to Australian values through the public education system will move a step or two away from parental values and practices; reciprocally, parental perspectives may also change, become less parochial. There is good evidence that this happens. The third generation is not likely to be influenced by the values of their grandparents, as peer group values begin to back up values inculcated through public education, socialising, sport, and habituation – unless the priesthood intervenes. Do religious leaders, their schools, and other institutions hinder integration?” … …

“Ingrained prejudice cannot be changed by propaganda. For instance, again in the 1980s, a senior public servant, an icon of his political party, denied accommodation in migrant hostels to British immigrants, thereby denying the most important on-arrival assistance the nation could provide to needed immigrants from other countries as well. The Minister did not note this denial. Are Ministers adequately awake when reading briefs?

This senior public servant also cancelled the planned posting of a Moslem employee to an overseas migrant selection office, and the promised promotion of a Hindu employee to a senior position. But he was not a racist; only a tribal. Tribals tend to look after their own, by discriminating against those who did not belong! And some burbling about the Eucharist!

Racism and tribalism (I have suffered from both in Australia), cultural and religious prejudice, and the ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ attitude, like the ubiquitous bacterium or even crime, cannot be totally eradicated. The young priest who, in the mid-1960s, kept 5 Roman Catholic women away from their Protestant neighbour, is unlikely to have changed.

However, education, habituation, and media scrutiny will moderate extreme behaviour. Strengthening citizenship as a commitment to the nation and its values, as a measure of successful integration, will yet continue to make us one people out of many.”

The above extracts are from the chapter ‘On multiculturalism’ in my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’.

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Integrating ethno-cultural diversity

One can wear one’s culture loosely, like an overcoat resting on one’s shoulders, or wear it tightly, like a belted and hooded ankle-length raincoat. The latter may, to a substantial degree, be akin to a woman who prefers to be clad, in a Western nation, in a burqa in public. The latter, however, implies personal and physical separation, and a preferred isolation.

It can be argued that, in a free country, members should be free to dress as they wish, and possess the right not to be an integral component of the many, or to co-operate or congregate with those not like them. That is, such members would have the right only to co-exist (but not integrate) with those not like them.

How would such people then view the nation of which they are part? That it is quite acceptable to enjoy the identity and security provided by a sovereign nation-state without relating in a socially meaningful manner with ‘others’ in the nation?

Credibly, the foundation tribes from Britain formed themselves into the Australian people. There are no visible tribal clothing styles reflecting their origins. The huge post-war influx of Europeans then integrated themselves easily into the Australian ethos. More recently, the virulence of the White Australia policy having abated, coloured immigrants too are integrating successfully; with welfare sustaining most of those economic migrants claiming to be refugees. The latter represent the first category of entrants who are not economically viable.

More recently, we have been asked to modify our legal system to include sharia law, the first time the nation has been asked to adapt to the immigrant (rather than the reverse). We are also asked to accept that any cultural practice associated with Islam is sacrosanct. However, since suburban Australia is not exposed to hot desert sands, presumably we will not be seeing too many ‘walking tents’ on our streets.

Those immigrant tribes who seek to transpose all their traditional practices, some of which are not intrinsically tied to their religion, into their chosen nation, might simply want what the host-nation offers, but wish to retain their traditional practices unaltered. However, by the third generation, when grandpa’s edicts have been eroded by education, socialisation, and habituation, clothing styles and behaviour which separate our youth from one another can be expected to be forgotten.

Advanced immigrant-receiving nations realise that ethno-cultural diversity needs, in the interests of national identity and stability, to become progressively integrated (but not assimilated) into a coherent people.

Integration is a like a mixed salad, a gestalt, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is also comparable to the components of a rich palatable soup, giving texture and flavour to the soup, with each component making a sufficient contribution but without losing itself. Assimilation, however, is like a blended soup where all the ingredients are totally absorbed into the final product. I doubt if any immigrant-seeking nation seeks this outcome as current policy.

In time, assimilation may be the eventual outcome where there has been no input of new tribes. In the modern world, however, with so much migration, especially through asylum-seeking pressures, or because of a political integration of nations, a country composed of unintegrated tribes would not be a cohesive nation.

Most importantly, equal opportunity, if already available (as in Australia), may not be as accessible to marginal tribal communities were their members to be unwilling to modify those aspects of their inherited traditions and behaviours which are not in tune with the social mores and conventions of the host people.

Cultural adaptation would enable speedier integration, either through accessing available equal opportunities or by demonstrating the willingness of the immigrant community to share their lives more fully with others already in the nation.

All believers share the one and only Creator God of the Cosmos. Why not share the nation-state to which one belongs by choice?

 

Do out-of-body experiences indicate life after death?

Is there a realm in which previously-human beings reside? Do out-of-body experiences provide necessary evidence? There has been an avalanche of such experiences. These involve a place surrounded by light, with people (including a relative in some cases) advising return to Earth. Many have been investigated thoroughly.

Clever sceptics of a scientific mind have offered explanations which implicate: a subconscious characteristic of some human minds to project a subterranean expectation of a post-death state; or a potential for certain biochemical changes to occur in the brain during the dying process; or for a subliminal psychic need to unveil themselves immediately after death, especially after a traumatic experience such as a terrible death caused by accident, or by a prolonged painful illness.

But to no avail. Where is the evidence to back up such explanations? This is a favourite stance of modern scientists.

I had an out-of-body experience at age 18. I found myself floating horizontally at ceiling height. I had been suffering from dengue fever (that bone-crushing disease) for about 5 days, with increasing pain. Anyone touching my mattress would cause me terrible agony; I could not move. Seeing my body laid out on a different bed so frightened me that I woke up in my bed. I then sweated heavily, and began to improve.

That was an out-of-body event with no out-of-life implications. But, how is one to explain what happened? My imagination? Not probable. I am a sceptic. I doubt that my subconscious can over-ride that mental state.

Late in life, a senior citizen told me about her out-of-body experience when she was 13. She recalled walking along a bridge. At the end of the bridge, she could see a bright light and some figures. She recognised one of the figures as the mother who had died, leaving her 3-year old behind. When she reached her mother, the latter said to her “Patty, you have to go back.” The significance of this report is that no one had ever addressed her as Patty.

Another friend told me about her husband. He had proven himself as slightly psychic from time to time. After his near-death experience late in life, he discovered that his hands had acquired healing powers. Not every survivor of a near-death experience is so fortunate.

Those who were briefly clinically dead have reported experiences which are fairly similar. The general pattern is that they are outside the physical body, often floating near the ceiling. Or they experience flying or walking. They can feel the presence of others. They also experience a natural border which has to be crossed. They are then advised to return.

Could a ‘collective unconscious’ (possibly a past species-memory) explain the out-of-body experiences of some individuals? Why only some? Are these exceptions?

The experience of being sent back to life on Earth after an out-of-body event may be lit by a simple explanation; that the out-of-body excursion was an error, a mishap. Being temporarily clinically dead may have aroused some deep impulse (of unknowable origin) within the individual to escape life.

If Hinduism is correct in postulating that each of us is born with a broadly programmed trajectory of life, a life-path, a personal destiny, then a temporary hiccup cannot take the individual away from paddling on his river of destiny. That has implications for the cross-linkages of human destinies as time goes on. Is Hinduism correct in this regard?

One reality may not be deniable; that there is a realm or dimension which is home – temporarily or permanently – for those who have departed Earth. Near-death or temporary clinical death out-of-body experiences may reflect this reality.

When Mass had great weight (2)

“Do you realise that you are frightening the s..t out of your fellow Section Heads in the Branch?” asked my new boss. He too was a Roman, but was an outsider, recruited from a university. He nodded when I replied “You know my work.” He then asked “How is it then that you are frightening the s..t from my peer group? When I simply smiled, he said “Tell me “

This is my story. Out of the blue I received an invitation from the head of another department (a man I did not know) to transfer across, with a promise of promotion to the Senior Executive Service as Branch Head. A week after my arrival, the head of management asked me if I would consider a particular task. After examining the job, I agreed. To that, his strange reply was “Don’t be a bloody fool.” That was because I had only 10 weeks to implement necessary structural and operational changes, and to inform all overseas posts about the new policy.

My small team of 3, backed by 3 Division Heads, and assisted where necessary by 3 other agencies, did meet the normally impossible deadline which the Minister had set. The Departmental Head, having expressed his thanks, then asked me to accept the job of Chief Ethnic Affairs for the State of Victoria, based in Melbourne. The task was to implement a new policy of financially assisting the smaller immigrant communities in their settlement. The government would fund the employment of a social worker by each ethnic community. I was to investigate these communities.

My new small team of 3 immigrants made considerable progress, aided by my direct access to the Minister, and my ability to talk freely, on an ethnic to ethnic basis, with community workers and leaders. They liked that.

When the Departmental Head retired without promoting me, I returned home. The new Head, a returned Ambassador, told me that, instead of being promoted, I could head our London Office. Did that office need a Mister Fix-it? Or, was it a sop by a Laborite? I rejected that suggestion. Had I not proven myself – not once, but twice?

In the meantime, No.1 on the promotion list became Branch Head. I, as No.2, was ignored. A few ranked below me were sequentially promoted; and I had to work under them. With one exception, I experienced petty discrimination, and was moved frequently, with a new job each year. It was made clear, with not much subtlety, that I was not one of them. I suspected that I was expected to crack under persistent pressure.

Yet, I was untouchable, indestructible. The Chairman of the National Ethnic Affairs Advisory Council, Emeritus Prof. George Zubrzycki, had already commended me for the depth of my work and my speed of report. A few members of that Council, plus a few other ethnic community leaders in the relevant State, then supported my application for the position of Chairman of the Ethnic Community Council of South Australia and, later, of Western Australia. The pay was the same. For the record, parochialism prevailed in both States; and a new position of Deputy Chairman was then created in each State.

Ironically, because I had been sequentially responsible for all the migrant settlement (or integration) policies, I was able, after retirement, to write (with a prior prod from the spirit realm), about the great value of these policies. Emeritus Prof. George Zubrzycki was a leading supporter of the first 2 of my books. He died soon after. He had also written to me to say that he agreed with all that I had written in ‘Destiny Will Out’ – my first book – except on voluntary euthanasia. No devout Roman Catholic could support that policy of compassion.

In areas of social policy, Mass (even with limited attendance) has strong gravitational pull in Australia. Papal Bull rules! Just look at the controllers in federal Parliament.

“Woe is me! I am humiliated.”

Who are those claiming to be hurt and humiliated by words uttered by others? Should I have felt insulted by being asked repeatedly whether I would join ‘the faith’ for my ‘salvation?’ Instead, I saw the speakers as well-meaning but not educated. When, recently, a former Church worker claimed that the one and only God of the universe is a Christian god, all the other gods being ‘pantheistic,’ I challenged his arrogance. I suggested that Christianity is a late entrant in humanity’s search for the First Cause of all that is. Were these people racists?

At a political level, when Lee Kuan Yew, the former leader of Singapore, offered a more efficient definition of democracy, he was attacked by the West. Was he insulted? Instead, his Ambassador to the UN published ‘Can Asians really think?’ That closed down further challenges; were they racist?

Significantly, Singapore is ahead of Australia at so many levels of governance – from education to economic development, based on long-term plans; not, as in Australia, waiting for foreigners to invest (if they chose). A silly accusation recently was that, although students in Singapore are ahead of their Australian counterparts in maths, they could not possibly understand the underlying concepts. Racism or dented white superiority?

More ridiculously, the terms ‘race’ or ‘racial’ are applied, almost as a mantra, to a wide variety of allegedly hurtful utterances. Thus, Australia’s ‘racial’ legislation denying free speech is defended as offering protection against any criticism of Israel’s policies! The Catholic Church is also said to need similar protection (something I do not understand). The Australian Aborigines, the only First Nation Peoples not recognised in the Constitution, do need protection from insults; but how are they to access any protection which might be available?

Then, there are the seemingly newly-arrived immigrants who, unlike their predecessors over half a century, claim to be humiliated, hurt, or offended by foolish words by silly people. Offensive words? That depends on whether one is easily offended. Some people are. Why?

Were such people never spoken to disdainfully ‘back home’? Could there be any intangible benefit in claiming to be psychologically damaged by unfriendly or ugly words in Australia?

We early immigrants were genuine ‘adventurers’ who crossed land and sea to start a new life, and to better ourselves. We ignored (or retaliated occasionally against) denigrating words. We were not wimps to feel ‘humiliated’ by words from the ignorant.

Words may hurt only if one lets them. Why allow that?

 

This is a re-titled re-post triggered by those who seek legislation to punish: those who say nasty things to them; or who challenge any of Israel’s policies; or who had been misled by the multicultural policy prevailing in the 1970s and 1980s which was intended to enable some ethnic empowerment and thus to capture ‘ethnic votes.’

Underlined by the ‘fair-go’ philosophy, Australia does offer equal opportunity to those who wish to integrate into the nation, by accepting its institutions and societal mores (the latter do evolve through time). Barriers reflecting gender bias, sectarian religion, colour prejudice, or even personal preference can be expected to arise. All these barriers do not reflect something termed ‘race’!

 

Racial discrimination law presents confusing concepts

Australia’s racial discrimination legislation successfully confuses acts of discrimination and words indicating prejudice, a feeling. Discrimination involves treating an individual or group differently from others, generally less favourably. Examples would be: a denial of equal opportunity, or paying wages below a legal entitlement. There may be no antipathetic feeling associated with the act of discrimination.

Whereas prejudice can be displayed in looks of disdain, or in spoken words, such as those used by bullies (or idiots) in a playground or in a work situation.

Denial of a right or entitlement will hurt – emotionally and materially. The effects can be very long term. Do read my 2 posts titled ‘The myth of racial discrimination’ to fully appreciate what actual discrimination is all about.

The discrimination I had to endure in not only the White Australia era but also in the 1980s was substantial, not imagined or coined. Initially, the discrimination I experienced reflected responses to my skin colour and to my being foreign. Latterly, the trigger was tribo-religious (‘not one of us’); and I had to ‘go with the flow’ to be allowed to work in peace. I thought it wise to retire prematurely.

Words uttered by rude people – mainly through ignorance or stupidity – can hurt, but only if one allows that! Why would one want to do that? Would one feel hurt and humiliated were the heavens to open suddenly, and deposit cold water on one’s head? Of course, one would feel chastened and a little hurt were a parent or a teacher or one’s boss to be rude in correcting one’s attitude, behaviour, or quality of work.

The Australian Aborigine has had to put up with more than 2 centuries of oral abuse! Has racial legislation provided significant protection? Yet, some recent coloured immigrants have allegedly spoken about being hurt and humiliated by nasty people addressing rude words at them. Is it time to adopt this adage: “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on”?

Legislation should legitimately focus – and be restricted to – acts of discrimination (ie. to a denial of rights), and be couched in semantically and legally clear terminology. However, the current legislation in Australia offers the opportunity for harmless words of disapproval to be posited as harmful and humiliating.

Immigrants are traditionally ‘adventurers,’ displaying resilience and fortitude in travelling to another nation, and integrating with those already in the country they chose to enter. Some of them can, of course, be opportunistic.

 

Surviving White Australia

Written in 1995, this book describes Australia in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Those ethnic communities complaining about pejorative words directed at them in the 2010s can have no idea of the bitterness expressed by Anglo-Australians seeking to protect white British space when confronted by large intakes of European workers and the arrival of a small number of young well-educated English-speaking Asians seeking a university education.

Anglo-Australia was about to be dragged into the real world, and thence to joining the Family of Man. By 1995, it had made great progress in that direction.

TITLE: ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’

AUTHOR: Raja Arasa RATNAM

DESCRIPTION: This first book explores the twin issues of multiculturalism and destiny, based upon an exceptionally wide range of involvement by an Asian in white Australian society.

An Asian immigrant writing about his settlement experiences in Australia over a period of half a century  is clearly noteworthy. (In that period, the country changed from white Anglo-Celt to multi-hued multicultural.) That his experiences include receiving a meritorious service award from a trade union for voluntary services (in spite of his refusal to go on strike when directed) is unique. That such a person can claim a substantial voluntary involvement in a range of mainstream (i.e. Anglo-Celt) community organisations is certainly unusual. His narrative about his diverse work experiences, as well as his origins and development, highlight areas of community interest relevant to any multicultural nation.

In the circumstances of a near-global focus on the issues of ethnicity, tribal exclusivity, and cultural hegemony, the author has something to say to the ordinary person, as well as to official advisers, in the areas of multicultural policy, migrant and refugee settlement services, and inter-community relations. His simple message is that human beings instinctively gravitate towards one another without the divisive influence of tribally-motivated politicians and priests. A shared spirituality and common human desires over-ride tribal, linguistic and other cultural differences. He therefore sees the role of governments restricted to removing barriers to equal opportunity; and to educate those who claim any racial or cultural superiority or primacy (except for some much-needed affirmative action policies for indigenous peoples).

PUBCOMMENTS: “Destiny Will Out” is a well-written, interesting and enjoyable account of the settlement experiences, spanning half a century, of an Asian in an emerging multicultural Australia. A successful amalgam of personal reflection and informed analysis, Arasa’s story reflects an insistent faith in the human spirit in the fight for true racial integration. Through its undying mysticism, the book also challenges the reader to contemplate the role of destiny in the politics of human societies. (From back cover)

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I grew up with no (repeat, no) experience of racism of religious prejudice in a mixed-race, mixed-religion, Asian population. Colour prejudice was exercised only by some mothers preferring “fair” daughters-in-law (this quaint requirement was part of the cultural heritage of those who had been formed by Indian traditions). Australia was a shock to me on arrival. Racist comments and overt discrimination were thick on the ground and in the atmosphere. Even after an influx of more than 100 new languages, and about 70 new ethnic communities, colour prejudice remains; but well below normal hearing levels.

However, the Australian “fair-go” philosophy will eventually over-ride ignorance, preached prejudice and cultural hegemony. The youth of each generation lead these changes in society, behaviourally and institutionally. Australia is therefore the country of the future; that is its destiny. It was my destiny to participate, in a miniscule manner, in the re-colouring of Australia.

EXCERPTS: From Chapter 16: ‘We are a bloody-thirsty, power-hungry species of animal left to find ourselves by a Creator who merely set up the mechanism, and let the details evolve. We cannot blame God for what happens, nor for what we do. I find it difficult to believe that what happens to mankind or to individual men is important to God, or even to involve God.’ (p.282)

From Chapter 3: ‘Those men in our community who were able to keep their hair into old age proudly credited the tradition of daily oiling and weekly oil baths. Thus nurture overrode nature for them; the rest of us kept pretending that our destiny was not deep-rooted hair, but deep-rooted relationships enabled by the extra testosterone causing the hair loss (subject to consent, of course).’ (p.27)

From Chapter 1: ‘A parallel exists, in modern times, in what was referred to by an Australian wit (perhaps a half-wit) as the “greatest gang-bang in history”. This was when a white-controlled nation sent its predominantly black and Christian armed forces to protect its own interests, and that of a predominantly white and Jewish people, against a brown and Muslim state —-.’ (p.9)

Chapters

Part One – Origins

Chapter 1 – The Bardo of Becoming a Nation

Chapter 2 – The Birth of Sorrow

Chapter 3 – Blessed be Childhood

Chapter4 – The Transgressor

Chapter 5 – The False Dawn

Chapter 6 – The Blue Yonder

Part Two – Shocks

Chapter 7 – Culture Shocks

Chapter 8 – Death of a Dream

Chapter 9 – Reverse Culture Impacts

Part Three – Settlement

Chapter 10 – Integration – Background

Chapter 11 – Integration – The Launching

Chapter 12 – Integration – The Economic Scene

Chapter 13 – Integration – The Ethnic Scene

Chapter 14 – Integration – More of the Ethnic Scene

Chapter 15 – Integration – The Community Scene

Part Four – Towards the Light

Chapter 16 – Lost on a Straight Path

Chapter 17 – Myths of Multiculturalism

Chapter 18 – Falling Leaves Return to the Root

Chapter 19 – Equality in Unity

Postscript

REVIEW: “I welcome the publication of Raja Ratnam’s timely book. He is well qualified to comment on burning issues of ethnicity, tribalism and cultural hegemony, having had personal experience of settlement in Australia over a period of half a century. His voluntary involvement in a range of community organisations and his work experience as a senior public servant are a testimony to the success of Australia’s multiculturalism, with its roots in the democratic ethos of the country’s original settlers. The book is particularly timely, now that Australia is about to celebrate the centenary of its nationhood.” (Emeritus Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, Member, National Multicultural Advisory Council, Australia ).