Back-door entry to Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

    

 

 

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.’)

 

 

 

 

 

Unacceptable religious interference

Nothing divides people more effectively than beliefs derived from their religions. For years, compassionate people, and those suffering ongoing severe pain (undiminished even with palliative care) have sought legislation permitting voluntary euthanasia. While reliable sampling estimated public support at about 85% – stable over decades – Australian politicians have refused to accept that compassion should over-ride religiosity.

It is not that our politicians are all religion-bound. It is that they fear the power of Christian churches – even in a secular nation – the principal objector being of the Roman kind. From time to time, legislation to enable physician-assisted death, under the strictest, most stringent protective criteria, is rejected by politicians. (Even human rights legislation is denied, allegedly through religious interference.)

Our politicians profess to represent their electorates in parliament. In reality, they represent their political party only – or face career extermination; and they are clearly under the collective thumb of authoritarian priesthoods.

What is strange is that “We are not allowed to have it. So, you too can’t have it” is the line followed by vociferous objectors to voluntary euthanasia. Then, archbishops, bioethicists, other religious functionaries, and some lay people go public, seemingly in a co-ordinated manner (as they are doing now in the State of New South Wales).

They claim that people will be killed – even by themselves (through suicide). Then, they bring up the slippery slope argument. The essence of this argument seems to be that the elderly will be put to death by their family – presumably for financial benefit.

As well, medicos are told that they are to save lives, not ‘take’ lives. Whereas the Hippocratic Oath says simply that medicos should do no harm – not keep patients alive at any cost (usually at the patient’s cost).

Not that long ago, the head of a State Branch of the doctors’ union asked the Federal Parliament for the right of a doctor, in his expertise, to over-ride the legally-binding document known as the Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) or its equivalent. This effectively says ‘Do not resuscitate’ in specified circumstances; or ‘Do not operate on me unless I say so.‘

More recently, the General Manager of a private hospital stated that his professional staff were “unhappy” at their being constrained by AHCDs (Really!); but nothing was said about their religious proclivities. Then an academic ethicist asked about the rights of his conscience. But, could each set of variable faith-based ethics have an independent legal status, binding all residents in a secular nation?

It cannot, however, be denied that a couple of European nations of a predominantly Roman Catholic persuasion already have laws permitting physician-assisted death (viz. voluntary euthanasia).Reportedly, they have adequate safeguards to prevent ‘killing’ and ‘slippery slopes.’  How backward is Australia, and how lacking in compassion. (This situation also allegedly applies in the non-availability of medicinal marijuana for those who can benefit most significantly from its application. I have seen a video of its benefits.)

In a multicultural nation whose citizens are encouraged by the government to maintain their diversity in cultural values and practices, ridiculously, the religious edicts of a minority Christian population are allowed to dominate the lives of other communities.

It should be noted that voluntary euthanasia will not be compulsory. Do allow compassion free reign. If an authority will not extend compassion to fellow humans, then that authority will necessarily be time-limited. Does God not see all that happens?      

“On one’s knees” (from ‘Pithy Perspectives’)

“It was a night of terror. Not a terror of the unseen, with ghosts and hobgoblins silently sneaking into the subconscious of superstitious sleeping souls; for that is when the terror of the unknown takes hold of those whose minds are not fixed firmly on terra firma. It was indeed the terror of the visible, the audible, and the kinesthetically palpable.

While the terror of the intangible arouses a silent scream, the terror of the visible, the audible, and the kinesthetically palpable causes, despite a probable rigidity of all human muscles, very loud and frightening screams. While such screams frighten the listener in a certain unsettling way, they frighten the screamer in a different and horrifying way.

On that night of terror, the question on everyone’s lips began with a simple anxiety-laden “What’s happening?” As the ground split in an apparently random fashion, the next question, uttered in a terrible fear, was “Which way do we run?” This was followed by a desperate “Is there anywhere I can hide?” as one’s bed, bath and, indeed, house fell into the ravines now forming. People fell into the ravines, and the simultaneous slippage of soil and other debris followed the path of gravity, burying the fallen.

A sudden and peaceful death was the good fortune of those whose trajectory was gravity-driven. If their religious leaders had spoken with sound knowledge, then the souls of the buried would sit at the right hand of God, or on Her knees; or wait to be recycled, in time, for yet another sojourn on Earth; or frolic in Heaven surrounded by music and the sound of fountains; or wait to be chosen for a reward of something or other. It would not matter. They were out of harm’s way.

For those who were required to live with the terror of the sounds and consequences of Earthly destruction, there was no salvation. They would, with their broken bones and maladjusted minds, die slowly of cold, starvation, severe illnesses caused by polluted water (if there was any water available), criminal activity by fellow humans driven by greed of one kind or another, and lax recovery-efforts by those of their rulers who were capable of remaining in office.

When Earth had finished rupturing, and parts of the countryside had simply sunk into the neighboring sea or moved out into the ocean to form new islands, the survivors would discover that all the known volcanoes had blown their tops. While this outpouring would enrich the soil for the centuries to come, the volcanic ash thrown up into the atmosphere would block the sun over all of Earth for decades. So more people would starve to death, societies would disappear, and Gaia (the Soul of Earth) would rejoice!

While the human population of Earth needed a drastic pruning, I did not want you to die. But I could not see you. Did you survive the night of terror? Regrettably, I still cannot help you, as I am sitting on the right knee of Herself!”

 

‘Musings at Death’s Door’ – Ponderings of significance

The full title of this book is “Musings at Death’s Door – an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.”  It is a rear-vision-mirror view of Australia after more than 60 years of a highly interactive and contributory life as an adult. The book was first published in 2012.

Chapter 2 – On subservience

“I am intrigued by the discrepancy between the independent stance of the Anglo-Australian worker (originally the bulk of the people) and the obsequiousness/arrogance of Australian governments.  Having been a tram conductor, worked in factories and offices, and socialised with all levels of Australian society, I say categorically that this Aussie worker is someone I respect.  He is the one who will stop to help you were your car to break down on the street.  He stands tall at all times, and encourages immigrants to emulate him.

Contradictorily, Australian governments are subservient, but selectively; originally it was to Mother Britain, later to stepfather USA.  Yet, they will throw their weight about in the Pacific (their US-allocated bailiwick), or look askance at the newly independent nations of Asia with foreign faiths.  These nations will never bend their necks again, and will not pay the respect claimed by Australia.”

Chapter 3 – On family and society

“The family is the basic unit of society.  Some extraordinary, some terrible, changes have seriously affected Australian society since my arrival two generations ago.  These changes parallel those elsewhere in the Western world.  The individualism underpinning those Western nations I describe as Ultra-West has been honed, through associated personal rights, to the point that many children and society at large may be seen as at risk.

Is society, as the coherent collective that we have known it to be historically, on a downward trajectory in Australia?  Will any sense of community and the reciprocal responsibilities within it survive?  Will my Australian descendants, who have grown up without significant support from an extended family, continue to be deprived, relative to my own extended family overseas, of the moral and cultural support available in a community which is linked genetically?”

Chapter 4 – On governance

“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).

Whereas traditional tribal leaders, with a durable leadership, focus on the long-term needs of their tribes, the leaders of political parties, whose leadership is relatively transient, will focus on their short-term survival needs.  The consequential contrast may be between a stable society with a relatively stagnant regional economy, and a relatively unstable society engaged in some economic growth, where on-going growth is a condition of survival.

The core issue is whether the acquisition of a voting right results in voters having any effective say in the politics of elected governments; and whether this is an improvement over traditional tribal rule.”

Chapter 5 – On racism and tribalism

“When a white nation, officially openly racist, changes itself within half a century into a modern cosmopolitan multi-ethnic and culturally tolerant one, any coloured observer would be pleased.  Since many, if not most, nations contain an admixture of peoples offering a diversity of beliefs, values, traditions, and ethnic origins and histories, there is little danger in Australia now joining the Family of Man.

However, the rate of change in the composition of the nation must enable even an evolving host people to adapt and, hopefully, to reach an accord of tolerance promising acceptance – both within themselves and between host and migrant.  In their felt need to expand the population, as well as to further diversify the immigrant intake, have recent Australian governments introduced the seeds of tribal contention and conflict?”

Chapter 6 – On multiculturalism

“Multiculturalism has become a divisive term.  Instead of being a mere descriptive term for an admixture of ethnic cultures, it has now come to reflect an official policy.  This policy enables permanent residence for ethno-cultural communities with religion-based traditions which are widely divergent from those of the mainstream populace; with the new communities wishing to retain their traditions unmodified by time.

An unsought, and an even undesirable, consequence of this policy is that, instead of converging in time with the socio-political structures of the host population, there develop, by choice, parallel cultural structures.  These either delay or deny a desirable eventual integration of these new arrivals into the mainstream populace.  The enlarged population is now not a unified people bonded by a shared citizenship and shared civic values.

Ironically, while these introduced communities seek to retain their version of ancestral cultures intact, back in the countries of origin of these new communities, their cultural practices keep evolving.”

Chapter 7 – On migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

“Modern Australia was founded by immigrants, and developed by immigrants.  Under the sway of capitalism – that the economy must grow for ever – governments tend to favour a rising rate of immigration.  This policy is the preferred substitute for a long-term development plan, or even a population policy.  Awaiting  God’s Will may explain this approach.

However, refugees and asylum seekers either cannot afford to wait, or choose not to wait, for God’s Will.  Of course, there are genuine refugees and ‘wannabe’ refugees.  The majority of the latter are most likely to be economic migrants who, in all probability, will not pass our normal selection process.

Today, asylum seeking is probably the biggest entry racket, aided by some Aussies who seem to believe that the Australian taxpayer is required to benefit a claimant for refugee status.  This is in contrast to tradition where the migrant is expected to benefit Australia.  Even border control now awaits God’s Will, since neither side of politics has any policy worthy of note.  In the meantime, what are the issues involved?”

Chapter 8 – On national identity

“I do wonder if a nation can have its own identity.  Might it be defined in the same way that a personal identity is drawn?  But then, is there a single personal identity for each individual?

In British Malaya, the land of my birth, we were classified according to the territory from which we had come.  I was therefore Ceylonese.  In post-war White Australia, I was initially described as a black man, occasionally black bastard.  Later, I was an Asian student, with Immigration authorities ensuring that we did not become over-stayers.  Then I became an Indian, because everyone brown in colour, other than the indigene, was Indian; although I was occasionally asked when my Afghan ancestors had arrived in Australia.

Later, much later, like everyone else, I was defined by my work, with passing reference to my origins.  Occupation and status were standard delineations of identity.  However, when my wife and I mixed with middle-range diplomats, I was assumed to be a foreign diplomat;              brown-skinned Asian Australians were a missing species.  I guess that my wife and I scrubbed up well too, and spoke ‘proper like.’  Among the academics, I was assumed to be one of them; my tendency to speak in jargon from the social sciences may have misled them all.  I was a mere public servant.  In this arena, one’s social contacts were obliquely, yet inevitably, set by one’s position in the pecking order!”

Chapter 9 – On religion

“While increasing numbers of our younger generations do not see religious affiliation as relevant to their lives, the governments of a secular Australia permit the social values of an authoritarian Vatican to impose these values on non-Catholics.  By favouring Christian immigrants, especially from Asia and Africa, federal governments have sought to counter the progressive erosion of church affiliation.  Strengthening the Catholic vote almost led to East Timor becoming a dependency of Australia.  Religion also interferes with our relations with our neighbours.

Yet, I accept that religious belief can be beneficial.  The need is for mutual tolerance, with the power of divisive priests and their acolyte politicians constrained.  My musings follow.

Almost all of those who profess to having, or believing in, a religion are born into it.  Is it not the religion or faith of the family?  Some exchange their religion for another later in life: it would be a well-thought out shift of allegiance, reflecting a search for a more satisfying faith or religious community.  There will be of course some who are born into a family without adherence to any religious belief, but who may subsequently join a religious sect through a considered choice.”

Chapter 10 – On the Cosmos

“To ponder is also to wonder.  Tiny drops of moisture, each on its own blade of grass, winked at me early one morning.  As the sun’s rays changed direction, an invisible movement of ground-level air created a choreography – a dance of winking droplets.  How aesthetically and spiritually satisfying that was!  Indeed, the beauty of wondrous Nature has always transfixed my ever-roving mind.  To wonder is therefore also to ponder.

A Seeker of Reality will commence with the question ‘What is it?’  In time, his search may lead to the next question ‘Why is it so?’  Is the next logical question then ‘Quo Vadis?; that is, ‘Whither goest thou?’  There surely has to be a destination for our journey through Earthly existence, through life after life.  Is there also a destination for our universe, other possible universes, and the Cosmos as a whole?”

Chapter 11 – On empires, gone and going

“When I ponder about empires, I do so both as a former vote-less colonial subject, and a present-day free citizen.  I now belong to a satrapy, a country subservient to a great power, but I am not in the least fussed about that.  I wonder, perhaps with misguided charity, whether any long-term benefits (even if unintended) had accrued to mankind as a consequence of the great empires of history.  My intuition says that there may have been some benefits at a regional, rather than a global, level.

My feelings dominate my thoughts about colonialism.  These are about the loss of personal freedom and political independence; the imposition of foreign religio-cultural values and the consequent denigration and attempted destruction of the cultural beliefs and practices of the conquered and oppressed people; and the subversion of the local economy and much of the way of life of its workforce to suit the trading and other economic wants of the coloniser.  After all, the interloper was not there for the benefit of the so-called natives; for instance, to teach us how to govern ourselves (as a friend of mine was taught at his school in England).”

Chapter 12 – Concluding my musings

“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.”

 

Read my books ’The Karma of Culture’ and ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ about the issues of immigrant integration, and ‘The Dance of Destiny’ which offers contrasts between Australia and Malaysia/Singapore in the manner ethnic communities relate to one another.    
 

 

 

 

‘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………..”

 

 

 

Comparing Modernist and Postmodern Educational Theory

Comparing Modernist and Postmodern Educational Theory

From Xenos Christian Fellowship website

Author: Dennis McCallum

  Modernist Theory Postmodernist Theory
Knowledge Educators ideally should be authoritative transmitters of unbiased knowledge Educators are biased facilitators and co-“constructors” of knowledge.
Culture Culture is something students should learn about, but can also be a barrier to learning. Students from diverse cultures must be trained in a shared language, or medium of communication, before teachers can transmit knowledge to them. The modernist goal of unifying society results in domination and exploitation, because unity is always based on dominant culture. All cultures are not only of equal value, but also constitute equally important realities. Minority students must be “empowered” to fight against Eurocentric enculturation.
Values Traditional modernists believe that educators are legitimate authorities on values, and therefore they should train students in universal values. More liberal modernists argue that education should be “values-neutral.” Teachers help students with “values clarification”–deciding what values each individual student will hold. Values can, and should be separated from facts. The most important values are rationality and progress. Education should help students construct diverse and personally useful values in the context of their cultures. Values are considered useful for a given culture, not true or right in any universal sense. Since teachers cannot avoid teaching their own values, it’s okay for teachers to openly promote their values and social agendas in the classroom. Important values to teach include striving for diversity, tolerance, freedom, creativity, emotions and intuition.
Human Nature Modernists generally believe in a stable, inherent self that can be objectively known. In addition, since humans are thought to have a stable essential nature, IQ tests, and other similar “objective tests”, can be used to discover students’ innate intelligence. By giving them mastery over subject matter, teachers enhance students’ self-esteem. Education helps individuals discover their identities. Individuals and society progress by learning and applying objective knowledge. Students have no “true self” or innate essence. Rather, selves are social constructs. Postmodern educators believe self-esteem is a pre-condition for learning. They view education as a type of therapy. Education helps individuals construct their identities rather than discover them. Individuals and society progress when people are empowered to attain their own chosen goals.

Is this a fair comparison? Does one refer to an integrated people of diverse cultures, whereas the other emphasises the retention of individual cultures in a multi-ethnic nation?

More importantly, the self is a social construct. The family and society, impacting on the innate core propensities of the child, progressively give it self-esteem, and the ability to survive economically.  At the same time, the child is enabled to adapt effectively to its varied societal environments. This process is everywhere the same except in ‘command’ societies.

Is it not true that human and societal behaviour is everywhere the same, and for the same reasons? Beware those who seek to divide people and society according to their prejudices!