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?

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Countering Indigenous disadvantage

Australia’s politicians talk frequently about ‘bridging the gap.’ This gap refers to the relative socio-economic status of the First Nation People of Australia. They represent the underclass of society. There are, however, quite a few achievers of note within this community, mainly through personal effort.

One Prime Minister said “Sorry” on behalf of the nation. Other politicians come across as sincere in their wish to reduce indigenous disadvantage. Against that, a State Government was once accused of deflecting federal funds to other policy objectives. And there was a lot of talk once of fly-in and fly-out consultants.

Remarkably, an African-American established 8 years ago an organisation in Australia involving the private sector, “Career Trackers,” which “mentors indigenous university students into professional jobs.” Its success has attracted the attention of Maori and Pacifika leaders.

Here are extracts from an article by Caitlin Fitzsimmons in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7 Feb. 2018.

Modelled on the INROADS program for African-Americans, Career Trackers provides support for participants during their studies and matches them with paid internships during university holidays.

Despite being 2.8% of the population, Indigenous Australians compose 1.7% of the workforce. Career Trackers is trying to change that – and it’s reporting amazing results. There are 1354 students in the program and 108 corporate partners. A number of companies have committed to take paid interns from the program for at least 10 years, including major law and engineering firms.

Less than half of Indigenous university students make it to graduation, according to the Australian Council for Educational Research, but Career Trackers says nearly 9 out of 10 of its participants do.

Career Trackers says a whopping 95% of its alumni are in full-time employment within three months of graduating.

 The median weekly income for all Australians is $662 and for Indigenous Australians only $441 – but for Career Trackers alumni it is $1192.

It would be naive to think Indigenous disadvantage will be solved by a few corporate internships.

(Comment: Some real progress – at last. This comment is based on 70 years of observation of Australian society.)

‘Prods and masons’

When I arrived in Australia 70 years ago, I was surprised by the sectarian war within Christianity. In British Malaya, the diverse ethno-religious communities lived in mutual tolerance and harmony. We did not transfer any antipathies which may have existed in the various tribal territories ‘back home ‘. Within my Jaffna-Tamil community, mostly Hindu, were 3 Christian sects; we were all close friends.

I soon discovered that the discrimination (not just prejudice) claimed by self-defined Irish Catholics was clearly 2-way! Because I am a Hindu, many of my colleagues in a Catholic-dominated federal public service (during late 1950 to late 1980s) spoke openly (albeit casually) and disparagingly about the ‘prods and masons.’ My ‘beering’ mates in that period included 2 Kennedys and 3 O’Briens.

On a few occasions, I challenged complaining Catholic friends as follows: Swear to me on your Good Book or with hand-on-heart that no male member of your extended family had seduced a Protestant girl and, when she became pregnant, married her (after her conversion to Catholicism); and she had then (presumably) produced the requisite number of Irish Roman Catholics sought by her priest.

Was it not strange that none of those I challenged was willing to so swear? But we remained friends. Did any of them wonder if they, or a near-ancestor, had been produced by an ex-‘prod’.

At a fairly recent party, when a fellow-retiree talked about Irish Catholics having faced discrimination by the prods, I asked him for details of the discrimination actually experienced by his paternal grandfather, father and himself – all 3 having been profession men. Being an honest man, he admitted that none of them had been disadvantaged in their respective careers by being Catholic.

However, he did say (in another context) that, because of his second marriage, he experienced discrimination in church by his priest!

Some issues of multiculturalism

“In 1995, The United Nations International Year for Tolerance (and the twentieth anniversary of the enactment of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act), the then Prime Minister of Australia claimed that there is in Australia ‘no language not spoken, no culture not understood, no religion not practiced.’ It must be true; it was in the news. In any event, this means that we the most culturally diverse nation in the world; or is it only linguistically diverse?

The Office of Multicultural Affairs also told us then that multiculturalism is a policy for managing the consequences of cultural diversity; that this policy confers upon us two rights and a responsibility. The rights are: to express and share our cultural heritage, and to equality of treatment and opportunity; the responsibility is to utilise effectively the skills and talents of all Australians.

The Office also identified certain limits to Australian multiculturalism: that we should have an over-riding and unifying commitment to Australia; that we should accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society, viz. the Constitution and the rule of law; tolerance and equality; parliamentary democracy; freedom of speech and religion; English as the national language; and equality of the sexes; and that we have an obligation to accept the rights of others to express their views and values.

All this is eminently reasonable and sensible, except that bit about ‘managing’. In addition, the chairman of the Australian Multicultural Foundation (Sir James Gobbo), an ethnic community leader of great competence and renown, said (also in 1995) that he looked forward to ‘the day in the not too distant future, when our cultural diversity and our policies of tolerance and respect in handling this diversity will be so much a part of the fabric of society, that we shall no longer need to use such words as multiculturalism and ethnic’.”

“This view parallels the mature view (also expressed in 1995) of the President of the Czech Republic that the best hope for a peaceful multicultural civilisation in the world is to understand and insist on ‘the shared spiritual values of our cultures’.”

“Another outstanding ethnic community leader (Emeritus Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki) questioned (also in 1995) whether the term ‘multiculturalism’ is now out of date. … … ‘Many cultures, one Australia’ has greater attraction for him. While supporting the thrust of current multicultural policy, he raised two important issues: that ‘not all traditions, cultures and customs are necessarily equal’, and that wooing the ethnic vote throws the policy ‘out of balance’.

Where ‘some minority values are totally inconsistent with fundamental values of the dominant Australian culture’ (eg. where ‘the family takes the law into its hands to redress a wrong done to one of its members’), ‘it would be nonsense to say that every culture is equally valued and therefore legitimate’.

This is an extract from my book ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’ (1997)

Periodic tests or continuous tracking?

“Focusing solely on academic achievement as measured by final results reveals little about how much a student has actually learnt during the year. Tracking academic progress, on the other hand, paints a much clearer picture.” Peter Goss and Jordana Hunter (Sydney Morning Herald)

“Academic achievement is influenced by many factors, including prior achievement and socio-economic background. By contrast, academic progress, while not perfect, provides a better indication of how much students have actually learnt.”

“Our focus should be on the academic progress we want students to make, rather than the final mark.”

“Great teachers use high-quality student assessments to identify where each student is starting from. They teach based on what students are ready to learn next. They monitor progress over time and adjust their teaching strategies along the way. This approach needs to become systematic, including being embedded in teacher training courses.

Growing numbers of schools analyse student progress over time to identify and fix problems individual teachers might miss. A few schools are increasingly clear-eyed about their challenge and target two years of learning in one. They know exactly where each student is at, and track progress relentlessly to stay on target.”

“Tracking academic progress is vital. It tells teachers and schools when their approach is working. Recognising and celebrating great progress helps sustain motivation.”

(These are extracts from the SMH article.)

Comment: Successful continuous tracking should remove the fear of tests. To avoid misleading our youth about their viability in a globalised community, teachers would surely want to ensure that school leavers have achieved the requisite level of competencies. Hence the need for nationwide tests.

Why is periodic testing in schools being decried? Obviously, students, teachers, and policy makers in the education system would have a spotlight shone on them. Effective effort should be a basal requirement for all participants in the education process.

Thus, a casual assessment of entrants to a kinder class would identify the approach to be taken. Those who complain loudly about this may need to be asked “Is kinder a parent-free playground?”

Those who complain about the periodic testing of competence at various points during school will want to ensure that continuous tracking occurs in their school, and that the competence levels to be achieved each year have been met.

 

Christianising a secular nation?

Thirty percent of Australians stated in the recent Census that they have no religion. The most powerful of the Christian churches in the nation can claim perhaps no more than 20% support. In reality, attendance at all churches is reportedly visibly low, except for a new expression of Christian faith.

Officially, Australia is a secular nation. There is no evidence that the behaviour of church-attending Christians (of whatever provenance) is more responsible than that of others who say that they are also Christians; or that Christians are more socially responsible than those who belong to other religions; or who are atheists and agnostics.

The crucial issue for society is whether ethical conduct is programmed by regular attendance at a place of worship; or through being taught about the religious beliefs of one’s family and community. Or, is it the case that children develop a sound distinction between what is right and what is wrong in conduct and thought, and what is fair and just, through the behaviour of their parents?

And, is there also not an innate sense of equality or fairness displayed by many little children, even through the tantrums of that stage of growth known as the ‘terrible twos’? Where does this undeniably inborn display of what is fair come from? A past-life intimation? Why not? And where do parents and teachers learn about ethical conduct? Surely through the above processes!

In terms of the influence of religion, humans pray to God, or to spirits of one kind or another, for safety, succour, or salvation – instinctively. They learn codes of conduct through socialisation. What we are all taught about the religion of the family or tribe represents the following: a rationale for ethical behaviour; an explanation of what is observed and experienced in society; a guiding light for the journey of Earthly life; and a promise of what death may bring.

Each religion has its own vision, reflecting its historical origins and development. Together they light the various paths of existence. None can claim to be unique or even superior. How could they?

A full belly and material security may result in the negation of a religion, with some attracted to a spirituality which engenders a mutual respect for all human life (as well as all sentient life).

When Australia began to collect needed immigrants from 1948, it allegedly set out to gather Roman Catholics from Europe; and then from the Levant. When the White Australia policy was nominally ended, for about 3 decades the majority of Asians accepted were light-skinned East Asians who were Christian. (Refer Census data 2012). Preference was then seemingly given to Christian refugees and humanitarian entrants. Asylum seekers arriving by air and by boat, family reunion, and (possibly) poor selection led to other entrants.

It is probably the Anglo-Celts who have decided that they do not need religion. State schools enabling Christian lay-persons to inform students about Judeo-Christianity may turn the tide – mainly for the benefit of churches and Bible societies. An important issue is whether government schools in officially secular Australia should involve themselves with divisive, even competitive, religions?

Ideally, state primary schools could offer an education about the nature and role of religion. I recommended this when I was the Chairman of a school board; while my Board and the education authorities accepted my proposal in principle, it was not implemented.

All high schools could teach comparative religion – professionally; that is, without confusing cultural practices with core tenets of each religion. The objective would be to enable our youth to understand that all the major religions share 2 core beliefs; and that differences reflecting theological approaches are not barriers to mutual understanding that diverse paths lead to the one and only God of mankind.

Religious people of all faiths, as well as those of a spiritual mind, are good people; as are those who do not need religion to guide their behaviour.

Racism and tribalism (2)

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

 

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