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leader (Emeritus Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki) questioned (also in 1995) whether the term ‘multiculturalism’ is now out of date.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)

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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.’)

 

Did squatters destroy an Aboriginal civilisation?

“A few years after the initial ‘discovery’ by Captain Cook, it was apparently known that the indigenes not only occupied the land and used it with economic purpose, but also (according to the highly respected Dr.Coombs) “… lived in clan or tribal groups, that each group had a homeland with known boundaries, and that they took their name from their district, and rarely moved outside it.”  It was also known that they had, and applied, firm rules about trespass, kinship ties, marriage, child rearing and other matters, the hallmarks of an organised society; that they had a “habit of obedience” to their rulers and leaders, a hallmark of a political society; and that they had an ordered ceremonial life, reflecting the sharing of a spiritual vision, a hallmark of a civilisation. Apparently, they also had their own zodiac, which guided their activities. Their artistic records are also well known and respected.

It has now been accepted that the indigenes did not cede any of their land. As the famous poet Oodjaroo Noonuccal said, “We are but custodians of the land”. Whilst the settlers saw themselves at war, and killed to acquire land, officialdom (later supported by local jurists) preferred occupation to conquest. Occupation follows discovery, of a presumed empty land. How were the natives to establish ownership without a Titles Office?

Because the morally political Australian rejected the idea of an invasion, a Senate Committee came up, in the early 1980s, with prescription. This apparently applies when there is no clear title to sovereignty by way of treaty, occupation or conquest. An extended occupation, and an exercise of sovereignty were apparently enough to vest title in the Crown.

But, prescription requires a show of authority on the one side, and acquiescence on the other (says Prof. Reynolds, the renowned contributor to the nation’s enlightenment on this black subject). Since the natives never acquiesced to anything, voluntary abandonment was claimed. The Senate’s clever semantic exercise seemed to accept that being killed or driven away is tantamount to voluntary abandonment! A prominent white Australian sociologist reminded me that cities such as Melbourne and Sydney represented the most effective sites of ethnic cleansing; and that every fence in Australia encloses land that was once the soul, or the shared possession of a particular group of Aborigines.

A very substantial majority of the Aboriginal people died in the years following the invasion. Killing was both official and private. “My father used to round you mob up and shoot you for Saturday and Sunday entertainment”. This was uttered by a school mate of a recent head of ATSIC (the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Commission). One does not visit the sins of the father upon the son. Yet, there are Australians today who attempt to defend the historical brutality that led to women and children being shot without compunction, and large numbers of fellow humans being killed through the use of poison. What sort of humans were the early arrivals that they could do this? What does it say about their origins, the way they lived before arriving in Australia, and their moral and cultural values? Why were these casual killers so debauched? “ … …

“It would not be quite fair to apply the aphorism ‘The criminal cannot forgive the victim he has defiled’ to those who deny what they call the ‘black armband’ view of Australia’s history. Why someone who cannot claim any ancestors who ‘cleared’ the land so vehemently rejects an honest view of a black history, makes sense only if one accepts that such people have strong tribal affinities, ie their people could not have behaved so brutally; or that, because that was normal colonial behaviour then, the perpetrators cannot be judged by current criteria for morality.

 I have had similar statements made to me when I occasionally refer to my exposure to Aussie racists. Some of these defenders of past brutality, however, confuse guilt with responsibility. That is, they cannot accept that today’s generation has a moral responsibility to compensate, but without any sense of guilt, for the damage done by earlier generations.

(These are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity: Beyond tribalism towards a new Australian identity.’  My hope is the Australian Family of Man, arising eventually from, and through, cultural differences. Our indigenes need to find a place in the sun as a community before participating within a mesh of integrated cultures forming the nation. However, a generation or two of superior white Australians have to join their Maker before that can happen.) 

 

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.’)

 

 

 

 

 

The end of institutional religion?

Time and tide wait for no one. That is an aphorism of note. Freedom to think clearly, to learn as circumstances permit, to act responsibly and pragmatically according to an innate conscience – these undermine any established constraints applied by those controlling institutional religions based on authority – especially an authority of questionable provenance.

I do believe that there is an innate (ie. unconscious) yearning in all humans for the numinous, the Divine, God, or the Creator of all – no matter how these are defined. Deep within our souls there does seem to be an unrelenting urge to be fused with the Divine – from which (whom) we probably parted or were split.

While we are destined to live a series of Earthly lives, we evolve through a conversion of a naive pathway – originating from fear, progressing to awe, and then to faith in propitiating the nature (or planetary) ‘gods’ we created – to supporting a relatively ritualised form of worship. These rituals, most likely to have been introduced by shamans, would then have been institutionalised by a rising priesthood.

Unlike the Hindu priesthoods I have experienced, who did not (do not) control us, most priesthoods elsewhere seem to have instituted systems of control over their believers, eg. Egypt, Europe, the Middle East. Power seems to have the effect of an aphrodisiac.

Regrettably, dogma devised to strength the bonds binding believers became instruments in a competitive war – between not only the principal religions, but also between the sects which grew within each of some religions. Did these sectarian differences reflect divergences in ideology or a contest of human power?

Just as there is a growing distrust of politicians (and their acolytes) in Western ‘democratic’ nations, there is a clear distancing of the populace from institutionalised religion. Or, is it only a wish to change the rituals, allied to a ‘de-frocking’ of a priesthood in the interests of church governance by laity?

If I am correct about an innate yearning in us for an intangible Divine, new forms of reaching out will rise to suit some, while others will remain disinterested in the need for a collective expression of faith. Those of us who prefer a one-to-one communion with our Creator will do so in private.

Whether a religious/spiritual belief is expressed privately or collectively, if it is not reflected in an appropriate way of life, we too may go the way of the dodo!