Citizenship vs. Ethnic identity

Are these 2 concepts contradictory? Not necessarily. Were a national government to emphasise:

  • pride in a shared citizenship
  • citizens integrating culturally, as in a goulash, curry, or stir-fried edibles of a wide variety (not as in an English salad)
  • equal opportunity available under the law, in employment, in services, etc. (unlike the cheap labour provided to parts of Europe by former colonial subjects)
  • the avoidance of ethnic enclaves, especially ones with a deficiency of necessary public services;

all of the above being the reality of Australia;

rather than the retention of those visible cultural practices which separate the population – often by intent, supported by the excuse of retaining ‘traditional culture’,

then ethnic or cultural identity would be a desirably subsidiary matter, but not competitive.

In the availability of policies offering equality and integration, why would a youngster born in Australia of ethnic ancestry, whether educated in a secular State school, or a religious school, choose to wear in public places a turban, or a skull cap, or a full-body-cover niqab, or even a hijab or a scarf covering the head, especially if he/she were a third-generation Australian? Surrounded by a wide variety of ethnic origins and mother-tongues, as well as by ‘mainstream’ Australians, what are some immigrant parents or their priests saying to their offspring and their multi-ethnic fellow-residents?

‘We are different’? Is that meant to imply ‘We are superior’, even to the host nation? The government of this nation allows immigrants into the country in the expectation of a united, coherent people arising in time from the admixture of ethnicities. It also ensures a secure life, with long-term welfare support. The nation does not need ‘campers’ refusing to become integrated.

Yet, a few of our Muslim immigrants have reportedly stated publicly their displeasure at Australia’s social mores. Why then stay? Other Muslim immigrants seek to have Australia’s long-established institution of law modified to offer sharia law. How so?  Immigrants adapt to the nation they chose to enter; not vice versa! These Muslims are the first and only immigrant individuals who want their ethnic identity to predominate over all other identities.

What are they really saying to the rest of us, when almost all Muslim people are no different from other law-abiding Australians? They are already free to practice those aspects of their culture which are not incompatible with Australia’s institutions and social mores.

What else are they entitled to, and why?


The folly of ethnic empowerment

About 30 years (roughly equivalent to the span of one generation) after the Australian government had sought (and brought) able-bodied European workers to contribute to the development of the nation; and the arrival of a number of war-displaced Europeans (the refugees); there was a surprising move by some Australians of immigrant descent. They claimed that English is not our national language.

As a former director of policy on ethnic affairs and multiculturalism, I (perhaps with tongue in cheek) asked my boss if Latin would meet the linguistic needs of all the Europeans in the country. Logically, in terms of a projected future, only Mandarin and Spanish might have qualified as Australia’s other national languages. But, what led to the ambition to downgrade English, already a universal language? The flexing of imported ethnic muscles!

The next step in this direction was the suggestion that immigration entry should be based on the proportions of the ethnic communities already in Australia. A similar claim had once been made in the USA. I was reminded of the White Australia policy, which was becoming progressively tinted; the hoped-for cosmopolitan Australia was to remain predominantly white, but not British.

The third proposal fell onto fertile policy ground. All of a sudden, in the 1970s, all that wonderful settlement assistance initially provided to the immigrants from Europe by the Anglo-Australian members of the Good Neighbour movement in the 1950s; and subsequently followed by employees of all agencies – both public (in the main) and private – endeavouring to guide non-English speakers to any services they might require; all this was suddenly claimed to be inadequate.

Instead of NESB immigrants (those of a non-English speaking background) being shown the way to available services for approximately 20 years, they were now to be taken there by social workers speaking the requisite languages. These workers would be employed by the various ethnic communities using government grants. It was a parallel settlement service that was sought, and achieved, at great expense.

Having had extensive contact (by chance and by choice) with immigrants and refugees since their arrival from the late 1940s, in the 1980s I questioned the need for this policy. In my capacity as Chief Ethnic Affairs Officer I heard strong criticism of this policy from established European immigrants from a wide range of countries. Since they had been able to settle in Australia successfully, where was the need for the new settlement policy, they asked.

Significantly, 2 notable senior ethnic community members, while careful not to publically challenge their younger compatriots, proposed to me a limit of 10 years for this policy. The ‘young Turks’, including junior academics, disagreed. Ethnic separation and empowerment were on the rise. Ethnic advisory councils, at both federal and state levels, proliferated, at great taxpayer expense. (Yes, I am a former Treasury official too.)

When the federal government came up with a policy of multiculturalism, to manage multiculturalism (whatever that thought-bubble was), I realised that this was no more than an exercise in competitive ethnic vote-catching. Significantly, when one government reduced the qualifying residence period for citizenship from 5 years (out of 8) to 3 years, the other then reduced it to 2 years. As we insiders said to ourselves, all that any of our imports with criminal intent had to do was to lie low for 2 years. They couldn’t then be deported.

What did multiculturalism policy achieve in terms of enhancing the successful integration of our new settlers? We were already relating to one another smoothly. We do not need the government or ambitious ethnic persons to tell us how to relate to one another.


The myth of ‘racial’ discrimination (1)

Since the concept of ‘race’ is meaningless (common usage being no intellectual defence), then the term ‘racial’ is equally meaningless. What is race? A construct of European colonialism; the ‘white race’ was contrasted against all other races, which were allegedly genetically inferior.

So much for the intellectual competence of those scholars who sought to prove this. It was no more than the new boy on the patch flexing his muscle. (Mine is bigger than yours!) It may also be that the ‘white’ supremacist had not yet met the peoples of East Asia and those living along the terrain between the Tropic of Cancer and the 40th parallel around the globe; these people are clearly more white than the coppery-white European (except the Mediterraneans).

Funnily enough, when an Asian Caucasian like me marries a European Caucasian, the progeny tend to be whitish in colour; except that the resulting very lightly-tinted ones display an attractive skin colour (like the suntan assiduously sought by white Anglo-Australians).

Since arriving in Australia at the age of 19, I have experienced statements of petty prejudice and acts of discrimination (some very unjust and thereby hurtful). The expressions of prejudice reflected, I realised, my intrusion into ‘white space.’ That this space had been white for only about 250 years, against the reality that it had been ‘black space’ for at least 45,000 years, would not have penetrated the thick skulls of those white supremacists. So, skin colour was the trigger.

Like my fellow-Asian students, I experienced some petty discrimination in service initially, based on my being a coloured foreigner. Disdain was also directed to any white girls in our company. Indeed, in the 1990s, a young Aboriginal youth in my district was beaten up because he was seen walking with a white girl. That was during the ‘Hanson era’ when a new politician complained that there were too many Asians in the country. I too was shouted at in public. Again, it was skin colour that was the trigger.

Why not refer to this as colour prejudice? It was simply white (repeat, white) supremacy being manifest. There were no ‘races’ implicated.

What of the prejudice displayed initially against the white, Christian, European immigrants who were imported by the government? They were foreign; that is, not British! Racial discrimination? Hogwash! There must be a term for people ‘not like us’! Outsiders? Foreigners? Nothing racially inferior here, is there?

Then, in a competitive work environment, I experienced (between age 55 to 60) overt (and painful) discrimination based on my religion; I did not belong to ‘the faith.’ This was purely tribal discrimination. Nothing to do with race!

Ignorant people projecting prejudice of all kind (like acne on a teenager) can be thick on the ground. But they can be, need to be, ignored. Discrimination can, however, reflect more than idiotic prejudice. What protection is available from ‘racial discrimination’ legislation?

Defining a (proper) Christian

“You can’t be a Christian if you do not come to church.” This advice was given to me loudly, from about 10 feet away, in the middle of my local library. I think that I was being chastised for referring to myself as an operational Christian, while remaining a metaphysical Hindu. (Hinduism does not require an all-excluding adherence. We are tolerant.)

Recently, I had withdrawn from church attendance. My explanation to the rector was that I preferred a contemplative one-to-one approach to God, accompanied by total silence (except for the sounds of the nearby sea and the occasional to frequent bird calls.)

The comment made to me was by a pillar of the church. While I am unsure of his authority to say what he did, the comment was intra-church. But, by what right could a member of a Christian church – especially its leader – claim that a member of another Christian church could not be a Christian … … ?

I know that when a man of the Greek Orthodox Church sought to marry an Italian woman, she had to receive a dispensation from her Roman Catholic Church. The dispensation, when given, described the man as a heretic (‘hereticus’). Does such a distinction apply today?

Or, are we all ecumenical now, and thereby free to accuse a fellow Christian, but of another church, of not being a proper Christian? Or, could a display of authority (and power) be a more compelling explanation? Could a hoped-for increase in electoral rights for one’s ‘flock’ also be a relevant issue?

For how much longer are the sectoral and religious ‘wars’ to continue? What is so special or superior about any one Christian sect, or any one religion?

Will God judge each of us according to the theology of the sect or religion we believe in as we draw our last breath?

Allowing the facts to speak for themselves

When prominent protectors of the status quo could not bury Velikovsky with their barrage of professional scepticism (much of it undeserved and decidedly spiteful), there has been considerable research into Velikovsky’s theory of global cosmic cataclysm. So I discovered half a century after I had first read Worlds in collision (in 1953).

Allan & Delair wrote Cataclysm (see my earlier posts) to explain the ‘bone caves’ which contained the fossils, all over the world, of ‘incompatible prehistoric animals,’ within each cave, and the remains of humans ‘found in similar conditions, radiocarbon-dated to times consistent with the animal deaths’; these included a diversity of ethnic groups buried together. Their conclusion suggests a catastrophe of mythic proportions’!

Paul La Violette, systems analyst, physicist, and mythologist, discovered evidence of a ‘different sort of cataclysm – a volley of cosmic waves resulting from an explosion in the galactic core.’ He detailed his case in his Earth under fire (‘a synthesis of astrophysics and ancient mythical and esoteric traditions’). ‘Within months of the event, La Violette says, a shroud of cosmic dust would have caused severe climatic changes on Earth, periods of darkness, severe cold and then extreme heat, massive flooding, and incendiary temperatures as the dust interacted with the Sun …’

‘La Violette builds a scientific and mythological foundation for cataclysm as a cyclical event …’ ‘The galactic core explosion cycle is another important cycle that Earth must reckon with,’ La Violette says, citing numerous ancient traditions, many of which reveal that advanced astronomical knowledge, and therefore advanced human beings, existed in pre-cataclysmic times.’

The extracts above are from Cataclysm 9500 BCE by David Lewis, in Forbidden History, edited by Douglas Kenyon.

What we Seekers of understanding (if not knowledge) need are open minds, not infallible sceptics. Scepticism establishes nothing. Go seek!

Has religious dogma been used competitively?

The only information I had obtained about a major institutional religion using its apparently newly-created dogma as a tactical ploy against another institutional religion is as follows. I read (details of source and author now lost) is that some time in the past –perhaps during the anti-Jewish policies in Europe – the Christian Church let Judaism, its parent faith, become aware that the Messiah had already come and gone; and that He could not appear again as He now was with God (and is also of God).

If this report is true, why attack another religion’s core belief, especially the religion from which it had arisen? Was dogma used to undermine another religion? If so why?

My first experience of dogma being used as a competitive recruiting (conversion) tool occurred a year after my arrival in Australia. Before that, a university tutor friend had invited me to convert to Christianity. I then told her about my religiosity back home. Curious, I asked how my behaviour and underlying values would change after adopting Christianity. She took a week to think about my question. She then said that, since I would not need to change in any manner, there was no reason for me to convert. That was that.

However, the next year, I was approached by a young man dressed in black, with a touch of white at the collar. He offered ‘salvation’ by conversion – a nice display of divisive dogma!

Not being aware then of the bitter divide between Roman Catholics and Protestants, I saw this man as some sort of well-meaning but very intrusive and insensitive priest. I had just told him (at his request) about my religiosity as a Hindu. His explanation for my conversion to ‘the faith’ was my ‘salvation.’

What is salvation, I wondered. Changing religions was also a strange concept, since my family’s close friends included Christians – Church of England, Presbyterian and Catholic. We all knew that, while we were on separate paths, they all led to the same destination.

Are Asians more tolerant than Europeans of religious differences, ignoring any dogma intended to divide humanity?

Devaluing citizenship

When the concept of a nation surfaced about half a century ago in Europe, it bound people sharing blood (that is, with a genetic link) and a culture, with inter-generational continuity. The borders of such nations made sense, as tribal terrotories. There may have been a few minority peoples within these borders. The borders would be varied through aggression – by either side.

It is, of course, a great tragedy that the colonial European nations drew up borders everywhere they went on other continents, in order to define their respective spheres of influence and control. These artificial boundaries split various (previously coherent) tribes, resulting in unending post-colonial wars, both within and between these artificial nations – often associated with horrendous brutality. Minorities were always at risk. Tribalism over-rides citizenship, as ever!

Confusing citizenship based on ‘jus soli’ is citizenship that is offered or imposed by ‘jus sanguinis.’ Quite a number of nations follow the Napoleonic Code which imposes/grants citizenship to the descendants of a resident citizen, no matter where these descendants were born or now live. When imposed by a government, one would need to be aware of hither-to un-recognised obligations to the nations of one’s forebears when crossing its borders inwards. National service may be one of these obligations.

Recently, Australia enabled dual citizenship. The reasons are not clear. This devalues the mid-1980s concept of a commitment to one’s nation through citizenship. Dual citizenship enables one to fight in wars on behalf of either or both governments. Are citizenship papers now any more than travel documents? What are the advantages to a nation which permits dual citizenship to be held by its citizens?

Indeed, is citizenship becoming irrelevant?

The violence of religion

“The atrocities committed in the name of religion are undeniable. They stretch from the Christian holy wars that began towards the end of the Roman Empire, and continue through history right up to the present day of Islamic extremism.”

“ … Dave Andrews … (a) devout Christian has just published a book, provocatively titled ‘The Jihad of Jesus,’ which asks Muslims and Christians to examine their religions in practice, and to acknowledge the violence that lies at the heart of the construction of religion throughout history.”

“Holy wars were being waged by Christians for centuries before the present flashpoint in religious warfare in Iraq and Syria, and overall, he concludes ‘in the conflict between Muslims and Christians there have been more devastating wars among Christian states fighting each other than between Christian and Muslim states, and predominantly Christian states have killed more Jews and Muslims than predominantly Muslim states have killed Christians and Jews.’”

”’Are the atrocities that are done in the name of Christianity or Islam true indicators of the nature of Christianity or Islam, or not?’”

“ … a professor of anthropology … Paul Hiebert, raised the alarm at the dangerous implication of what he defined as ‘bounded set’ religion … “

“’I think in order to understand the violence of religion we have to understand that it’s a way of defining religion as a closed set, where you’ve got people who are in the right, people in the wrong,’ Andrews says. ‘Therefore the people who believe they are right feel they have the responsibility to impose their views on others non-violently, or if necessary, violently.’”

These are extracts from an article ‘Across a violent divide’ by Natasha Robinson in ‘The Australian’ newspaper of 14 August 2015.

Realistically, what hope is there for mankind surviving its contradictory beliefs about the path to God? And to kill in the name of the sole creator of all mankind?

Ethics is more important than religion

I have recently begun to wonder whether religion, especially institutional religion, is more of a curse for mankind than a boon. I do know that a religious belief, especially in a Universal Creator (or God), sustains millions of us through the exigencies of existence. Why then does religion cause so much harm, especially to the innocent?

Politicised religion is most definitely a curse. Is any major religion exempt from this accusation? Which are they? As well, why do the religions, even sects within a religion, compete with one another? I have read that, in historical times, Christianity challenged its mother religion, Judaism – by claiming that the Messiah had already been! Worse still, politicised Buddhism seems to have forgotten its basic tenet – compassion!

This is why the recent position taken by the Dalai Lama is so uplifting. In the July 2015 issue of the Reader’s Digest, an article by Franz Alt quotes the Dalai Lama thus:
• “Ethics is more important than religion.”
• “We do not arrive in this world as members of a particular religion. But ethics is innate.”
• “There are days when I think it would be better if there were no religions.”
• “Wars have been waged in the name of religion, ‘holy wars’ even. Religions have been and still are frequently intolerant.”
• “Far more crucial than religion is our elementary human spirituality.”
• “The aim of a secular ethic is to free us of momentary and long term suffering, and to develop the ability to support others in the pursuit of happiness. One aspect of compassion is the spontaneous willingness to act for the welfare of others.”

Is there a religious leader anywhere on this globe who would publicly deny the value of such an ethic? If not denied, would such an ethic head the pantheon of beliefs within their religion? Would that be too much to expect?

What of the role or religious leaders, in operational terms, and their value, in humanitarian terms? In the light of the current affrays all over the world, is this not a relevant question?

A sole path to salvation?

“Have you considered joining the faith?” he asked me. I had no idea what he was referring to. I was all of 19, with little contact with Europeans (white people) and their accents, and in a country (Australia) whose occupants did not generally present themselves as friendly (not even my fellow-students at the university), and here I was being asked a personal question by a total stranger! I was seated in the auditorium waiting the speaker when a youngish man dressed in black sat next to me.

To the few, on public transport or at the university, who sought to talk to us Asian students, I would respond to questions about where I had come from, and why I was in the country. The man-in-black went further: he asked if I was religious. I therefore told him that I had attended a Hindu temple once a week (as soon as I was old enough to cycle there), and that the family prayed every night before dinner in a niche in a room set up for that purpose.

In response to the question from that stranger – who had already touched upon what would, in a civilised society, be a private matter – I asked “What faith?” “Christianity” he replied. After a moment’s thought, I asked “ Why would I need to change religions, since I had just told you about the extent of my devotions?

He took a few moments before he said, “For your salvation.” Somehow I understood what he was implying. I then said “Why do you say, since you already know about the depth of my faith, that you will be saved, but not me?”

He turned his head away, sat silently for a minute, and then walked away without a word. An honest man, I thought. But a frustrated soul-gatherer, and rude!