The damage caused by European colonialism

“ … the southern Moslem states of Thailand might logically belong with Malaysia. Does the Buddhist nation of Thailand rule the southern states according to Buddhist teachings? Are the Moslem peoples in the southern regions of the Philippines rightly ruled by the Spanish blood-infused Christians of that nation? Should therefore the national boundaries laid by colonial marauders be set in concrete?

In the case of Indonesia, with its official cultural tolerance set out in its praise-worthy principle ‘Panchasila,’ the very wide diversity of its ethno-religious peoples spread over so many islands may mitigate against equitable and efficient governance. Tribalism can be expected to over-ride a shared hoped-for nationalism, especially if the Roman Catholic priesthood has any influence.

When one considers what the British did to the Indian sub-continent, after bringing together a great variety of peoples previously ruled as independent entities, one can only wonder at the seemingly unlimited capacity of the relatively tiny (and now unimportant) nations of Europe to create inter-tribal mayhem elsewhere. That their chickens are now coming home to roost, in the form of their former subject peoples now claiming a home with their former ruler, may be seen as cosmic justice. Or, will cheap labour compensate for the presence of the unrespected ‘other’ of yesteryear?

A major issue in colonial heritage is whether the modernisation which inevitably occurred in the colonies benefited the subject peoples. Although the improvements in transport, education and health facilities were established as necessary infrastructure in the occupied territories, there were clearly some benefits to a few. But the downside was the destruction of the traditional economy, especially the loss of skilled artisans.

Nehru pointed out in his letters to his daughter, while he had been imprisoned by the British (simply because of his wish to achieve the independence of India), that the economies of Egypt and India had been destroyed by the British; and, worse still, that in each of the four famines of India in the nineteenth century, twenty million were estimated to have starved to death. Of what use was the infrastructure to the poor?

A recent academic study shows that modernisation in the Middle East by the ‘great powers’ Britain and France (which played merry hell with boundaries and rulers there too) did not result in the consequent expected inflow of new technologies as had occurred in Europe. There, modernisation in the form of new political and social structures, the inculcation of new values and modified approaches to governance, trade and commerce, enabled the introduction of new technologies as available, subject to the recalcitrance of religious and other community leaders.

What was the modernisation in the Middle East? A new administrative middle class which dressed and spoke like the foreign rulers? Did that aid the economic development of their peoples? Not on the basis of evidence. It was post-independence investment by both foreigners and locals which rebuilt some former colonial nations.”

(One might accept that any investment by the colonial governments was directed to developments which suited the rulers back home; any benefits to the ‘natives’ were incidental. That 20 million Indians starved to death in each of 4 famines under the British says it all. That local industries were destroyed is also undeniable. The damage done to the peoples in the Middle East continues.

Why place Muslim districts in East Asia under Christian or Buddhist rulers? Why grant Hindu lands to Buddhist rulers? Why split the Indian sub-continent on the basis of religion? Why rush around converting the lowest social groups to Christianity? Why create a ‘creole’ Christian people wherever they reigned? And back home, the rulers lived in splendiferous style, thanks to the spoils of colonial rule.

Hopefully, the events described in the above extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ will never ever be repeated. Would it not be nice if Western politicians and priests allowed people in other countries to live as they wish?)

The curse of tribalism

Which came first? The extended family (the clan) or the tribe? The nuclear family seems to be a modern invention, reflecting (possibly) a social surround of physical security, an increasing material wealth, the assertion of individual expression, a confident portrayal of self-sufficiency, and something in the air or water. Societies do change gradually, but not necessarily for the better. There might be intangible currents, un-noticed until perhaps too late, which cause societal changes.

In the nuclear family, unless it reflects an arranged marriage between relatives, 2 unrelated individuals join together. The extended family, irrespective to its distribution in space, and any social connectivity, reflects blood and marital bonds. Traditionally, these have been strong, offering material and psychological support (apart from some jealousy, perhaps). The extended family is the clan.

The tribe represents a collective bound by culture (including religion), language, shared land, and an agreed lifestyle. Social stratification, kingship, a priesthood, and other manifestations of power relationships would determine variations in life-chances within the tribe. The close bond within a tribe would exclude other tribes, because of competition for sustenance and other needed or wanted resources. Tribal tensions and tribal warfare ensure that what is common between tribes is over-run by what is different (usually religion).

The following extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ reflect the curse of tribalism.

“Returning to the admixture of tribes by colonialism, in seeking to delineate their respective spheres of influence all over the world for about five centuries, peoples bonded by ethnicity and religion were split by the creation of artificial borders by the colonial ‘powers.’ The new nations thus created had a mixture of tribes with a diversity of ethnic heritages (resulting in on-going butchery of ‘the other’ in some territories).

In Europe, the home terrain of the colonial rulers, nations had been created, also about five centuries ago, on the basis of coherent tribalism; that is, an occupancy of the land, and a shared history, language, ethnicity and religion.

Within the unrealistic national boundaries created in the colonial territories, one or more lesser tribes became dominated by, or subservient to, a larger tribe. The Hindu Tamils of Ceylon, became an unequal political minority in the new nation of Sri Lanka to the majority Buddhist Singhalese after the British left; they seem to have been better off under the British. With the recent end of the claim for regional autonomy in their traditional territories by the Tamils, the Singhalese are reportedly copying the Israelis in infiltrating the lands of the minority (but without any claim that their god gave them the land in a historical past).

The breakdown of the old Yugoslavia, the devolution of political autonomy to the Scots and the Welsh within the United Kingdom, and the split of Czechoslovakia provide sufficient evidence that artificially created nations may not be durable. Pride in their ethnic heritage lead some tribes in such nations to seek independence. In the future, they may seek to merge with their counterparts in other mismatched tribal agglomerations.”

The folly of divisive religious practitioners

“Within each empire, the people would have traded with one another, and co-existed in a multicultural manner – unless an ambitious leader or a divisive priesthood or two prevailed in seeking to perpetuate or extend their power by keeping each people separate. I recall a priest in the 1960s inducing five young Roman Catholic mothers to withdraw from a coffee morning initiated by my Anglican wife. No reasons were given. We had all just moved into a new suburb. Such attitudes deny, at least delay, the eventual merging of culturally divergent peoples or tribes sharing a nation. The prejudice displayed by this priest against fellow-ethnics because of a religious difference delayed the evolution of a cosmopolitan Australia. I thought that he was simply un-Australian, as well as insufferably ignorant!

Is it then surprising that the atheists are so bitter about believers in God, typically the Christian god, the only one they know? Has any other god been as divisive, and for nearly 2,000 years? And He can be claimed by his followers to be a loving god! The success of divisive priesthoods is evident in Africa (Moslem vs. animist-tinged Christian); the Middle East (Shiite Moslem vs. Sunni Moslem); the Indian sub-continent (Moslem vs. Hindu); Europe (Eastern or Greek Orthodox or Protestant vs. Roman Catholic) and the British Isles (Protestant vs. Roman Catholic). Minor sectoral conflicts add to the level of intolerance. How could there be an integrated multi-ethnic society in these circumstances?

How foolish are the priesthoods in most of the major religions and sects in their posturing as the purveyors of a private path to Heaven? How transient is their exercise of power through keeping their flocks separate from other flocks? They cannot take with them their acquired riches or their power to retain a separate cultural identity when they die.

Against that, one can understand their ignorant supporters upholding a belief (or is it just a hope?) inculcated in them that they are privileged. But, do they eat any better when their fellow-believers are in government? What is the evidence from Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian sub-continent, or even Europe? All the religions are failures in this respect.”

(There is nothing to add to the above extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door,’ I hope that the following light of enlightenment will shine on the bigoted: that, as co-created by God, we humans are indeed bonded to one another, and are thereby on the same road to the Divine together.)

National identity undermined by religio-cultural ‘wars’

“The need by the Australian indigenes to be seen as a separate cultural entity is shared by some self-focused ethnic individuals in Australia. These wish to be seen as a separate community and to be able to retain their imported cultural practices and values in toto; and in the case of a few immigrant mullahs, also to have some of Australia’s institutions amended to suit the cultural traits of some historical desert tribes.

These fundamentalist Moslems have a powerful precedent. The Roman Catholics, essentially the Irish, who insisted on having their own educational system right from the beginning, have already achieved a stranglehold on Australia’s socio-political policies, especially in relation to the procreative features of women. Just as the Bible has been re-interpreted or selectively quoted to provide comfortable platforms for authoritarian Christian priesthoods, so the Koran is being misquoted to justify an equally inequitable, if not unjust, treatment of women, as well as to obtain discriminatory privileges in the nation they chose to enter. The ‘ayatollahs’ of both religions seek supremacy in their hoped-for ascent to Heaven.

Unlike the ageing but un-winnable war against the Protestant faiths by some spear carriers of the Roman Catholic faith, the former desert dwellers’ historical battle against un-tameable sand-filled winds could be dispensed with in Australia. There is no need to cover one’s face in suburban Australia, which is free of desert sand-filled wind storms. Yet, clothing has become the weapon of choice in the culture war between secular Western society and ‘desert’ Islam. The peoples of Europe are fighting back in the name of national identity and unity. Huntington’s wars between civilisations may have commenced.”

(These extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ raise an important issue. While migrants seek to better themselves in their new home, nations such as Australia (which seek new citizens) expect the immigrants to benefit the country, while the latter (in turn) are expected, at minimum, to accept the institutions and social mores of the nation, which is also secular.

They have access to the equal opportunity processes of the nation, unlike (reportedly) some former colonial nations of Europe, and assisted to integrate into the nation, and not to live in ghetto-like residential clusters. I draw on my work experience in saying all this. We look after our immigrants. This reflects the traditional ‘fair-go’ ethos which has survived the inflow of ethnic diversity.)

The ferocious certainty of the ignorant

Recently, a retiree with allegedly ecclesiastical connections spoke of the Christian God; yet, he accepts that there is only one creator god for the universe. It is decades since I was invited, again and again, to join the Church for my salvation; yet, I was told that I would not have to behave differently after becoming a card-carrying Christian. But, I would be saved. From what? Since there is no limbo, no hell, no damnation, no devil; and the only evil on Earth arises from within the minds of humans … … !

In nations with majority control by any one of the major religions, how are the religious minorities treated? How are the less-viable members of the controller-faith also treated? While mankind awaits the seemingly inevitable war of civilisations (rather, wars between religions and/or political values), the ferocity of the truly ignorant drives much of ordinary human relations, as well of international relations. Among the intolerant, it is not the man-in-the-street, but the politicians and their priestly acolytes who, if there were a just interventionist god around, would have their heads turned to face the correct way.

The following extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ touch upon the above issues.

“ Fortunately, those of us who do not seek anything from God, but merely wish to respond to that innate need to reach out to a Creator, can freely bypass an institutional intermediary.

The major religions, apart from metaphysical Hinduism, have nothing meaningful to offer those of us who seek guid¬ance as to our place in the Cosmos and its meaning. Yet, they all offer a code of ethics, based on mutual obligation derived from being co-created. Stripped down to their core message, all the major religions are equal in their potential to guide us as to how we should live with one another.

… … Currently, some church leaders are opposing the provision in public schools in my State of classes in ethics for those children (the majority) who do not wish to attend scripture classes. While the Bible would be presented during school hours (by mainly lay persons) during scripture classes, the children not learning about the Bible are not taught any¬thing.

… … In this secular nation, which should keep religion away from governance, powerful politicians of a strongly religious affiliation have successfully inflicted the limited ethical values of a small minority of the population onto the whole nation. Being free to follow their own values is not enough; the whole nation must kow-tow to their foreign leader’s pronouncements. His authority, as applied by weak politicians, even of different faiths, disallows a kind release (death) for those who cannot clearly be assisted medically and surgically, and who are in unalleviated pain (so-called palliative care being no more than theological sophistry in such a situation).

A painful death is God’s Will? Or that of an authoritarian priesthood, and its brain-washed followers in politics? Currently, nearly 80% of the Australian want voluntary euthanasia. The 17% who oppose any such right (the remainder not being sure of their position) are the brain-washed who accept that quaint claim that a zygote (a recent fusion of ovum and sperm) is a human life, and that all human life must be protected under all circumstances. Since abortion is thus a sin, some of the right-to-life believers will kill abortionists and their patients – all in the name of their god!”

Divisive institutional schisms serving a sole Creator

The divisive role of many institutional religions, while ultimately acknowledging that there can be only one Creator or God is touched upon in the following extracts from the chapter ‘On religion’ from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’

“Were fragments of the faithful, the fearful, then hived off by the cleverer, the more power-hungry, priests through their creation of theological schisms? Did then come the schismatic wars, some overt by fighting and killing in the name of some god, or by forced conversion? Did the priests insidiously and persistently proselytise in order to claim a relative strength of their faith through numerical size? Even today, there are ordinary Christians continuing to collect souls for Christ in Africa and Asia. To what end?

Later, did not many gods, most local or regional, give way to one god, resulting in supremacy sought by priesthoods on a wider geographical front? Did some priesthoods subsequently develop into a hierarchy, a tower of authority composed entirely of men, enabling a lifestyle of considerable quality, while their flocks survived as best they could? What grandeur these priests must have portrayed, with a pageantry normally associated with god-kings! Indeed, some of them still do. Yet, there were other priesthoods which displayed a simpler lifestyle.

Is this not how religious institutions achieved control and began to mislead the people, even while purporting to guide, lead and comfort? Is this not why the more independent-minded people withdraw from participatory religious events and practices, to the extent that some go to the extreme stance of atheism?

Atheists do not believe in a creator god, but obviously cannot prove (much as they would like to) that such an entity does not exist. How could one prove the non-existence of something? On the other hand, the believers in a creator god cannot prove that such an entity exists (no matter how many of them cavort on the head of a thumb tack). What reliable, objective evidence can be adduced for such an existence? It is belief against belief. There can therefore be no solution to this conundrum, no matter how much and how long each side blathers on!”

(Not all religions are combative. Yet, in spite of much agreement by some well-meaning religious leaders, division remains – based on doctrinal differences. Authority and control may never be traded for unity in the search for communion with the Divine. Yet, there are other religions which are happily porous in their theology. Read my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’)

The demise of multiculturalism policy?

We were taught in the olden days how Brazil and Hawaii were the exemplars of societies with a successful racial (ethnic?) integration; and how the USA was the very model of the melting-pot theory of cultures. We now know that, as long as the lower castes and ‘coloureds’ in each of these nations know and keep their place, there is a moderately successful integration.

… … The lesson for us is apparently that, the more pronounced the diversity (of cultures), the higher the long-term danger. Can there be anything more divergent than religion-based cultures? In which case, history tells us that the Jewish people did not, in general, live well under Christian rulers; but under Moslem rulers, they not only lived well, but some of their people rose to substantial positions of power. And it was the Christians who were wont to teach the Moor his place.

Could one say that the very large number of non-English-speaking migrants from Europe represented a very divergent culture from the Australian? … These migrants may have co-existed with fellow migrants and the mainstream Aussie (as did the early Chinese) but without stress to the fabric of the nation (ignoring the cries of “Dago”, “Wop”, “Wog”, and the like). Their children integrated into mainstream traditions, not being denied equal opportunity, unlike the children of the Aboriginal people, even in urban areas. The children of the migrants are taking their place in the structures of Australian society, according to competence, but subject to the limitations of established power structures.

The other migrants with apparently divergent cultures are the Asians, from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Japan. They are Christians of various sects, Moslems of various sects, and Buddhists of various sects, in the main. There are also some Hindus (and they are possibly less diverse in terms of sects), Shintoists, Confucianists, capitalists, and others. The religious bonds do cross national and language boundaries.

Irrespective of mother tongue, the Asians are likely to be reasonably fluent to very fluent in English, and Westernised, in the main. What cultural differences would they display? The exceptions would be refugees and many of the humanitarian entrants. They could be expected to have difficulties in integrating into the community because of a lack of English and, in many cases, an unfamiliarity with Australia’s institutions and ethos.

… … A risk to social cohesion which has been identified by many writers, and visible on TV, is the practice of some migrants continuing to express the ethnic prejudices and politics of the countries they left behind. … Most Aussies would agree that if such people want to participate in ‘wars’ overseas, they should go there and do it. And since it is illegal to be a mercenary, we would appreciate the voluntary return of our citizenship papers – after all, our citizenship requires a commitment to Australia.

… … It would also seem that multiculturalism policy is expected, by some, to deal with the inequalities of ethnicity, class and gender. Is this realistic? … a single strand in the totality of government policies is expected to come to grips with two global issues, whose durability simply reflects man’s societal inheritance.

… … Multicultural policy is intended to manage the consequences of a culturally diverse society. The most important strand of the policy is social justice, i.e. the right to equality of treatment and opportunity. … … It is wise to remember that what is at issue is the creation of one nation, without divisive policies and practices in the name of cultural diversity or, worse still, ethnic disadvantage. Why has not the government’s multicultural policy emphasised more the inter-ethnic community aspects? What about a role in this direction for the ethnic newspapers? … … We do not need a ‘celebration and fossilisation of difference.’

(Recently, the Prime Minister of Australia, supported by the Premier of New South Wales, replaced multiculturalism policy, with its focus on cultural differences, with a citizenship policy intended to unify an ethnically diverse population. A united people arising through cultural integration, reflecting the acceptance of the institutions and social mores of a host people evolving through time, can be expected to result in a harmonious society.

New immigrants cannot expect to transplant in toto those values and cultural practices which are incompatible with those of the host nation, if they wish to access the opportunities offered by the host nation. A quid pro quo is part of the immigration deal. Indeed, could one surmise that no independent nation would want immigrants who wish to join that nation, but then insist that key facets of their new home be modified to be more like the home they left?

This is the thrust of ‘Destiny Will Out’ and my other writings. Refer for my 44 articles, and my second memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny,’ as well as ‘The Karma of Culture’ and ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’)

Will the cultural melting-pot dissolve ethnicity?

A young man whose German ancestor arrived in Australia four generations ago was a Pathfinder in a British squadron bombing Germany. Like most in that business, he died – because he saw himself as an Aussie. He was actually part Italian too. That was my wife’s brother.

Of course, many an Anglo-Celt Aussie, (like the Americans) showed his ignorance during that war by locking up or, in some way, penalising Aussies with foreign names (and, therefore, distant origins). While my wife’s brother was over German lines, his mother and sister had been taken away for questioning, purely on the basis of their family name. This story could be multiplied all over Australia a thousand times, without stretching the point.

Perhaps it is the memory of such events that led to many of Australia’s ‘ethnics’ rushing to embrace the new ethnic affairs policies. For it did offer them a degree of protection which previously had not existed. Indeed, some of them are reverting to their own first family name.

A case for the perpetuation of ethnicity looks weak. Does the term apply only to minorities? In which case, it would be an excluding term. Where do we place the majority of the population in Australia, with its predominantly four-nation heritage? The ethnics have had the problem of finding a term for this group, for they and we are all Aussies. Initially, it was Anglo-Saxon, until the Scots and others said, “What about us?” and until the Irish accepted that they were mainstream too. Thus the Anglo-Celt was identified.

A migrant friend of mine, whose father was born in Latvia and who was himself born in Germany … is now an Australian citizen. What is his ethnicity, since he denies that he’s Latvian or German, having regard to his Anglo-Saxon mother and his Aussie citizenship? I am not Indian (though I share their culture), nor Sri Lankan (though my father and his antecedents were born in Ceylon), nor Malaysian (though I was born there). Like my non-Latvian friend, will I be denied an ethnic category and therefore be unprotected and uncared for? …

Another friend born in Australia, the offspring of migrant Greeks, says he is Greek; he cannot read Greek, barely speaks it, and has not been exposed to Greek culture: no dance, no music, no arts (this reflects his parents’ humble origins). However, festivals are celebrated, mainly through food and hospitality. His way of life, and his conduct are exactly the same as those of my non-Latvian friend, or of mine. We eat similar foods, share Australian culture. In normal life, no ethnicity is visible (except for my colour) or audible; it is only there in someone else’s mind.

Is it any more than pride in one’s ancestry? Is that not enough to sustain us through life, especially when there are so many different ancestries in this evolving nation?

Perhaps it is time to allow the ethnic Dreamtime to dissolve itself. Whether we like it or not, our cultures are already in the melting-pot. Our personal identity can then be reflective of our current national (or state) identity, not our historical tribal identity. Pride in our origins (rarely unmixed – somewhere, sometime) can be expressed in a reverence for that ancestral identity which we feel sustains us.

(With increasing cross-tribal, cross-cultural marriage in a nation boasting more than a hundred countries of origin and languages, defining people by their imputed or claimed ethnicity would, as shown by the above extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out,’ leave many Australians (including me) falling through the holes in the fabric. I am clearly not an ethnic.

When ethnic identity is self-described and chosen, there can be ego-building identification not supported by the facts; for example, when the Australia-born daughter of my Greek/Italian friend and his Anglo-Saxon wife claimed to be Greek!

Most recently, a fifth-generation Australian girl of Middle Eastern descent decided to adopt the burqa in a desert sand-free Australian capital city, claiming that as an Islamic cultural right; or is this a reflection of a claimed tribal ethnicity?)

Misleading assertions about ethnic identity

About a decade after ethnicity came into fashion, a fourth generation Aussie criticised the policy of redefining Australia by ethnicity. He said that Australia had, from its beginning, been ethnic. Asked to explain, he said that the Irish had always been here. When I asked what language they spoke and what cultural practices they had brought with them which were different from that of the British or English, he became a little cross; he still ignores me.

Being a little sceptical about ethnicity in the nation’s formative years, but willing to learn, I asked others who said they were ethnic Irish. Most, naturally, knew little about the ancestor who came to Australia. So I asked today’s generations whether they spoke their ancestral language at home, whether they read any books or saw any films in that language. I asked about their beliefs and religious practices; whether they supported any dances or arts representing their ancestral culture; the community or communities they related to; the schools they had attended; the schools attended by their children; the clothes they wore; the food they ate; whether, since the first ancestors’ arrival in Australia, there had been any marriage to non-Irish or to those of another faith; how many such marriages had there been; whether they had been to Ireland to visit relatives; how close they were to relatives in Ireland; whether they felt any ideational or other link with Ireland.

I also asked whether they and their antecedents had been denied equality of opportunity to acquire skills and jobs. At the end of my questioning, I asked about those aspects of behaviour which set them apart from those of fellow Australians. They were also invited to talk about others of similar ancestry. … …

The only conclusion that I could reach was that most of the Irish were separated from most of the British (whether English, Scottish or Welsh) only by their religion and the religio-politics separating these people over the centuries. There was little difference behaviourally and in terms of ambitions, hopes and preferred lifestyles between the four tribes or national groups, apart from their forms and location of worship. There was an Australian way of life to which all subscribed. … …

The most interesting comment about this religio-political divide was made to me only recently (in the mid-Nineties). A professional man of my vintage, a self-titled Irish Catholic, said to me that, for me to understand the subterranean current between the Irish and the British, I had to accept that the Irish in Australia had felt, over two centuries, that the British had kept them down. Yet, in the case of his family, there had been no denial of equal opportunity or justice. … …

He accepted that the priests had tried rigorously to keep their flock away from the others, while all conformed to British politico-cultural institutions, and accepted English as both the language of the nation and their own. Since they had felt deprived and depressed, he said, they took great solace in their own leaders, the priesthood, living in the same manner as the rulers of the other people, i.e. with the same degree of style and comfort. The rulers of the Irish could then deal with the rulers of the British on equal terms.

I am not sure whether he was pulling my leg, but he seemed to be genuinely serious and an educated man. His explanation was the best defence I have ever heard for a priesthood playing at princes.

(There is nothing more divisive in a nation than religion. I believe that the above extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ indicate that, especially when a priesthood controls and contains its flock. I have had personal experience of such control, including the occasion when neighbouring women in a new suburb withdrew from having coffee with my wife at our home after a visit (in a vw) from their priest. In my view, he was un-Australian!

When national boundaries originally reflected ethnic tribal boundaries – the tribe being bound by consanguinity, language, religion and cultural practices – any minority peoples may not have been treated as equals. However, in a modern Western nation such as Australia, created by invasion and immigration, the objective, in time, would have been the assimilation (later integration) of all residents, to a shared national ethos. Integration is now the national objective, with no false memories about discrimination.

The undeniable separation of a priest-led flock from the mainstream population has now, in spite of an apparent social unity, led to the adherents of the Roman Catholic Church achieving political control, thus influencing Australia’s social policies.

Since our politicians discovered divisive ethnicity, and subsequently offered multiculturalism policy for about a quarter of a century, ethnic pride was encouraged. This did lead to some empowerment of ethnic community leaders. But control of the nation remained in safe hands.)

The dark side of Vietnamese refugees

On the other hand, the non-white Vietnamese, most of whom were equally poor and equally disadvantaged in terms of settlement as the white Moslems, had no trouble in obtaining grants and in using them. How was this so?

My team’s initial contact with the Vietnamese community was inauspicious. A man claiming to be a representative of his people initially asked for money to rent premises for use as an office, and to buy equipment to produce a newsletter. However, policy did not provide for money for such an objective. The representative was advised to come back with a proposal for additional welfare assistance under the new policy; welfare was already being provided to the community by grants to an organisation led mainly by Anglo-Celts and which was established specifically to assist the Vietnamese refugees. For a nation which had feared the ‘yellow hordes from the north’ for so long, it was a fantastic and humane response to the plight of these refugees.

A little later, the ‘representative’ came back to repeat his request. In the meantime, we had begun to have doubts about his position in the community. When we repeated our advice, he said that some of his friends were saying that I must be a communist because I would not help them. At that, I laughed and told him that he was barking up the wrong tree; threats would not work, and I would tell the Minister that I was being threatened. Not surprisingly, we did not see him again.

Threats and bullying seemed to be in fashion at that stage. We were told publicly that there were, among these refugees, leaders who wished to organise an armed return to Vietnam. We were also told publicly of gangs from interstate inflicting personal and property damage to the local Vietnamese community, and vice versa. There was no explanation as to why this was happening. Since formal complaints from within that community are as rare as hens’ teeth, all that was hearsay, but very reliable hearsay.

Indeed, some Vietnamese went even further. One morning, they rioted in a public place and a number of police were injured. Later in the day, there was to be a peaceful demonstration by those who had objected to Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War. Our information was that the Vietnamese were planning to disrupt the demonstration with violence. That was great news; these were the people seeking a free life in a democratic country. Firearms were also found.

My team had two hours in which to prevent the Vietnamese from shooting themselves in the foot. We were directed to advise the community that if any Vietnamese were involved in a riot or were violent there would be no more Vietnamese entering the country. If a policeman was ever injured again, the Vietnamese could not expect any protection from the police; and we asked the Vietnamese leaders we had come to identify how it was that our information came from two independent non-Vietnamese sources? Could we expect prior information and co-operation from them in the future?

We then spoke to the police, advising them that the “good guys” would be coming to stand with them in order to counsel and contain their hot-head fellow countrymen. I am not sure that some of the police wanted that. In fact, we spread so much grease everywhere and in such a short time too, that it all worked.

When a colleague and I drove past the site where the Vietnamese had gathered, we saw the tough-looking men with headbands, baseball bats and sticks, and they all looked very threatening. However, they were not stupid. By their intention and appearance, they were thugs. The ordinary Aussie, seeing them face to face or through the TV, was soon asking why the Communist government in Vietnam would bother with such people; had they really fled in fear of political persecution?

(These extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ confirm that kind-hearted Anglo-Celt Australians ignored the previous media-fed prejudice against the ‘yellow hordes from the North’ to offer settlement assistance. The small ethnic team led by an Asian official (that was me) worked hard to deflect the opprobrium brought onto themselves by some Vietnamese who forgot that they were guests; and that we were offering a free life in a democratic nation.

Would it be so unusual for criminal opportunists to ‘take the boat,’ etc. in search of a richer playground? Looking back cold-bloodedly, we do seem to have facilitated the entry of undesirables during troubled times in a number of countries; was not the illegal drug trade in Australia involving some youths from ‘refugee’ families indicative?)