‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’
Near what I considered to be the end of my life (as erroneously forecast by an otherwise accurate clairvoyant), I decided to take a rear-vision-mirror look at the nation into which I had been sent by the spirit world (I did once think of it as exile). Having survived the White Australia era unscathed; having had my career path blocked four times unfairly; having a creditable record of accomplishments during my contributions to civil society; having experienced a full life in a Western milieu over nearly 7 decades, while retaining the spiritual values of Asia which had formed me, I was in a position to place on record my considered conclusions about Australia and its society.
During a 30+ year career as a public official, I had spent 14 years dealing with the private sector, and 9 years with leaders of our immigrant communities, with some significant contact with ministers of government, and a slight tussle with a shire council about citizen rights; and served on many committees wherever I lived. My Anglo-Australian wife supported me in all these activities.
I had been the national president of Australian Rostrum (akin to Toastmasters), and responsible for opening membership to women; the founder of a public speaking competition for primary schools in the national capital and surrounding townships, and co-founder of a comparable nation-wide competition for secondary schools; as foundation chairman of a school board, I had produced (and had accepted) an outline of an educational program for primary school students about religion.
I had also received a Meritorious Service Award from my trade union for my decade-long contribution to career protection in the federal public service. My only failure was in my efforts over 7 years, after retirement, to achieve improved health services in my Shire. I feel that I understand my country of adoption to be able to write objectively, while being proud of its achievements.
An endorsement pre-publication
“Raja Ratnam has lived a full life and made significant contributions to Australian life over six decades. His experience as an Asian in Australia from the time of White Australia to that of multiculturalism is unique. This book is a final distillation of the wisdom he has gained over that time. He provides insight into a wide range of areas from society and culture to religion. And even better, his insights reflect his unique experience. There is wisdom here and, like all of his work, this book is rich, intelligent and provocative. A major contribution to Australian culture.” –Prof. Greg Melleuish, History & Politics, Wollongong University
Recommended by the US Review of Books, as follows:
“Before I leave this shell, my body, I need to recognise what it is that I have learnt from my turbulent but interesting life.”
“This book is a commentary about how Australia has changed since the author first moved there in 1948. This work stands on its own merit, however his previous nonfiction work, The Dance of Destiny, describes the prejudices he, as an Asian from British Malaya, experienced. Those experiences are discussed in this latest book, as they relate to his observations of how society has reacted to different races, nationalities, languages, and religions.
Ratnam witnessed a change from White Australia to a multi-cultural, multi-lingual nation. During his years of public service, he achieved several high-ranking positions in areas of refugee settlement and migration, education, and humanitarian work. He was also denied positions because of his ethnicity. Even though he was well-known in his field, including serving as an advisor at a government level, he still faced racism from time to time. In the early 1970s, the country developed an official entry policy that was non-discriminating. Skin color was no longer an official issue. In fact, as more immigrants arrived from ethnically diverse backgrounds, more social workers were needed who could speak those languages and understand the cultures.
This well-written book flows easily from one point to another. It is excellent for anyone studying sociology, public service, immigration policies, and related categories. It is also a recommended read for those who are not necessarily students, but who are interested in how a nation went from being “very British” to one of diversity acceptance. To use the author’s words, “Today’s Australia is not the nation I entered in 1948.”
Presentation at Beijing Book Fair 2016
The book was presented at this fair by Dr. Irina Webster of the Australian Self-Publishing Group.
Chapter 1 On Biculturalism
Chapter 2 On Subservience
Chapter 3 On Family & Society
Chapter 4 On Governance
Chapter 5 On Racism & Tribalism
Chapter 6 On Multiculturalism
Chapter 7 On Migrants, Refugees & Asylum Seekers
Chapter 8 On Religion
Chapter 9 On the Cosmos
Chapter 10 On National Identity
Chapter 11 On Empires – gone & going
Chapter 12 Conclusion
EXTRACTS from chapter 12
From early boyhood I have wanted to know about the Cosmos; about nations and why they behave as they do; about key aspects of society anywhere and everywhere; and about what makes we humans behave the way we do.
More recently, I have pondered the following issues. What determines the trajectories of our lives? Does the spirit world normally impact upon humanity? If so, why? Is there a Creator behind human affairs as well as the Cosmos as a whole? How can we really know what we think we know?
My most recent interest is in how people divided by their cultures, including religion, can reach out to one another. How can we un-learn taught prejudice, and accept that inner yearning within us to accept one another? Would a sense of belonging to the same nation (hopefully with some pride) induce a feeling of one people, in time?
Perhaps because of my increasing understanding of humanity, and possibly some maturity on my part, I find myself becoming more frivolous, while simultaneously ‘taking no shit’ from anyone. I have had enough of ‘racism,’ tribalism and religious prejudice. Thankfully, I have finally achieved mental as well as spiritual peace.
My musings, as recorded above, are obviously tentative. If I have time, I would possibly revise them; but that will not happen. So, why record these musings? To show that I have learnt. To whom? It is always possible that the Cosmos will guide some kindred spirits to take my thoughts into their ponderings about what it is all about; in which event, I would not have lived in vain.
Nevertheless, I will take with me my learning and add to it through my future lives. That is my perceived trajectory of re-iterative existence, hopefully leading to that realisation of why it is so.