A foreigner even after 50 years of residence

“When I arrived in Australia, I had no idea that Australia was so racist. The few Aussies I had met in Malaya were friendly people; there was nothing snooty about them. Yet, on a busy Saturday morning in 1949, within the crowded precincts of a fashionable Collins St. arcade in mid-town Melbourne, dressed rather expensively (Harris Tweed coat and the rest of it), I heard a shout. It was ‘Why don’t you go back where you came from, you black bastard?’ To my great surprise, I was the target. Black? I was a very light tan, as yet unburnt by the Australian sun.

Bastard? My elders may not have been as tolerant as I with this insult. It did not take me long to appreciate that the word could mean opposing meanings. Ironically, a European Jew migrant friend and I soon developed this greeting ‘How are you, you old bastard?’ to be used whenever we rang each other across the nation.

In 1995 or thereabouts, after a novice politician, Pauline Hanson, reflecting the values of the more conservative of the populace, had claimed that there were too many Asians in the country, I had rude gestures directed at me in public places. When I subsequently sent the Hanson electoral office my first book ‘Destiny Will Out’ (an experience-based book on migrant settlement policies), pointing out that, as an Asian, I had made some contribution to Australia, I received a nice thank-you note.

Then, in the decade of the noughties of the current century, the proprietor of a small subsidy-publisher, who had described my first book (published in London) as ‘well written and interesting,’ told me that ‘Australians would not want to read about their country from the point of view of a foreigner.’ That was when I spoke to him about my second book. This book was titled ‘The Karma of Culture’; it was endorsed by 3 senior academics in diverse disciplines (Professors Greg Melleuish, Bob Birrell and John Western).

The book dealt with these issues (as defined by a professional manuscript appraiser): the cross-cultural impacts of a culturally diverse migrant intake; the potential for Asian cultural and spiritual values to influence Western thinking about democracy, human rights, and social values; and the consequences of attempted cultural retention by immigrants.”

(Incidentally, ‘The Karma of Culture’ was subsequently recommended by the US Review of Books – as were 3 other non-fiction books of mine.

The above extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ clearly indicate that adaptation by the host people to the heavy intake of foreigners, necessitated as policy by the federal government, was not smooth, even after 30 years of a non-discriminatory immigration entry policy. The old guard, basically a ‘white bread’ society, was seemingly imbued with the attributes of a WASP – white Anglo-Saxon Protestant – but with many ‘micks’ (as they were described by the WASPs) also dancing to the same drumbeat. Chauvinistic racism did over-ride sectarian differences. But that was history.

As for an Asian footprint on Australia soil, yoga and Buddhism, as well as an understanding of Asian spirituality, have a large number of adherents. More significantly, Chinese money is buying up both residential property and businesses; I am not sure of the cultural value of that.

I am, however, grateful for the European immigrants of the 1950s who introduced proper bread to Australia.)