RAJA – YouTube No. 2

Awaiting the Family of Man while seeking the Divine

I present again octogenarian author Raja Arasa Ratnam. “You are a practical sociologist” said a senior academic after reviewing Raja’s first book ‘Destiny Will Out’ for Monash University’s Journal, ‘People & Place.’ This book set out the early bicultural shocks detonated by the arrival of a number of well-educated, English-speaking, confident young Asians into White Australia. Coloured people were then not permitted to migrate into Australia.

The prejudice and discrimination displayed was one-sided, and widespread. The Asian youth, according to Raja, were comfortable in their knowledge that they represented durable ancient civilisations. The oldest Australians had to die, he said, before the display of an imagined white superiority subsided.

Since this book was both a memoir reflecting his on-arrival observations, and a record of the government’s successful policies in assisting the great intake of post-war European immigrants to settle, it received tremendous reviews, especially from academics.

This led Raja to write ‘The Karma of Culture.’ 3 senior academics provided pre-publication endorsements, as Raja presented relevant settlement issues as both an outsider and an insider. Raja has his head in Asia’s communal cultures while his feet are firmly planted in the individualism of the West. He is bicultural.

This book also highlighted Australia’s position on the fringe of Asia. Indeed, a reviewer had pointed out that Asian spiritualism had already found a foothold in Asia through yoga and Buddhism.

It is easy to forget that, when one’s memory bank is spilt, many interesting stored-away thoughts can fall out. So, Raja wrote ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ It focused on how immigrant communities related to one another; and their search for the Divine, their paths to God. He presented the reality that, below the divisive dogma that may present religions as competitive, the core beliefs of the major religions are indeed shared.

This brought him a wonderful endorsement from the Religious Affairs Editor of ‘The Australian’ newspaper.

Another editor pointed out that Raja’s hope for the future is the evolution of the Family of Man. Great progress in this direction has been achieved in Australia through the successful integration of culturally diverse immigrants through official policies. Raja had an important role in this campaign. Young Asians also displayed their ability to blend into the Australian community.

Even before his retirement, he could see that Australia had changed – from a supremacist white society to a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic multicultural people. He commends the host people for their adaptability. He also commends the teachers who guided students to realise that skin colour, accents, and countries of origin do not matter – that they are now Australians!

He points out that today’s youth, with visibly diverse origins, speak with the same accent, and display the same values!

Settlement, by massacre

When British invaders (how else could they be described?) settled onto hitherto Aboriginal land, the ‘squatters’ killed or drove away the indigene. Purely as an aside, I recall reading that many squatters became so powerful socially that their descendants tended to speak ‘as if they had begotten themselves.’ I have also read that there had been a move to establish an Australian House of Lords. Also mooted was a proposal to import cheap labour from China and Japan.

The following extracts are from an article in a recent issue of ‘The Australian Weekend Magazine’ by Cal Flyn.

“The massacre at Warrigal Creek was one of the bloodiest episodes on the very bloody Australian frontier. In all, somewhere between 80 and 200 Gunai people were slaughtered that day in July 1843, wiping out in a single assault a substantial proportion of the southern Bratowooloong clan. The leader of the Highland Brigade, Angus McMillan … was the ‘Butcher of Gippsland.’… …

The author quotes a news report dated 2005 thus:  “McMillan … and his band of Scottish settlers … are accused of carrying out a genocidal campaign against the  Aborigines for a decade. … … “

Flyn goes on to quote Ricky Mullett, a cultural officer from the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation in Bairnsdale … ‘You know the stories. You know that the official death toll is only a fraction of the total? It was inhuman, what they did to my people. Killed them. Massacred them. Tortured them. Raped them. Murdered them. Your relative … he decimated my people. And he got away with it.’

More from Ricky Mullett: ‘McMillan’s men chased them all the way from Bushby Park, trapped them on that bluff, and shot them down into the water. Crowds of them. … ‘  Flyn continues: “Here, the fleeing Gunai were herded together like cattle and forced from the hilltop, he said. Men, women and children. Think of the hysteria, the crush, the desperation, as feet scrabbled for purchase and hands grasped for handholds. Men stood on the opposite bank of the river below, shooting any survivors. The bodies all washed to sea.”

Ricky Mullett of the Gunai people concludes his story to Cal Flyn (a great-great-great niece of Angus McMillan): ‘We won’t forget, but we don’t bear a grudge.’ And ‘You won’t understand. You’ll never understand.’

Refer ‘Thicker than Water’ by Cal Flynn.

Racism revisited

I am re-reading ‘Black Athena: the Afro-Asiatic roots of classical civilisation’ by Martin Bernal. I have extracted some of his words on racism.

“All cultures have some degree of prejudice for, or more often against, people whose appearance is unusual. However, the intensity and persuasiveness of North European, American and other colonial racism since the 17th century have been so much greater than the norm … By the 15th century, there is no doubt that clear links were seen between dark skin colour and evil and inferiority, when the newly arrived Gypsies were feared and hated for both darkness and their alleged sexual prowess … a more clear-cut racism grew up after 1650 and this was intensified by the increased colonization of America, with its twin policies of extermination of the native Americans and enslavement of Africans”

“ … Aristotle linked ‘racial superiority’ to the right to enslave other peoples, especially those of a ‘slavish disposition.’ … John Locke, the philosopher was … a racist, as was … philosopher David Hume. … Christian European attacks on heathen Africans and Americans … were classed as ‘just wars’ because the latter were not defending their property, but merely ‘waste land’ … entitlement to land came from cultivation.”

“In Hume’s case, racism so transcended his religion that he was a pioneer of the view that there had been not one creation but many different ones …”

I wish I had been aware of Bernal’s multi-disciplinary scholarship when I had looked at Locke and Hume (perhaps somewhat casually) a very long time ago. As one brought up to reject the societal evils of racism, of the Indian caste system, and of social class, and because of my own spiritual beliefs, I am truly saddened to find that these 3 Western philosophers were so ignorant.

Justice for indigenous youth

Looking at the healthy and happy Aborigine children in my small township makes me wonder sadly about the future that these innocent children can look forward to. Looking back more than 50 years, I remembered my lecturer on child development saying that bright (as in clever) Aborigine children were dropping out of high school, saying ‘What’s the use?’ There would be no jobs for them to aspire to. This was a time when the government was spending scarce taxpayer money in attracting able-bodied immigrants from Europe.

About 30 years later, in a small but fast-growing township, I met Aborigines who said that there were no jobs available to them, except with Aboriginal Land Councils, even when they possessed degrees in law, accounting, etc. This reminded me about the ABC, the Australia-born Chinese, who had told me a similar story; there had been no jobs for them in white enterprises or even in the public services. Yet, coloured immigrants were, by the end of the millennium, becoming visible in offices, on the trams, etc.

I found the statements by these educated Aborigines credible, in the light of local ‘whitefella’ comments about the ‘black people’! The latter, by then, were relatively light in colour, reflecting their predominantly European (ie.‘white’) genes. Today, if there are many fully-employed well-paid Aborigines in non-Aboriginal organisations and enterprises, where are they? What are the prospects for a secure lifestyle for today’s Aborigine children? What can one say about their life-chances? Indeed, what is the position of the indigenes of the USA, Canada, and New Zealand, who too were displaced by the settlement in their lands by Europeans, including, of course, the British?

For the record, I point out that settlement in these lands was preceded by invasion, killing, and despoliation of indigenous cultures. No amount of Derrida-derived literary deconstruction can mitigate the brutal reality of these events, and its societal consequences for today’s indigenes.

Some random thoughts on a modern Western society

A little lubrication of some kind is absolutely necessary for a smooth relationship between moving metal parts in any structure. Similarly human relationships need the lubricant of civility, even courtesy, in speech and demeanour. My initial experiences in Australia were not encouraging.

There was no one to help me get off the ship with my heavy luggage. Taxi drivers watched me load and unload my possessions. At the YMCA and elsewhere – for quite a few years – those who were required to deal with, or to serve, me displayed gruff voices. I was often the last to be served in the shops. It took me a long time to realise that they had never related to a ‘black’ (that is, coloured) person. Historically, their antecedents (genetic or otherwise) had killed, poisoned, or driven away the indigenes from lands they took, while availing themselves of their women.

Hence, the appearance of a coloured man, dressed in better clothes than they would ever wear, speaking clear English, displaying courtesy as appropriate, was just too much for many Australians. Yet, when I worked as a factory hand, I was treated as just a fellow worker! It was only in public spaces that overt rudeness was displayed – and with such arrogance.

Today, all that has gone. Equal opportunity at higher levels of employment may yet have a long way to go. But, I am certain that I would never again have to ask, as I once did, this simple question, as a fellow-Asian and I left a bar in some haste, but with quiet dignity: ‘Haven’t you got a mother either?’ Today, Australia is a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic nation, its immigrant communities integrating well into a cohesive polity, except for a handful of new arrivals who seek to transplant a desert society into a suburban egalitarian Western nation.

But what happened to civility? However, we might be too egalitarian. We are all on a first-name basis now. While most grandparents remain addressed as such, all other relationships within family reflect the new national paradigm of nominal equality. And the older Anglo-Australian continues his practice of allocating a name of his choice to the foreigner, ignoring the birth name. I think that my generation has to die too before due courtesy returns.