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!

Becoming colour blind

“No dogs and Chinamen” said the sign outside the prestigious Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of British Malaya. Today, a multicultural and integrated Malaysian people (including the powerful Malay Muslims ruling the nation) utilise the Club.

For me, a visiting ex-Malayan Australian, it was the sight of a few dark-brown men wearing sandals and Malaysian shirts which impressed. They were (as I was told) local lawyers, indicating the extent to which the caste and class distinctions of the past had become irrelevant. In this context, I recall, with disgust, a Christian Ceylonese doctor who had his teenage Hindu servant sit on the floor in the back of his car.

Rubber-tapper Indian families used to send a teenager to work as a servant for families like us. I assumed that this practice was to enable these youngsters to look forward to a better life. I remember Francis (with fondness) who slept in the servant room. Whenever he minded my sister and I in our early childhood, he would spin a long tale, which entranced us, while often frightening us. He was a born story-teller. He should have progressed to a better life than that of his parents, who were indentured labourers (like the labourers sent by the British to Fiji to work on the sugarcane plantations).

“No dogs and Indians allowed” said the sign outside the Simla Club in India during the days of British rule. Yet, officials of the East India Company have been described as not as sensitive to skin colour as were the British Government officials who replaced them. The former were presumably responsible for the large Anglo-Indian population, but also for their privileged position above that of the Indians.

I got to know quite a few Anglo-Indians in Australia. They were not any different from my Eurasian friends in Malaya. In Australia we were all equal; because of our skin colour, we were (guess what?) ‘black.’ I did wonder whether Christian Indians and Euro-Asians in Australia had expected to be accepted as socially equal to the Anglo-Australian peoples.

While I remain averse to eating beetroot because of its colour, I do prefer Australians to become colour-blind. This does not mean officialdom claiming that we are more diverse ethnically than any other nation (not credible); that about 150 non-Aboriginal languages are spoken in the nation (only 15% of the people speak a foreign language at home); and selecting black or brown Christian refugees as humanitarian entrants – not while our rulers are ‘white bread’ in colour and texture (and stick together)!

Just as the oldest generation of the Australian people had to die before the virulent prejudice and discrimination faced by Asians in the immediate post-war years began to fade (the ignorant yobbo excepted), perhaps another generation or two of the Anglo-Celts here have to wander off into the Afterlife before their descendants become as colour-blind as are the peer groups of my children and grandchildren.

Mixed skin colours are the norm in most part of the world. Is it not time for nations like Australia to join the Family of Man? Refer my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ (ebook available at amazon kindle at $US 2.99 and $A3.99).

 

Challenging deconstruction

In the light of my recent posts about deconstruction, I offer an overview of my 3 books on migrant settlement. They cover ethnic affairs & multiculturalism; citizenship & national identity; refugee & humanitarian entry; and settlement assistance.

1) Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia
I was a lightly-coloured Ceylonese Malayan boy, brought up in a British territory, where the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-coloured people co-existed with mutual tolerance. I entered Australia in 1948 as a fee-paying student at the University of Melbourne. I had never experienced any discrimination in the land of my birth.

In Australia, I observed a roaring sectarian religious divide, a colonial mentality, and racism. I faced discrimination in service in shops, in finding accommodation, and with seating on public transport. I was commonly described as a blackfellow (there being no other term in the local lexicon for coloured people). In a fashionable arcade, in spite of being expensively dressed, I was once loudly asked “Why don’t you go back home, you black bastard?” in a very aggressive tone. I did wonder at such ignorance, thinking that a similar question should have been addressed to Lt.Cook & Co, the white invaders, when they had arrived to open a new settlement for those considered by Britain to be criminals.

This was White Australia in the 1950s. Yet, I eventually reached the rank of Director in the federal public service, becoming finally responsible, progressively, for each of the immigrant settlement policies of the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs. However, I suffered discrimination even within that department – both racial and tribal (the word mass had a weighty influence with the latter group).

This book weaves fluidly my settlement experiences with my work experiences, in a readable manner, with no bitterness. What was encouraging were the reviews from senior academics, a number of private agencies, and a variety of immigrants and others. Although out of print, copies of the book can be found in the National Library of Malaysia, the National Library of Singapore, and the National and State Libraries of Australia, and in the top 20 Australian universities. The book is being prepared for re-publication.

2) The Karma of Culture
It was during a significant psychic experience after my premature retirement (which was to escape any further discrimination) that I was introduced to the spirit world. It was then that I received the suggestion that I could “contribute to building a bridge” from where I came to where I am. This is my second book in this effort, as I had been advised by senior academics that my experiences in Australia do represent a sliver of the post-war history of this rising nation.

Culture is like a second external skin, and immigrants need to trade some of their traditions for new ones in order to benefit from institutional adaptation and societal integration. These and other cross-cultural impacts, including the influence of Asian cultural and spiritual values upon Western thinking about democracy, human rights and societal values are woven through this book. Strong endorsements by 3 senior academics in diverse disciplines followed.

The book was Recommended by the US Review of Books (a rare accolade, said the Review).

3) Hidden Footprints of Unity : beyond tribalism and towards a new Australian identity
This is the third of my efforts to meet the obligation I had accepted to contribute to cultural bridge-building. It is about the inter-connectedness of mankind. It has 2 threads – the relationships between the ethnic communities in Australia; and their respective searches for God, with some peering into the Void of the Cosmos. I ride my spiritual horse to extol my ideal – the Aussie Family of Man.

I find a core commonality in the major religions when dogma is divested; and express the hope of a revised national identity, with new national icons identified by immigrants as well. After all, immigrants too had helped to re-shape the nation into the relatively tolerant cosmopolitan polity that it now is.

Again, the endorsements were gratifying, especially the one from the Religious Affairs Editor of ‘The Australian.’ This book was also Recommended by the US Review of Books.

Intending deconstuctionists of my writing will find my ebooks at Amazon Kindle Direct at $US 2.99 each.