A dislike of the ‘other’ seems to be ubiquitous. Why would that be so? In the early 1950s, when war-displaced refugees, as well as immigrants, arrived in bulk in Australia, I found that the Europeans were interested in the few Asian students around. Many of them displayed an understanding of, and respect for, Asian cultures. I have never heard of any expressions of dislike from the Europeans. But they were disliked – and had to put up with rude remarks in public places – just as we had to.
In spite of the tolerance inculcated in the public progressively by teachers and politicians, it seems impossible to prevent those I describe as yobbos from expressing in public their antipathy to this or that individual. Perhaps this is only like kicking the poor cat after a difficult day at work.
The following extracts from ’Musings at Death’s Door’ may have some historical value.
“In the bar of a small country town, we noticed that a small group of large men were talking about us. Suddenly, the biggest walked over to us and said, ‘Where are you boys from?’ Seeing that it was none of his business (we had gone there looking for directions), I responded ‘What’s it to you, mate?’ in what was described by one of my friends as a some¬what British accent. After a moment’s thought, he stuck out a huge hand and invited us to join him and his friends. We did that. It was all very comfortable. Years later I realised that he must have been the local police sergeant, based on some friendly conversations with the local cops in Canberra; they were continually on the lookout for ‘blow-ins.’
… in the 1950s, I was told, as a graduate in psychology, that I was ‘too black’ to be employed as a community psychologist. … … A couple of years later, as a graduate in economics with a completed postgraduate year, I was told by some major international corporations and other large companies which could offer me a substantial career path that the Australian worker was not yet ready for a foreign executive …
… … My employment in the federal public service, the only major employer offering me a decent career path, was initially a success. I was promoted rapidly, reaching the top of the Administrative Division (Section Head or Director) in good time. My first 2 heads of agency were fair men. However, when I sought promotion into the Senior Executive Division in the next 2 agencies, it was made clear (involving some chicanery) that I was aiming too high. My assessment of my ability was based on a simple comparison: a few of those I had leapfrogged in a demanding agency had subsequently reached head of division positions (2 steps above) in other agencies.”