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A needed unity from a recent diversity
A needed unity from a recent diversity
In a country where the day temperature in the first few months after my arrival was half of what I was used to, and the night temperature during the ensuing winter required up to seven army blankets; and with no contacts or support mechanisms for foreign students available, I was first befriended by a girl who had relatively recently resided in a Nazi concentration camp. There she had been raped, she said. The first man to engage me in extended conversations, sometimes deep into the night, was also a Jewish European displaced person. He had, he said, been a nomadic freedom fighter. Both spoke good English, and were clever enough to adapt immediately to Australian society, and thence to qualify for a good living in their chosen professions.
A few years later, I went out with a lovely lass who wore a number on her arm. Although she would not accompany me in daylight (because “they”, the Jewish Australians, “would not like it”), she introduced me to her adult family (all numbered), and the most gorgeous little redhead ever. The little one was four; she is probably on the way to being a grandma by now. We never talked about the family’s experience during the war, which must have been terrible. Yet, none of those with numbers displayed anger or bitterness, however much they might have remembered and suffered in private. They were totally focused on making a new and secure life in
Since I had hated the Japanese for years, after nearly four years of hardship under a military occupation, I could not believe that my friends could readily bury the memory of their experiences under the Nazis and with other anti-Semitic fellow- Europeans.
Over the years, I worked or socialised with and, in later years, entertained in my home, a few of the other Europeans displaced by World War Two. In the ensuing decades, I also got to know a few of the refugees from the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian uprisings against the Soviet, as well as migrants from just about all of
Who are you? Where did you come from? What experiences have you brought to this country? What are you doing? How are you being treated by the Aussies? This was before we ‘wogs’ and ‘blackfellows’ became Aussies ourselves. That is what we talked about. I have also exchanged many a recipe with fellow foreigners. I now know at least two tasty and aromatic ways of cooking aubergines, which the locals called eggplant. Why eggplant? But then they could not get their tongue around papaya, calling it paw-paw!
To further enrich my exposure to humanity in
Immigrants have traditionally been seen as adventurers. They are the ones who cross the seas and join people with different histories, cultures and languages. They do this to improve their life chances. My father and maternal grandfather were such adventurers. They migrated from the north of
The Malays, who had been over-run by large numbers of new settlers from
In time, after the British had stopped strutting the stage, the Malays recovered their country.
In contrast, I note that the Australian Aborigines, who were over-run by white invaders, have yet no clear place in their centuries-old homeland. They remain, in the main, societally marginal and economically unviable, unlike the modern day immigrants. Official multicultural policies had not included the indigene, in much the same way (as reported to me by a number of Jewish Australians) that the Muslim Palestinian is effectively a non-person in land-hungry Jewish Israel and its
Encouragingly, the centuries-old antipathy in
The attempt to achieve shariah law raises a crucial issue: whether immigrants might be offered the enhanced life chances they seek in
A further issue: do the skull cap, the cross, the burqa/hijab, turban, and other religion-defined clothing and accoutrements signify an assertion of ethno-religious superiority? Would their display delay an eventual socio-cultural integration into the nation? Raising this issue does not imply that the answers must be in the affirmative.
The examination of this issue must commence with the recognition that the first generation Australians, the immigrants, bring with them the signs and symbols of their cultures. Their offspring, the second generation Australians (there being no such person as a second generation Immigrant), may be influenced by their multi- ethnic environment to become more cosmopolitan. Could we then not expect the third generation Australians, significantly separated in time from their grandparents and their imported cultural values and practices, to voluntarily divest themselves of the surface features of their cultural heritage (which generally imply difference), whilst retaining their core values (assuming that these are sufficiently divergent from those of their cohort generation)? Indeed, why would third generation (or fourth or fifth) generation Australians choose to dress differently from their peer group?
In the event, in the absence of symbols signifying difference (and therefore separation), would the socio-cultural integration of these third generation Australians be enhanced? And, realistically, would this not enable them to enjoy greater equal opportunity?
Surely this issue is worth discussing dispassionately.