Sunday, December 18, 2005


[. The ethnic 'melting pot' is constantly simmering just under the surface and is easily overheated into a 'boiling pot' at the earliest provocation. And our media constantly provokes,- from cartoonists, to interviewers and commentators!}

The majority of Australians are waking up to the unpleasant fact that there is a growing amount of interethnic-violence developing in our country. Most of us who come from Europe post WW2 could have predicted it. It was inevitable given the naiveté of the Australian politicians who devised the multicultural policies in this country.

"Racism is repulsive" writes Janet Albrechsten in The Australian (14/12/2005).
In the article "Racism is Ugly", Albrechsten writes: "There is so much more to this than racism. And we're fooling ourselves if we pretend otherwise. Britain has a much deeper experience of cultural tension. And that experience has thrown up some thoughtful debate missing in Australia right now. Last year, David Goodhart, editor of the progressive Prospect, wrote a controversial piece "Discomfit of strangers". It explored the tenuous fabric that binds us as a society. He pointed to the "progressive dilemma" : the conflict between solidarity and diversity. He compared the homogeneous nature of British society in the 1950s with the present one, where individualism and diversity have produced a very different society."

The problem is that the policy-makers don't understand or acknowledge the difference between intercultural rivalries, bigotry, religious vilification and real racism. Anti-Semitism is real racism; the "White Australia" policy of the past, was based on real racism; older Anglo-Saxon Australians (the WASPS) may be bigoted, very parochial, but mostly no longer racist, - except perhaps against some of their own indigenous population, i.e. the black Aborigines. They are certainly not violently racist!

However, post WW2 saw an influx of immigrants from war-torn Europe who wanted to escape the inter-ethnic wars of that continent and live a peaceful life as far away from Europe as possible. Once here though, rearing their young families in this peaceful and tolerant environment, they all wanted to perpetuate their own cultural identities in this foreign land. They therefore perpetuated also all their old prejudices and worse, their ancient hatreds of former adversaries in their old countries, by instilling these into their next generations. It started with the former Nazis who escaped here, the forerunners of the current "White Supremacists", neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers and continues with the former radical Islamists who infiltrated this country before 'September 11'! All of this facilitated by successive Governments who wanted their votes!

The upwardly-mobile elites in each community became educated and easily integrated into the general Australian population. The Governments kept feeding their communities with financial resources for whatever programs or projects they wanted. The less cultured lay-leaders however, remained in their own narrow community confines and until recently one did not hear very much about conflicts between the various groups. Occasionally there were flare-ups between, say, Macedonians and Greeks on the football field; the Turkish Embassy in Melbourne was bombed by Armenians some years ago; but otherwise our politicians prided themselves that Australia is a placid melting-pot of some 145 different ethnic groups and that their past policies of multiculturalism are working well.

I have always felt that they were being naïve. There is "culture" and there is "nurture",- and both are not necessarily conducive to peaceful coexistence. The first generation of immigrants is afraid to 'rock the boat', therefore they avoid drawing attention to themselves. Subsequent generations become more assertive, more unafraid of authority, more vocal and therefore quite ready to clash with others and the authorities. The ethnic 'melting pot' is constantly simmering just under the surface and is easily overheated into a 'boiling pot' at the earliest provocation. And our media constantly provokes,- from cartoonists, to interviewers and commentators!

Australia in the '50s was a mirror image of British society. I arrived to this homogeneously "grey,waspish" country, as it appeared to my teenage eyes and it seemed so boring after the excitement of European diversity of languages, cultures, foods, scenery, peoples and religions,- that the monotone society, landscape ( eucalyptus trees everywhere one looked), foods (roast beef, roast lamb, roast pork,- sliced cold for lunch, thinly sliced hot with gravy for dinner), extraneous British heritage bored me to such an extent that at the first opportunity (after I reached adulthood and independence),- I escaped to revive my senses back in old Europe! But then of course,- so did every other young educated middle-class Australian,-the European & English experience was 'de rigueur' for everyone as soon as they managed to save the fare!

One had to escape the dullness of Australia, to learn to appreciate it later! Then the parochialism set in! Now Australia has all the diversity in the world, through its 145 or so ethnic groups within its borders! "Recognising human nature means that multiculturalism, though a fine sentiment, can only work if we unite behind a core set of values. Unfortunately though, that policy has become licence for rampant cultural relativism. We are loath to criticise any aspects of cultures (except our own) for fear of sounding terribly judgmental and unfashionably un-multicultural." says Albrechsten.

Modern attitudes in the media which eschews religion per se,- as well as "nationalism" in our society and in the State education systems,- means that a whole new generation has grown up with a variety of moral standards imposed at home, or not all,- except for the private education systems supported by the various religious bodies. What are our Australian core values? Equality of opportunity is available to all, but that does not guarantee equality of outcomes! Those brought up according to old cultures in far-off lands, may clash with the modern attitudes in the general society which make up our core values today.

Hence it matters little if some guys drink alcohol and others don't drink alcohol, some keep their women covered up from head to toe and don't allow promiscuity among them,- and others do. They all seem to go out and fight, rape, deal in drugs and become criminals outside their homes and outside their own communities!

Some Australian 'waspish' youngsters may need to drink before they become violent, or before they may rape a woman in a bikini, but on the whole, most of us women feel, as we should be,- free to wear whatever we like without fear of attack from those around us. The notion that in multicultural Australia we have to give-in to the lowest common denominator for the sake of "political correctness" is bad for everyone!

Therefore, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is an old but a true adage. Those angry young men (and some women) who have a problem living in our modern, liberal, tolerant, gender-liberated and multicultural society, should try living in their parents' "old countries" for a while. It might enlighten them and straighten them out a little! Trying to change our society through violence to suit themselves won't work.

Hopefully, even the soccer-field may become a uniting force, rather than a divisive one, now that Australia is in the World Cup!


yuvakuran said...

isn't it too pessimistic??

Miriam M.OR MM said...

Yuvakuran,thanks for your comment.
Pessimistic,-perhaps,- but more like, worried! Like all Western societies which have absorbed mass immigrants with different cultural values and customs, not enough attention was paid to ensure that the right customs and values are transmitted to following generations within their communal structures.Invariably it is women who are at the losing end,- which means also their kids!