Saturday, July 4, 2009

Racial Attacks in Australia

Australia sadly has been on a scurrilous boil of late. So many Asians have faced the brunt of racial attacks that have been burgeoning with alarming promptitude and despite the palliatives extended by the Australian Government to somehow quell the conflagrations, sporadic incidents are coming to light almost every other day.

I on a personal level find these to be exceedingly painful as they are in direct contrast to the convivial spirit that prevailed during the two years that I happened to be in Australia, from 1995 to 1997. I happened to pursue my Master’s degree from an Institute called Charles Sturt University in NSW that accommodated a wide conglomerate of international students from the Asian sub-continent. Initially, I did face up to the onerous task of adapting to a culture that straddled between the bohemian and the hedonistic. What at first, struck me as a trait atypical of the Aussies was their brash outspokenness. And I must admit I too was at the short end of the stick a number of times. At the same time, flashes of humour would break through the hard crust of a rugged exterior. The Aussies generally never shouted, just a broad grin or a twitch of the eyebrows would communicate anger, which at worst would be articulated in hushed or muted overtones.

The Aussies generally took pride in their white bona-fides but certainly not to the extent of deriding one who was ‘coloured’, so to speak! I for one shared a cottage during my tenure with four Australians and I can say in all sobriety that there wasn’t a single instance when I felt sidelined or isolated. However, it was expected of us to exercise restraint and not to press for equality of status in the social hierarchy with the Aussies, an unwritten code that we adhered to till the very end. As such, whatever merry-making we indulged or participated in had to strike a balance – not being superfluously copious but neither being scrupulously reserved.

Australia in truth has always had a chequered history. The native Aborigines there have been carrying out a movement for equal rights for years on end, despite the fact that their cultural moorings are protected with the passing of the Aboriginal and Torrets Islander Heritage Protection Act in 1984, which is but small consolation for them. So in a sense, discrimination in some form has always been conspicuous in the Australian society. Yet it appears so very perplexing as to how a nation, otherwise so very adaptive and accommodative of eclectic cultures and diverse backgrounds, could appear so diminutive at the hands of some vindictive elements and their improprieties that nothing but sheer ignorance could have heaped upon them. Such acrimony is nothing but the manifestation of the most corruptible of influences. Having said that, the stream of time is constantly washing the dissoluble fabrics of all individuals and from that standpoint one should take this to be a passing phase, which would eventually see the Asian community emerge stronger & united out of their ordeals. Amen!!