Monday, August 15, 2005
I have lived my entire life in a highly multicultural society so I am acutely aware of racial and ethnic differences. I grew up in an Australian country-town (Innisfail) that was only half Anglo. The rest were Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Maltese, Yuogoslavs, Chinese, Sikhs, TIs (Melanesians) and Aborigines (blacks). And when with that perspective I look at my fellow Anglo-Australians I see people of admirable restraint, fortitude, good humour and moderation in all things. But that is only the majority. There is also a minority who are shitheads and morons.
Now I could sound like an uncomprehending elitist in saying that. Maybe I am just wiping off working class people and glorifying middle class people like myself. It is however if anything the reverse. If anything I find something like three times as much good sense in the workers as I do in the bourgeoisie. But there are shitheads in both camps. And I find that even the difficult cases among the workers are not much of a problem to me personally. Because I was born into an Australian working class family, working class thinking and conventional wisdom is an open book to me. I know all the key words and key phrases and I defer to no-one in my knowledge and enjoyment of the brilliant Australian slanguage. And I certainly did put all that to the test when I spent a couple of years as a boarding house proprietor in a "depressed" area (Ipswich) of Brisbane. I was really dealing with the hard cases there. A significant number of them in fact came to me directly from "the big house" (jail). Yet such is the power of a shared culture that I was in all cases able to handle to my satisfaction the people concerned. I always knew the right words to use. The people concerned were a considerable problem to others (and to themselves) but they were well within my capacity to handle -- though the time I threw a druggie through a closed door was approaching my limits. Words are wasted on druggies. So there is no doubt that I am as much an insider to basic Anglo-Australian culture as anyone ever will be. I am of my culture and I appreciate it and enjoy it.
But much as I am at home among my own people, I am still delighted at the sterling qualities I find in Asians. I find scarcely any shitheads among them. And I put my money where my mouth is. I actually share my large house with Asians -- mostly South Asians. None of them are of course flawless human beings but when I think of their relaxed good humour, their intelligence and their unfailing politeness and restraint I cannot see that they are inferior to anyone or that they are anything but an asset to any environment they inhabit.
Now somebody will want to tell me that it is different in England. And it certainly is different superficially. The way just about EVERY small business in London is run by South Asians is pretty amazing (though the way English shop-assistants treat their customers makes it a lot less amazing). And when I am in England and I walk into one of those Asian shops I am greeted with the wariness and reserve that experience has taught the proprietors concerned. But I only have to exchange half a dozen words with the people concerned before all that changes. Because I genuinely like and admire Indians, that message gets through almost as fast as a bullet and it is soon smiles all round. I remember once when I was in an Indian shop in London and some old English prick was telling the Indian proprietor how great the English were and how the world owed them a living. As I walked out, I "accidentally" shouldered him hard enough to knock him over. I felt embarrassed that a fine Sikh gentleman had to put up with such crassness from the prick concerned.
And nor am I talking about immigrant Indians only. I have also lived in Bombay and I can only admire the cheerfulness, enterprise and good humour of the street-people there.
I certainly don't think that all races are equal any more than I think all people are equal but I also think it is absurd to say that there is something special about someone just because his skin is pink. Each case must be judged on its individual merits but it seems to me that on any non-racial scale of values the Asians average out well ahead. And we live in a century that will see that proven. Ironically, the poison that has held the Asians back so far is of Western origin -- socialism. If any people are instinctive capitalists it is the Indians and Chinese.
And the claim that Asian cultures are tribal is a grave misconception. Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity. So if you treat them well or do them a good turn you generate enormous feelings of obligation in return. So when I walk into an Indian shop where I am known and buy three samoosas for my lunch I will occasionally get a fourth one popped into the bag as a gesture of goodwill. What is problematical about a culture like that?