I’m Not Racist But…

F**k Off, We’re Full announced the windshield sticker on a Perth hatchback. In the 14 years since first visiting the land Down Under, an insidious undercurrent of fear has taken a firm hold on the national psyche. Not the increase in skin cancer or shark fatalities, but the fear of a Chinese take over. In the late 70s as the government opened its borders to refugees, it allowed thousands of war-torn Vietnamese to flee Russian communism and start anew. The typical Aussie was far from welcoming. Clearly things haven’t changed much in some parts!

A fear of foreign invasion was born years ago. Russia threatened to rob Australia of its prolific mineral reserves back in the mid 1800s and the seed was planted. Even the mysterious drowning death of prime minister, Harold Holt back in 1967 has conspiracy theorists pointing at Russian involvement.

Fact or fallacy, fear-mongering shares a popularity similar to sport in this sun-blessed land. Imagine! Almost daily, politicians exploit the public fear of foreign takeover and job losses to grab the attention of a nation.
It works. In 2001, when John Howard ordered the turnaround of a boat load of refugees during an election campaign, it ignited the voters and sealed his victory.

I recall a similar fear infiltrating my home town of Leicester back in the 70’s as an influx of Indians and Pakistanis descended on our city. Silent prejudice brewed in ‘white’ homes, mine amoungst them. Tempers flared on buses. ‘Coloured’ kids left abandoned on playgrounds. An us and them mentality arose from our threatened status quo and rampant belief in British superiority.

Like Canada this is a nation born from immigrants. Unlike Canada it’s still kicking and screaming in protest. I reckon the die-hard Aussies won’t go down without a fight. The iconic image of the blond-haired, surf-crazy, politically incorrect, beer swillin’ nation is hard to break. After all, this is the Australia we have come to know and love around the world.

But everything changes. With death and taxes it’s one of the few certainties in life. Guess it depends how long and how tightly we hold on, and to recognize if and how the fear of change plays out in our own lives. That’s surely worth an evening of contemplation.

 

Singaportrayal

Travel asks how much we’re willing to surrender to the unknown. It is as Pico Iyer suggests, an exercise in trust as we pitch ourselves, naked and undefended, into a foreign place. It satiates our curiosity to know something more about a place and to go deeper inside ourselves without the encircling familiarity of home. No surprise that in Ancient Greece, travel was considered one of the four main tenets of educating the ‘whole man’. Time for educational reform!
In transit for the past two weeks, some poignant thoughts and reflections from Palma to Perth. Check out the flickr photostream – In Transit, Singapore and Perth 2011
Thrills and Giggles
  • flying to Singapore on an Airbus 380, marveling at the minds able to engineer an 80 m wing span. Flying may well be my Ghostly Lover. I am ever more convinced that the woman’s animus IS, as Jung believes, up in the air.
  • watching locals patiently wait out the daily downpours of Singapore’s rainy season, no umbrellas or rain gear. A wonderful comment on acceptance of life as it is.
  • searching out bustling eating places (Chinese, Malay, Indian) where mine was the only ‘white’ face 
  • attempting to eat Indian curry, rice and sauces with fingers only! So humbling, and counter to everything I was taught about eating etiquette.
  • remembering the things I so loved about being in Australia years ago…passion fruit, sunshine, laid back lifestyle, BYOB to restaurants. A right thing in the right place (see  A Shoe in the Washer)
  • hearing Christmas carols while wearing summer clothes
Surprises
  • how 32 degrees and 94% humidity feels on a jet-lagged body 
  • young people publicly puffing on giant, steaming hookahs at an outdoor cafe in the Malay-Arab quarter, and the fruity fragrance of sheesha (flavoured tobacco). Legal in Singapore?
  • how achingly beautiful the evening call to prayer (adhan) from the Sultan’s Mosque. An overwhelming yearning to enter and be part of this ritual. 
  • warning sign of gun-toting soldier aiming at would-be intruder at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Confirmation of law breaker treatment in Singapore.
  • entry into Australia requires a visa! Thank God for night time revelations and e-visas
  • my house sit owner’s inspiring love of life. I am open to this choice, as are you. 
The few annoyances arose from jet lag, waiting in lines, and the time and expense of getting to and from airports and accommodations. Things that can consume hours of precious time and energy. All ample evidence for going some place and staying still for a while. I like to call it residential travel. It’s about being somewhere not just seeing somewhere!