Every now and again I count my blessings.
I was born and live in a relatively rich and free country whose far seeing policy makers have recognised that multiculturalism is the best way forward to peaceful nationhood.
My recent trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina was a sad reminder of what a poisonous concept nationalism is.
Here in Australia there are those who feel that immigrants should become “Aussies”, which by their standards means Anglo-Celtic. The idea that new comers should assimilate is based on the erroneous idea that Aussies are white people of Anglo-Celtic descent. In fact the first Aussies were the aboriginals and what a lot of people don’t realise is that they weren’t a nation in the European sense, and in fact if cultural identity and language are the basis of our concept of nationhood, then Australia before European settlement was made up of about 260 countries.
Thanks to disease, slaughter and alcohol the Aborigines are no longer the dominant race in Australia. As the English repopulated Australia with their own kind, they came to think of it as theirs and that to be Australian was to be of Anglo-Celtic descent.
Eighteenth century attitudes of superiority and precedence coloured the way so-called “Aussies” saw themselves in relation to other people who didn’t come from the same background. Aborigines were marginalised to the extent that they weren’t even considered citizens in their own country until the late 1960s. Non-white races were discouraged to immigrate to Australia by the “white Australia policy” which was state sponsored racism that wasn’t done away with until 1975.
One of the arguments used by opponents of multiculturism is that they are afraid that “their way of life” which built our wonderful country was going to be swamped by “the yellow peril“; foreign ideas, customs and ideals which would lead to a fall in the quality of life as living standards and ethics went down the toilet.
In my opinion, people come to Australia to embrace our way of life rather than to change it into what they left. I have quite a few friends of Asian descent and all of them are great consumers and supporters of the culture on offer here.
Back in the early 1970’s I left Australia because I hated it. I felt that is was a narrow minded red-neck backwater. I came back to Australia 11 years later in 1985 and I was amazed at the change. In such a short time Australia had turned itself totally around. No longer was my country looking to the past for a vision of itself but forward into the future for a vision of what we could be.
Many of the changes that I saw could be directly attributed to foreign influences. Not only had Australia opened up its doors to people from all over the world, no matter what race, many Aussies had been overseas and brought back new ideas and tolerance with them.
What happened in Yugoslavia should stand as a warning to us all that being exclusive about who you want, based on race or creed, in a society only leads to misery and weakness.
Multiculturism is just about doing the right thing, it’s also about doing the smart thing.