I am as confused as everyone else in the crosscurrents of Australian politics by the way multiculturalism has evolved. Of course there are eminent personages and legions of faceless men and women who are not at all confused. It is they who are accountable for the concrete social reality I try unsuccessfully to infiltrate. It’s comparable to a technology of non-obsolescence which might be imaginable if no scientists had read Kuhn and Popper. Multiculturalism, which simply promised to transform the migratory experience from discrimination and disadvantage to welcoming and nurturing stimulation, has succeeded in annihilating the potential in migration for all ethnicities to learn from each other through change. It is as though migration itself has been abolished.
This Moon is party to the opposition of idealism and vanity, despite beginning its first cycle of the calendar year encouraged not to take things too seriously. As a migrant like me–my ancestors came here in the 1840s, but like you, I am continuously migrating from the past–he wants you to look up in wonder at how liberated and enriched he is by change, but we are casting a shadow of regularity bordering on intransigence. Look up at your shadow and recognize its discouragement of reflection and dialogue.
“I look around at my community and see them struggling, especially with their adolescent children. Where we come from society is overseen and ruled by organised religion, with an iron fist. It has always been that way, because we are too smart for our own good. Our wits have always been attractive to people who can make a living out of somebody else’s hard work. But here people are not smart and there is no apparent rule outside of our imported communities. Because of where we come from this lack of rule feels like lawlessness. It is all too easy for our children to succumb.
“I have done well with a simple strategy. I came here with the usual negative attitude to the West and its history of colonialism and exploitation, but once I began to master the language I saw not colonialists but slaves to colonialism. The citizens of my new country are encouraged to be too stupid to colonise anyone, by a massive and all-pervading structure of control to which they are either blind or which they actually trust, because it has evolved seemingly from centuries of struggle for the good. In my old country leaders identify themselves in uniforms. Here they pretend to be ordinary.
“And so I devised my strategy: develop a broad Australian accent, adopt a team in the local football code, and express myself in terms of its fortunes; meanwhile use my innate skill at sizing people up to my advantage and present what I want to sell as what they want to buy. You see, the most distinctive feature of this country is the almost total absence of the everyday process of bargaining, a process which is my country, both where I come from and what I have brought here and teach my children. My cardinal rule? What men want is what women want!
“My big break came when the boss left on a month’s tour of our suppliers, leaving me with an attractive and personable but very stupid assistant. I showed her how a customer’s preferences lined up like waves on the beach, the ripples our bread and butter but the swell our big-margin items. It was just like teaching someone with no sense of direction how to read a map: turn it to the terrain so where you’re looking is up. By the time the boss returned, the assistant was rotating our products to left and right of the shoreline and seducing the customers into the pleasures of wave-riding by showing them the heat of the dunes. Our bottom line took off. A week after he got back, the boss hired two more assistants and put me in charge.
“I tell my children, study conscientiously, because the way in this country to ease and security for your families is through professional status, but never forget that through the ages there have always been slaves and thieves. Slaves will tell you that you are a thief and thieves will tell you that you are a slave. They are like an ocean in which it is impossible not to get wet. You have the opportunity in this country to be anonymous. Take it and use it. You must shun the ghetto, for it is full of slaves and thieves who will suck the blood out of you. And the last voice you should listen to is the word of God. If you can hear it, it is because you are not ready to speak, so let there be silence, while you get on with your work, even if it be driving a taxi. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Who wants to know?’ Ah, we are from the same place: yesterday.”
Idealism is altruism’s error. Let us cease interfering with our innate loving-kindness by defining what is good for us and others. Discrimination consists in just such interference. It is high time we applied transcendent perspicacity to ourselves and what is going on around us. Australian values? What are they? If someone doesn’t espouse them, are they not Australian? Yours are the only values I see, emerging from so-called parent-cultures to apply in your unique way, if you’re conscious enough. Question them. If they’re not wrong, they haven’t been tested. There never was a divine voice which could talk over spiritual insight. God-kings and militant prophets were just a species of thief.
A lunar eclipse is as good a time as any to enjoy with our body in time and space an experience of the emptiness of all things, even synchronicity. Country too is empty, even when it is carted all over the world. The world that is coming is an Asian world. Progressive education serves our children well if it teaches them how to love our empty past, the past we leave behind, incrementally. Don’t fret about Australia Day and Cook statues. It’s time to brush up on your Buddhism. First we discover shame, then responsibility, then forgiveness, then love, then freedom. Freedom is the mission of the migrant, not submission. There is no freedom without love.