Tonight, I’m going to a Divali function. This is one of the Indian festivals which celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It is called the Festival of Lights because this is where when we atone for wrongdoings, the light emerges showing the way forward to a bright future. This is only one of the multicultural festivals I enjoy.
Loy Kratong is the Buddhist version and happens later in the year where candles are placed in paper lotus flowers, lit and set adrift, sending our sins away.
The Mosque Open Days are ways the Muslims share their faith with others by way of transparency. They open their doors and their hearts to people who want to understand what makes Islam tick.
I’ve been to Hanukkah celebrations at the Jewish Memorial Centre and been honoured to be allowed into their holist of places.
The other week I attended a book launch by my good friend Kabu Okai-Davies. Kabu is a Ghanaian from West Africa and he tells stories about his journey from Africa to his new home via Canada and the joys he has now found here.
Next week, I think, is an East African celebration which is rich in music, food and colour.
These are some of the ways people from other cultures are sharing their uniqueness as Aussies by choice, not by birth.
The most obvious way Canberrans show off their multiculturalism is of course the National Multicultural Festival in February each year. The acclaim that the festival has acquired over the years is demonstrated by the curiosity shown to me by the Vice-Mayor of Beijing when I visited there as Minister for Multicultural Affairs. This most senior of officials sought my advice on how we embraced our minority groups and how we regarded these new citizens as equals.
I was talking to my good friends Deepak-Raj Gupta, who is one of our most senior and influential Indian-Canberrans, and Mark Kulasingham, a Canberran who was born in Malaysia of Indian culture but who has grown up here, about the notion of multiculturalism here and interstate.
One of the most consistent negative comments we agreed that we hear was that these boat people are a threat to our culture. I asked the question – what culture would that be and how is threatened? The answers were far from satisfactory.
“This is a Christian country and these boat people will Islamise our country.” Really? And how is that going to happen? I think that the majority Christian religions might have a view on that. If they are threatened that the theology of Islam is threatening them, what are they doing about spreading their own theology? The Buddhists and Hindus here don’t see Islam as the threat. Only the Christians do. Shame that.
I remember the same negativity when the Vietnamese came by boats. All a lot of rubbish. The Italians, Greeks, Spanish, etc were also threatening our culture in the 1950s yet it was okay for them to provide fruit and vegetables and hydroelectric schemes, doing work that “Aussies” wouldn’t do. I can go on and on and relate many of the nonsensical accusations of threats to our culture and I’m sure that you readers can add your own.
But let’s look at what culture we are protecting by sending these people back.
We speak English. This is not indigenous to Australia. So we are actually protecting a British culture. Right.
What about literature? When was the last time Australian authors more keenly sought after than say, American or English authors? Not in my time. How about cinema? What was the last film you watched? Was it an Australian film or an American or British one? Did you watch the Oscars or the Australian Film and Television Awards? What is the cultural content of our TV programs? Even the magazines we read are in overseas format, usually American.
Where do our fashions come from? Europe and America. Not here.
So the culture we are protecting is predominantly the US culture, with some British influence. Little of it is truly Aussie.
When was the last time the Tamworth Country Music Festival was given the same prominence as the Eurovision Song Contest?
So… the culture we are protecting is that of a bible bashing, gun-toting, murderously violence society which has an appalling human rights record. A society which has taken us to wars we can’t win, wars that have displaced people so that they need to come here as refugees, and one which uses TV programs to spread its propaganda of how society should behave. Well, that works for me! Not.
I haven’t heard those wanting to exclude Muslims, Asians, Africans say that they are protecting the culture of the first peoples. I haven’t heard any explanation from them on why it is that we are happy to keep the first peoples in abject poverty yet say that we want to protect our way of life.
I want to keep the Aussie way of life too, but recognise that it is not American, it is not British but rather it is an amalgam of many cultures. The mixture is what makes Australia what it is.