This article was written in response to questions given to me at Christmas time – as listed below. The overall question was ‘What are Australia’s just deserts for Christmas?”
At first glance, one might consider that some punishment might be in order. Just consider the way we treat refugees, the way we’re going to sell uranium to India, just as it ramps up its long range nuclear missiles. Consider the way we let the nuclear industry take over Aboriginal land, the way Australia wimped out at the Durban Climate Change conference. Not to mention how nasty and hypocritical our politicians are to each other.
But – that’s not the whole Australia. Wherever I go in this, my country, I find that most people are kind, and we must be the most multicultural country in the world. I have watched a Muslim nurse, all correctly hijabed, very gently dressing the injured foot of an elderly Jewish gentleman, all correctly yarmulked.
Australia’s much maligned public health system is full of caring and capable staff of all colours and creeds. That’s just one example of Australia’s multicultural and accepting society – despite our history of prejudice, and continuing discrimination against Australia’s first people.
How do we compare to the other kids on the global block?
Well, further fields might look greener, more kindly and intelligent, but probably not. In a world where many countries are militaristic, where many countries have deprived minorities, and some with impoverished majorities, Australia might not be too bad by comparison – I don’t know.
Would we be given presents?
Well, I think yes, we would, knowing Santa as I do. I speak from personal experience. At the age of six, I was troubled because my best friend, a very well behaved child, got miserable little presents at Christmas, while I, a known misbehaver, got magnificent ones. Obviously, Santa did not have a clue.
Would our presents be taken away?
No, I’ve never heard of Santa doing that. So, deserving or not, as the case may be, Australia ought to get presents from Santa.
What would those presents be?
Well, I’m recommending just one going across Australia-wide.
This present would be a meme. A beautiful new meme, that I will call – positive interaction. This positive interaction meme would infect families, and individuals, myself included (I need it). It would affect each of us, so that each would listen, with real interest, to find out about the other, and about what he/she wanted. In any negotiation, or any argument, the actual subject or topic would be less important than the process of discussing it. How we worked things out together would matter more than the things.
This positive interaction meme would float across to business interactions, to dealings within organisations, to complex discussions between white and Aboriginal groups. Heavens above – it might even infect Australia’s politicians. My God! They might start to be courteous to each other, and patiently listen, without interruption. They might start to answer the question, and actually say what they think, – even including sometimes those never used words “I don’t know.”
This extraordinary positive interaction meme would probably slow things up in many areas. It would take a lot more time, if people were to really hear each other out, and then express their own point of view.
The meme would not be confined to Australia – imagine if Ahmadinejad could sit down with Obama, and explain the pressures he was under from the religious mullahs, and Obama could describe the problems with his Congress. This sort of positive interaction happening all over the world would certainly slow things up. That could be a very handy development, as the Israeli and U.S. leaders would delay, or even abandon, any pre-emptive strike on Iran.
Of course, there’d be a lot of economic and other “fallout” from the meme’s effects. People would have to exert an extraordinary amount of patience and tolerance with the victims of this “fallout.” I think of the arms manufacturing victims – huge commercial enterprises threatened with failure! As people engaged in communicating with each other, instead of the traditional system of getting their own way at all costs, the demand for weapons would drop! Businesses would collapse into bankruptcy and millions of armaments workers retrenched, especially in America.
This could all be chaotic. Yet, as the positive interaction meme continued, these economic victims, from corporate bosses to factory workers, would express their needs, and be heard. And people would work together to develop new ways to employ their talents and skills – especially as a lot of government money would now be freed up for other purposes, more useful than the purpose of killing.
Yes, there would be some troubling economic consequences. But there would also be some encouraging “fallout.” As everyone was spending more time listening and replying, people would find out more about each other, and correct misunderstandings.
For example, when Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table and announced to the USA, “We will bury you!” – it was taken as a threat about nuclear annihilation. People did not understand that it was a traditional Russian saying that really meant, “I’m not too worried, we’ll outlast you.” It didn’t mean, “We will kill you”.
I understand that there are a lot of these types of misunderstandings, particularly where USA defence analysts misinterpret things as a result of having to translate, for example, Chinese documents. And no doubt, vice versa.
There’d be room, and time, for explanations and clarifications, in negotiations both small and local, and nation to nation engagement on a larger scale. And, my God, perhaps even for some humour!