Racism in Australia and Indian obsession
By Susenjit Guha
With robberies and assault on Indian students’ Down Under spiraling to 1,447 in 2008-09 from 1,083 last year, it is time for a wake up call not only for Australians, but also for Indians.
The self denial by the Australian police and the government so long about the absence of a racial motive in some of the brutal hate crimes we saw lately exposes the nation’s underbelly that is psychologically trapped between the West it tries to emulate and Asia where it lies trapped in the backyard. Despite its proximity to Asia, Australia is yet to brace up as a nation that is separate from the UK or the US and uphold ideals that are unique to the sunny island nation.
On the other hand, a new breed of middle class Indians is increasingly getting obsessed about somehow getting a foreign degree for their wards to enhance marriage prospects and raise status of their families in their community. Chances of settling down also get brighter if they can somehow make it to an Australia university. Compared to the preferred destinations of the US and UK, it is easy to get into an Australian university where expenses are less. Most of the Aus-bound students are academically mediocre making sponsored assistantships like in the US and Canada out of bounds. How could one explain the rush for a certificate degree in automobile engineering that is something so banal academically?
All they need is money and banks are ready to finance if they cannot afford the full expenses. Australian universities and their counselors set up shop each year in India to take in the growing number of gawky students. Recent estimates peg the figure at close to a 1, 00,000 Indian students in Australia. Most of the degrees are available in India and there is nothing extraordinary that Australia can offer unless one has designs of digging in after a few years.
Australian achievers in professions other than sports still do not consider they have arrived unless they are feted by academic circles in the US or UK. In a recent Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece, a concerned Australian raised the specter of academics taking a back seat with the average Australian family. They would rather prefer their children to hit the outdoors more often than study.
Sports and a laidback lifestyle are not new to Australians, but the flood of immigrants from Asia in the last few decades has underscored the need for education. Undergrad and graduate programs are a passport to success and they have a sizable Asian presence. The average fair dinkum Aussie is feeling left out and is unable to come to terms with education being the basis for development along with sports.
The fallout of a deep rooted hatred for ‘the other’ who is not their type racially, but also made of different stuff---with reliance on education for a better life---has exposed the underbelly. It has also exposed the reality that even though Australia is closer to Asia geographically, it has very little in common with the continent and deep rooted resentment still exists. Australians are trapped in an environment with their conscience lying elsewhere. Hard facts like Asian tiger China bailing out the mining industry and making the nation dependent economically in many ways continue to rankle.
And the impoverished condition of the original inhabitants, the Aborigines, around the mining towns of Western Australia and in Northern Territory does not make frequent allusion to the US ethically acceptable. While the US has come out of the past with Barrack Obama, Australia is still trapped in deplorable sins committed in the past despite Kevin Rudd’s apologies to the community.
While saluting George W Bush last year, the Labor Prime Minister in a way resembled a ‘digger’ in awe of an army captain from Yorkshire under whom he fought in the Burmese jungles or in the western desert in WWII. Australia has since changed sides only to emulate the US, but still lacks a soul of its own.
When Victoria’s chief commissioner of police Simon Overland finally admitted that some of the attacks on Indian students were racially motivated, he owned up to an unsavory truth. Racism is embedded in the Australian psyche as a pre-1965 ‘white Australia’ policy still gnaws with successes among the yellow and dark skinned people abounding.
There could be more attacks in future unless the average Indian student gets over the obsession of education in a nation where nearly 85% of the adult population is involved in gambling. Poker is so popular online and in brick and mortar casinos that nearly 30% of the global poker machine or ‘pokies’ production is lapped up by Australia. It cannot be an ideal destination for students of a nation that is aiming to be number 2 in Asia.