Friday, December 9, 2011

1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Earthquakes are a revelation of  Nature’s vast unbridled power. They are also an assertion of Nature’s seamy side. They are a reminder to mankind that Nature can be awfully cruel and ruthless if it decides to be so. Although, the areas situated on seismic Fault lines are more prone to this danger, the realization that an earthquake can strike anywhere, at any time and at a place of its own choosing can be very disturbing.

The modern man can get some solace from the fact that he is now able to understand some of the chief reasons responsible for an earthquake through research and scientific advancement. Earthquakes are no longer a sign of a divine wrath for him. He can now logically explain this strange phenomenon called an earthquake that boggled mankind for centuries. Post 1906 earthquake of San Francisco, man has learnt a lot about earthquakes.

An Earthquake is caused by a sudden release of enormous energy trapped beneath the earth crust that makes the underground tectonic plates grind past each other. The resulting friction causes a severe spurt of seismic waves that can displace the earth’s crust. If this sudden failure crosses a critical mark, the earthquake can cause widespread death and destruction through the displacement of the ground surface or even a tsunami. The boundary area where the tectonic plates strike against each other is known as the fault plane and the place where from the seismic waves emanate is known as the epicenter of the earthquake. The impact of the earthquake is felt the most over the area above or around the epicenter.


National Archives and Records Administration, 1906, The Ruins of San Francisco, Fig 1


The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is also known as ‘the great San Francisco earthquake’. Although, more than a century has gone since it happened yet the harrowing memories of this earthquake linger on. It happens to be the worst natural disaster in the history of United States of America. The city of San Francisco has the dubious distinction of being precariously perched on the world’s biggest seismic Fault line named San Andreas.

San Francisco was rudely shaken by an earthquake measuring at least 7.7 to 8.25 at Richter scale at 5.12 A.M. on April 18, 1906. The epicenter of this earthquake was just two miles away from the city center of San Francisco near Mussel Rock. Massive in strength, this earthquake caused wide spread death and destruction. It also caused furious fires that raged for at least four days due to badly damaged and ruptured gas pipes. The resulting inferno devoured people and property alike.

The water pipes too gave way making water extremely scarce and almost unavailable. In the absence of water, it was almost impossible to control or douse the monstrous flames. The fire chief of San Francisco died due to mortal injuries incurred immediately after the earthquake leaving the fire department leaderless and waterless. Philip Fradkin, the author of ‘The Great Firestorms of 1906’ writes, "The firemen were virtually without water. There was very little to do. Now no fireman is going to do nothing. And the first idea that occurred was to use dynamite"1 to keep the fires from spreading. San Francisco was indeed caught unawares.

Berkley Seismological Lab, The Epicenter of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Fig 2


The enormity of this tragedy threw up several questions about America’s preparedness to face a natural disaster like this. The geologists in America had little knowledge about earthquakes and their origin at that period of time. The knowledge about tectonic plates was still at least half a century away. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake indeed shook the American government out of its slumber and prompted it to initiate a much larger research on the factors that cause an earthquake.

Hence, the great earthquake of San Francisco marks the dawn of a great scientific revolution that would soon reveal the innermost dark secrets of the earth’s crust in the times to come. Elridge M. Moore writes, “The scientific inquiry conducted in the aftermath of the earthquake was among the world's earliest comprehensive postearthquake investigations and was the first conducted in the western United States”.2  It was the huge initiative taken by Professor Andrew C. Lawson, chairman, department of Geology, University of California that prompted the government to institute the Earthquake Investigation Commission.

Lawson was appointed the head of this commission consisting of several geologists handpicked from various reputed universities of America. The stage was now set for a full fledged investigation into the reasons that led to the great earthquake of San Francisco. The Lawson report of 1908 adequately armed America with much superior knowledge about earthquakes. It also enhanced awareness about the precautions that must be taken to save humanity from any such future disaster. The lessons learnt from1906 San Francisco Earthquake helped geologists like Reid to come out with an epoch-making theory like ‘the elastic-rebound theory’.


USGS, Reid's Elastic Rebound Theory, Fig 3


Till date, this theory is considered one of the best available explanations of the natural phenomenon that results in an earthquake. The wake up call issued by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 made the geologists undertake massive research operations in the earthquake affected area. The research revealed the fact that the earthquake did maximum damage in the soft sedimentary soil areas of San Francisco. Rocky areas suffered less loss. The soft soil areas of San Francisco had as such experienced comparatively much greater amount of shaking and tremors. Whatsoever the scientists learnt from the study of the earthquake of 1906 now forms the basis of the modern study of seismology and earthquake science.

This information gathered by Lawson and his colleagues went a long way in properly distinguishing the areas which are specifically under the threat of an earthquake. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake also led to a very significant method of observation known as triangulation surveys. This method revealed the vital fact that the impact of the earthquake was maximum near the fault line and it kept decreasing as one went farther away from it.

Actually Professor H.F. Reid based his world famous theory of elastic rebound on these very findings. Reid concluded that the crust of the earth keeps getting elastically distorted with the motion of tectonic plates over a large period of time. And, when it decides to revert back to its original position, it generates enormous seismic waves that cause earthquakes. Earthquake is thus a sudden release of previously stored energy under the crust of the earth. Moreover, it is the faulting that causes the earthquake and not the other way round.

The tremors of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake were felt right from Oregon to Los Angeles and beyond. In comparison, the 1989 earthquake of Loma Preita (greater San Francisco area) fades into insignificance as it had a rupture length of just 25 miles. The tremors of San Francisco earthquake were felt all along the San Andreas Fault line covering a distance of at least 296 miles. The great San Francisco Earthquake was so potent that the ground offset near Point Reyes went up to 20 feet, at the surface level. Down below,


Geology.Com, Map of San Andreas Fault Line, Fig 4


the offset was much larger and ranged up to 28 feet. The great earthquake lasted between 40-60 seconds and drastically changed the topography of San Francisco. The ground moved from under the feet of San Franciscans at a speed of approximately 4 to 5 feet per second whereas the rupture itself propagated at a speed of roughly 2.7 K.M. per second or 5800 miles per hour. The government initially tried to grossly downplay the ferocity of the earthquake by merely highlighting the role of fire in causing the immense loss.

The consideration behind such a false propaganda was to save the image of San Francisco as a very successful business center and California’s economic backbone. Fearing that the earthquake scare may not shoo away the investors from the city, the first public statement issued by the Governor of California read, “This is not the first time that San Francisco has been destroyed by fire, I have not the slightest doubt that the City by the Golden Gate will be speedily rebuilt, and will, almost before we know it, resume her former great activity."3 The fact that there is not even a mention of the earthquake in this statement says it all!

The financial loss caused by the earthquake of San Francisco was phenomenal. Keeping in view the value of the dollar in those days, the property loss suffered due to the earthquake was a staggering $400 million. More than 28000 buildings got destroyed due to the earthquake and fire. Before the earthquake of 1906, San Francisco was the hub of commercial activity in California. It was a kind of ‘Gateway to the Pacific’.

San Francisco’s success in the world of business and trade heralded its supremacy both in the Pacific and Asia. It was one of the busiest ports in United States of America. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the resulting fire left almost 80 % of the city in ruins. The city did bounce back and rebuilt itself quickly but by that time the concentration of population and business had already shown a drift towards other cities like Los Angeles.

When the earthquake struck the trains tripped sideward, the buildings literally fell like a house of cards. The metalled roads got ripped apart like a piece of torn paper. The eyewitness accounts of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake paint a horrific picture of the hell San Franciscans had to pass through. This is how an eyewitness named P. Barret described the terrible scene, “Then came the sickening swaying of the earth that threw us flat upon our faces. We struggled in the street. We could not get on our feet. Then it seemed as though my head were split with the roar that crashed into my ears. Big buildings were crumbling as one might crush a biscuit in one's hand. Ahead of me a great cornice crushed a man as if he were a maggot”.4 Another eyewitness saw the cobblestones flitting up and down like popcorn. Those who were on the top floors simply


USGS, 1906, 18 th Street near Folsom Street in San Francisco, Fig 5


stepped down on the ground floor as if in one big giant step. Those trapped within simply got squashed and crushed. Many died in their sleep or in the bed itself. Several got trapped in smoke and debris and were burnt alive. This indeed reminds one of Dante’s infernos.

The chaos and anarchy that followed the earthquake gave rise to acute law and order problem in the city. There were widespread reports of looting and arson around the San Francisco. Finding the situation going way out of hands the government virtually imposed an undeclared martial law on the city. More than 4000 federal troops landed on the streets of San Francisco. The Governor of California, George C. Pardee issued shoot at sight orders to stop the looting incidents.

The firemen and the soldiers started blowing up the buildings with gunpowder in order to create firebreaks. Fradkin points out, “One of the problems was the type of explosives that they used. Gunpowder is flammable and spreads fire. And they made the mistake on the end of the second day of dynamiting a huge chemical warehouse… and that was just pyrotechnics plus."5 Hence, the lack of experience and absence of any preparedness to face a natural calamity of this magnitude resulted in costly human errors. The rescue and relief operations miserably failed to deliver timely succor and proved to be counterproductive.

Many of those who survived the earthquake fell a helpless victim to the fury of fire. Similarly, many buildings that could withstand the earthquake got burned down by the blaze. Before the earthquake struck, San Francisco was home to more than 400,000 happy and prosperous people in 1906. The earthquake left about 3000 killed and more than 225,000 people homeless.

A letter written by a resident named Rosa Barreda lays bare the agony faced by the San Franciscans as an aftermath of the earthquake:

"Wednesday afternoon my Sister and I watched from the front bay window, second floor. Many burned-out people passed our house with huge bundles, and ropes around their necks dragging heavy trunks, if not huddled with baggage on wagons. From the moment they heard that fatal, heart-rending sound of the trumpet announcing their house would be burned or dynamited, they had to move on or be shot to death. As the sun set the black cloud we watched all day became glaringly red."6

The scene is indeed heart-rending! While the earthquake of 1906 laid bare the shoddy working of the government, it was also a witness to some real helping hand extended by one another. There were instances where several Italian residents offered the water they had saved for brewing wine at home or the wine itself from the wooden barrels to douse the flames in the neighborhood.

The Army played a laudable role in providing shelter, food and clothing to the refugees. The soldiers managed to control the incidents of arson and looting at an early stage, amidst the allegations that they mistakenly shot scores of innocent citizens too who were merely attempting to retrieve whatsoever belongings they could from fast approaching fire. Nevertheless, the army built several refugee camps for thousands of displaced San Franciscans. The people were largely grateful to the army for its yeoman’s service and support.

The enormity of the great earthquake of San Francisco can be measured from the fact that the seismographic center in Gottingen, Germany which is about nine thousand kilometers away from San Francisco very well experienced and recorded its seismic

USGS, 1906, San Francisco Earthquake - Compared to Loma Prieta, Fig 6


tremors. The graph in the figure clearly shows critical seismic tremors as represented by Compressional and Shear waves. The seismic graph of 1989 Loma Preita ( greater San Francisco) earthquake recorded at the same center in Germany, makes an interesting comparison. It clearly sets apart the vast difference between the intensity of the two earthquakes. The graph gives a unique insight into the fact that why the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is called ‘the great earthquake of San Francisco’!

The fact is that San Francisco is sitting over a virtual time bomb. Its close proximity to San Andreas and several other fault lines like Hayward fault or Rodgers Creek fault makes it a fit candidate for another big earthquake in times to come. In spite of great technological strides that have been made by America in the world of earthquake monitoring, the reality is that nothing concrete can be done as yet to stop the reoccurrence of an earthquake like the great earthquake of 1906.

This reality must not be forgotten or ignored. The geologists fear the reoccurrence of such an earthquake somewhere in 2032. The scientific studies have also revealed that big earthquakes in the region are expected to occur at least once in every 200 years but nothing can be said for sure.

The fact that San Francisco was quickly rebuilt after the earthquake in order to reclaim its past glory and business, has its flip side too. The business community in tandem with the government went overboard to rebuild the city at a breakneck speed so as to enable it to host an international exposition in 1915. This led to a flagrant neglect of the desired building standards. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake called for much stronger earthquake resistant structures.

The city blindly went ahead and built structures even weaker than 1906 standards. Risa A. Palm points out, “The vulnerability of buildings is a function not only of their location but also of their construction. Buildings constructed before 1940 are at greatest risk. Steinbrugge estimates that about 13 percent of all California structures are in this category.”7 It is only after 1940’s that San Francisco started building structures that are geared to face the prospect of another earthquake like the one seen in 1906.

Unfortunately, most of the pre 1940 buildings in San Francisco today will not be able to withstand even a much weaker earthquake than the earthquake of 1906. This fact alone is enough to send a shiver up the spine of a San Franciscan. Today, there are more than 1000 seismic centers spread across California minutely monitoring all sorts of seismic activities under the earth’s crust. The data is collected and processed with the help of computers and highly sophisticated instruments. In present times, the geologists have come a long way from the days of the great earthquake of 1906. They have been able to identify and zero down on hundreds of accompanying faults along the San Andreas Fault line that can cause earthquakes in the times to come.

The vigilance against earthquakes has increased manifold in the present time. A timely warning can certainly help mitigate the number of casualties. Had such defense preparedness been there in 1906, the losses would have been much less. No doubt, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake left behind it a grim trail of death and destruction but it also brought about a realization that human life is a continuous challenge.

One must not give up in the face of such natural disasters rather one should gird up one’s loins to size up to any situation in life. Ignorance can cause great harm while awareness and knowledge can help us save our lives to a great extent. Knowledge is power and ignorance is death. No doubt, it is beyond human ken to stop the earthquakes but it is well within human reach to escape the fury of earthquakes through sagacity, precaution and proper preparedness.






Notes


1. Philip L.Fradkin, The Great Firestorms Of 1906 (University of California Press, 2005)

2. Elridge M. Moore and Dorothy L. Stout, Classic Cordilleran Concepts: A View from California , (Geological Society of America, 1999), 79.

3. George C. Pardee, “Get Busy”, The New San Francisco Magazine, May 1906,
(14 May 2007 ) .
 

4. “The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906”. Eyewitness to History. Com (14 May 2007) .
 

5. Philip L.Fradkin, The Great Firestorms Of 1906 (University of California Press, 2005) .
 

6. “Letter from Rosa Barreda: May 15, 1906”, Escape from the San Francisco Fire and Earthquake. Online Archive of California. (14 may 2007)
 

7. Risa A. Palm and Michael E. Hodgson, After a California Earthquake: Attitude and Behavior Change (University of Chicago Press,1992) .


Copyright: Academic
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Friday, November 18, 2011

A Critical Analysis of Robert Frost's "Provide Provide"

Robert Frost has been often accused of being a “terrifying poet”. Lionel Trilling had poems like “Provide Provide” in mind when he talked about the intimidating quality of Frost's poetry. “Provide Provide” paints a dreary picture of the ravaging powers of time and how time can take its toll without any pity or concern whatsoever. Even the most beautiful and ravishing things aren't spared. They too undergo the same fate. "Provide provide" reiterates the universal truth about beauty's ephemeral nature. It is only matter of time when everything beautiful turns ugly.  The inevitability of ruin and decay is built into the very fabric of life. Nobody can escape it; nothing is forever, nothing is permanent.



One may find oneself exceedingly lonely and neglected in his old age. In such a dismal scenario, either one must die friendless and all alone or choose to purchase friendship. No doubt, it isn't an ethical or praiseworthy way to go about making friends but then Frost knows finding a true friend in today's materialistic world is near impossible. Taking a realistic view of life, Frost recommends having phoney friends than having none. The poem endorses the idea of purchasing friendship to avoid meeting an ignominious and lonely end. The poet strongly prefers the prospect of leaving this world early. This, according to him, provides an opportunity to escape the misery of facing the horrors of old age. Hence, to die young is to die in a dignified manner.

The entire tone and manner is that of the public poet speaking to his democratic culture. The diction is appropriately drawn from the accessible middle level, with the exception of "boughten," a regionalist trace of the authentic life, meaning "store-bought" as opposed to "homemade," the real thing as opposed to the commoditized version; no major problem if the subject is ice cream or bread, but with "boughten friendship" we step into an ugly world where friendships are only in  name.


The bardic voice speaks, but now in mock-directives "Die early and avoid the fate," "Make the whole stock exchange your own", counseling the value of money and power; how they command fear; how fear commands, at a minimum, a sham of decency from others better that than the authenticity of their meanness. Genuine knowledge? Sincerity? Devices only in the Hollywood of everyday life. Try them, they might work."

Jarrell treats this poem as a subtle example of how the “Wisdom of this world….demonstrates to us that the wisdom of this world isn’t enough.” When Robert Frost wrote the poem “Provide, Provide” what he meant to say was decide, decide. Your probably asking yourself: decide what? To decide what type of life you wish to die. Throughout life you are given many choices. The decisions that you make during the course of your life will change the way you live your final minutes.                                           


Whether, you want to spend your closing hour at peace or with disappointment in yourself. Robert Frost suggests you have to provide yourself with the life you want to die with. Make sure you make the right decisions early. If you think bidding adieus to this world with a lot of money is more important than family and friends, then you should make sure that happens for you. Whichever path you choose to take, make sure it’s the one you want to live and die for.

In "Provide, Provide", Frost shows a few examples of what kind of life you may live. You can be born a beautiful woman and still die a haggish old witch. You can rule the economy and be the richest person in the world yet end your life with fake friends by your side or absolutely alone. You can become a fake queen and be viewed by others as a majestic god (read tin god) but you may still die as no one, perhaps all alone. In the third stanza Frost writes: “Make up your mind to die in state.” Suggesting you can’t take control of your destiny but you may decide in what mental state you want to die.


In the fifth stanza, Frost writes: “What worked for them might work for you.” Meaning you can look at people before you, to take example if that’s the way you want to live and die. But once again everything comes down to the decisions you make that would eventually shape your life. If you think that the meaning of life is to be rich and famous, than make such a decision and put your all out efforts into making it a reality. If all you wish for is to live life for your family than you should stay loyal and true to yourself. At least such choice is yours if not else. Hence, the poem is an attempt at finding a way to live happily and dying happily at all costs.

Frost ends his poem with a sarcastic stanza: “Better to go down dignified With boughten friendship at your side Than none at all. Provide, provide!” Frost is saying, that you try in life to provide yourself with the life you want, but if you find out that in the end you have failed, you may end up providing yourself with a fake version of how you wanted to end. Frost’s poem Provide, Provide makes you think of what kind of life you wish to provide yourself, by making the right decisions in life. Maybe you don’t want to be a Hollywood star. Maybe you just want to be a stay at home devoting your life to your family. Everyone’s life is different and no life should be criticized for the decisions which one makes.



But who, really, is Frost talking to? Who is this "you"? He appears to be addressing the audience he had been reaching (for twenty years at this point) through the press and from the platform: "For you to doubt the likelihood" is a bardic reminder to the masses. "What worked for them might work for you" is cynical and contemptuous counsel offered to the same. The penultimate stanza, however, whose triplet rhyme condenses the entire poem, makes no sense in that rhetorical scheme:

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.

Who among the ordinary, the unassuming, the obscure from fame, has any memory of having starred, of having lost it, of having to find a way to make up for later disregard? From a rhetorical point of view, the poem becomes incoherent here, but the incoherence is interesting and calculated: an expressive sign.
Be it Hollywood's heroines or poet, talking contemptuously to and at oneself, looking down the road at a possible fare that they would not be able to say they hadn't chosen, were it to turn out to be his - because they had made the decision to commit themselves to fame's course, within the cruel range of choices that this utilitarian and capitalistic world offers. It comes with the territory.



The ambitious especially have to carry wares that are so hard to unload. America's ambitious lot, are all like the biblical Abishag, who, though young and beautiful, could not warm King David: she could not arouse him, and her trying only degraded her. "Provide Provide"  paints the terrifying prospect of getting old and ugly in no unequivocal terms. It is described as bluntly and vividly as possible.

Robert Frost doesn’t mince words and refuses to whitewash the hard realities of life. The world & Nature are essentially unconcerned about human welfare or wellbeing. The onus to provide for oneself squarely lies on one’s own self come what may, under all circumstances. Morals and ethics may fail to garner support or friendship for oneself in the end.


Terrifying? Yes and no. Superficially yes, actually not. Nowhere does Frost want you to show your back and run away. The poet neither suggests escapism nor a cowardly exit from this world. Rather, there is a clear cut call to gird up your loins and provide provide, whatever the circumstances, whatever the situation to the best of your ability.

Trilling had indeed shocked everyone by stating,''I regard Robert Frost as a terrifying poet,'' for he found distinct grimness in Frost's poems. Later Trilling sent a letter to Frost apologizing for the stir his remarks had caused. ''Not distressed at all,'' Frost wrote back. ''You made my birthday a surprise party.'' Frost said: ''No sweeter music can come to my ears than the clash of arms over my dead body when I am down.'' Frost is gone but the clash of arms will continue on the interpretation of his wonderful poems that have unparalleled depth and appeal. "Provide Provide" is certainly one among them.
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Australian Multiculturalism: Is There Tolerance or Racism in Australia?

Tolerance is the ability to withstand difference of opinion, plurality of culture, race and religion in a society. It presupposes patience towards any clash of interest arising out of this plurality and diversity. Tolerance is an approach that aims to develop a society bereft of confrontation and conflict. Tolerance is neither an agreement nor an acceptance of a particular culture or way of life rather it is an attempt at agreeing to the reality of its existence anyways.

Multiculturalism
Tolerance expects a person to accept such cultural differences without a public display of agitation or resentment. It boils down to the theory of live and let live where everyone is supposed to grant one another space to exist and progress within a socio-cultural framework.In spite of seemingly good concept, tolerance has its detractors. They feel that the term is not as plausible or practical as it may seem.

According to its critics, the call for tolerance has in itself the undertones of intolerance. Tolerance is required when there is intolerance towards something or against something. It clearly states a condition where one who has been urged to be tolerant has the inherent power to be intolerant.Interesting thought indeed! While one sets out to explore the true nature of Australian multiculturalism, one can't miss the presence of lurking intolerance and racism towards migrants, especially racism in Australia against Indians. Lately, Australia has been in news for all the wrong reasons. It has earned huge flak for not being able to contain growing instances of severe & violent intolerance towards students migrating from India.

Hage emphasizes, “Rather, it is that those who were and are asked to be tolerant seem to remain capable of being intolerant, or to put it differently, that the advocacy of tolerance left people empowered to be intolerant” (21). Thus, an insistence on tolerance is also an acceptance of the fact that there is intolerance against something and the intolerant have the power to retaliate when they choose to do so.

Before 1970, Australia followed the policy of assimilation rather than tolerance towards migrants. The country, at that time, followed the ‘White Australia’ policy and expected migrants to relinquish their distinct identity and to follow the Australian culture, values and way of life. Since, this policy of assimilation did not yield the desired results; the Australian government had to look for a suitable alternative. Multiculturalism became a state sponsored policy in mid1970s. It provided the migrants cultural and religious space in Australian multicultural society. It envisioned social justice and equality for the migrants.

Tolerance became the ruling word to promote freedom of all religions, cultures and social entities. Australia’s policy of tolerance aimed at developing a pluralist cultural egalitarian society based upon mutual respect and regard. The government wanted, “to turn the classrooms of the nation into crucibles of tolerance” (23) in the interest of the nation.

Undercurrents of Racism
Although, multiculturalism and tolerance have made the lives of Australian migrants far conducive than ever before, the fact remains that a lot is still desired to be done. Undercurrents of intolerance and racism are far too obvious to miss or ignore. Continuing attacks on migrants and students from India have resulted in grievous injuries and also deaths in several cases. undoubtedly, this is a indeed a cause of grave concern. Such murderous racial attacks smack of growing intolerance among certain sections of Australians. This indeed is a clear threat to Australia's multiculturalism.

Prejudices, racism and social inequality continue to dog the Australian multiculturalism. Tolerance has proved to be a mere slogan that has failed to check racism and prejudices against the Non English Speaking background people. The social equality and social justice can only be promoted through something far more concrete and practical than a call for tolerance. In the absence of any strict action against discrimination and racism, the appeal for tolerance remains meaningless. The principle of tolerance clearly puts the victim on the receiving end as he is at the mercy of the tolerant.

Tolerance is unrealistic in expecting the intolerant to be tolerant and charitable. Hence, tolerance can neither change the power structure nor can it bring real equality in society. Actually, the idea of tolerance serves the purpose of the dominant culture more than that of anybody else.

In such a scenario, the principle of tolerance becomes a fa├žade to hide domination as a form of egalitarianism. This also provides the majority culture in Australia with a chance to have the best of the both worlds. Hage quotes Bourdieu, “In short one can use the objective distances so as to have the advantages of proximity and the advantages of distance, that is, the distance and the recognition of distance that is ensured by the symbolic negation of distance” (28).

Hence, Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) Australians, many hailing from India, are thus positioned in a particular social space where they are deemed to be equal but remain unequal. Hage feels that this creates a situation in Australian multiculturalism where the migrant culture doesn’t exist on its own rather it exists only because of the generosity shown by the dominant culture. Thus, tolerance becomes the discretion of the mighty dominant culture. It places the Anglo-Celtic Australians on a high pedestal wherefrom they choose whether to be tolerant or not towards other cultures.

Racial Attacks on Indian Students in Australia
This robs Australian multiculturalism from calling itself an egalitarian society based upon the principle of equality and social justice. Marcuse clarifies, “The highest point which man can attain is a community of free and rational persons in which each has the same opportunity to unfold and fulfill all of his powers” (101). The dominance of the Anglo-Celtic culture puts the migrants in Australia in a precarious position where they exist till those who tolerate them decide against it. Thus, the dominant culture sets unreasonable limits of existence on the migrants within the hegemonic order in Australian multicultural society.

Had the Australian society been truly multicultural, there would have been no reason for the Anglo-Celtic Australians to keep harping about the need to tolerate the NESB people. The very reminder of tolerance towards them positions the migrants in a position of disadvantage and on a weak ground. The repeated reminder about the migrants that ‘they’re Australians too’ is an affront. It puts a visible question mark on their status in Australian multicultural society as a citizen.

Otherwise, why Anglo-Celtic Australians should be reminded time and again that migrants are Australian too! Is the same thing done in the case of the dominant culture ever? Never, because the Anglo-Celtic Australians consider themselves to be the unchallenged owners of the Australian land and its resources; what to speak of the migrants, even the natives are denied this status! The very reminder of tolerance towards migrants unequivocally points to their flawed positioning within the socio-cultural boundaries in Australia. In spite of the policy of tolerance, the Anglo-Celtic Australians still largely control the lives of the migrants and call the shots in Australia.

Hage is particularly intolerant about the meaningless polls about Australia’s immigration policy held so often in Australia. The fact that scant regard is accorded to the opinion of the masses reduces the entire exercise to, “a ritual of empowerment, a seasonal festival where Anglo-Australians renew the belief in their possession of the power to talk and make decisions about NESB- Australians" (29). Hence, the tolerance towards the migrants in Australia is only in a limited sphere and the limits for the migrants are set by the Anglo-Celtic Australians. These limits are deliberately drawn in an order where the control continually rests with the dominant culture.

Cultural and Racial Divide

This business of setting limits on other cultures is to deny the true meaning equality and justice. In spite of a shift in policy, the Anglo-Celtic Australians have not relinquished their domineering role at all. They still decide what to appreciate in migrant culture or not. This grants them the power to value the ‘Otherness’ of the ‘Other’ negatively or positively, as per their whims and fancy. Such a valuation of the ‘Other’ can never be correct due to the inherent element of bias involved.

While talking about culture Marcuse underlines the importance of idealism and higher values in life. A society based upon narrow mindedness is imperfect, incomplete and unjust. We can realize our desire or demand for a happier social existence within Australian multicultural society only when the flawed policy of tolerance gives way to sincere dispensation of true equality and respect to the migrant cultures on all planes.

Marcuse emphasizes, “By their very nature the truth of a philosophical judgment, the goodness of a moral action, and the beauty of a work of art should appeal to everyone, be binding upon everyone. Without distinction of sex or birth, regardless of their position in the process of production, individuals must subordinate themselves to cultural values” (94). This goes to prove that goodness begets goodness, justice breeds peace and equality creates an atmosphere of bliss and happiness. The Australian multicultural society has yet to meet this ideal model. The Australian dominant culture has yet to show true magnanimity and sense of accommodation that comes from within. Mere tolerance can’t put an end to racism or social injustice rather it reproduces it; while it appears to mitigate it.

Hage finds ‘tolerant racism’ in Australia no less objectionable or dangerous than ‘intolerant racism’. While the ‘intolerant racism’ is direct and predictable, ‘tolerant racism’ is indirect and subtle. The tolerant racism is in a way a government supported racism originally born out of intolerant racism of the past. Hage points out, “In Australia.........tolerant racism is far more pervasive historically and has constituted, and continues to constitute, the core of most racist regimes, from slave societies to societies structured by the exploitation of ethnic/racial industrial, domestic and cultural labour and 'value'” (33). It emanates from post-colonial intolerant racism and still suffers from that crude mentality.

As a result of it the positioning of the migrants and their value in the limits set by the dominant culture can never be praiseworthy. According to Hage, Australia’s “tolerant racism is the racism of the government of Otherness” (34). Tolerance as a state policy has failed to guarantee Australian migrants their fundamental right to occupy a position of equality in Australian society. Their position in the socio-cultural boundaries is indeed less than that of a full fledged citizen.

Visible Intolerance in Australian Multiculturalism

The condition of the migrants in the multicultural Australian tolerant society is similar to that of the proletariat at the hands of the bourgeoisie who were merely awarded abstract equality. The absence of equality in capitalistic terms denied them material gains that the bourgeoisie craftily wanted to keep for themselves. Thus, the universality of happiness could not be realized due to this concrete inequality prevalent in a bourgeoisie society. Similarly, the Anglo-Celtic Australians have provided the migrants only abstract equality through their policy of tolerance and multiculturalism. The NESB people still don’t enjoy the true happiness of social existence that emanates from complete and concrete equality.

The bourgeoisie wanted to keep a plausible face by superficially upholding the principle of equality for all. At the same time, they didn’t want to make it obvious that nothing much has actually changed on the ground for the proletarians since the exit of the reprehensible feudal system. On the same lines, the Anglo-Celtic Australians due to similar mindset can’t afford to seem discriminatory towards the migrants; hence the need to practice the self-serving smart gospel of toleration.

Australian policy of toleration tends to kill two birds with one stone; the migrants are kept subservient to the dominant culture and the tolerant don’t sound racist even when they are in reality. The fact remains that practically little difference has occurred in the thinking or working of the Anglo-Celtic Australians since the end of the ‘intolerant Australian’ era of pre 1970s.

It is interesting to compare Australian policy of toleration with the bourgeoisie art of deception and diversion. The bourgeoisie wrested power from the feudal lords with the help of the proletariat by raising the slogan of ‘equality for all’. Once they achieved power, they kept most of the material and concrete privileges unto themselves. To the criticism of injustice, the bourgeoisie advanced the lame principle of ‘affirmative culture’ which essentially happened to be a smart diversion than anything else.

Tolerance Australia Style !
They gave passionate slogans regarding the welfare of the general humanity, beauty of the soul and freedom etc. These slogans were carefully designed to achieve ‘self-justifying exaltation’ and didn’t provide any real succor to the common man. Marcuse points out, “Man does not live by bread alone; this truth is thoroughly falsified by the interpretation that spiritual nourishment is an adequate substitute for too little bread.” (109). The Australian slogan of tolerance is equally hollow and the tolerated within the hegemonic order continue to remain marginalized and underprivileged.

The idea of happiness works at two levels; one ideal and the other worldly. The happiness through material comforts and possessions is tangible and belongs to the physical world. The happiness of the soul and spirit pertains to world of idealism and happens to be intangible and abstract. The Australian policy of tolerance secures the tangible happiness for the dominant culture and leaves the migrants to suckle on the intangible and the abstract. Hence, the migrants are left to continually search for the elusive happiness and striving for the unattainable.

Marcuse points out, “False philosophy can, like theology, promise us an eternal happiness and cradling us in beautiful chimeras, lead us there at the expense of our days or pleasure. Quite different and wiser, true philosophy affords only a temporal happiness. It sows roses and flowers in our path and teaches us to pick them” (100). True happiness, thus, can never spring from a flawed philosophy or a doubtful ideology. The policy of toleration is flawed and deliberately designed to meet a particular objective of the dominant culture.

The ultimate objective of all human existence is happiness. This happiness cannot be achieved through mere pursuance of material goals. Australian multicultural system heavily banks upon material considerations and it can never guarantee true happiness. Marcuse says, “But in the affirmative culture, 'the soulless' regions do not belong to culture. Like every other commodity of the sphere of civilisation, they are openly abandoned to the economic law of value. Only spiritual beauty and spiritual enjoyment are left in culture.”

Australian policy of toleration never loses sight of the material interests of the dominant culture. Such a culture in tends to be ‘soulless’ and hence essentially ‘joyless’ for most. Marcuse further clarifies, “Schiller says that the 'political problem' of a better organization of society 'must take the path through the aesthetic realm because it is through beauty that one arrives at freedom'” (117), and the lasting happiness that comes with it.

Real culture aims to establish a nobler world rather than a merely better world. It is a world based upon true freedom, equality, goodness and genuine respect for one and all. Although it doesn't desire to overthrow 'the material order of life’, it aims at an equitable distribution of material resources and fulfillment of an individual's soul. It is based upon internal realization rather than mere external show off.

True Multiculturalism: Need of the Hour
True culture spreads and prospers through 'proper behaviour: exhibiting harmony and reflectiveness even in daily routine (Marcuse 103). Hence, true culture is common to all. It is all embracive and sustains all through spontaneous spiritual bonding. It is such a cultural policy that can really bind and bond Australia together.

In such a society, there would be little room for domination or exploitation of one culture, race or ethnicity by another. The unity and harmony of such a culture would be Australia’s ultimate guarantee of perennial peace and long lasting happiness. No doubt, Australia has to do lot of introspection and put in lot of sincere effort to achieve such a noble goal.


Works Cited
Hage, Ghassan. “Locating Multiculturalism’s Other: A Critique of Practical Tolerance”. New Formulations 24:19-34

Marcuse, Herbert. “The Affirmative Character of Culture in Negations”. Essays in Critical Theory, trans. by Shapiro, J.J. (1972): 88-133.

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