Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hum Kisise Kum Nahin

I wonder if anyone has ever put these two movies together. Disney's The Kid starring Bruce Willis and Hum Kisese Kum Nahin starring Tariq, Rishi Kapoor, Ajit and the mampos sinexy Zeenat Aman.

Taimanu na bai hu na'dana este na dos? Maolek na finaisen.

There are probably alot of things which couldl be discussed from these two films, but what I noticed the other day that seemed worth mentioning, was the return of the child, and not just any child but you as a child.

In The Kid, Bruce Willis in confronted by himself at a very young age, when he was a seemingly hopeless fat kid. Together they investigate why the kid has appeared and ultimately work together to help Bruce Willis in the now confront portions of his life which he had long repressed in order to gain some consistency.

In Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, Kajal Kiran's character experiences her own return. Her and Tariq's father had made a pact when they were young to wed their children. As years have passed Kajal's father has become extremely wealthy and no longer has any intention of marrying his daughter to lowly Tariq. Kajal on the other hand still pines for her childhood love, yet when she meets him, she doesn't recognize who he is. After Tariq performs a charade to get closer to her (umbee this is a Hindi movie), Kajal rebukes him and mistreats him, pushing him away. Before the action packed half an hour finale takes place (umbee this is a Nasir Hussain movie), there is a moment of tragic recognition between Kajal and Tariq. While on a date with Rishi Kapoor, Tariq come on stage and sings to Kajal the song of their childhood love, Kya Huwa, Tera Vaada? Vo Kasaam, Vo iraada.

As the song is being sung, Kajal imagines Tariq and her as children on stage, singing the same song. As the chorus begins, the camera focuses in on Kajal ni' patgon and she sticks her finger out rebukingly and asks, kya huwa tera vaada?

What struck me as interesting about this two films, was the different interpretations of how things "return" to us, such as things forgotten or repressed from childhood. These films propose different ways of thinking about it, one obviously provides more agency to the self. The return of the repressed, the means in which it strikes back, shakes and rattles, but does not disintegrate anything. Instead their incorporation is negotiated, is something which is worked on together. This return is hardly seen as oppressive but more as something which will help you to grow as a person.

The other however proposes that this return is far more painful and less in the hands of the self. It does not come as a "nihi ta fancho'gue este, maila" or a friendly visit, but is instead a harsh injunction, a demeaning and horrifying reproach.

The difference in the two interpretations comes based on what this returning other, this child knows. In The Kid, both Bruce Willis and him as a child are in the dark as to the thing they have forgotten. Because in this film, the child doesn't know it yet, the thing that returns exists prior to the thing that was repressed. Thus, this repression is revealed together and discovered together, keeping the self more intact, because it isn't threatened by the knowing of the other that it has encountered.

In Hum Kisise Kum Nahin the returning child knows all and that is what is so horrifying.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Litratu siha

Un nuebu na tano' matto. Matulaika i lai guin giya Blogger ya para mo'na sina in na'hiyong i litratu-ta siha fa'setna. Estaba guaha downloads yan otro na inatkagueti, lao pa'go, ti mappot.

Magof hu mampos put este, sa' enlugat di i tinige'-hu ha', sina hu na'li'e hamyo i pinenta-ku siha. Yanggen un na'tunok i inatan-mu, pon fakcha'i unu pinenta-ku. Enaogue tes, sa' ti gof siguru yu' taimanu ma'cho'cho'cho este, lao esta gof exicted hu put i sinina siha.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Linachi grammar

I've already gotten some wonderfully annoying responses from my last post where I was complaining about the seriously undiscussed contributions of fluent speakers of Chamorro to the loss of the language.

I should be use to this sort of thing by now, after all, each time I publish a zine and there is Chamorro somewhere in it, I get a flood of emails from concerned citizens who take from their busy schedules of saving the Chamorro people and language, to tell me all the things wrong or bad about my Chamorro. If these were actually mistakes or typoes, then the correcting might actually be welcome, but it usually never is. (oh and if there is a typo, its treated as if I don't know how to speak the language, according to one speaker who went back into my writings from like years ago, he confronted me with "sinangan Maria" and told me he had no idea what this meant. Well if he had noticed that it was a typo and not my actual grammar, maybe he could have saved us both some grief. Because if you see it as typo instead of some pathological error, then its really really easy to figure out what it means.).(I'm not perfect though, and I know very well that my Chamorro is very rough. But properness has never mattered much to me in anything, so why should language be any different?)

The emails always let me know that they just want to help and make sure I speak the language and write the language properly, at which point they proceed to push on me their personal preferences for Chamorro language all the while slashing apart mine.

There was one incident recently which cemented in my head that when people talk about proper grammar, be very very wary. Be wary of anyone who says that they are teaching you to speak the proper way, because it just might not be so at all, and the problem is, if you are learning, you have no way of really knowing if they are actually helping you or just don't like the way you talk.

This incident I'm about to relate just made it clear to me, that grammar needs to be rethought, because there are too many inconsistencies for someone to just say "here's proper grammar."

In the last zine I put out in July, there was an article there on i difunton Angel Santos who passed away in 2003. I titled it Fanhasso Si Anghet.

To date I've received emails from more than a dozen different Chamorro linguistic good samaritans telling me that Fanhasso Si Anghet is incorrect. Based on this fact alone, one might think, well then saying Fanhasso Si Anghet must be incorrect, all those people are telling you its wrong. Nope, sorry, its not that simple.

True all the emails I got did tell me it was wrong, but the emails also gave me four different ways of saying it "correctly" most of them insisting that the one way they said it was the correct way.

Accordingly, fanhasso Si Anghet was supposed to be each one of these alone and all of them at the same time.

Hasso Si Anghet
Fanhasso As Anghet
Fanmanhasso Si Anghet
Fanmanhasso As Anghet

(and naturally I was given English translations as to what each meant, and people's translations of them and what they were supposed to me, of course varied a great deal. Some saying that this was plural, others saying it wasn't. Some saying that this was an imperative, others saying this one is the imperative. (not using the word imperative, but saying its a command)).

Why do people cling to certain grammatical rules when there is so much diversity in the language? It makes no sense to me, except selfishness and the love of correcting people. Each person must have gotten a kick out of telling me that this one way, or these two ways were correct and the way I had said it was not. But then someone else would tell me the exact opposite.

It must take alot of denial to say that there are particular proper ways of speaking Chamorro, thus denying these inconsistencies. Or you can do as most people do and say, "you can say that, but its not proper," which of course if you actually think about it, makes no sense whatsoever.

I have so many problems with this mentality. Because this mentality is very much colonial, because it relies on the idea that our language is dictated by some abstract principles and not the people who actually speak it. So often people tell me that a way of saying something is just completely wrong, so I often ask, how many people do I have to show you that use this way of speaking before it right? Before its proper? Does it have to be like this? Is our language supposed to be a pissing match? I should hope not.

To end this rant, the most aggrivating thing about this nonsense, is that I get more emails about grammar and spelling issues, then the actual content of the zine on a regular basis. Its good to know that there are people out there preserving our language and making sure its "proper." Now if only they could get around to actually teaching the language to someone, then we'd be in good shape. I can say this though, because the people who do hassle me, they are never actual teachers of Chamorro. They are always people who talk endlessly about what we can do, but you rarely see them doing anything but talking. People who are on the front lines of language transmission, they probably realize that there is more important work to be done then hassling me about every tiny little nit picking detail.

Language Losers

I recently watched the Seinfeld episode "The Move(s)/ Assman," and for me it could used to make a good point about language loss amongst Chamorros. In the episode, Jerry pisses off David Puddy who is the only honest mechanic in New York. So while Jerry tries to find another mechanic after his car starts making noises, he thinks they are all cheating him on their estimates, (making them up). George looks at him like he's a retard and says oh course their making them up, no one knows anything about cars, they could say anything!, Oh looks like you need a new Johnson rod!

Chamorros who are attempting to learn their language as an adult are confronted with something similar. A language which is hardly unknown to them, from which they must rely on mechanics or fluent speakers to help them know it. But the problem is, and what deters alot of Chamorros from following through and actually becoming fluent in the language, is that fact that these mechanics might be cheating them.

I'm writing about this partially out of frustration. I've spent the past few weeks discussing this on my message board and constantly bumping up against people who consider themselves fluent in Chamorro and thus feel that they can proclaim mandates on others about what is proper and improper Chamorro. Here we encounter the infamous Johnson rod. And sadly arguing against this seems to be for most people like arguing against common sense.

Those fluent in Chamorro know all the rules right? They therefore should pass it on, and correct those learning right? In a perfect world perhaps, but sadly alot of times Chamorros learning Chamorro are not being played straight with, and that is what irks me.

When I was learning Chamorro nearly all corrections from those more fluent then me came in the form of, "what you've said is wrong, say it like this-." At first I often heeded this sort of thing, because I felt, well they know it better, I should probably listen to them. But as aI became more fluent, I realized that often times when I was corrected and told that I was wrong, I actually wasn't. The person who had corrected me just had a different preference for speaking, and thus used my lack of knowledge of Chamorro to impose that preference on me as if it was a law written in stone.

Conversations about language loss and survival in Guam tend to center on the young Chamorros who have no interest in learning their language. They fixate the problem on them, (they don't care, they have English everywhere, they don't see the value). But if we are truly serious about this, then that critique must be focused on the fluent speakers as well, because they have played a huge role in confusing and deterring language learners.

Natural speakers of Chamorro are becoming less and less common on Guam, and so what has happened for so many (especially those who are educated) is that their knowledge of Chamorro feeds directly into their ego and they tend to look down on those who don't speak Chamorro. This becomes very apparent in the ways that these Chamorros overcorrect language learners, attempting to expel from the language ways of speech that are different then the way they are accustomed to speaking.

In my interactions with other Chamorros who were attempting to learn Chamorro, there was so much confusion over the behavior of the fluent speakers. These young Chamorros would ask relatvies, parents, grandparents for help in learning the language, yet when they would take their language to others, people would too often rudely tell them that they were incorrect and to speak another way. (I'm not referring here to teasing, but prohibitive statements that you are wrong to speak that way, not you sound funny.)

An interesting schism gets created with this, which is very very similar to what children experienced in pre-war Guam being educated in American colonial schools. What you learn in home would conflict with what you were taught in school and you would be stuck at an impasse, who is correct? The impasse was created because the person who corrected you didn't say that the way you spoke was just another way of saying it, they said that it was wrong.

This egotistical behavior of "natural" or fluent speakers has contributed significantly to Chamorro confusion over language as well as decisions not to learn it and just speak English instead. But sadly, most fluent speakers refuse to even consider this and focus on other things.

Some might think that my comments are overlysensitive, but if you consider the linguistic landscape of Guam today, who is going to learn Chamorro and be overly hassled when you could speak English with less fuss? As I often say, I'm not against correcting those who speak and are not understood, but I am very much in favor of allowing different forms of Chamorro to exist and not impose our personal ways of speaking onto others.

The most common response I get to this, is an annoying common sense remark like "but we have to teach them properly before they can even speak different forms." A ridiculous remark for anyone who actually considers what they are saying. Who decides what is proper? The variations within a language are alot more expansive then people admit to, so who gets to decide what is proper, since to say proper is different to say comprehensible. People might try to make them mean the same thing, but they don't.

Proper is a prescriptive term which is meant to defend and protect a particular way of speaking or thinking, but I feel that this mentality is what will hold us back in revitalizing our language. This overemphasis on semantics and speaking "properly" shows that however much fluent speakers try to defend themselves as preserving Chamorro the way it should be spoken, they are thinking in modern linguistic terms about how a language is supposed to be. Chamorro is an oral language and that is what I love about it. Its creative and supposedly to be constantly changing, using old words for new things, throwing stuff together to form new phrases, etc. But those who overemphasis properness are killing this, by forcing Chamorro to conform to modern and primarily written ways of thinking about language.

I must note though that this is not directed at manamko' or older fluent speakers. My primary concern is fluent speakers who are educated and thus feel that they have all the right in the world to impose whatever they want. They are fluent in Chamorro and fluent in modern thought, so therefore nothing is supposed to critique them right? It is this attitude which I so detest, because these people often claim to be preserving something indigenous and old, etc, yet are just forcing our beautiful language to conform to Western rules.

But of course, this is something that most will never admit to, because they have the fortunate of having the colonizing common sense notions of language on their side. In reality, the most different ways people learn and speak Chamorro the better, and with regards to proper grammar, their may be some points, but not as many as people make it seem. In reality, there are so many variations within a single language that to cling too much to particular forms of grammar show that you're really only thinking of yourself and not the survival of the language.

I therefore challenge people who want to speak Chamorro to perserve despite what anyone says. Be creative with the language, if someone tells you that "that doesn't sound right" but they understand it, continue to use it. Comprehension is the key in language, proper grammar is something which people invented to protect the way they speak. So long as you are understood that is all that matters.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

hu testes este

Hu testes yanggen ma'cho'cho'cho este.

Chamorro Hip Hop?

After so many months of endless discussion about Chamorro Hip Hop I finally decided to give it a shot. As I've said before, I don't have anything intrinsically against Chamorro Hip Hop, I think its a fine idea, but what does it mean to seek this? Why desire it? Why not just be a Chamorro that makes Hip Hop? Why the need the put Chamorro in front of it? Also, what are the mechanics that would make it so? Language? Content? Musical style?

The problem when people say they are making this is, they assume that because they're Chamorro, what they make will be Chamorro Hip Hop. Sometimes I am very willing to believe this, but other times I like to get into the identity and cultural issues that are being ignored when this takes place.

But to make things clear, there shouldn't be a singular definition anyways. It shouldn't be that only Hip Hop lyrics in Chamorro are really Chamorro Hip Hop, or that only songs which use the belambaotuyan are really Chamorro Hip Hop. Its not my intent to establish a government approved form for deciding this issues, but more so just to open this problem up. Because when someone attends to this questions, when someone decides to reflect for a moment on these issues and then create, that's when I'll say its Chamorro, as opposed to thinking, whatever I create will be Chamorro Hip Hop.

So what was my attempt at making Chamorro Hip Hop? Well, for years my brothers have been trying to get me to freestyle rap. Sometimes I try it, but only when I can find a song that I really like (such as "Watermelon" by Herbie Hancock). While listening to the Samurai Champloo soundtrack last week I came across track 7, "Vagrancy." Okay, that track was incredible. So simple, yet very forceful (with a oldstyle organ in the background, damn!). So I listened to the track a few times, accustomed myself to the beat, and then started freestyling.

I decided to try and freestyle about the last thing a Chamorro Hip Hop artist would probably freestyle about, decolonization. And not just decolonization as in "yo decolonize!" but as in a sustained several minute try. It was really tough, because I could feel myself slamming up against the expectations that I've developed over the years of how this is supposed to sound (which all of us have but usually don't admit to). So I kept stopping myself from slipping into a mindless tirade about how awesome I, and tried to stick to my subject. If you're going to make this "Chamorro" then you'll have to go up against similar expectations about citations. Hip Hop has certain forms, will you yield to them? Will you ignore them?

For example, unless a story is being told, songs tend to go off all over. Broaching any number of topics. Would I do this? Would this make it less Chamorro if I decided to do so, because that's the standard form in other Hip Hop cultures? And thus, if I did go off and broach other topics, would it be because that's the expectations of the form I'm using, or just because I want to? Can you discern something like this? Would I break away from my intented point, because I want to, or because that's what I'm supposed to do?

I tried it in Chamorro, but it became very difficult after a while, because so many of the terms and concepts were political or social (which most Chamorro speakers aren't used to discussing in Chamorro. And when I say this I mean, in-depth discussion, not complaining about politicans and "mafix"), so I kept trying in English.

Was it Chamorro Hip Hop? I have no idea, but it was interesting to say the least.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

End of Evangelion

I've been watching and thinking about the anime Evangelion for months, ever since my younger brother made me watch it. Today I came across a fan wish story, which actually involved Evangelion, Ranma 1/2, Oh My Goddess and guess what? Hunggan, magahet hao, Guam!

That's as good a sign as any for me to hurry up and write about it.

For those looking for pop culture site to start learning about psychoanalysic, an ideal site would be Evangelion, with its remix, Evangelion: Rebirth and Death as well as its mulligan The End of Evangelion.

Even if you're only vaguely familiar with psychoanalysis ("tell me about you're mother"), its possible insights are way too palpable in Evangelion. First there is the obvious relationship between Shinji and his father, as well as the father's melancholic attachment to Yui his dead wife (which creates Rei). Then there is Shinji's never-ending desire for Rei, that he barely seems to understand (which could have something to do with their similar isolation and depression (something which Aska doesn't share, and thus sets her outside of them, this very act, driving her into isolation and depression) yet sadly might have something to do with the fact that Rei is his mother.)

For those who have more of a flair for Lacanian psychoanalysis, the One, yet Two of Yui and Rei will occupy you for a while thinking about the mysteries of the Woman as Not-All.

And we can't forget Zizek who might appreciate the incessant Christian trappings, but might more appreciate the twin endings of the series. In response to fan outcry that the initial ending to the series was too confusing or just plain sucked, a second ending was made The End of Evangelion. Interestingly enough, neither ending works on their own, in my opinion they only work when you think of them together. (otro fino'-ta, the ending in The End of Evangelion did feel alot like Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For as well as On Belief. The scene where Seele is meeting, quoting scripture, felt like the critique that Nelson Maldonado Torres made of Zizek in an article of his that I read).

Based on this, can we read Evangelion as attempt at atheism or agnosticism, and thus evidenced with the battles with different Angels, Kaoru's sacrifice and the fact that in The End of Evangelion, despite all Seele's planning the end did not go according to their plans, but followed some other path. (The faces of Seele as they become primordial goo felt something like C.S. Lewis' essays on conversion and revelation. Its is revolting either because it is beyond your control or because it is so matter of fact when it happens).

The notion of the AT field is a very interesting one. Especially since it is perceived as a terrifying weapon of the Angels, yet Kaoru reveals at the end that it is something which everyone has, and something everyone cannot exist without.

Then there's Shinji's character as the consumate hysteric, the original ending provides plenty of stuff to think about.

I've thought of more, lao esta chatangmak guini, ya matuhuk yu' didide'.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I just spent the last week in Hawai'i visiting my father and some friends. Its always an interesting experience when I spend time in Hawai'i and for so many different reasons, of which I'll soon be ranting about I'm sure.

I've spent most of the summer working on articles, papers, curriculums and comic books (yes, stay tuned, more soon on this) and so I decided that I would like to take a break for the six days I'm in Hawai'i.

Taking a break for me means reading alot of different kinds of books. Usually I'm pretty good at finishing them, but for some reasons I was so gagu on this trip that I didn't finish ANY of them. I did manage to start reading more than half a dozen books though. The problem is, that with school starting less than a month from now. I don't know if I'll get to finish them.

Anyways, here's a list of the books that I started but did not finish over the past week.

Wiggstein's Poker (on page 134)
The Perfumed Sleeve (on page 344)
They Know not What They Do (on page 128)
Whalerider (on page 12)
The War at the End of the World (on page 2)
Without Fear of Being Happy (on page 4)
The Pleasure of the Text (on page 33)
The Secret Guam Study (on page 140)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Politics of Friendship

Pumasehu yu' gi i hard drive-na iyo-ku computer, ya hu fakcha'i este na tinige'. Para i klas-hu Social Theory, kada na simana debi di hu fangge' unu na papet put i tinaitai-na ayu na simana. Ya-hu mamatto tatte gi i tinige'-hu ni' bihu, sa' sina hu li'e hafa matulaika, yan sesso mana'lemlem yu'.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Social Theory b
Professor Da Silva
May 16, 2005

Politics of Friendship

Beautiful book, too much so, which is why its beautiful. The play so obvious in the ways that statements are made and then retracted, how threads of arguments are taken and then swiftly abandoned. What we can see in this book, as well as others such as Spectres of Marx is a political change in Derrida. Spivak calls this change a shift from the guarding of the question, to the experience of the impossible.

To what do we owe this shift in Derrida’s public writing? Part of it no doubt has to do with his conceptualizations of the I and the Other, which some describe as Abrahamic in character. The “I” before the wholly Other who is the God of the Bible, quantum physical fairy tales, The Fundamental Fantasy around which all our little fundamental fantasies are organized around. We relate to that wholly Other as Abraham related to his God, in particular when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, for no other reason then to answer the call of the Other (which was completely unexpected). Relating to the wholly Other is this preparedness of unpreparedness for the Other who will arrive and request without any foreshadowing or forewarning.

What does this mean politically? From what I’ve read of Spectres of Marx, the wholly Other of today, to which we are all in some form or another responsibly answering its call, is the Market, is global capital. (it was listening to Ward Churchill on C-SPAN, when the attacks on him were starting, that helped me make this point. Although it was not what he was intending, in his description of how we all possess a lack of innocence with regards to globalization, I began to think about how we are all answering the call to an Other, for whom our responsibility seems to go beyond our ability to resist or articulate). It is important to remember that this public political turn for Derrida arrives after the Berlin Wall falls and Fukuyama has proclaimed the “end of history.” Capitalism and liberal democracies have won, all that remains is for the scattered pockets of local resistance to be submerged and incorporated.

But Derrida notes, that the liberal democracies or the ideals they are supposedly built upon have hardly won. Europe and the US are full of social and environmental problems, and continue to reek havoc across the world regardless of their victory.

It is only through conversation with a spectre can this particular relationship to this particular wholly Other be broken, transformed, irritated or just questioned. Thus Derrida in his text conjures up the spectre of Marx. He cannot commit himself to the Marx which has walked this earth in the Soviet Union and other places, which means he does not want to resurrect Marx, for this reason, and also because that would be a mistake since it would assume that Marx is already dead. Instead he must conjure up his spirit, because it is in this that Derrida sees both his debt to Marx (the radical critique) as well as a means by which the liberal democracies can be critiqued for their apparent failures to meet their own ideals, but also what those very ideals are anyways.

Therefore, if we are giving Derrida the benefit of the doubt, we should see his work as hauntological and not ontological. Hauntological of course like most of Derrida’s cool words holds a double meaning, it means the study of non-beings, ghosts, spirits, specters, the things of in-between, but it also in French means to frequent someplace, so that these ghosts are not one shot deals, but are always around us, visiting us. The conversations with them are what yields us our critical potential, are means of improvising, of discovering that other lost language.
This is a difficult text because Derrida resists continuously making what could be interpreted as political statements. He creates a history of politics and political community which reveals the importance of “friendship” and the “friend” when those who we now call political theorists were theorizing politically. Here we can see Derrida’s Freudian roots in his emphasis on the metaphor. In the movements around the concept of the friend, who is brother, who is enemy and so on, we can see the undeciability in the political, where the conscious desire is that of sameness of familiarity (the friend/brother), but the condition of the political is based on difference (the stranger/the enemy).

This is Derrida’s dilemma, in that concepts such as ethics, politics, justice, friendship are all experiences of the impossible. Caught between binary opposites which cannot do justice to the things they describe, we experience things only based on their (im)possibility. Such as “one can only forgive something which is unforgivable.” Friendship is only possible based on the undecidability between life and death, just as politics (as Derrida seems to hint) is based on the undeciability between friend and enemy.

As Heidegger’s ethics are built upon a conversation/confrontation with death (which leads to Care), Derrida’s ideas are similar in that politics, friendship, ethics, justice are confrontations with their own impossibility, which can be found in the trace. The trace is something which is always left behind in every moment, and hidden in that moment, suppressed by “metaphysics of presence” or whatever we inherited from the Greeks, is not just another past and another future (not mediated through the present/presence) but also our own death).

(The most mild form of this can be found in Derrida’s use of Freud’s mystic writing pad. However a much more lyrical version can be found in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Where the trace is a literal trace of shrapnel from a mine which is embedded in a girl’s brain.) (The connection which Zizek refuses to acknowledge between Lacan and Derrida can be found in the potentially productive relationship between the trace and the Real. In recent years, as his work has become more political Zizek has posited the Real as important politically. What Zizek describes but doesn’t acknowledge is how the Real and the trace are connected, yes through disavowal, but more importantly as disavowed points of collapsed temporality. While it is easy for us to complain about the “linear,” what is or would be beyond it remains beyond us to describe of think about. In the Real and the trace we can find hints of it, as is evidenced in popular film culture. Such as in the film Brazil, where the intrusion of the Real comes in the form of a meal which is part excremental waste and mouth watering image (the interplay that Zizek misses is temporal) or Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, with the draught from the unholy grail, or Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence which features “tangles” of virtual memory, which can loop infinitely. Part of the trauma of the Real in addition to its disturbing of fantasy space and dream continuity is the upsetting of modernist understandings of linear time)
Friendship is predicated on this death, thus life and friendship are works of mourning, we are always already mourning, because this trace always haunts us. To illustrate this, Derrida makes the point that when people become friends, the trace which is most obvious is the fact that amongst two friends, one will die before the other, thus each friendship is haunted by this isolation, that one will be forced to speak of their friend, only through the friend that they have in them, because it will be impossible to speak to them anymore. In his collection of eulogies or letters written for those who passed away, we can see this tension in how Derrida will talk of those, without speaking for them in a vile way, how to speak to them in (through) (with) death, without just humanizing them, without turning them into another version of the self, through which we speak (our narcissism).

Politics deals with a similar tension over enemies, over sameness. Aristotle proposes that friendship is about relating to another self, which is probably impossible, so subsequent thinkers recuperate this through fraternity. But this is necessarily a violent organization whether it be men forming fraternity in order to kill the father, or excluding women from politics by excluding them from friendship.

But as Derrida notes in Archive Fever, this violent move, this jealous move never just disappears. As soon as there is the One, there is murder, wounding. Because the One guards the Self against the Other. But in this violence against the Other, the sealing off of the Self to create the One, self-difference is created. But this difference is forgotten, the archive of this injustice both to the Self and the Other is erased as the One becomes the very violence it does to itself. This fundamental violence carries into political relationships and is never done away with. The One must always guard against the Other, but ethics and political friendship in Derrida’s mind can never be based on pure narcissism, but instead a form of narcissism which will let the Other be Other, which means dealing with the fact that in every friend, there lies an possible enemy. (This can be seen in such films as 3:10 to Yuma and Ram Gopal Verma’s Company) (I use narcissism here because one possible reading of the phrase “O My friend, there is no friend,” leads to the fact that we believe desperately in friends and friendship in order to believe in ourselves.) The problem is of course, that this letting the Other be Other is yet another experience of the impossible. As we’ve seen throughout history (such as the Jacobins in the French Revolution) or today in bad infinity experiments such as Dick and George’s War on Terror (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, etc.), the unconditional hospitality for the stranger or enemy that Derrida suggests will always conflict with the national impulse to destroy difference to force homogenization (The nation being built upon the desire for sameness of the familial). (It is of course for this reason (and countless others) that democracy is always to come, meaning an unfulfillable promise. All the desire for sameness in the universe can’t overcome the simple fact that the subject of democracy is the Cartesian cogito itself, abstracted of all its particularities (note that declarations of political community always begin with a phrase such as “all people regardless of …) and even the most fervent desire for homogeneity can never deal with the particular and pathological stains that democracy has when it comes into actual existence.)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

ESPN ta'lo

Just thought I'd share a letter I wrote to the editor of the PDN a few weeks back. I don't think they've printed it, so I thought I might as well share it here. Alot of the thoughts in this I've already made known on this blog or in Minagahet so if you're familiar with my whining it won't be that new. But nonetheless these problems are very real and very very invisible to just about everyone on Guam. The fact that these scandals are either horrifying or meaningless to most people shows how deeply colonization affects our understanding of what they take place and what they mean. We get horrified because these scandals question our Americaness or we don't care because they are just another reminder that we aren't American enough yet.

Anyways, here's the letter:

In all our lives there are regular moments where reality itself, in all its harshness appears before us and we are given two basic choices. We can either transform ourselves based on this revelation, or we can live in denial and “stay the course.”

In Guam, we call these encounters scandals, such as our most recent involving ESPN. While not wanting to contest the article as filth, I would like to remind everyone that these scandals happen all the time. But such is life in the colonies. Since we’re familiar yet different, we become the stuff of colonial fantasies: Island covered in snakes, employment deflowering virgins, and of course, natives who will marry the first sailor they come across.

When these movies, magazines, politicians, etc. constantly tell us that we are backwards, exotic or foreign, they are hinting at a reality few of us wish to confront, namely that we are not one with the colonizer, that we are not actually Americans.

One main reason why things rarely change on Guam is because instead of using moments like these to re-evaluate Guam’s political existence, we sink into denial and we use them to attempt to assert our so-called Americaness. We use them to try and overcome the colonial gulf that seems to forever separate us from being actual Americans. Whether it be an ESPN article, 9/11, or being left out of another Federal program, the response by everyone on Guam is always the same. Confronted with this division, people cry out, “We are Americans too!”

But if you scan the pages of the PDN following 9/11 you’ll see how even these claims unravel themselves. When people on Guam said, “Guam stands with America,” America responded by saying, “America thanks you,” always constantly referring to a division which all the flag-waving in the world could not overcome.

For those interested in Guam’s actual future, as opposed to just denying reality, it will all come down to what we do with moments such as these. So that the next time we are confronted with a scandal like this, which shrieks, “You are not Americans!” Instead of instinctively yelping, “Yes, we are!” We must yell back, “FINE!” and then use that moment to re-evaluate our relationship towards the United States and try to chart a future outside of this pathetic status of “Americans-in-waiting.”

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bai hu taigue na'ya

Just want to apologize to anyone who's looking for new posts. I won't be able to post for about a week or so, (bai hu tinane' bumisisita mamparientes-hu giya Hawai'i). I'll be sure to backpost once I get back to my computer in San Diego.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Tinige Third Space

Per the request of a handful I'm posting the text for the article I wrote last week for the anti-racist feminist zine Third Space. The title of it "Things to Do in Guam When You're Dead" interested some and wanted to know more about what I meant by the title.

Hayi matai? Ya yanggen matai hao taimanu guaha chine'gue-mu? Hafa kumekeilek-mu umbre? Fine'nina na diniseha-hu na fatta' yu'!

Rather then ramble on for several paragraphs and constantly miss my points because I keep thinking to myself, "didn't I already write this somewhere?"

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to do this. Meaning whether or not Third Space has rights to it or anything. But oh well, taya' guaha.

"Things to do in Guam When You're Dead"

People often ask me why I decided to go into academia. I’m a Chamorro, from Guam, one of the world’s last official colonies and a military base for the American Empire. Shouldn’t I be out in the streets where the real fight is, instead of wasting time in the Ivory Tower?

I usually answer them by talking about my grandfather. He is hardly an academic. Never finished high school, no college degrees, no scholarly articles. Yet, despite not being a regular attendee at any anthropological conferences, the language, the very voice that my grandfather uses to describe himself, is the same voice that the anthropologist uses to describe him. Theoretically, this shared discourse amounts to the death of my grandfather, myself and all other Chamorros. Getting over this “death” will require that we engage with anthropology and its presuppositions on as many levels as possible.

What Chamorros are ensnared in today is a form of colonization deeper than territorial occupation or economic blackmail, but one which infects the very act of seeing and speaking. After centuries of colonization by Spain, Japan and the United States, an almost invisible grafting has taken upon the minds, tongues and eyes of Chamorros. What this has accomplished is the trapping of Chamorros within the fantasies, language and most importantly the gaze of the anthropologist.

It is the institutional inconsistency of anthropology, that the very thing which they seek, is the thing they destroy with their very presence. The cruelest lie that indigenous people have been told and sadly believed is that the death or dying of their culture begins with language loss or lack of inter-generational sharing, in truth it begins with the anthropologist. To put it bluntly, for indigenous cultures the anthropological gift, is the gift of death.

The presence of the anthropologist is the look of Medusa. Because of what anthropology desires (a static, intimately knowable culture), and what it represents (Orientalist, markers of mobile modernity), all anthropologists find they will kill with their very gaze.

Take for instance Claude Levi-Strauss’ research amongst the Nambikwara in Brazil. In Tristes Tropiques he writes of the guilt he felt having poisoned this innocent people by showing them modern writing. But this corruption isn’t writing or the incorporation of “non-indigenous” technology; it’s the presence of the anthropologist. Every culture anthropology “discovers” dies or begins to die by virtue of its being discovered.

In Guam, despite superficial variations, anthropological writings have all echoed the same basic mantra, “I see dead people.” Similar to what Haley Joel Osment would no doubt testify from The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people who don’t know that they are dead.” Chamorros today are trapped in such a scenario. Life or death dictated by a gaze beyond their control, yet which they are forced to live and resist within.

The imposition of the gaze and our unknowing acceptance of it as our own shows up our speech and the ways we imagine culture. When speaking about Chamorro culture, our statements always draw out an unavoidable loss. Western history and anthropology dictate that the real Chamorros, or “ancient” Chamorros died centuries ago. The rest of us live outside this temporal wall, that authenticity of being unquestionably or comfortably Chamorro always inaccessible. This epistemology affects our perceptions, becoming the gaze through which we see ourselves. Thus despite the fact that there are nearly 200,000 Chamorros left in the world, nearly every Chamorro is predisposed to say that “there are no real Chamorros anymore.”

Philosopher Giles Deleuze once said, “if you are caught in the dream of another, you are lost.” Such is the predicament of Chamorros today. The true test for the future of our people, will not how to change our culture to compete in today’s “modern” world, but how to escape the fact that we live as the embodiment of anthropological fantasies! There is nothing intrinsic about this zombie-like life, always doubting our existences. Life is only like this, because we feel forced to accept certain assumptions about how culture works; what makes it authentic, what makes us alive or dead.

Breaking out of this gaze will depend upon Chamorros doing at least two things. First, engaging these presuppositions and recognizing in whose interests is it that Chamorro continue this dance of death? Second, Chamorros must confront this death and pass through it. Sounds simple, yet in a colonial landscape, little could be more frightening.

Turning to the first issue, it’s America that benefits from this extinction agenda. American colonialism in Guam since 1898 has been based on two things, the control of Guam’s territory for strategic military purposes, and second, the re-making of the Chamorro, so as not to threaten this control. To both these ends, the fundamental discursive point of American colonization has been to make it commonsensical for Chamorros that “there is no life without America.”

Earlier forms of colonization ran upon an economy of imposed binaries. The landscape and bodies of the colonized would be transformed into simplified binary choices, good/bad, white/black. But in today’s world, marked by “the end of history,” we would be lucky if we had even such a disagreeable choice. For those not fortunate enough to be “modern” all that remains are forced, impossible choices. Not good/bad, but good/ impossible. In a world where America offers itself, its freedoms and its beliefs as the ultimate panacea, on a small island like Guam, how could one imagine anything outside of this colonizer?

Over the years, the United States through education, health care and politics in Guam has made this crystal clear. Historians and anthropologists wrote extensively of the non-existence of Chamorros and their culture. Navy doctors proposed that without their aid Chamorros would soon become extinct. Signs demanding that Chamorros “speak English only” could be found everywhere and were backed up with fines and punishment. In schools, most anything local or Chamorro was instructionally absent. The intended lesson being, that the future lay with America, its history, its geography, its culture.

For those who denied these things, there were simple ways of dealing with them. For example, on children’s school papers if the word “Chamorro” was used, it was often crossed out and accompanied with commentary that “there are no Chamorros anymore.”

All this disciplining and degradation serves a purpose. It affirms the idea that there is no life outside America. That beyond it there is nothing but that impossible death on the other side of the binary. What this affects most specifically are attempts by Chamorros to decolonize their island.

Whether seeking more autonomy from the United States, a revamping of Guam’s educational system or something outside of late-capitalism, for the past few decades there have been both scattered and organized movements to seeking some form of decolonization. What has made these labors nearly impossible has been this consciousness that sees nothing but death outside of American control and influence.

“Decolonization is suicide,” is a phrase I commonly hear. For those whom colonizing convincing holds sway, it is already traumatic enough that we’re nowhere on the American flag, that we don’t vote for President or have any votes in Congress, but to move any further away from America would be to tempt death!

Because of the way decolonization tampers with already uncomfortable American identities of most Chamorros, even rudimentary discussions of it are vehemently opposed or silenced. This yielding to the mandates of the anthropological gaze is strategically useful for the United States. By stifling decolonization efforts, Guam’s status as a colony remains unblemished, as does the American military’s control over 1/3 of it.

Getting past this gaze in which we find life only through America and are forced to doubt our own existences, means staring into this death and seeing what might lie beyond it. Because confronting it and passing through it, despite the fear that it colonizes within us, is the path into freedom, into life itself.

When I try to discuss issues of decolonization with most Chamorros I am usually shut down through paranoid, hysterical questioning, about what the “morning after” decolonization would look like. “How will we survive?” “How will we make a living?” “What will education be like?” These questions are of course not meant earnestly, but instead designed to quiet me. To force me to admit and recognize that there is nothing beyond this gaze.

But forcing our way into and traversing these questions is the answer! If sincere, these questions reflect the shattering of commonsense. The death of Chamorros and their culture, the awesomeness of American style education or the erasure of the indigenous person in democracy, these are colonizing commonsensical notions that force our vision and speech, yet lie well beneath them, supposedly beyond questioning. While I have focused only on Chamorros, this is the task for indigenous communities everywhere, finding the courage to question what appears to be unquestionable. If we can dare to ask and answer these questions in earnest, there will lie the possibility for the revitalization, the reinvention of our peoples.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kamehameha Schools

Just received the following message from Jennifer Kanoelani Miyamoto, a Native Hawaiian attending school in California. For those unfamiliar with what is taking place in Hawai'i surrounding the Kamehameha School read on. Controversies such as this are important sites for those seeking to analyze how American idologies continue to colonize indigenous peoples. How discussions on "equality" and "democracy" take place in very narrow ways, yet to those within it seem to encompass the entire realm of possibility. For example, Bush's rhetoric on freedoms is actually incredibly narrow, despite the fact that whether you are on the right or the left in this country, you accept this wittled down conversation as if everything in the universe has been covered. For example, even Liberals who criticize Bush on his sowing the seeds of freedom, do not tamper with the bedrock notion that American does nonetheless have the corner market on it. Whatever anyone else has, its there, but no one in this country thinks its freedom.

Chamorros and other semi-American groups should be attentive to what takes place in Hawai'i. Its the front lines on the next waves of colonization and cultural destruction. Some might claim that Hawai'i is different since it is a state and therefore the Constitution music be respected, blah blah blah. But look around Guam, andyou'll see everyday conversations taking the same logic route. Where American colonizing conceptions about "rights" or "equality" about "democracy" about "freedom" all come into Guam and help develop new ways of destroying the indigenous people. Instead of them prohibiting the use of our language, stealing our land, destroying our culture, by just accepting American ideas about what a political society is supposed to be, we end up doing the job for them.

Before I ramble on too far, here's Jennifer's letter:

I read an update on Myspace and it triggered me to want to write this. I found out about this court decision through my family and I wanted to spread the word.

For those of you who don't know, Kamehameha Schools is a private school established by Princess Ke Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop, great-granddaughter and last royal descendant of Kamehameha the Great.

"Princess Pauahi had witnessed the growing influence and domination of foreigners and the physical and social decline of her people. During her lifetime she had seen Hawaii’s native population decline from 400,000 at the time of Hawaii’s European discovery to fewer than 45,000 people in 1878. Believing that education was the only force which could reverse the hopelessness of her people, three years after the 1880 census, Princess Pauahi created her Will as an instrument for change; among the seventeen articles related to her wishes after her death, one article, the thirteenth, contained instructions to create and maintain The Kamehameha Schools."

Similar to other areas of the United States where shameful political decisions are steadily overturning progress made towards educating minorities... in the State of Hawaii, On August 2nd, 2005 the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the schools' 117-year-old policy of offering admissions preference to Hawaiian applicants.... preference that was clearly stated in Ke Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop's Will!!

Among Hawaiian Children and their Families it is an honor to be accepted to Kamehameha Schools because of it's legacy that extends for over 100 years (1887-present) FOR the Hawaiian people.

In the United States an individual's Will and Testament is considered a "legal" document. Princess Bernice Bishop's Will has been the guide for Kamehameha Schools. Here is the excerpt from her will regarding Kamehameha Schools:

Ke Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop (1831-1884)Wills and Codicils
"Know all Men by these Presents, That I, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the wife of Charles R. Bishop, of Honolulu, Island of Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, being of sound mind and memory, but conscious of the uncertainty of life, do make, publish and declare this my last Will and Testament in manner following, hereby revoking all former wills by me made:

Thirteenth. I give, devise and bequeath all of the rest, residue and remainder of my estate real and personal, wherever situated unto the trustees below named, their heirs and assigns forever, to hold upon the following trusts, namely: to erect and maintain in the Hawaiian Islands two schools, each for boarding and day scholars, one for boys and one for girls, to be known as, and called the Kamehameha Schools.

I direct my trustees to expend such amount as they may deem best, not to exceed however one-half of the fund which may come into their hands, in the purchase of suitable premises, the erection of school buildings, and in furnishing the same with the necessary and appropriate fixtures furniture and apparatus.

I direct my trustees to invest the remainder of my estate in such manner as they may think best, and to expend the annual income in the maintenance of said schools; meaning thereby the salaries of teachers, the repairing buildings and other incidental expenses; and to devote a portion of each years income to the support and education of orphans, and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood; the proportion in which said annual income is to be divided among the various objects above mentioned to be determined solely by my said trustees they to have full discretion.
I desire my trustees to provide first and chiefly a good education in the common English branches, and also instruction in morals and in such useful knowledge as may tend to make good and industrious men and women; and I desire instruction in the higher branches to be subsidiary to the foregoing objects.

For the purposes aforesaid I grant unto my said trustees full power to lease or sell any portion of my real estate, and to reinvest the proceeds and the balance of my estate in real estate, or in such other manner as to my said trustees may seem best.

I also give unto my said trustees full power to make all such rules and regulations as they may deem necessary for the government of said schools and to regulate the admission of pupils, and the same to alter, amend and publish upon a vote of a majority of said trustees.
I also direct that my said trustees shall annually make a full and complete report of all receipts and expenditures, and of the condition of said schools to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or other highest judicial officer in this country; and shall also file before him annually an inventory of the property in their hands and how invested, and to publish the same in some Newspaper published in said Honolulu; I also direct my said trustees to keep said school buildings insured in good Companies, and in case of loss to expend the amounts recovered in replacing or repairing said buildings.

I also direct that the teachers of said schools shall forever be persons of the Protestant religion, but I do not intend that the choice should be restricted to persons of any particular sect of Protestants."

The Kamehameha Schools will appeal against the court decision but it will cost more money, which as we all know has been limited over the past few years. If the ruling stands it means that non-Hawaiians will be able to apply to the Kamehameha Schools.

Though I myself am not an Alumnus from Kamehameha Schools I am very passionate about protecting Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop's vision and will. My Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Auntie and Father are alumni of this school therefore I understand it's honor and it's legacy.

You do not have to be of Native Hawaiian ancestry... but If you are against non-Hawaiians being able to attend Kamehameha Schools and upholding it's original vision... write me back and let me know if you would like to help fight against this. We will find some way, large or small to protect and uphold what was left for Native Hawaiian Children.... KU I KA PONO!!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Manamko Dating Advice

I've recently self-diagnosed myself as a dating hysteric. The social cues which we are supposed to collect throughout our lives, just don't make any sense to me. Even as I see them right before my eyes, taking place, I find myself uncertain what the hell is going on.

A few months ago (some of you who read this blog regularly for example), I met a girl who plays video games and I knew immediately that I was attracted to her. But interpreting some sort of return movement or reciprocal emotion was a completely different story. We spent an entire day together, and my mind ran at Pentium 5 speed trying to decipher what she was saying, how she was acting, whether any of it meant that she liked me.

You know you are a dating hysteric when dating feels more like combing through a pop culture database. We get our ability to feel attraction from the construction of fantasy spaces,which we build from elements of movies, popular images, people in our family, our childhood, etc. While I had so much fun that day, the processes in my mind would have made most people dizzy. Certain acts would be reflected onto certain acts I've experienced or seen in a movie or read about, and then refracted against something else. Certain statements would get the same treatment, as I'd sift through my mind for citations which either proved, disproved or confused attraction.

Treatment for this problem? First off all, this obvious failure does have its perks. The trauma of being so close to something, yet being unable to tamper with it, creates drive in other areas. The dialectics of desire can be killer, but they can push you in other places in ways that you never felt you could achieve. So for example, suffering as a dating hysteric for the past year has somehow converted me into someone who does their homework, actually has goals and occasionally overachieves.

Na'ma'a'ao no? Yanggen un tungo' yu' antes, siempre kalang linemlem hao ni' Guahu.

In other issues, I have often turned to the elder generations of Chamorros for their input. Since I returned to Guam for college several years ago, so much of my life has been determined by the wisdom or insight that I gain from speaking to and listening to i manamko' gi i lina'la', most importantly my grandparents. But, as most people would probably feel, dating advice from that generation of Chamorros, probably wouldn't be much use today.

Or would it?

The tendency to simplify things crassly is something both i manamko' yan i manhoben are guilty of. The pre-war generation of Chamorros speak of their younger years in Guam before 1941 as a paradise of simplicity. Chamorros lived simple lives, barely getting by, but happy with life. With this simplicity, comes unbearably overwhelming innocence. The Catholic Church and Chamorro parents prohibited all forms of dating and most pre-martial interactions between sexes (except for priests, but then again, maybe....okay, I was about to make a bad joke). So the stories of how Chamorro couples ended up together involve early morning meetings while doing chores such as making tatiyas or washing clothes. Or massive stealing of glances during church or at Saint Fiestas. Or my personal favorite, chule'guagua or cupids who assist in communication by singing songs on behalf of the lover or passing on messages.

Today, Chamorros tend to think of that era as simple, but in a slightly different way. First of all, dating is now very much possible (although most Chamorros would still contend that there is no word for it in Chamorro (except for dumate or dinate). Second, the ways and means of dating seem to be infinite nowadays. The back of i gima'yu'us or down by the metate aren't the only places to meet potential prospects. As I saw most recently in the film Must Love Dogs, on the internet alone there is almost too much dating there, that people tend to fetishize and desire the means itself, as opposed to what they thought their inital intent was (as the film clumsily gets across, what one soon seeks isn't more men, but more potential identities, more websites where the process itself can be re-visited or "dated").

When they refer to that era as simple, its because it seems easier. Today's world is supposedly full of billions of choices, whereas in pre-war Guam, supposedly your parents married you to the first person (not your relative) that dared speak your name in public.

Of course, this division is too simple and too easy. That is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the Ashriya and Vivek film Kyon! Ho Gaya Na, because hidden beneath the same old love story, there is an interesting critique of this supposed freedom, these supposed choices.

The drunken individualism through which people of today base most of their ideas about freedom and choice is also what common conceptions about dating are built upon. But these things usually don't make any sense to me. Dating is supposed to be between two people, two souls getting to know each other, other people aren't supposed to interfere, and when they do, something called "drama" is created.

This scenario however makes me pine for the days of the chule'guagua. Where there is no delusion that a relationship is about two people, and everything else incidental. But instead the third party minimum is recognized not as interference or merely "charming" but absolutely necessary.

For example, with regards to the beautiful video game girl, what I wish for almost as much as me telling her how awesome I think she is, is a cupid who could do that for me. But over the past year, when I 've asked people for this type of vicarious assistance, I usually get lame-ass cop out comments like, "I don't want to get involved" "ti malago yu' umentaluyi" or "your should tell her yourself, this should be between you guys."

Its late and this post is already long enough, but one could easily connect this point to how relationships today systematically create "third wheels" all over the place. These understandings about how couplehood works and therefore what a single, unattached friend must be interpreted as. Most currently single people out there will be familiar with this impulse, where you are actively made to feel like the third wheel when hanging out with your couple friends, or are constantly pushed to "bring someone else along" before you can see them.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Here is another one of those moments which one must recognize, if only because of the fact that it seems like the universe is trying to communicate something to you which you can't understand.

While googling "Guam" and "blog" I came across this interesting entry. I'm well aware of the US military presence in Guam (and wouldn't mind them quitting GUUAM), but Uzbekistan? Ai na triniste, este na dinigu, oh how I hardly knew thee....

Uzbekistan Officially Quits GUUAM
Uzbekistan officially announced on May 5 that it quits the GUUAM, a grouping of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova, the Georgian Foreign Ministry reported.
The Uzbekistani authorities sent an official notification about the decision to the Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who currently chairs the organization.
In keeping with comments and predictions made in my previous post it seems logical that given GUAM’s increasingly pro-west direction and recent announcement to help foster revolution in Belarus that Uzbekistan would become uncomfortable enough to quit. Its disconnectedness will now increase which will provide short term gains but ultimately make Uzbekistan more fragile.

Friday, August 05, 2005


One of my friends doesn't watch mainstream movies because the representations there are so lame sometimes. Thin characters, easy plots, base stereotypes and social roles. For example, while describing to him my affinty for Bollywood films, he claimed that he really wasn't into those types of films, because they drip in social messages about beauty, class, sexuality, gender and so on. For example, "you won't see any dark characters dancing around trees."

A fair, but easy point. One common amongst today's "critical" left. Its not that this point isn't true, for it usually is. But its more that this point isn't enough for anyone except the person doing the pointing out.

Getting past this point is one of the reasons why the study of ideology seems so important nowadays. Ideology is what helps us know what we are supposed to see. What in our lives we are supposed to be attentive to. So for example, in film consumption or viewing, there are different ideologies for different types of films. What is supposedly our natural reaction to things is dependent upon film ideologies. Think for example, about the ways in which you would discuss a subtitled film, or an action film, or a drama, or a porno movie. The things you draw from a film, depend on the things which you expected to look for. We are always actively viewing a film, however what are the things in it which we are actively engaging with?

This brings me to the film I saw earlier today, Stealth. An interesting film, because for those who follow a less common ideology for viewing it, the thing is a bonanza for complex social messages.

For example, pay close attention to the distribution of technology in the film, and see how the carrying of a certain weapon or the occupying of a certain vehicle is as much about race or nation as it is about plot. Characters are marked even before the are actually inserted into intelligability or the plot. As Bush is fond of referring to them, "the bad guys" are already known to us, but not just through the plot, but also by their skin color, their dress, and the types of weapons they use.

There is also something interesting if you were to think about vulnerability in movies such as this, or even in the real life situations this movie is meant to cite. If we take into account the technology rift, where the United States forces use the most high tech equipment, whereas its enemies use cow carts to carry nuclear warheads, then in terms of outright military strength, the United States is invulnerable. But invulnerable only from that could hurt it. This is an important but confusing point.

In the film, the United States forms a special Naval Air squad which can respond quickly and take out an trouble spot on earth very very fast and surgically. Those fighting against these forces can do little, their rifles no match against the most advanced fighters in the world. But the United States can nonetheless be hurt, as shown with the introduction of the AI fighter who goes haywire thus causing the death of one of Jamie Fox's character. But never from without, always from within.

Thus a crafty negation can always quickly and quietly take place to maintain the US nation. If ever an attack does take place against the United States, it can always be dismissed as something which the United States itself caused, by allowing it. Such was the radical (neo)conservative mantra common after 9/11. The greatest weapons our enemies have, is our freedoms. Thus ensuring that whoever these enemies are, they are not considering to be either powerful or human, and the invulnerability of the United States can be maintained, but those fearful of living life without it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

counter recruiter

Considering all the buzz over Guam's recent appearance in the New York Times over its super-status as a choice military recruiting site, I thought it might be prudent to post the following link.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What Lies Beneath

If an indigenous person from the Pacific were asked to name the movie that best represents the life of an indigenous person today, what would they chose?

Whalerider. An obvious choice, everyone seems to think its about indigneous survival. But when you really look at it, what are the problems that must be overcome? For them, survival is overcoming the indigenous obstacles that hold the Maoris back. The problem with this is that its too simplistic in a bad way. Its so simplistic, that it actually fits perfectly with recent statements by Bush Insular Deputy David Cohen, that the real problems Pacific Islanders face today are internal to their cultures, finding ways to get rid of those problems that are holding us back.

How about Once Were Warriors. For along time, the only movie for the Pacific outside of Elvis flicks,, Robinson Crusoe films and Tora! Tora! Tora! An inspiring film, however harsh. The answer to the problems that plague indigneous peoples today is to seek that spiritual center, only their cultures can offer. There are limits to this though, for the same reason as Whalerider. These representations of colonization, while striking ultimately give us a very narrow view of what colonization is and how it must be dealt with.

These representations play into the idea proposed by the United States envoys to the United Nations that "colonization" is effectively over. Colonization in the sense of something that must be resisted is gone from this world, what we have left are remenants that exist within each of us that must be dealt with in our own quiet isolated ways. What is left for us now is to sift through the ruins of our cultures and find what we can and use it to deal with our social and economic problems. What this can do is create some very inspiring narratives as both of these films show, but at the same time affirm dominant colonizing narratives about colonialism's end and what we must do on our islands and in our cultures. What these film's instruct us is that the answers and problems are both found within us and our cultures, never exploring not just historically how there are other less local factors involved (colonial), but how in contemporary life the agents of colonialism are still all around us!

With film such as Whalerider and Once Were Warriors we get a sense of agency that has long been denied to us. There is agency at the digetic level, how do the characters solve and resolve their social ills? Then just the existence of the films as well is a form of agency, the fact that there are films about islanders with actual islanders, recognized on a global level.

But at what costs? Most obviously the cost comes in what types of narratives get distributed, consumed and believed. One might say that these films meet "indigenous expectations," however such is not really the case. This brings me to the film I would chose to describe the plight of indigenous life today, What Lies Beneath.

Several weeks ago I posted on Terminator vs. Whalerider. I'm at last returning to that conversation. It is precisely these indigenous expectations, which allow us to enjoy a film like Whalerider so much and so easily that must be tampered with. These expecations which we don't take to heart, but instead feel as if they have always already been in our hearts. But these expectations are rarely intrinsic, instead they have been lain beneath our speech, our vision and our thoughts by centuries of colonization, militarism, neo-colonialism and orientalism.

It is these expectations that trap us and make it seem that our problems are not anyone elses but our own. In seeking to heal the wounds of colonization we need only find some small inspiration in what we once were and it'll keep us going. Thus once again, although these films might be hopeful, they are re-inventing the colonial wheel, by helping re-cast the docile, hospitable and friendly natives.

If Pai can traverse the rift with her grandfather things will be great! If only the boy from Once Were Warriors could get in touch with his culture! While these things are important, there are a whole slew of problems that our expectations of culture don't allow us to address aesthetically or politically. That is why I'm a fan of using completely inappropriate films to make my points. That is the only way in which these colonizing commonsensical notions can be shattered, is if we use something like Terminator or What Lies Beneath to reflect indigenous struggles.

Things to do in Guam When You're Dead

Despensa yu' sa' noskuanto na ha'ani desde pumost yu' guini. I just finished up an article for Third Space, a anti-racist feminist zine published out of the University of Victoria. Lana, I'm slowly learning how hard it can be to shrink down my rambling into 1500 words. Gos mappot umbre, sa' payon yu' nu este na klasin tinige' (gi i internet, kalang taihinekok).

The article turned out pretty good. I'm intending it to be the last chapter of my latest master's thesis out here in San Diego.

This past year has been a big learning experience for me in terms of writing. After seeing so many of my friends struggle with writing their thesises and dissertations I decided at the start of my Ph.D. program last year, to do all I can to avoid getting stuck and incased in writer's block.

Despite already getting a master's degree in Micronesian Studies, I have to complete a new thesis for my Ethnic Studies doctorate. So to that end, since August of last year I've presented six different papers at six different conferences. Each of them geared towards something I want to have in my thesis, or something I'm just brainstorming for it. In addition to that I've written two book chapters which have been submitted and hopefully will get published. With the article I just turned in yesterday that makes three articles I've written for smaller zines such as Salty, Third Space, and the Guam Federation of Teachers magazine.

Gof gagu yu' na patgon, so I know myself well enough to not trust myself to get a thesis written on my own. So what I've basically done is committed myself to different groups, people, conferences, organizations in different ways, which will require me to think and get something down on paper. That is the hardest part, translating what floats around your head, down into your computer or on the thousands of pieces of scratch paper littering my room. Once that is done, editting, moving stuff around, adding superficial things here and there is a snap.

Maybe I'll post the text of my last article here. I'm sure the title alone will get people interested or aggrivated. I titled it "Things to Do in Guam When You're Dead."


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