Monday, September 12, 2005

Corrupting Colonizing Dreams

Corruption discourse on Guam is so prevelant that anyone who sees it as having any other use or value then to keep everything exactly the same is an idiot.

There are two basic ways that this discourse is invoked, neither much more useful than the other. The first says that Chamorros are pathologically corrupt, that these sorts of abuses, incompetence, cronyism, finaboresi para i mamparientes, etc. are parts of their culture that have to be changed, or more accurately have to be grown out of. The silent but nonetheless powerful colonizing emphasis, being that they must grow into Americaness, grow into matching America's idealness in terms of government awesomeness. These people are useless because they take great enjoyment in recolonizing the island, by relegating Chamorro culture and Chamorroness to social scum. By sometimes loudly other times quietly protecting America (American ideas, images, imaginings) in Guam, by cruelly debasing and defining what is Chamorro based on what absolutely must not be (kumekeilek-na: Chamorro culture = corruption or incompetence).

The second says that Chamorros are extremely corrupt, but its not their fault, it's the Spanish's fault. They inherieted from the Spanish mindsets about powerful caciques and classes that should control the island. Favors amongst relatives is all part of the pare' system as brought in by the Spanish way of doing things. Many problems with this as well. First off, it puts Chamorros into the position of the eternal victims. They are victims as they are now, and if they attempt to counter this corruption discourse, then suddenly they are playing victims again. The only way out of this victim status, is a very real denouncing of their Chamorroness and an uplifting of some potently imagined Americaness. What both of these stances do is pathologize Chamorros as being perpetually corrupt and incompetent and both offer as the only solution, a giving up of Chamorro culture as something in and of itself, and an attaching and subordinating of it to a more moral, more reasonable, more intellgient and better abled thing, Americaness, America and America as it is imagined to be.

Guinife is the best way to approach how this works. Why all the emphasis on American dreams, even in Guam? Dreams are vital to any people, and although one might say that "American dreams" refers just to economic success and a better life for children and does not destroy or tamper with being Chamorro, this just isn't true. If one attaches themselves to those dreams, decides to chase them, decides to live within those dreams, then any references to being a "proud Chamorro" really mean, "I am a proud American who is proud to be Chamorro." Ultimately this supplanting of Chamorro dreams makes the Chamorro possible only through the American. A poster on my message board said recently something to the effect that we should be glad to be under the United States, because then we are allowed to pursue our identities and perserve our culture in freedom. This is the key, the replacing or displacing of Chamorro dreams, is this price, that the Chamorro you become is only an effect of you being a wonderful American. All the multitude of your identities hinge on a certain identity which makes all others possible. For this poster and most all Chamorros (achokk'a ma puni siempre) it is a core American identity which is central and everything else (even the Chamorroness that they speak of with such love and pride) is dependent upon that one American core not being threatened.

I got off subject (sesso taiguini) but where I was headed earlier was saying that both of those corruption discourses do absolutely nothing in terms of fixing Guam's problems. They are designed and meant to protect America in Guam. They are designed to trash local elements, to displace them, to find nice safe corners for them and let them rest there, far away from the centers of power.

The reason why I bring this up today is because of the stepping down of Michael "Brownie" Brown, former head of FEMA. Here a man who's resume was filled with lies, who had no experience at all for this position was nonetheless submitted for the post by the White House, approved by the Congress and then told to all by Bush that he was doing a good job, even when he wasn't. This is a blatant case of cronyism and its not isolated to this instance alone. It runs throughout American politics, when a cabinent member is chosen he fills his staff and his agency with his friends. When Senators retire they often go to work for the companies that used to lobby to them in committee. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for in Iraq. How can the corruption on Guam even compare to this mess?

If anything, there needs to be a new strain of corruption discourse on Guam, one which blames the corruption in Guam, not on Chamorros, not on the Spanish, but on the United States. If anything, a discourse which took this as its poisonous object might actually be productive, might actually help get the political landscape of Guam changed, because no longer would our desperate attachments to the United States be unquestioned, but we might actually be able to critique the American presence in Guam where in military form, political pressure or even cultural and social imaginings.

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